Thune Hosts FCC Chairman Pai in Rapid City

Thune Hosts FCC Chairman Pai in Rapid City

RAPID CITY, S.D. — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statement after hosting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai in Rapid City for a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and roundtable discussion with South Dakota telecommunications stakeholders.

“I want to thank Chairman Pai for making the trip to South Dakota to meet with telecommunications stakeholders in our state,” said Thune. “His willingness to learn from and discuss challenges with professionals who understand the complexities of providing high-speed internet access for rural communities, like those throughout South Dakota, shows how serious he is about making improvements to advance rural America. I look forward to working with the chairman as he incorporates the feedback he received today into initiatives that could improve connectivity for people living in every corner of the state, even the most remote areas.”

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Dems still short a candidate for the top South Dakota office this election.

I was noticing the other day that (predictably) Libertarian spoiler Kurt Evans announced in a comment section at another blog that he is bowing out from running for US Senate (again. And again).

This race that never got off the ground marked his third race against Senator Thune, and his second time bowing out against the State’s senior Senator, putting Evans as having actually ran once, and then not getting past talking about it the next three times. I’m starting to sense a pattern.

For challengers against Thune, that leaves Mike “Professor Push-ups” Myers who is still thinking about a candidacy, in-between attempts of trying to sound coherent.  I wish him all the luck in the world with that.

Sounding coherent, that is. Not with the candidacy. He had enough trouble with the former during last years’ gubernatorial campaign.

Moving from the Libertarians and Independents to the Democrats, apparently, they’re still smarting from the shellacking they took in 2004 from Thune. They just flat out failed to field a challenger after the popular Thune’s first term of office.

And with just over a year left to go, they’re still strongly and firmly on track to duplicate those same results. They basically have no one.

Maybe I should clarify that a bit – they have no one credible yet. Although, I am hearing rumors of a former state legislative candidate in the Southeast part of the state who has lost for the legislature at least twice announcing at a meeting “If no one wants to do it, I will.”

Somebody has to take one for the team” is not exactly a rousing rallying cry.  But given the state of the Democrat party, it might be the best they can hope for.  But even that is wishful thinking at this point.

The fact remains that Dems are still short a candidate for the top South Dakota office in the 2016 election.  And that does not look like a condition that’s going to be remedied anytime soon.

If at all.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Ellsworth’s Expanded Role in America’s National Security

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressEllsworth’s Expanded Role in America’s National Security
By Sen. John Thune

This year, Ellsworth Air Force Base, located just outside Rapid City, has seen its role in our national security increase dramatically. Early this spring, the Air Force signed off on the completion of an eight-year project to expand the Powder River Training Complex, or PRTC, the airspace in which our B-1B bombers train. Until the expansion, this airspace was only big enough to permit one B-1B bomber to train at a time, which meant that our aircrews had to commute to other airspace to meet their training needs.

With this expansion, the PRTC has quadrupled in size, making it roughly the size of Indiana and spread over four states, including South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Eighty-five percent of our aircrews’ training needs can now be met here in South Dakota, with live-fire exercises taking place elsewhere. This will potentially save Ellsworth $23 million per year and allows our state to host missions from across the country as aircraft come here to utilize this national resource.

This week, we also saw another milestone in the notable history of Ellsworth Air Force Base, as the command structure for the B-1B bombers moved from Air Combat Command to Global Strike Command. This means that all of our nations’ bombers, the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52, will now be under the same command.

The B-1B remains a legacy mission for the Air Force, and the aircraft modernization the fleet is undergoing means the B-1B will continue to be the work horse of our Air Force for years to come. However, as we look to the future, the United States will eventually need a new, highly advanced, long-range bomber to meet our security needs.

The contract for this new bomber, known as the Long Range Strike-Bomber, or LRS-B, should be announced by years’ end, with the new aircraft coming online in the mid-2020s. When that happens, the LRS-B will gradually replace the B-1B and the B-52 bombers. By moving Ellsworth to Global Strike Command, the Air Force is anticipating that transition. Ellsworth’s command structure is now in a place where it can smoothly receive the new bombers once they come online.

