Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: 100 Days and $6,000,000,000,000

100 Days and $6,000,000,000,000
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
April 30, 2021

Nearly 100 days ago, President Biden stood before America and promised unity and a path forward. He told us that path forward would include Republicans – it hasn’t yet. I’m an optimist though, and during my first two years in Washington, when faced with a global pandemic, Congress stepped up to the plate and passed bipartisan legislation to help all Americans. I believe we can get back to that place.

This week during his first joint address to Congress, he offered similar sentiments of unity. He said, “We can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition we have with the rest of the world.” But for the next hour, the president went on to introduce proposals that will cost the American taxpayer trillions.

His first bill to pass the Democrat-controlled House and Senate cost $2 trillion. His other agendas will cost $4 trillion. $2 + $4 =$6 trillion. To give you some context, the federal budget Congress passed for fiscal year 2021, which includes all discretionary and defense spending, was $1.4 trillion. His plans don’t include standard budget spending to provide for our national defense, Social Security, and other yearly functions of government. That’s a lot of money.

Investment in our children & infrastructure doesn’t need to be partisan. As a fiscal conservative, I believe America can continue to be a superpower without spending ourselves into oblivion. We do need infrastructure investments throughout America, but not to the tune of $2 trillion.

Republicans have introduced more modest proposals in the $300-500 billion range. I was invited to the White House recently along with a few other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus to meet with the president’s chief of staff regarding infrastructure. His team seemed genuine, but we are on vastly different pages.

There have been some glimmers of hope over the past 100 days – as the US has surpassed 200 million administered COVID-19 vaccine doses. The president and his team deserve a lot of credit for that as does Operation Warp Speed and the CARES Act. Because of the vaccine, confidence in the American economy is back, and the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing.

If President Biden is serious about working together and passing bipartisan legislation, his proposals can’t all start with a “T.” Let’s get serious on prescription drug pricing, infrastructure investment, and job creation.

Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: The Power of Travel

The Power of Travel
By: Governor Kristi Noem
April 30, 2021

In South Dakota, we have so much to be proud of. Our beautiful landscapes, thriving business climate, and welcoming residents all combine to make this state truly the land of “Great Faces, Great Places.” But this week, we have a very special reason to celebrate something that combines all the state’s greatest qualities: our travel and tourism industry.

From May 2 through 8, join me in celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). This year’s NTTW theme – the “Power of Travel” – seems more important than ever in 2021. Last year, our friends and neighbors in the tourism industry found innovative ways to serve their customers.

By remaining open and free, South Dakota survived – and some even thrived – during a challenging year. It was tough, but determination, hard work, and perseverance – qualities that come naturally to South Dakotans – got us through the storm. And now, South Dakota is welcoming visitors that are more excited than ever to travel.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate tourism, our state’s second-largest industry. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, South Dakota was one of the best-performing states in the country. We welcomed 12.6 million visitors to the Mount Rushmore State in 2020.

Those guests spent a total of $3.4 billion, generating $276 million in tax revenue. Together, these visitors support almost 50,000 South Dakota jobs in our tourism industry. In fact, because of visitor spending in our state, South Dakota taxpayers save $780 per household. On average, national visitor spending declined by 45%, but South Dakota saw only an 18% decline in spending.

Outdoor recreation is always something to enjoy in South Dakota, but it was especially popular at a time when fresh air and wide-open spaces were a priority nationwide. State park visitation was up 31% last year, and we issued record numbers of trail permits and youth hunting licenses. For the first time ever, we welcomed more than 2 million visitors to Custer State Park.

This is why we are celebrating the “Power of Travel” in South Dakota during this year’s NTTW – and there are so many ways to get involved. Write a letter or social post thanking travel workers – including your favorite SoDak businesses – for everything they do to attract and entertain visitors. Tag your messages with #NTTW21, #HifromSD and #PowerOfTravel to show your appreciation for hard-working tourism folks.

When the going got tough, tourism stepped up. And the folks in the tourism industry deserve our gratitude. Whether you’re from out of state or are a lifelong resident, I hope you’ll find ways to enjoy South Dakota’s many incredible opportunities, whether it’s catching a sunrise at Badlands National Park or cruising our scenic roads and byways, or just supporting your local diner.

