U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the long list of bipartisan bills the Republican-led Senate has passed in just the first seven months of the 114th Congress to address the American people’s priorities.
The full text of Thune’s floor speech follows (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, when Republicans were campaigning last fall, we promised the American people that if they put us in charge, we would get the Senate working again.
“That wasn’t a campaign slogan.
“That was a commitment.
“And I’m proud to report that we’re delivering on that promise.
“The first seven months of the 114th Congress have been some of the most productive the Senate has had in a long time.
“We’ve passed more than 70 bills to help strengthen our economy, reform our government, protect some of the most vulnerable, and strengthen our national security.
“We passed bipartisan legislation to authorize the Keystone pipeline, a valuable infrastructure project that would support more than 42,000 jobs during construction and invest $5.3 billion in the U.S. economy – all without spending a dime of taxpayer money.
‘We passed a bipartisan bill to strengthen our efforts to eradicate human trafficking in this country and help its victims.
“This legislation, which passed the Senate with unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans and was signed into law in May, gives law enforcement new tools to target traffickers, including increased access to wiretaps, and significantly expands the resources available to trafficking victims as they seek to rebuild their lives.
“Mr. President, as negotiations with Iran over a nuclear agreement were repeatedly extended, and as reports of significant compromises emerged, Democrats and Republicans alike grew concerned that the administration would fail to negotiate a deal that would be strong enough to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“To address these concerns, the Senate passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
“This legislation, which passed the Senate with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans and was signed into law by President Obama, was designed to ensure that the American people, through their elected representatives, would have a voice in any deal with Iran.
“Without the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, there would be no opportunity for an up-or-down vote on this deal in Congress, and no way to prevent the president from immediately waiving the sanctions Congress put in place.
“Congress is currently reviewing the final agreement announced by the president – an agreement that has been greeted with bipartisan skepticism – and will be holding a vote on this deal in September.
“Mr. President, increasing access to jobs and expanding opportunities for American workers is a priority of the Republican-led Congress.
“In May, with the support of 14 Democrats, the Republican-led Senate passed legislation to reauthorize trade promotion authority, which is key to securing trade deals that are favorable to American workers and businesses.
“Since 2009, increasing exports have accounted for more than 1.6 million new jobs in the United States.
“Manufacturing jobs that depend on exports pay on average 13 to 18 percent more.
“Thanks to the bipartisan trade promotion authority legislation, the administration now has a key tool to negotiate trade agreements that will create more good-paying jobs for American workers and open new markets for products labeled ‘Made in the USA.’
“Mr. President, after taking up bipartisan legislation to protect our economy, the Senate turned to another key Republican priority – supporting our military men and women.
“The National Defense Authorization Act, which we considered in June, passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.
“In addition to authorizing the funding our military needs to defend our nation, this bill contains a number of reforms that will expand the resources available to our military men and women and strengthen our national security.
“Among other things, this legislation:
“Targets $10 billion in unnecessary spending and redirects those funds to military priorities like funding for aircraft and weapons systems and modernization of Navy vessels.
“Implements sweeping reforms to the military’s outdated acquisitions process by removing bureaucracy and expediting decision-making, which will significantly improve the military’s ability to access the technology and equipment it needs.
“And replaces the outdated military retirement system with a modern system that will extend retirement benefits to 75 percent of our service members.
“Mr. President, during the month of July, the Senate built on its bipartisan achievements with two important pieces of legislation – the Every Child Achieves Act, and the DRIVE Act.
“The Every Child Achieves Act, which passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin, reauthorizes federal K-12 education programs and revokes problematic federal mandates like those that have resulted in the phenomenon of ‘overtesting.’
“This legislation restores control of education to those who know students best – like parents, teachers, and local school boards.
“The DRIVE Act, which passed the Senate by a strong bipartisan margin, is notable because it is the first transportation bill in almost a decade to provide more than two years of funding for our nation’s infrastructure needs.
“Around the country, hundreds of thousands of people – and hundreds of thousands of jobs – depend on the funding contained in transportation bills.
“When Congress fails to provide the necessary certainty about the way transportation funding will be allocated, states and local governments are left without the certainty they need to authorize projects or make long-term plans for transportation infrastructure.
“That means that essential construction projects get deferred, necessary repairs may not get made, and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.
“The DRIVE Act will give states and local governments the certainty they need to plan for and commit to key infrastructure projects.
“Mr. President, every bill I’ve discussed today passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.
“And one major reason for that is Senate Republicans’ commitment to opening up the legislative process here in the Senate.
“Under Democrat control, the legislative process in the Senate had almost ground to a halt.
“Instead of being developed in committee, bills were frequently drafted behind closed doors, and not only the minority party but many rank-and-file Democrats were shut out of the process.
“When Republicans took control of the Senate in January, we changed all that.
“We opened up the committee process and debate on the floor, and we’ve made it a priority to ensure that every senator, both Democrat and Republican, has an opportunity to make his or her voice heard.
“During 2014, the Democrat leadership allowed just 15 amendment roll call votes.
“Republicans allowed more than 15 amendment roll call votes in our first month.
“So far this year, we’ve allowed more than 165 amendment roll call votes, and we still have five months to go.
“Mr. President, the Republican-led Senate has accomplished a lot over the past seven months, but we know we have a lot more to do.
“As the 114th Congress continues, we will continue to fight for the American people’s priorities.
“We hope Democrats will continue to join us.”