According to General Richard Clark, commander of the 8th Air Force, the transition to the new command will be seamless for the men and women stationed at Ellsworth. “They will wear a different patch,” Gen. Clark said recently, “but aside from that it won’t be a significant change.” He went on to say, “in general this is a really great move for the Air Force.”

With the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex and the transition to Global Strike Command, the key role Ellsworth plays in our national defense has been solidified for years to come.

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Thune, GOP leadership not interested in shutdown.

From politico, South Dakota’s senior US senator, John Thune, would not appear to be interested in a government shutdown. And Senate GOP leadership just out maneuvered Ted Cruz in preventing it.

“We had to be prepared,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “He’s running for national office. He’s got a different endgame than we do. There are things we have to do here. We’ve got to fund the government every year.”

By moving to quarantine Cruz from the rest of the conference over the past three months, the majority leader demonstrated that he’s learned the lessons of the Cruz-backed government shutdown in 2013 and the Texas senator’s rogue strategy last winter that helped Democrats confirm a raft of judges in the lame duck session. In doing so, McConnell cemented his position atop the Senate GOP, dashing any hopes among House Republicans, or conservative activists, that his future might be in doubt.

Read it all here.

These comments were also echoed by the Senator on MSNBC on September 21st, according to Newsmax:

Shutting down the government is not the answer to stopping Planned Parenthood, Sen. John Thune said Monday, pointing out that President Barack Obama will veto legislation that does away with the organization’s funding.

“I think there’s a better way to do this,” the South Dakota Republican, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “I think we’re going to get an opportunity not only to continue to fund the government, but to put something on the president’s desk that would redirect funding from Planned Parenthood to community centers.”

A government shutdown, Thune continued, would end “badly for our party,” and Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame.

Read it all here.

Does standing firmly against a government shutdown solidify Thune’s position for the fall 2016 election? What do you think?

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressProtecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us
By Sen. John Thune

Recently, the Senate took up a common-sense bill to protect human life, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would protect unborn children who have reached the age of 20 weeks – the age at which unborn children can feel pain – from being killed by abortion. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated in the Senate after just three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for this legislation.

It’s difficult for me to imagine how anyone could oppose this bill. Twenty weeks (about five months) into a pregnancy, the humanity of unborn babies is clearly visible. They have fingers and toes, eyebrows and eyelashes. They suck their thumbs. They yawn and stretch. They move around and make faces. They respond to noises. And they feel pain.

The scientific evidence on this point is incontrovertible: Five months into a pregnancy, the physical structure by which human beings experience pain is in place, and scientists can measure spikes in babies’ stress hormones when the babies are confronted with painful stimuli. In fact, some scientific evidence suggests that babies of this age feel pain even more keenly than adults do, since some of the neural mechanisms that inhibit pain don’t fully develop until after birth.

If there’s one thing all Americans ought to be able to agree on, it’s that unborn babies who feel pain deserve to be protected. Americans are rightly horrified by deliberate cruelty to animals – it is unthinkable that we allow unborn human beings who feel pain to be subjected to late-term abortion procedures that are so brutal it is difficult to even talk about them.

Thanks to advances in medical science, doctors and nurses in this country are saving babies who are born months early. A May 2015 article in the New York Times on advances in the treatment of extremely premature infants reported on one baby who was delivered at 22 weeks and 1 day and weighed 1.1 pounds at delivery, yet today is “a healthy 5-year-old.” Yet in the United States, our laws allow a baby of the very same age to be killed by abortion.

There are only seven countries in the world that allow elective abortion past five months of pregnancy. Among those countries are China, North Korea, and the United States. That’s not the company the United States should be keeping when it comes to protecting human rights.

And the American people agree. Polls show that a strong majority of Americans – including a strong majority of women – support banning elective abortions after five months of pregnancy.