2020 proved that a united state can weather any storm. That’s the “Power of Travel.” 2020 was an incredible year for South Dakota’s tourism industry, and I’m so excited for what 2021 has in store.

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Governor Noem Sues Biden Administration over Mount Rushmore Fireworks

Governor Noem Sues Biden Administration over Mount Rushmore Fireworks

PIERRE, SD – Today, Governor Kristi Noem filed a lawsuit against officials in the Biden administration over their cancellation of the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota Central Division.

“Mount Rushmore is the very best place to celebrate America’s birthday and all that makes our country special,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “After telling us they’d ‘circle back,’ the Biden administration has not responded to our request to uphold the Memorandum of Agreement between the State of South Dakota and the National Parks Service (NPS) to host a safe and responsible national celebration and fireworks show.

“Unfortunately, the new administration departed from precedent and reneged on this agreement without any meaningful explanation,” continued Noem. “We are asking the court to enjoin the Department of Interior’s (DOI) denial of the fireworks permit and order it to issue a permit for the event expeditiously.”

Previously, Governor Noem asked President Biden to uphold the Memorandum of Agreement between NPS and the State of South Dakota regarding the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration. Governor Noem responded to NPS’s reasons for cancelling the fireworks celebration. She also outlined the due diligence that the State of South Dakota and other entities undertook to ensure that last year’s celebration could be conducted safely and responsibly. You can read Governor Noem’s letter to President Biden here.

America’s Founding Fathers knew that Independence Day should be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one [e]nd of this Continent to the other,” as stated by John Adams on July 3, 1776. And President Calvin Coolidge declared that Mount Rushmore was designed to be “a national shrine to which future generations will repair to declare their continuing allegiance to independence [and] self-government.”

Last year’s Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration was held safely and responsibly and had a huge positive impact on the South Dakota economy. You can find materials such as photographs and video of the 2020 Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration here.

You can read the filed complaint here.

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Elevate Rapid City issues second annual pro-business scorecard; declares 9 of 15 Rapid City Legislators as pro-business champions

Rapid City business organization ELEVATE Rapid City has issued their second annual pro-business scorecard, with 9 of 15 Rapid City area legislators doing quite well:

You can read all about it here.

Several of the legislators who had high pro-business scores last year also scored highly this year, with Castleberry, Diedrich, Duhamel, Olson, & Johnson repeating their “Pro-Business Champion” designations from last years’ scorecard.

Similarly, the group also noted several who repeated scoring below 50% pro-business for their votes in the legislature for a second year in a row, with Phil Jensen, Taffy Howard, Tony Randolph, and Tina Mulally.

Thune Joins Colleagues in Reintroducing Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Telehealth Access, Make Permanent Telehealth Flexibilities Available During COVID-19 Pandemic

Thune Joins Colleagues in Reintroducing Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Telehealth Access, Make Permanent Telehealth Flexibilities Available During COVID-19 Pandemic

Telehealth use among Medicare beneficiaries increased by 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic; CONNECT For Health Act holds broad bipartisan support, most comprehensive legislation on telehealth in Congress

WASHINGTON —U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) this week joined Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) in leading a bipartisan group of 50 senators to reintroduce the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021. The CONNECT for Health Act will expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.

“South Dakotans were utilizing telehealth services long before the pandemic, and they understand the value and increased access it brings,” said Thune. “We’ve learned plenty from the pandemic, and it’s now all the more clear how important it is to continue to expand access to telehealth. I appreciate the opportunity to work with my colleagues and stakeholders on this important bill that will make it easier for patients to use telehealth.”

“The last year has shown us that telehealth works, it’s popular, and it’s here to stay,” said Schatz. “Our comprehensive bill makes it easier for more people to safely get the care they need no matter where they live.”

“Telehealth is enabling more people to receive the care they need, leading to improved outcomes and lower costs,” said Wicker. “This bipartisan legislation would build on the success of telehealth in states like Mississippi to eliminate existing barriers and expand access to lifesaving care for more Americans.”

