Thune Hosts FCC Chairman Pai in Rapid City

Thune Hosts FCC Chairman Pai in Rapid City

RAPID CITY, S.D. — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statement after hosting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai in Rapid City for a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and roundtable discussion with South Dakota telecommunications stakeholders.

“I want to thank Chairman Pai for making the trip to South Dakota to meet with telecommunications stakeholders in our state,” said Thune. “His willingness to learn from and discuss challenges with professionals who understand the complexities of providing high-speed internet access for rural communities, like those throughout South Dakota, shows how serious he is about making improvements to advance rural America. I look forward to working with the chairman as he incorporates the feedback he received today into initiatives that could improve connectivity for people living in every corner of the state, even the most remote areas.”


Dems still short a candidate for the top South Dakota office this election.

I was noticing the other day that (predictably) Libertarian spoiler Kurt Evans announced in a comment section at another blog that he is bowing out from running for US Senate (again. And again).

This race that never got off the ground marked his third race against Senator Thune, and his second time bowing out against the State’s senior Senator, putting Evans as having actually ran once, and then not getting past talking about it the next three times. I’m starting to sense a pattern.

For challengers against Thune, that leaves Mike “Professor Push-ups” Myers who is still thinking about a candidacy, in-between attempts of trying to sound coherent.  I wish him all the luck in the world with that.

Sounding coherent, that is. Not with the candidacy. He had enough trouble with the former during last years’ gubernatorial campaign.

Moving from the Libertarians and Independents to the Democrats, apparently, they’re still smarting from the shellacking they took in 2004 from Thune. They just flat out failed to field a challenger after the popular Thune’s first term of office.

And with just over a year left to go, they’re still strongly and firmly on track to duplicate those same results. They basically have no one.

Maybe I should clarify that a bit – they have no one credible yet. Although, I am hearing rumors of a former state legislative candidate in the Southeast part of the state who has lost for the legislature at least twice announcing at a meeting “If no one wants to do it, I will.”

Somebody has to take one for the team” is not exactly a rousing rallying cry.  But given the state of the Democrat party, it might be the best they can hope for.  But even that is wishful thinking at this point.

The fact remains that Dems are still short a candidate for the top South Dakota office in the 2016 election.  And that does not look like a condition that’s going to be remedied anytime soon.

If at all.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Ellsworth’s Expanded Role in America’s National Security

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressEllsworth’s Expanded Role in America’s National Security
By Sen. John Thune

This year, Ellsworth Air Force Base, located just outside Rapid City, has seen its role in our national security increase dramatically. Early this spring, the Air Force signed off on the completion of an eight-year project to expand the Powder River Training Complex, or PRTC, the airspace in which our B-1B bombers train. Until the expansion, this airspace was only big enough to permit one B-1B bomber to train at a time, which meant that our aircrews had to commute to other airspace to meet their training needs.

With this expansion, the PRTC has quadrupled in size, making it roughly the size of Indiana and spread over four states, including South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Eighty-five percent of our aircrews’ training needs can now be met here in South Dakota, with live-fire exercises taking place elsewhere. This will potentially save Ellsworth $23 million per year and allows our state to host missions from across the country as aircraft come here to utilize this national resource.

This week, we also saw another milestone in the notable history of Ellsworth Air Force Base, as the command structure for the B-1B bombers moved from Air Combat Command to Global Strike Command. This means that all of our nations’ bombers, the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52, will now be under the same command.

The B-1B remains a legacy mission for the Air Force, and the aircraft modernization the fleet is undergoing means the B-1B will continue to be the work horse of our Air Force for years to come. However, as we look to the future, the United States will eventually need a new, highly advanced, long-range bomber to meet our security needs.

The contract for this new bomber, known as the Long Range Strike-Bomber, or LRS-B, should be announced by years’ end, with the new aircraft coming online in the mid-2020s. When that happens, the LRS-B will gradually replace the B-1B and the B-52 bombers. By moving Ellsworth to Global Strike Command, the Air Force is anticipating that transition. Ellsworth’s command structure is now in a place where it can smoothly receive the new bombers once they come online.

According to General Richard Clark, commander of the 8th Air Force, the transition to the new command will be seamless for the men and women stationed at Ellsworth. “They will wear a different patch,” Gen. Clark said recently, “but aside from that it won’t be a significant change.” He went on to say, “in general this is a really great move for the Air Force.”

With the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex and the transition to Global Strike Command, the key role Ellsworth plays in our national defense has been solidified for years to come.


