US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Ready to Hit the Ground Running

Ready to Hit the Ground Running
By Sen. John Thune

While the Senate floor is often the epicenter of big legislative debates, most of the bills or nominations that receive a final up-or-down vote by all 100 senators have been carefully reviewed by smaller groups of senators at each of the various committees, which, collectively, have jurisdiction over nearly every policy issue in the United States.

Traditionally, if an individual member of Congress has an idea for a bill, they start by putting pen to paper. For me, a significant number of the bills I draft each year are inspired by ideas or suggestions I receive from fellow South Dakotans, because, frankly, the best ideas almost always come from outside of the Capital Beltway.

After a bill is drafted and introduced, it’s typically sent to the Senate committee that has jurisdiction over the area the bill covers. It’s here, in the committees, where most of the groundwork is laid. Each of the committees are able to convene hearings so their members can evaluate legislation, hear from policy experts, or determine whether or not an executive branch or judicial branch nominee is qualified to move forward to the full Senate.

At the beginning of each Congress, every senator is able to request which of the more than a dozen standing committees he or she wants to serve on for the next two years. Committee seats are assigned based on seniority and areas of expertise, among other things, and not everyone gets to serve on all of the committees they request.

Fortunately for me, though, I was once again assigned to three powerful committees, all of which cover issues that are important to South Dakota, and I’m eager to hit the ground running.

I will again serve as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which puts me in a prime position to continue advocating for South Dakota’s top industry. The ink is barely dry on the 2018 farm bill – the fourth farm bill I’ve helped write – but there are plenty of wins to which we can already point. Thanks to the advice and suggestions I received from the South Dakota agriculture community, I authored roughly 40 legislative proposals, of which a dozen were included in the new law.

I will also spend this Congress, as I have in past Congresses, serving on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees a wide variety of issues, including our nation’s transportation system, technology, telecommunications, and everything from the depths of the ocean to the heights of outer space.

I’m taking on new responsibilities this year as the Republican whip, the Senate’s chief vote counter, so I’ve had to relinquish the chairman’s gavel at the Commerce Committee, but the work goes on. Leading the full committee for the last four years has been highly rewarding, and through our committee work, we’ve been able to deliver on issues large and small that matter to South Dakota – and nothing about that will change going forward.

While I won’t be serving as the full committee chairman this Congress, I’m humbled to have been selected as the committee’s new chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, which will allow me to stay focused on issues like 5G mobile broadband deployment in South Dakota – one of my top priorities.

Finally, I’ll rejoin my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee, the same committee that drafted and helped shepherd through Congress landmark reforms to our nation’s tax code. Tax reform is already helping American families and businesses, and since this is the first time Americans will file their taxes under the new law, I’m confident many people will begin to notice even more relief in their family budgets this year.

I say it as often as possible, but I always want my priorities in the Senate to reflect the priorities of South Dakota, and serving on these committees will help me continue to advance them each and every day.

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