During times of crisis, Congress is an essential industry for the American people. That’s why I’m glad the Senate recently returned to Washington to continue doing the people’s business in a safe and responsible way. While walking the halls of the Capitol isn’t quite like it used to be, the Office of the Attending Physician and the Senate Rules Committee should be applauded for developing a plan so senators and staff can do our jobs while also complying with the appropriate coronavirus guidelines.
During the weeks I was working from home, I was able to stay connected with South Dakotans and my congressional colleagues. I learned more about Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Live than I ever imagined would be necessary. I’m glad I had those opportunities, but there are certain parts of my job that simply cannot be replicated when I’m not in Washington. Members of Congress have an obligation to rise to the occasion when the country needs them to show up and lead, and now is one of those times.
We have important work to do, especially when it comes to monitoring the ongoing congressional response to the pandemic, but keeping people safe is our top priority. We all have a responsibility to do our part to help slow the spread. That’s why while I returned to Washington to vote, participate in committee hearings, and meet with colleagues, I asked a vast majority of my staff to continue to telework. They have proven that despite the obstacles this virus has presented, they can still represent the people of South Dakota as effectively as ever, even while working remotely. I’m thankful for the long hours they’ve put in on behalf of our state and nation, and I’m proud, as always, of their desire to serve.
In the Capitol, senators, members of the press, police officers, and other support staff have been wearing masks and doing their part to stay physically separated. We extended votes to avoid having members congregate in the Senate chamber, and we did simple things like open all of the chamber doors so senators weren’t forced to unnecessarily touch common surfaces. In committee hearings, the daises were extended so there was a full six feet between each senator, we drastically reduced the number of people who were in the room, and senators could appear by video instead of in person.
I’ve been proud to support multiple coronavirus relief measures that are helping American businesses, workers, and farm and ranch families. For example, we created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that’s designed to keep as many people as possible employed throughout this crisis. In South Dakota alone, more than 18,000 small businesses have received more than $1.5 billion in PPP loans. I wish so many small businesses, including farmers and ranchers, didn’t need to rely on this lifeline, but with this kind of demand, it’s proven its value.
As this pandemic continues, Congress will do whatever it can to support the American people, but there’s a limit to how much Washington can spend. We owe it to taxpayers – the people whose money we’re spending – and to the generations of Americans whose futures we’re mortgaging to get this right. That’s why before we consider new spending or creating new programs, I believe it’s essential to ensure the money we’ve already spent and the programs we’ve already created are working as intended.
Perseverance is the American way – a patriotic-like stubbornness that for generations has prevented any situation, no matter how difficult, from getting the best of our nation. That’s why when I say we will rise from this challenge, stronger and better prepared for what lies ahead, I mean it.
America doesn’t give up. We lead. We inspire. We succeed. We always have, and we always will.