Senator John ThuneOn issues critical to South Dakota – from better highways to cheaper energy – the new Senate is delivering.
Since we began our work in January, the new Senate has overcome the obstruction that stopped critical bills stalled for years. By working together, we have finally passed a highway bill, an energy policy, and a fiscally responsible budget, spurring job creation and economic growth.
The energy policy President Bush recently sign into law is especially beneficial to South Dakotans. Not only does the bill protect nearly 2 million American jobs over the next decade, it sets a renewable fuels standard that will dramatically increase ethanol use. That means Americans will be less dependent on foreign sources of oil, helping our environment and economy.
The new energy bill is not the only legislation we passed to give relief to American drivers. The new highway bill will improve the safety and efficiency of America’s transportation infrastructure, improving the flow of commerce and creating thousands of new jobs.
The new highway bill is especially important for South Dakotans. Since 2003, the Senate has been deadlocked over the federal highway bill, forcing Congress to extend the old highway bill ten times. The new highway bill passed by the Senate includes 30 percent more funding for South Dakota than the previous bill passed in the 1990s. I am especially proud of the $150 million I was able to secure to help fund projects across South Dakota, including the Phillips-to-the-Falls project in Sioux Falls and the Heartland Expressway in the Black Hills area.
In addition to a new highway bill and energy policy, the new Senate is also passing long-stalled reforms that will create new jobs. Earlier this year, the Senate passed the Class Action Fairness Act. This long-overdue litigation reform is intended to prevent trial lawyers from seeking the most favorable state to bring lawsuits. The new legislation makes class action suits fairer and helps prevent the abuse of such lawsuits.
The new Senate is also acting to protect the firearms industry from junk lawsuits. Many cases have been filed against the firearms industry since 1998 for allegedly harming others through the production and selling of firearms. While many of these lawsuits failed, the litigation was extremely expensive. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which I cosponsored, protects gun manufacturers from legally baseless lawsuits. After years of costly lawsuits and its failure in the last Congress, this important bill will soon become law.
The new Senate is also overcoming the obstruction that blocked President Bush’s judicial nominees in the last Congress. I was proud to see brilliant scholars and fair jurists, including some who were stalled for as long as four years, get the fair up-or-down vote they deserved. Looking forward, it is important that the President’s Supreme Court nominee receives that same fair up-or-down vote.
In recent months the Senate has overcome years of political gridlock to move forward on several issues important to South Dakotans. It is our job in the Senate to ensure this progress continues.