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Staying Safe Online

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateStaying Safe Online
By Senator Mike Rounds
Oct. 2, 2015

The internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives that most of us take it for granted. It is where we go to read the news, pay our bills, socialize with others, do our shopping and conduct important business. Over the last 15 years, the number of internet users has risen across the world from about 360 million to more than 3 billion.

While the World Wide Web has helped us stay connected with loved ones and become more efficient in our daily lives, we must be mindful of hackers and cyber threats that wish to do us harm. To highlight the risks that can occur if we are not safe with our online information, the Department of Homeland Security has dubbed October Cyber Security Awareness Month.

With all of the information we put on the internet – credit card information, bank account numbers, passwords and social security numbers – it is more important than ever to protect ourselves from attacks. Failing to do so can result in stolen identities, drained checking accounts, fraudulent credit card charges, unwanted solicitation and worse. As we have seen from the recent Office of Personnel Management data breach, which compromised 22 million federal employees’ private information, not even the federal government is safe from a cyber-attack.

While nothing is foolproof, there are things you can do to safeguard your online identity. First, make sure to always set strong passwords and change them frequently on all of your online accounts. Make certain you have antivirus software installed on your computer and install security updates every time your computer prompts you to do so. You should also be cautious when opening e-mails and e-mail attachments from unknown sources. If the address and subject line look suspicious, it could very well be a legitimate threat.

In Washington, D.C., cyber security policy has become a major topic of conversation in recent months because of the wide-ranging effects an attack could have on our nation. Some of our country’s top cyber security leaders, including Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, recently spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss our military strategy in cyberspace and ongoing cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security. They reinforced the importance of being prepared for any kind of attack on our cyber networks. The Senate is expected to consider the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) sometime this fall. I welcome this debate and look forward to discussing ways to enhance our nation’s cyber security.

In South Dakota, we are doing our part to keep Americans safe from online threats by training students in cyber security. Dakota State University in Madison, which offers a doctoral degree in cyber security, is one of the National Security Agency’s National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. The demand for highly-trained cyber security experts continues to grow, and Dakota State University is making sure South Dakota students are equipped and trained to fill those jobs. I’m proud that Dakota State University has become a nationally recognized leader in this important field and I look forward to watching their progress.

Cyber Security Awareness Month is an opportunity for all individuals, businesses and organizations to reflect on their efforts to protect themselves from cyber threats. During the month of October, I encourage all South Dakotans to make sure they are taking the steps necessary to keep themselves safe online.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Double-Digit Disaster

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Double-Digit Disaster
By Rep. Kristi Noem
October 2, 2015

Nearly one in three health insurance plans sold nationwide on next year will see double-digit rate increases.  In South Dakota, those kinds of increases are expected for 100 percent of the plans, according to an analysis done by Agile Health Insurance this September.  The President’s health care law fundamentally failed to drive down the cost of health care in this country and now hardworking families are left to foot an ever-increasing bill.

Congressional Republicans have tried many different approaches to repeal the President’s bill in full and even in part.  We’ve been successful in getting portions of the bill repealed nearly a dozen times, which has already saved billions of dollars.  But more must be done.

This September, I helped the House Ways and Means Committee advance legislation that aims to repeal five core elements of the President’s health care law: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (or IPAB), the medical device tax, and the “Cadillac tax.”  This legislation uses a tool called “budget reconciliation” to help protect the language from being stopped by Democrats in the Senate.

In the Senate, almost every bill requires at least three votes: one to start debate, one to end debate, and a final vote on passage.  The first two votes require a 60-vote majority before the legislation can move forward.  Since there are just 54 Republicans in the Senate, most bills require the support of at least six Democrats, making any legislation very difficult to move forward – especially bills that would repeal parts of the President’s signature health care law.

Because of Senate rules, however, reconciliation bills bypass the 60-vote threshold and can pass with just a simple majority – or 51 votes.

There are limits with this approach, however.  For instance, this tactic can only be used once a year, every provision within the bill must directly impact revenue, and it must produce an overall cost savings.  You might remember that Senate Democrats used this same tactic in 2010 to pass a portion of Obamacare. But just as the President’s health care law couldn’t be passed in full through budget reconciliation, it also can’t be completely repealed through budget reconciliation alone.  Nonetheless, reconciliation is the best tool we have to get repeals to the President’s desk that offer meaningful relief to families struggling under Obamacare.