Ultimately, it’s simple: That unborn baby – the one with the fingers and toes, who sucks her thumb and responds to her mother’s voice – that unborn baby is one of us, and as such she deserves to be protected. While I’m disappointed that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to pass the Senate this time, the fight is not over.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: President’s Energy Agenda Bad for South Dakota

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressPresident’s Energy Agenda Bad for South Dakota
By Sen. John Thune

South Dakotans frequently share with me their frustrations and concerns with Washington’s overreach into Americans’ lives. Despite the progress the new Senate Republican majority has made on many issues that impact hard-working families and small businesses across the country, the fact remains that Washington continues to be plagued by the failed leadership of the Obama administration.

Every September, we mark an anniversary that has become symbolic of the administration’s obstructionism: the filing of the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This year marks seven years since the permit was first filed. Even though the Obama State Department has reviewed hundreds of thousands of comments and completed five environmental impact statements, all of which found the pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment, the administration has continued to slow-walk an important infrastructure project that would immediately create “shovel-ready” jobs during construction, including 3,000-4,000 direct and indirect jobs in our state alone. The construction and operation of the pipeline would also bring crucial tax dollars to South Dakota municipalities along the route and bolster America’s energy independence.

Legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline was the first bill the GOP-led Senate considered this year. It passed with a strong bipartisan vote of over 60 senators supporting the bill. In February, President Obama sided with the liberal wing of his party and vetoed this legislation that would bring more energy to the United States and more economic growth in South Dakota. This is not the kind of leadership that will get our economy working again.

I recognize that the Keystone XL pipeline is only one project, but the administration’s attitude toward important energy investment has become all too pervasive. On August 3, the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rule against affordable electricity generation. This plan will increase electricity bills for Americans across the country, hurting job growth and families’ pocketbooks as it forces our most reliable and affordable sources of power generation out of operation – all while countries like China and India continue to pollute and exploit a competitive advantage of cheaper energy.

In the coming weeks, the EPA is expected to finalize what is estimated to be the most costly regulations in the agency’s history via a lower smog standard. The proposed range for a lower standard will draw large swaths of the country into nonattainment including areas in South Dakota, subjecting communities to stiff federal penalties, increased business costs, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and lost highway dollars. Even areas in marginal attainment will face steep challenges in attracting new economic development.

These and other regulations are hampering America’s economic recovery and have real-world impacts on South Dakota families and small businesses. Many of our efforts in the Senate to combat these regulations have been thwarted by a president committed to cementing his legacy. Unfortunately for hard-working Americans, the president’s legacy will be one plagued by obstructionism and federal overreach, the consequences of which will have a lasting impact. That is why Senate Republicans have been committed to enacting a pro-growth agenda that would help revive businesses, reduce tax and regulatory burdens, restore American values, and grow the middle class. The president might fight against this progress, but we’ll continue to fight back.

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Thune Opposes Iran Deal, Calls for Up-Or-Down Vote

thuneheadernew Thune Opposes Iran Deal, Calls for Up-Or-Down Vote

“Almost every single Democrat here in the Senate joined us to pass [the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act], yet just four months later, these same Democrats chose to stifle the voices of the American people by refusing to allow an up-or-down vote on the president’s nuclear agreement.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed his frustration with Senate Democrats for repeatedly blocking an up-or-down vote on the president’s nuclear deal with Iran, stifling the voices of the American people. Thune also discussed some of the dangers of the deal

Excerpts (as prepared for delivery):

“This agreement also allows Iran to keep its fortified nuclear facilities, and it gives Iran access to conventional weapons and ballistic missiles capable of delivering a warhead far beyond Iran’s borders.

“Plus, under this agreement, Iran will have full access to international markets and the materials and technical components it needs to build a bomb – material that right now it can only access through black market channels.

“Iran is playing the long game, and in the long term, this is a very good deal for Iran.

“And let’s be clear about Iran’s intentions regarding its nuclear program.

“Iran is NOT simply interested in pursuing a nuclear enrichment program for its civilian energy needs.

“Iran is interested in building a bomb.”