Three provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act were included in COVID-19 relief legislation to expand access to telehealth during the pandemic. As a result, telehealth has seen a sharp rise in use since the start of pandemic as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other health care settings and instead receive care at home. Data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by about 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated telehealth’s utility in delivering essential care. As we look beyond the pandemic, it is clear that telehealth will be a crucial tool in addressing health disparities for populations with diminished access to care,” said Cardin. “I’m proud to continue partnering with my colleagues on this bipartisan bill that will increase the availability of telehealth and help deliver better health care to Americans in every part of Maryland and across the country.”

“If we’ve learned anything in the past 14 months, it’s that people are better off when they’re able to see a doctor quickly, easily, and from the comfort of home. This is particularly the case for folks in rural or medically underserved communities, who may otherwise have to travel long distances to get basic medical services,” said Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which will enable Virginians to make the most of telehealth capabilities and access the quality and affordable health care they need as soon as they need it.”

“The past year has highlighted the value of telehealth, and those benefits will increase with rapidly advancing technology,” said Hyde-Smith. “This legislation would help ensure Mississippians and Americans can continue to rely on telehealth services for easier access to affordable, quality care, even after the pandemic ends.”

In addition to Senators Schatz, Wicker, Cardin, Thune, Warner, and Hyde-Smith, the CONNECT for Health is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Angus King (I-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016 and is considered the most comprehensive legislation on telehealth in Congress. Since 2016, several provisions of the bill were enacted into law or adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, including provisions to remove restrictions on telehealth services for mental health, stroke care, and home dialysis.

The updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act builds on that progress and includes new and revised provisions that will help more people access telehealth services. Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites;
  • Allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
  • Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
  • Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies; and
  • Require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.).

The CONNECT for Health Act has the support of more than 150 organizations including AARP, America’s Essential Hospitals, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Children’s National Hospital, eHealth Initiative, Federation of American Hospitals, Health Innovation Alliance, HIMSS, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, Personal Connected Health Alliance, and Teladoc Health.

“Our thanks go to longstanding telehealth champions Sen. Schatz, Sen. Wicker, and the 50 co-sponsors of this bipartisan bill, for their continued efforts to make access to telehealth a permanent part of care delivery in our country,” said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). “By ensuring Medicare beneficiaries do not lose access to telehealth after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends, the CONNECT ACT protects seniors from the telehealth cliff. The ATA remains committed to working with Congress to advance swift, comprehensive policy that will explicitly ensure that everyone has access to safe, effective, and appropriate care when and where they need it, no matter where they live.”

“Federal action to expand telehealth services during the pandemic has been a lifeline that helped keep patients connected to care and allowed health centers to keep their doors open,” said Tom Van Coverden, president and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “For patients on Medicare, especially people living in rural areas, without access to smart phones or reliable broadband, expanded telehealth flexibilities are essential to health and wellness.  We cannot reverse progress, especially now.  The CONNECT for Health Act ensures health centers can permanently extend these services for our Medicare population and the underserved. We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Senators Brian Schatz and Roger Wicker, as well as their colleagues on the Senate telehealth working group, in advancing this important legislation.”

A summary of the bill and the full list of endorsing organizations are available here.

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Rounds Statement on the President’s Address to Congress

Rounds Statement on the President’s Address to Congress

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) issued the following statement after President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress:

“President Biden continues to talk about bipartisanship but his actions in the first 100 days reflect a more partisan agenda. His $6 trillion spending proposals reflect a far-left approach to growing government and increasing regulations. In particular, his infrastructure proposal is long on unsustainable social welfare spending and short on real infrastructure. Republicans look forward to working with the president if he decides he wants to find common ground on a significant infrastructure development plan that allows for local input.

I am disappointed in President Biden’s continued attack on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens as well as his lack of support for the law enforcement community. Republicans will continue to offer solutions for criminal justice reform that still provides protections for our society from those who would do us harm.

I agree with the president’s “Buy American” approach, specifically when it comes to the livestock industry. The Department of Agriculture should change their existing rules that do not help our producers compete with foreign imports of beef. Additionally, I was pleased to see the president also focus on finding specific cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other significant health threats.”

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Johnson Supports Resuming Construction of Southern Border Wall

Johnson Supports Resuming Construction of Southern Border Wall

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) is an original cosponsor of the Finish the Wall Act with Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), which would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to immediately resume construction of the southern border wall. According to a recent report, apprehensions at the U.S.–Mexico border reached a 15-year high in March, with Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agents taking more than 171,000 migrants into custody.