If we are able to tear down the most harmful portions of the President’s health care law, we could stop the entire program in its tracks, which would give us the ability to replace it with a more affordable, patient-centered system.

That replacement system would allow people to buy insurance across state lines.  It would provide tax incentives to help families pay for a health insurance plan that worked for them.  It would reform medical malpractice laws while continuing to safeguard individuals with pre-existing conditions.

A better system that isn’t accompanied by double-digit cost increases is possible.  We just need the chance to implement it and our budget reconciliation language moves us in the right direction.


Thune, GOP leadership not interested in shutdown.

From politico, South Dakota’s senior US senator, John Thune, would not appear to be interested in a government shutdown. And Senate GOP leadership just out maneuvered Ted Cruz in preventing it.

“We had to be prepared,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “He’s running for national office. He’s got a different endgame than we do. There are things we have to do here. We’ve got to fund the government every year.”

By moving to quarantine Cruz from the rest of the conference over the past three months, the majority leader demonstrated that he’s learned the lessons of the Cruz-backed government shutdown in 2013 and the Texas senator’s rogue strategy last winter that helped Democrats confirm a raft of judges in the lame duck session. In doing so, McConnell cemented his position atop the Senate GOP, dashing any hopes among House Republicans, or conservative activists, that his future might be in doubt.

Read it all here.

These comments were also echoed by the Senator on MSNBC on September 21st, according to Newsmax:

Shutting down the government is not the answer to stopping Planned Parenthood, Sen. John Thune said Monday, pointing out that President Barack Obama will veto legislation that does away with the organization’s funding.

“I think there’s a better way to do this,” the South Dakota Republican, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “I think we’re going to get an opportunity not only to continue to fund the government, but to put something on the president’s desk that would redirect funding from Planned Parenthood to community centers.”

A government shutdown, Thune continued, would end “badly for our party,” and Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame.

Read it all here.

Does standing firmly against a government shutdown solidify Thune’s position for the fall 2016 election? What do you think?

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressProtecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us
By Sen. John Thune

Recently, the Senate took up a common-sense bill to protect human life, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would protect unborn children who have reached the age of 20 weeks – the age at which unborn children can feel pain – from being killed by abortion. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated in the Senate after just three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for this legislation.

It’s difficult for me to imagine how anyone could oppose this bill. Twenty weeks (about five months) into a pregnancy, the humanity of unborn babies is clearly visible. They have fingers and toes, eyebrows and eyelashes. They suck their thumbs. They yawn and stretch. They move around and make faces. They respond to noises. And they feel pain.

The scientific evidence on this point is incontrovertible: Five months into a pregnancy, the physical structure by which human beings experience pain is in place, and scientists can measure spikes in babies’ stress hormones when the babies are confronted with painful stimuli. In fact, some scientific evidence suggests that babies of this age feel pain even more keenly than adults do, since some of the neural mechanisms that inhibit pain don’t fully develop until after birth.

If there’s one thing all Americans ought to be able to agree on, it’s that unborn babies who feel pain deserve to be protected. Americans are rightly horrified by deliberate cruelty to animals – it is unthinkable that we allow unborn human beings who feel pain to be subjected to late-term abortion procedures that are so brutal it is difficult to even talk about them.

Thanks to advances in medical science, doctors and nurses in this country are saving babies who are born months early. A May 2015 article in the New York Times on advances in the treatment of extremely premature infants reported on one baby who was delivered at 22 weeks and 1 day and weighed 1.1 pounds at delivery, yet today is “a healthy 5-year-old.” Yet in the United States, our laws allow a baby of the very same age to be killed by abortion.

There are only seven countries in the world that allow elective abortion past five months of pregnancy. Among those countries are China, North Korea, and the United States. That’s not the company the United States should be keeping when it comes to protecting human rights.

And the American people agree. Polls show that a strong majority of Americans – including a strong majority of women – support banning elective abortions after five months of pregnancy.

Ultimately, it’s simple: That unborn baby – the one with the fingers and toes, who sucks her thumb and responds to her mother’s voice – that unborn baby is one of us, and as such she deserves to be protected. While I’m disappointed that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to pass the Senate this time, the fight is not over.


US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: President’s Energy Agenda Bad for South Dakota

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressPresident’s Energy Agenda Bad for South Dakota
By Sen. John Thune

South Dakotans frequently share with me their frustrations and concerns with Washington’s overreach into Americans’ lives. Despite the progress the new Senate Republican majority has made on many issues that impact hard-working families and small businesses across the country, the fact remains that Washington continues to be plagued by the failed leadership of the Obama administration.

