Recent Op-Eds

Giving South Dakotans a Voice in Washington

By Sen. John Thune

November 13, 2020

Recently, I was humbled to have been reelected by my colleagues to serve as the Republican whip, or assistant majority leader, the second-highest position in Senate Republican leadership. To boil it down, serving as whip will help me to continue advancing South Dakota’s priorities and give a strong voice to rural America in Washington.

While there are a couple of Senate races that have yet to be settled, I am confident that Republicans will control the Senate in the 117th Congress, which begins in January. Regardless of the outcome, though, my focus will remain the same: delivering real results to South Dakotans.

When I was first elected as whip in 2018, Republicans had just strengthened our majority. Democrats had regained control of the House, which meant we were facing a divided government, but I knew there was an opportunity to use my new role to ensure South Dakotans had a seat at the table for key decisions in Congress.

Early in my tenure, and throughout my first year as whip, getting the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) past the finish line was one of my top priorities. I understood how important this pro-agriculture trade deal was for the agriculture industry – South Dakota’s top industry. I heard from farmers and ranchers throughout the state who voiced how critical USMCA was to help strengthen the already struggling agriculture economy.

Low commodity and livestock prices, numerous natural disasters, and protracted trade disputes have left our agriculture economy trailing behind the broader economy for far too long. I worked hard to get this legislation passed, which will help create thousands of new jobs and expand economic growth for South Dakota’s producers. There is still more work to be done to help our agriculture economy, and I will continue to fight for South Dakota’s leading industry.

In March, as the COVID-19 virus pandemic began to hit, the nation felt a world of uncertainty. The Senate immediately got to work to provide much-needed relief to the American people. As whip, I worked hard to ensure multiple rounds of COVID relief bills made it through the Senate and onto the president’s desk. Among other things, these relief efforts put emergency cash into the hands of American families and workers who needed it the most. These bills provided relief to small businesses and invested in our health care workers on the front lines.

I’ve already helped negotiate another COVID relief bill, one that’s targeted and fiscally responsible. I’m hopeful Democrats will ditch their partisan demands and come to the table to finalize this package and help those who are hurting during these difficult times.

Another part of my job as whip over the last few years has been to help confirm well-qualified judges who believe in the rule of law and actually base their rulings on it. In October, the Senate confirmed now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court, the third justice we’ve confirmed in the last four years. I believe most South Dakotans want us to confirm judges who fit the mold of Justice Barrett – judges who are smart, qualified, and check their own opinions at the door. I’m proud of our work over the last few years to confirm hundreds of judges who will help reshape the judiciary and return it to the branch of government that our founders envisioned it should be.

These are just a few examples of the work we’ve done in the last few years. As always, fighting for South Dakota is my number one priority. It’s been a privilege and an honor to give our state a seat at the leadership table in Washington and to make sure the voices of South Dakotans are being heard. I’m looking forward to continuing this work once again.