Sen. John Thune
The Senate Republican majority has made significant progress this year on behalf of the American people. We’ve confirmed numerous executive and judicial branch nominees, rolled back burdensome government regulations, laid important groundwork for the 2018 farm bill, repealed one of the fundamental pillars of Obamacare, and we delivered pro-growth tax reform to middle-income South Dakotans. It’s been a big year.
A lot of folks forget that in addition to working on legislative items, the Senate is in a unique position of dealing with executive and judicial branch personnel, too. As the new administration took shape this year, we fulfilled our constitutional role of vetting and confirming nominees, of which 19 nominations, including two cabinet officials and the Federal Communications Commission chairman, came through the Senate Commerce Committee, which I chair.
In April, the Senate confirmed then-judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Gorsuch has always been known for his impartiality and commitment to the rule of law. When we were considering his nomination, I said he was the kind of jurist who called balls and strikes when it comes to interpreting the law, and he’s proven that again since his confirmation.
The Republican-led Senate set records this year for the number of U.S. circuit court nominees we confirmed. Circuit court judges serve lifetime terms on the bench, and they are the last stop in the judicial system before the Supreme Court. In December, we confirmed the 12th circuit court judge of 2017 – the most for any president in his first year in office since the creation of circuit courts in 1891. By getting young and experienced judges who are committed to the rule of the law on the bench today, we can ensure the judicial system is in good hands for decades to come.
Slashing red tape has also been a priority in the Senate. Throughout the year, we used the Congressional Review Act – a legislative tool that allows Congress to weigh in on rules and regulations issued by executive branch agencies – to roll back more than one dozen heavy-handed government regulations that were implemented during the Obama administration.
On the agriculture front, with the current farm bill expiring next year, I spent much of this year laying the groundwork to ensure the next farm bill is done right and on time. Our hardworking farmers and ranchers deserve it, and I am working hard to ensure that Congress delivers.
We had a busy year in the Commerce Committee, too. Aside from the committee’s role in the confirmation process, which included more than 250 U.S. Coast Guard promotions this year, my Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 and No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act made it to the president’s desk. The Senate passed more than a half-dozen telecomm bills, including my MOBILE NOW Act, which would increase access to broadband and other cutting-edge technologies. And the committee passed my AV START Act, FAA reauthorization bill, Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act, and TSA Modernization Act.
We closed 2017 with what will be one of the greatest accomplishments during my time in Congress. We passed sweeping reforms to the tax code for the first time in more than three decades. These reforms will bring some much-needed relief to middle-income South Dakotans who have been looking for more opportunities to get ahead. Tax reform will lower tax rates for all Americans, and it will double the standard deduction and the child tax credit. Taxpayers will begin to see the benefits from these reforms in their paychecks early next year.
Also this year, we repealed Obamacare’s unpopular individual mandate, which forced Americans to purchase a product they might not want or can’t afford, and we finally opened a small portion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration that will lead to more American jobs and greater energy independence for the United States.
2017 has been a year full of accomplishments, and the Senate Republican majority has a lot to show for it. I say it every year, but there’s always more work to be done. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to build on the progress we made this year as we head into 2018 and beyond.