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.
South 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.
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.”
Thune 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.
Getting Washington Working Again For the American People
When Republicans campaigned for the Senate majority in 2014, we made a simple, yet important pledge to the American people: If you elect Republicans to the majority, we will get the Senate, which has been dysfunctional for years, working again. That was not a half-hearted campaign slogan; it was a commitment on which we intended to deliver.
For far too long, the legislative process was nearly nonexistent in the Democrat-run Senate. Democrats were more focused on saving their own jobs than enacting policies that would help create good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans. The Senate floor transformed into a campaign hall, and basic legislative functions often took a back seat to political show votes that were intended to create fodder for 30-second campaign ads rather than solve key problems facing people across the country. Last year, the American people opted for a new direction, and seven months into the new Republican majority, I am happy to report that we have made significant progress.
It is halftime in the first session of this Congress, and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have put some important points on the board on behalf of the American people. Most importantly, we have returned the Senate to what our Founders intended it to be: a place for open and honest debate, where committees are able to work and senators on both sides of the aisle are able to participate. With a divided government, I believe that the legislative outcome is better when members of both parties are part of the process.
Since reopening the Senate, we have passed more than 80 bills to help improve our economy, reform our government, protect some of the most vulnerable among us, and strengthen our national security. We passed a joint balanced budget resolution, the first since 2001, and did not raise a single dime in taxes during the process. We also passed legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, strengthen our efforts to eradicate human trafficking in this country, provide a check on the Obama administration’s flawed Iran nuclear agreement, and long-overdue trade legislation to help expand access to American-made goods overseas. Additionally, we passed the first long-term bill to strengthen Medicare in over a decade – ensuring South Dakota seniors have access to the physicians they prefer – and an education reform bill that transfers power from Washington bureaucrats back to parents, teachers, and local school boards.
More than 200 bills have been reported out of our various committees, including 36 that were reported out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair. In particular, the Commerce Committee and full Senate passed my bipartisan legislation to reform the Surface Transportation Board and help ensure the rail backlog, which hurt South Dakota’s economy in 2013 and 2014, does not happen again. Also, just a few weeks ago, the Senate passed a long-term highway bill that is critical to South Dakota’s economy. This legislation not only passed with 65 votes, but includes a host of legislative priorities that I worked to include, such as provisions that will strengthen rail and highway safety, while cutting regulatory red tape for agriculture producers who rely on a national transportation system to get their goods to market.
On Saturday, I delivered the weekly Republican address to the nation and shared this important progress with all Americans. While we have accomplished a lot so far, there is much more work to be done during the second half of this session of Congress, and I will continue to fight for South Dakota’s priorities and the priorities of the American people.
It is that special time of year again when families of all ages from every corner of the state can enjoy the sights and sounds of our state and county fairs. From Turner County to Brown County to the state fair in Huron and everywhere in between, there are multiple opportunities for families to make new memories, continue old traditions, and reconnect with friends and family.
While the food, rides, and concerts are certainly the highlight for many fairgoers, there is more to these local celebrations than cotton candy and tilt-a-whirls. Fairs also present a good opportunity to highlight all of our agriculture producers from around the state. Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry, and there is a lot to celebrate. Our farmers and ranchers not only carry on the generations-long tradition of working hard and living off of the land, but they also contribute a great deal to our state and local economies and communities.
Preserving these traditions is important, which is why getting the next generation of farmers involved and interested at an early age is so crucial. I am always glad to see so many 4-H demonstrations, booths, and activities as I travel from fair to fair. They are not only a staple of the fair scene, but they give young South Dakotans the chance to show off their talents and inspire others to participate as well.
Thankfully, the avian influenza outbreak that swept through the Midwest earlier this year, which affected nearly 50 million birds nationwide, has begun to subside. The outbreak took a toll on egg production in the United States, and costs, both to consumers and farmers, skyrocketed. At this year’s state fair, farmers and ranchers can receive an important update on the outbreak and learn more about its impact on South Dakota. This is just one of many examples of the educational opportunities available this year at the state fair.
I know that I mentioned there is more to the fair than the food and entertainment, but I would be lying if I said that I do not look forward to stopping by the Pork Producers’ or Cattlemen’s booth for a sandwich or attending events like the rodeo championship or an evening concert. These are the things that memories are made of, and I look forward to this season each year to experience these events firsthand with my own family.
If we cross paths at your local fair, be sure to stop and say hello – I look forward to seeing you soon.
EPA’s Backdoor National Energy Tax a Burden for South Dakota Consumers
Electricity Bills Could Skyrocket as a Result of EPA Regulation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) announcement that it has approved the Clean Power Plan, which could increase electricity bills for Americans across the country:
“The Obama EPA strikes again,” said Thune. “If there is one thing for which the EPA can be counted on, it is the repeated issuance of rules and regulations that stifle growth and make life harder and more costly for American families and entrepreneurs. This backdoor national energy tax will hurt jobs, cause costs to skyrocket, and threaten grid reliability. While all South Dakotans are likely to feel the pain of this burdensome new regulation, low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes will be hit the hardest. I will continue to fight for South Dakotans and do all I can to see that this rule is reversed.”
The EPA’s final rule will require a 32 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, targeting America’s affordable and reliable coal generation. For South Dakota to meet its state reduction target, the recently overhauled Big Stone Plant would likely have to shut down for at least part of the year. The plant, which is nearing completion of a $384 million environmental upgrade to meet the EPA’s Regional Haze and Utility MACT regulations, will soon be among the cleanest in the country. Yet, under the Clean Power Plan, this investment would be stranded and its sunk costs passed on to ratepayers.
In January, Thune urged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to withdraw the proposed regulations on existing power plants.
