SIOUX CITY | U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst discussed two top national Republican Party leaders Monday, saying President Donald Trump worked hard during the health care reform overhaul that failed to get passage in the Senate earlier this summer.

Ernst also said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, needs to step up his leadership game but does not need to resign his post.

Ernst noted three attempts by Republicans, who control the presidency and both federal legislative chambers, failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act set in 2010 by Democrats. Republican had campaigned on the necessity of repeal since 2012, but couldn't cobble together the 50 votes needed to pass a health care package.

Ernst said that means it is time to scale back the attempt to pass one big health bill and instead go with smaller bills to address health costs and insurance access, as she spoke to 35 people at the Sioux City Rotary Club.

She said Trump was extensively involved in early workings of the health care bill machinations, including getting lawmakers informed about the measure. Ernst said the failure of the most recent bill is not the fault of the president.

"He was extremely involved, but we need more of that," said Ernst, who was elected in 2014 after serving as a state senator.

"Policy-wise, he is doing well," Ernst said of Trump, who has low approval ratings eight months into his presidential term.

She cited how Trump led the quest to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch, to fill the position that had been open since early 2016 with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ernst was asked by a Rotarian what more could be done to help McConnell lead the Senate. She recounted the definition of what constitutes a leader, and added, "if you aren't inspiring people to lead you, you are not a leader."

Ernst also said people "are not seeing" leadership from McConnell right now, but added that does not mean he should resign as majority leader.

Ernst said 2017 can still be a good year in D.C., pointing to hopes to enact tax reform that Trump wants. She said the tax plan only has rough parameters now and she anticipates a good bill eventually being written. She said it must include commercial tax reform to boost the business climate and have changes to benefit the middle class.

Ernst said she expects lawmakers will dig into a plan by Trump to improve the nation's infrastructure in a $1 trillion initiative. She added that plan is likely too ambitious, so a first piece of $500 billion is more defensible to pass.

"Folks, where are we going to find $1 trillion?" Ernst asked.

Ernst said infrastructure work such as locks and dams on the Mississippi River could benefit Iowa.

Ernst was able to exit the hour-long Rotary meeting by 1 p.m., just in time to join dozens of people outside the Sioux City Convention Center to view the total solar eclipse. An aide had her special viewing glasses set to go for Ernst.

The event was the first total solar eclipse since 1918 with a path that crosses the Pacific and Atlantic coasts in the U.S.

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County and education reporter

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