Last week, Thune urged his colleagues to oppose the president’s flawed deal with Iran and penned an op-ed explaining why he would vote against the deal.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: South Dakotans Deserve a Voice on President’s Flawed Deal With Iran

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressSouth Dakotans Deserve a Voice on President’s Flawed Deal With Iran
By Sen. John Thune

A majority of the American people oppose the president’s nuclear deal with Iran. They have good reason to be concerned, and they deserve to have their voices heard.

Back in the spring, Congress tried to make sure that the American people, through their representatives in Congress, would have a say in any deal with Iran, and Senate Democrats joined Senate Republicans to support legislation guaranteeing an up-or-down vote on any agreement. Unfortunately, Democrats changed their minds about giving the American people a chance to be heard and succumbed to pressure from their party by blocking an up-or-down vote on the president’s deal.

I was deeply disappointed by the Democrats’ decision. The deeply flawed deal President Obama announced this summer not only fails to end Iran’s nuclear program – which would have been a key step in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon – it actually allows Iran to increase its nuclear expertise and enrichment infrastructure.

Under this agreement, Iran is allowed to build more advanced centrifuges capable of producing a significant amount of nuclear material in a very short amount of time. While the deal forbids Iran from enriching weapons-grade uranium, that prohibition is only as good as Iran’s word given that Iran will be allowed to maintain and grow its nuclear infrastructure.

Another key part of a strong deal would have been “anytime, anywhere” inspections, especially given Iran’s history of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by building enrichment facilities in secret. Unfortunately, under the terms of the Obama-negotiated agreement, “anytime, anywhere” inspections are limited to a small number of known nuclear sites. If inspectors believe that Iran is conducting activity at other locations, they have to apply for permission to visit these sites, a process that could take more than three weeks and give Iran plenty of time to hide evidence of illicit activities.

On top of all this, the agreement will greatly increase Iran’s ability to fund terror. Iran is already the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and the primary supporter of Hezbollah and Hamas. Now, under this agreement, sanctions will be lifted and Iran’s assets will be unfrozen, giving Iran access to tens of billions of dollars to spend on terrorism.

In addition to these problems, the Obama administration recently confirmed that the International Atomic Energy Agency — the agency in charge of nuclear inspections — has made secret side deals with Iran, but the details of those deals remain undisclosed.

During negotiations over this agreement, President Obama and his administration emphasized that no deal was better than a bad deal.  Unfortunately they didn’t stick to that policy.

The deal the administration reached this summer will fuel instability in the Middle East and around the globe. I will continue to work with my colleagues to do what we can to protect our nation and our allies from the effects of this agreement.

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Thune Statement on Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

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Thune Statement on Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement on the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks:

“Today we honor and remember the nearly 3,000 victims whose lives were lost on September 11, 2001, during the deadly terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93. We also remember with gratitude the heroes who emerged to save lives and rescue those in trouble, and how in the dark days after the attacks, our nation rallied to show the very best of the American spirit.

“Today is also a day to thank our first responders and the men and women of our armed forces, and their families, who continue to serve at home and abroad as our nation continues to fight terrorism. We must never forget those we lost on 9/11 and the current threats we face from those who hate our nation and what she represents.”

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Thune Statement on Injunction Blocking Obama EPA’s WOTUS Implementation

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressThune Statement on Injunction Blocking Obama EPA’s WOTUS Implementation

“The recent ruling by a federal district court in North Dakota shows that the Obama EPA is not only defying common sense, but is also defying the original intent of the Clean Water Act.” 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement in response to an injunction by a federal district court in North Dakota that temporarily blocks the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing its burdensome Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in South Dakota and 12 other states:

“The Obama EPA’s WOTUS rule is one of the largest federal land grabs in recent memory,” said Thune. “It will drive up compliance costs for farmers and ranchers and expose homeowners and property owners across the country to massive new fines. The recent ruling by a federal district court in North Dakota shows that the Obama EPA is not only defying common sense, but is also defying the original intent of the Clean Water Act. The EPA should immediately suspend the enforcement of this regulation across the country. The ruling is yet another reason we need to enact a permanent stop to EPA’s overreach.

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