Every September, we mark an anniversary that has become symbolic of the administration’s obstructionism: the filing of the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This year marks seven years since the permit was first filed. Even though the Obama State Department has reviewed hundreds of thousands of comments and completed five environmental impact statements, all of which found the pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment, the administration has continued to slow-walk an important infrastructure project that would immediately create “shovel-ready” jobs during construction, including 3,000-4,000 direct and indirect jobs in our state alone. The construction and operation of the pipeline would also bring crucial tax dollars to South Dakota municipalities along the route and bolster America’s energy independence.

Legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline was the first bill the GOP-led Senate considered this year. It passed with a strong bipartisan vote of over 60 senators supporting the bill. In February, President Obama sided with the liberal wing of his party and vetoed this legislation that would bring more energy to the United States and more economic growth in South Dakota. This is not the kind of leadership that will get our economy working again.

I recognize that the Keystone XL pipeline is only one project, but the administration’s attitude toward important energy investment has become all too pervasive. On August 3, the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rule against affordable electricity generation. This plan will increase electricity bills for Americans across the country, hurting job growth and families’ pocketbooks as it forces our most reliable and affordable sources of power generation out of operation – all while countries like China and India continue to pollute and exploit a competitive advantage of cheaper energy.

In the coming weeks, the EPA is expected to finalize what is estimated to be the most costly regulations in the agency’s history via a lower smog standard. The proposed range for a lower standard will draw large swaths of the country into nonattainment including areas in South Dakota, subjecting communities to stiff federal penalties, increased business costs, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and lost highway dollars. Even areas in marginal attainment will face steep challenges in attracting new economic development.

These and other regulations are hampering America’s economic recovery and have real-world impacts on South Dakota families and small businesses. Many of our efforts in the Senate to combat these regulations have been thwarted by a president committed to cementing his legacy. Unfortunately for hard-working Americans, the president’s legacy will be one plagued by obstructionism and federal overreach, the consequences of which will have a lasting impact. That is why Senate Republicans have been committed to enacting a pro-growth agenda that would help revive businesses, reduce tax and regulatory burdens, restore American values, and grow the middle class. The president might fight against this progress, but we’ll continue to fight back.


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Back to School

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateBack to School
By Senator Mike Rounds
September 18, 2015

With September in full swing, students across the state are back in the classroom to begin a new school year. Making sure our kids receive a top-notch education is important to me as a former governor and state legislator, current U.S. Senator and most importantly, a grandfather to eight. The young people learning, growing and thriving in our schools today will be our next generation of engineers, economists, lawyers, doctors, business owners and community leaders. A strong education system will help secure a prosperous future for our children, our communities, our country and our world.

For the first time in years, Congress came together to strengthen education in America. For too long, our education system has been burdened by sweeping federal mandates and a failure by previous congresses and the administration to implement any new, comprehensive education reforms.  This year, however, the Senate passed the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act, or ECAA. The ECAA is a complete overhaul of our education system that will bring decision-making abilities back to the state and local level. Parents, teachers and school boards will have the flexibility to implement strategies based on the individual needs of their students, not be burdened with one-size-fits-all federal mandates. The House of Representatives also passed an education reform bill this summer, and the two bills will now go to conference committee to reconcile the two bills before heading to the President’s desk.

While the ECAA is an immense improvement to our education system as a whole, we must do more to make certain all groups and demographics of children are properly cared for under our education system. That is why I am working to improve education among Native American students. High school graduation rates in South Dakota remains steady at approximately 83 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Unfortunately, for tribal schools in our state and across the country, the graduation rate is as low as 40 percent – half the national average. This is unacceptable.

Native American students—just like all students—deserve a strong education system that prepares them to have a strong and prosperous future. A deficit-neutral amendment I offered was included to the ECAA to address these low graduation rates. The amendment seeks to identify federal barriers restricting tribes from implementing common-sense regional policies and seeks to find ways to recruit and retain teachers and administrators in Indian Country.

With the 2015-2016 school year underway, I would like to thank all the teachers and school administrators who work tirelessly to educate and shape the young minds of tomorrow. South Dakota is fortunate to have top-notch teachers committed to delivering a strong, quality education to our youth. I will continue to find ways to support and strengthen our education system for South Dakota students and eliminate burdensome federal mandates. Future generations will have their own set of challenges and opportunities; a strong education system makes certain they are prepared to meet them.