Senator Mike Rounds Weekly Column: WEEKLY ROUND[S] UP: JANUARY 30-FEBRUARY 5, 2023

by Senator Mike Rounds

Things are getting busier out here in Washington! This past week, our committee assignments were announced, which marks the beginning of a lot of work to come over the next two years. You’ll have to keep reading to see where I landed! We also met with several leaders from around the world, and leaders within our school and agriculture communities in South Dakota. Here’s my Weekly Round[s] Up:

South Dakota groups I visited with: Members of the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association and school board members with the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.

Meetings this past week: His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al-Hussein Ibn Abdulllah of Jordan; Several Romanian Members of Parliament including Senator Titus Corlățean, Chairman of the Romanian Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Mr. Ramush Haradinaj, Former Prime Minister of Kosovo; Sandra L. Thompson, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency; Robert Fisher, Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs at Verizon; Catherine MacGregor, CEO of ENGIE; and Mouloud Said, Representative of Western Sahara to the United States. I also had the opportunity to meet with delegations from several African nations: Burundi, Kenya and the Togolese Republic.

We had our weekly Senate Bible Study (Philippians 1:6 was our verse of the week). On Thursday morning, we also hosted the National Prayer Breakfast. For the past few years, I’ve served in leadership helping to organize this event. Our leadership group privately met with the president and vice president before the ceremony to welcome them to the National Prayer Breakfast.

Each year, the National Prayer Breakfast provides an opportunity for us to come together, Republicans and Democrats alike, and pray for the success of our nation. The tradition of the National Prayer Breakfast dates back to President Dwight Eisenhower, who at the time confided in his close friend, Senator Frank Carlson, that the White House was the “loneliest house” he had ever lived in. Senator Carlson responded: “Mr. President, I think this may be the right time for you come meet with our prayer group.” And that’s just what President Eisenhower did. In this group, he found individuals who were willing to offer their non-partisan support to our president, the leader of the free world, because they knew that’s what was best for the country. The job of the president isn’t easy and you often find yourself in the midst of difficult political situations. However, as the president, you should still be able to count on our prayers for the success of our country. The National Prayer Breakfast provides an opportunity for us to recognize our common bonds and to offer our prayers for one another, our president and our nation.

Met with South Dakotans from: Mitchell, Mobridge, Pierre, White River and Woonsocket.

Topics discussed: Our nation’s debt ceiling, foreign purchases of land in the United States, spectrum (more information on this in the coming weeks) and our new committee assignments.

Legislation introduced: This past week, I reintroduced the PASS Act. This bipartisan legislation would blacklist China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from investing in, purchasing or otherwise acquiring American farmland and ag businesses.

Securing our land is critical to maintaining our national security. This bill, which I introduced with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has received good support on Capitol Hill and within the agricultural community in South Dakota. We are hopeful we can get the PASS Act included in a larger package and see this important piece of legislation signed into law. You can read more about the PASS Act here.

Resolution passed: My friend Senator John Thune and I passed a resolution this week honoring the SDSU Jackrabbit football team for their national championship win against the NDSU Bison. You can read the resolution here. Go Jacks!

Committees assigned: Committee assignments for the 118th Congress were announced this week. I will be serving on the following committees:

  1. Armed Services
  2. Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
  3. Select Committee on Intelligence
  4. Veterans’ Affairs
  5. Indian Affairs

You can read more about each committee here. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve on these five key committees on behalf of the people of South Dakota.

Votes taken: 3 – we are a month into the new Congress and Democrats are off to a slow start. These votes were non-controversial. Two of them were for positions on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Institute of Peace. The other was a resolution supporting the observation of January as National Trafficking and Modern Slavery Prevention Month, a resolution that would normally move through unanimous consent and not require a formal vote and the usage of floor time. While it could be easy to get frustrated at the dysfunction, it’s important to remember that every day our Senate Democrat colleagues propose a light schedule, the less damage their proposals can inflict on our nation.

Classified briefings: With my new assignment on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I will begin to receive a much higher volume of classified briefings. Most of our meetings are all classified business – I had three classified Intel meetings already this past week! We also had our bi-weekly cyber education seminar and a Senate Armed Services Committee briefing on the Chinese surveillance balloon and conflict in Ukraine.

Unlike some in the Executive Branch, don’t expect to find any classified documents in my home or next to my Corvette. These documents belong in a secure compartmentalized information facility (or SCIF) and nowhere else!

My staff in South Dakota visited: Aberdeen and Rapid City, including having a booth all week at the Black Hills Stock Show.

Steps taken this week: 51,305 steps (or 24.05 miles).

Video of the Week: There was quite a bit of talk at the end of the week about the Chinese surveillance balloon that was flying across the United States. As you are probably aware, our military shot the balloon down off the coast of the Carolinas on Saturday. In my opinion, the balloon was shot down one continent too late. It should have never been allowed in U.S. airspace. While I was able to receive a classified briefing on the situation on Thursday morning, there are still many more questions than answers. I joined Neil Cavuto on Fox News on Friday to discuss the situation. You can watch the video here.

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