Recent Op-Eds

Sticking Up For South Dakotans

By Sen. John Thune

December 31, 2021

In December, the Democrats’ effort to ram their reckless tax-and-spending spree through Congress during the holiday season was fortunately derailed. Halting their radical, partisan spending package, hopefully permanently, would prevent raising taxes on middle-income families, giving some of the wealthiest individuals in our country a massive tax break, and prioritizing Green New Deal-style policies – just to name a few. It would be a huge win for South Dakota families, farmers and ranchers, and small businesses. I’m confident that as folks continue to learn more about the many egregious and heavy-handed policies that define this bill, Americans will reject it. Rest assured, I’m doing everything in my power to make sure the Democrats’ radical bill will never see the light of day.

As a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, advocating for meaningful policies that will directly benefit South Dakota farmers and ranchers is a top priority for me. Sometimes helping our agriculture community means stopping bad policies from going into effect. This year, Republicans were able to stop the Democrats’ proposed double death tax, which would have hit generationally owned enterprises hard, particularly in rural communities, and could force families to sell off part of the farm or business just to pay the new tax. This is profoundly unfair to hardworking farmers and ranchers, and it should go without saying that the government should not be in the business of shuttering family farms and businesses. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I have fought against the death tax – in any form – for many, many years, and I will continue to do everything I can to protect our nation’s agriculture producers.

As the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the current top Republican on the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, I have long worked to expand access to rural broadband and make South Dakota a leader to which the rest of the country can look. It is crucial that rural communities across South Dakota have access to fast and reliable broadband services, and I continue to use my committee seniority to fight for predictable and efficient support for broadband providers to help enable the continued deployment of these services throughout our communities.

This year, Senate Republicans used the Congressional Review Act, a legislative tool that allows Congress to weigh in on rules and regulations issued by federal agencies, to push back against the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate. To be clear, the federal government has no business implementing sweeping mandates like this one, and I’m glad a bipartisan majority of the Senate agreed. I continue to hear from South Dakotans in every corner of the state about the devastating impact this mandate would have on an already stretched and strapped workforce. Getting vaccinated is a personal choice, and Washington bureaucrats need to stay out of it.

Even if the resolution to block the vaccine mandate passes the House, President Biden is still expected to veto it and continue with his heavy-handed, government-knows-best strategy. Fortunately, the Supreme Court is expected to eventually decide the matter. 

The Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act in December, which authorizes critical funding to continue essential preparation for the B-21 mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base. I am incredibly proud that South Dakota and Ellsworth were chosen to serve as the first operating base for the B-21, and I am committed to ensuring that it has everything it needs to continue serving as one of our nation’s essential military assets for decades to come. 

These are just a few examples of the work we’ve done in the last year. As always, fighting for South Dakota is my number-one priority. I’m focused on the same principles and priorities that have always guided me: working hard, fighting for what matters, and listening to my top advisers – you, the people of South Dakota. It’s a privilege and an honor to give our state a seat at the leadership table in Washington and make sure the voices of South Dakotans are being heard. It is an honor of a lifetime to serve you in the U.S. Senate, and I look forward to delivering more wins for the great state of South Dakota in the new year.