Let Me Know What You Think
By Sen. John Thune
Each week the Senate is in session, I travel back and forth from my home in Sioux Falls to Washington, D.C., for hearings, votes, and other meetings. While I love representing South Dakotans in Washington, it’s no secret that I’m happiest when I’m home in South Dakota, hearing directly from you. So, as I head back to spend several weeks traveling the state and connecting with you, I wanted to share some of the big things we’ve accomplished in the Senate over the last 18 months and look forward to hearing what you think.
Our top priority has been to focus on policies that boost America’s economic security and strengthen our national security. We passed the first significant education reform bill since 2002, the first major trade promotion authority bill since 2002, the first significant reforms to Social Security since 1983, and the first major environmental law reauthorization since the 1990s. We worked hard to pass legislation that prevents states from imposing unworkable mandates on the food supply and protected the homeland by passing the National Defense Authorization Act, key cybersecurity reforms, and sanctions against the North Korean regime.
I knew serving as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee would give South Dakota’s interests the national attention they deserve, and the results speak for themselves.
Congress passed and the president signed my bipartisan bill that makes landmark reforms to the Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency that oversees our nation’s rail system. These reforms will make the agency more accountable to the people who depend on rail transportation, like our agriculture producers. The president also signed the first multi-year highway bill since 2005 – the longest since 1998. And all Americans will benefit from the aviation security reforms I authored as well as the consumer protection provisions included in the bipartisan aviation bill that I helped get to the president’s desk. All of that is good news for states like South Dakota where a safe, reliable, and effective transportation system is critical.
While a lot was accomplished, there’s a lot more we tried to do. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats and President Obama have made it difficult to approve must-pass bills like the Department of Defense appropriations bill, which would fund our troops, and the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, which would fund key infrastructure programs and support our veterans. Despite bipartisan attempts to reach an agreement, Democrats opposed a $1.1 billion funding bill that would have helped tackle the nationwide Zika threat. I’m most disappointed, though, that amid all of the threats we face from terrorist groups like ISIS, President Obama has yet to lay out a concrete and comprehensive plan to defeat the group and its radical ideology. These are important issues, and they deserve to rise above politics.
If our paths cross this summer, please stop and say hello. I can’t do my job without knowing what’s important to you, and your feedback on what I’m working on in the Senate is invaluable. If we don’t catch up in person, you can always call my office, write me a letter, or send me an email. Either way, I look forward to hearing from you this summer.