Under the previous administration, illegal border crossings hit record lows. But illegal crossings at the border have reached unprecedented levels following the Biden Administration’s halt of border wall construction, the Migrant Protection Protocols or the “remain-in-Mexico” policy, and the reestablishment of catch-and-release policies.

“Both sides can fundamentally disagree on how we solve the crisis at the border, but the data is clear, and many of the Trump Administration’s policies at the border worked to mitigate the smaller surge we saw in 2019,” said Johnson. “President Biden signaled that America’s borders were open for business – and look where it’s gotten us.

“While our southern border is in disarray, the Biden Administration halted appropriated funds for construction projects that worked towards securing our border. Congress already approved this funding, and this ongoing crisis has proven there is no reason to further delay – it’s time to resume construction.”

In 2019, Johnson worked to secure funding for border security amid a government shutdown. Additionally, Johnson traveled to the southern border in April 2019 to witness obstacles faced by CBP firsthand. Shortly after his visit, he worked with the Problem Solvers Caucus to secure funding for border security, humanitarian efforts, and increased hiring for CBP officers.

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MyPillow founder to kick off new social media platform at Corn Palace event

From the Duluth News, MyPillow founder Mike Lindell is apparently going to make it MyCornPalace for a day, as he launches his new social media platform:

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says he’ll launch his new social media site and podcast platform, dubbed Frank, at a rally at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., on May 10.

Lindell made the announcement Wednesday, April 28, on the podcast “Bannon’s War Room” hosted by Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump.

“That’s going to be the grand, grand opening to the world,” Lindell said. “I just want to get the awareness of the Frank speech, for our free speech to get out there so they can’t suppress us anymore.”

Asked by Bannon why he picked the Corn Palace, a corn-coated tourist attraction and event facility in the town of about 16,000, Lindell said he had been there before, was “very familiar” with South Dakota and was a big supporter of Kristi Noem, the state’s Republican governor, and her pandemic decision to reject any statewide mask mandates or shutdowns.

“I love what the governor, Kristi Noem, has done there,” he said.

Read the entire story here.

Thune Responds to President Biden’s Joint Session Address

Thune Responds to President Biden’s Joint Session Address

“For the sake of South Dakota and the United States, I sincerely hope the president reverses course. The challenges we face as a nation are too great to go it alone.”

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today released the following statement in response to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress:

“The past year has challenged Americans as our country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic and recover from the economic crisis it caused. I believe our brightest days lie ahead – but only if we work together.

“President Biden tonight echoed themes of bipartisanship and unity from his inaugural address, but South Dakotans can clearly see the difference between talk and action. While the president is quick to talk about bipartisanship, he has yet to meaningfully work with Republicans and has given cover to the far-left wing of his party as it works to undermine the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, and even the very nature of the Senate designed by our Founding Fathers. One of his first acts as president was caving to the extremist left wing of his party at South Dakota’s expense by cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline and killing thousands of good-paying jobs.

“With a 50-50 split in the Senate and one of the slimmest majorities in the House of Representatives in modern history, the president must realize he does not have a mandate for his partisan, big-spending policies. If President Biden sincerely wants to work with congressional Republicans to fix our nation’s infrastructure and create a greater quality of life for every American, he will not find a more willing partner than me. But if the president continues to pursue a costly and one-sided agenda, he can expect fierce opposition from Republicans in Congress.

“On the eve of his 100th day in office, it’s time for President Biden to choose whether the rest of his presidency will be defined by the rank partisanship seen in his first 100 days or if he will live by the words of his inaugural address.

“For the sake of South Dakota and the United States, I sincerely hope the president reverses course. The challenges we face as a nation are too great to go it alone.”

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Johnson Statement Following Biden’s Address to Congress

Johnson Statement Following Biden’s Address to Congress

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) issued a statement following President Biden’s first joint address to the U.S. Congress:

“Tonight, President Biden said: ‘We can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition we have with the rest of the world.’ He went on to introduce proposals that will cost the American taxpayer trillions. Investment in our children and infrastructure don’t need to be partisan. President Biden, if you’re serious about working together, if you’re serious about passing bipartisan legislation, your proposals can’t all start with a “T.” Let’s get serious on prescription drug pricing, infrastructure, and job creation.”

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