US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: The Work Goes On

The Work Goes On
By Sen. John Thune

While the Senate continues to carefully monitor the implementation of our COVID relief efforts, listen to and learn from states and communities, evaluate where future health and economic assistance might be required, and develop targeted proposals to help those in need, we’re also focused on other issues that are important to the American people. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, as the old saying goes.

In recent weeks and months, the Senate approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which supports our military men and women and their families, passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a major lands bill that will help clear maintenance backlogs at national parks in South Dakota, and confirmed executive branch nominations and lifetime judicial branch nominations to federal benches around the country.

We’ve also continued a lot of the behind-the-scenes committee work that vets nominees and prepares legislation for future consideration on the Senate floor. I serve on the Finance Committee, Agriculture Committee, and Commerce Committee, and I’m the chairman of the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight and the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet (CTII).

I recently convened a pair of hearings at the CTII subcommittee, which is the only subcommittee that’s comprised of every member of the full Commerce Committee. The high interest in serving on the subcommittee is a testament to its focus on a wide range of issues that affect Americans in every corner of the United States, especially South Dakota.

For example, bridging the digital divide is critical for rural America, and it’s something I’ve been fighting to accomplish for years. While the divide has gotten smaller, there’s still more work to do, which is why one of my recent CTII hearings focused on the public and private sectors’ coordinated effort when it comes to federal spectrum management.

Think of “spectrum” as the airwaves over which information flows to and from internet- or Bluetooth-connected devices. Without effective spectrum management, the race to 5G becomes far more difficult, and rural America ultimately ends up paying the price. This issue will continue to be at the forefront of my subcommittee’s agenda.

I also convened a hearing to examine a bipartisan bill I helped introduce, the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, which would help strengthen online platform transparency when platforms like Facebook or Twitter moderate content posted by their users. The PACT Act would also hold large technology companies accountable for illegal content or material that violates their own policies. At its core, the PACT Act is about providing digital consumers with the online control and protection they deserve.

Continuing the nationwide battle against the coronavirus will undoubtedly be one of Congress’s top priorities this year, but, as you can see, we’ve got a lot of important issues on our plate. Regardless of what’s in front of us in Washington, though, I will always fight for South Dakota’s values and put the interests of our state ahead of everything else.

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