Multi-Year Highway Bill an Investment in Our Roads and Bridges By Senator John Thune
With one million bikers expected to take to the highways for the 75th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, and as tourist season remains well underway, there is no better time to stress the need for safe, reliable roads and bridges in South Dakota and across America.
Our transportation infrastructure keeps our economy and our nation moving. That is why I am pleased the U.S. Senate recently passed a multi-year highway bill by a vote of 65-34 that would fund federal highway and infrastructure projects for three years. The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act provides certainty to states across the country, does not increase the gas tax, and would be the longest highway funding measure in over a decade.
For too long, transportation funding has been subjected to one short-term extension after another – 34 short-term extensions since 2009 – that leaves those responsible for our nation’s transportation system without the certainty and predictability they need to maintain and improve the safety of our roads, bridges, and highways.
If Congress fails to provide state and local governments with this necessary certainty, they are hamstrung when it comes to authorizing certain projects or making long-term plans for transportation infrastructure. Such a scenario could mean that essential construction projects get deferred, necessary repairs might not get made, and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.
The DRIVE Act answers the call for the type of long-term certainty state and local governments need. This legislation signals an important commitment to safe, quality highways and bridges in South Dakota that will help support our economy and ensure important industries such as tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing continue to thrive.
South Dakota agriculture producers and businesses rely on our interstate highway system to distribute their goods to stores across the United States and around the world. All of us depend on our nation’s roads and bridges to get from place to place every day – especially in a state like South Dakota where the distance between towns is often measured in hours.
This multi-year highway bill is another major legislative achievement for the Republican-led Senate and the result of months of hard work by multiple Senate committees, including the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair. Republicans and Democrats alike had their voices heard during this process, and the final product is stronger because of it. It is critical the House and Senate finish a long-term highway bill in the coming months.
As this year’s rally approaches, I hope your travels throughout the state are safe. Motorcycles will be everywhere over the next few weeks, so remember to look twice and save a life.
Thune Statement on Passage of Bipartisan DRIVE Act
“Passing a bipartisan, multi-year highway bill will provide South Dakota with much-needed, long-term certainty to make important investments in infrastructure projects, leading to job creation and sustained economic growth in communities across the state.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on the Senate’s bipartisan passage of the multi-year Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, which contains several Thune-led provisions that were included as part of the Commerce Committee-approved titles of the bill:
“Passing a bipartisan, multi-year highway bill will provide South Dakota with much-needed, long-term certainty to make important investments in infrastructure projects, leading to job creation and sustained economic growth in communities across the state,” said Thune. “I am proud that several key Commerce Committee-approved reforms to enhance safety, provide regulatory relief, streamline grant programs, and improve the accountability and efficiency of oversight efforts were included in this bill. Specifically, these reforms will help cut unnecessary red tape and provide relief to our agriculture transporters and custom harvesters in South Dakota.
“There is still more to be done, and I look forward to working with the House of Representatives as it completes its work in the months ahead.”
On July 15, the Commerce Committee, under Thune’s leadership, passed the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act, which was combined with legislation from other Senate committees that have jurisdiction over transportation issues to form this year’s highway bill. In addition to the regulatory relief for agriculture transporters and custom harvesters, the DRIVE Act creates new grant eligibility for states like South Dakota that provide 24/7 sobriety programs.
Why the Iran Nuclear Agreement Is a Bad Deal for America By Senator John Thune
There has been a lot of recent coverage in the news about the Iran nuclear agreement. For many South Dakotans, this agreement may seem far away. However, the danger this agreement addresses – that of a nuclear-armed Iran – is not only a threat to our allies, including Israel, but also to the United States. The agreement will help finance Iran’s terrorist activities, allow Iran to acquire conventional and ballistic weapons, and advance Iran’s nuclear program – resulting in a more dangerous and unstable world.
For this to be a good deal, full access for inspectors is essential. However, instead of the anytime, anywhere inspections that the United States initially sought, the agreement only allows for inspections of Iran’s currently known nuclear facilities.
If Iran is suspected of violating this agreement, inspectors must request Iran’s permission to examine other sites. If the Iranians object, the resulting appeals process could take almost a month, winding through various levels of bureaucracy at the United Nations before inspectors are finally allowed access. For a country that has a long history of doing things in secret, that’s a lot of time.
“Breakout time” is a phrase that has frequently been used during these negotiations. The “breakout time” is the period of time from which we know Iran has started building a nuclear bomb to the time they are able to use it. Unfortunately, as part of this agreement, even if Iran does not cheat on the deal, they can still modernize their nuclear infrastructure and continue research and development on advanced centrifuges. That means 10 years from now, Iran’s “breakout time” will be almost zero.
In addition, this agreement discontinues the ban on conventional weapons after five years and on ballistic missiles after eight. In the future, if Iran wanted to pursue a nuclear weapon, not only would their breakout time be very short, but they will likely have the means to defend themselves against a military strike. If they acquired a nuclear bomb, they could also have a ballistic missile capable of hitting targets far beyond the Middle East.
For these reasons, and the fact that lifting the sanctions will help fund Iran’s continued support of terrorism, I have expressed my strong concern about this agreement and skepticism that Iran will actually hold up their end of the deal.
Just last week, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, echoing the chants from his people, said, “You heard ‘Death to Israel,’ ‘Death to the U.S.’ … we ask Almighty God to accept these prayers by the people of Iran.”
While I am sure not all Iranians want death to America, it is clear that their leaders still do.
As Congress reviews this agreement, I hope the president will listen to the concerns that have been raised by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the United States, and an agreement that allows Iran to retain all the components necessary to build a nuclear bomb is not a good deal for America and should be rejected.