Senator John ThuneThe Senate's end-of-summer work period has given me the opportunity to travel extensively around South Dakota and hear from constituents about their views on the issues being debated in Washington. Many South Dakotans expressed their concerns about the direction of our country and our economy.
The debate over how to improve health care in America has been front and center on television and talk radio, in newspapers, and on the Internet. In the past month, I held town hall meetings in Aberdeen, Watertown, Rapid City, and Huron to hear directly from South Dakotans about their views regarding the various reform plans that have been proposed by Democrats in Congress and by the White House. I used these meetings to communicate my opposition to a government takeover of the health care system, and to express my support for increased access to private insurance through common sense, market-based reforms. Government run health care would cost more, deliver lower quality care, limit people's access to services and should not be forced on the American people.
Another issue I received input on is the so-called cap and trade bill passed by the House of Representatives. Cap and trade proponents claim the program would cut greenhouse emissions, but what it would really do is hurt all energy consumers with higher prices for little environmental benefit. Energy rates, including fuel and electric prices, would increase, with rural states like South Dakota bearing a disproportionate share of the cost. Cap and trade would be especially harmful to farmers and ranchers, who would see not only increased fuel prices, but also increased costs for fertilizer and possibly penalties for livestock and other emissions. As I said at the Dakotafest Farm Forum, I will work hard to defeat cap and trade in the Senate.
On a more positive note, I had the opportunity to meet with researchers at South Dakota State University who are studying new techniques for producing biofuels from non-edible plant materials. I toured a field where the researchers are growing prairie cordgrass specifically for energy production, and the laboratory where the promising research is taking place. I also participated in a Senate Agriculture Committee field hearing where I had the opportunity to question renewable energy industry leaders and scientists about how Congress can do more to support biofuel production and use.
As ranking member of the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, I held a field hearing of my own in Sioux Falls where I heard from experts about surface transportation needs in rural America. Our highway, trucking, and rail systems are vital to our economy, and I do not want our interests to be left behind when Congress writes new surface transportation laws.
The August work period, like my time in South Dakota almost every weekend, gives me an opportunity to connect directly with South Dakotans to gather their views on the issues. I share the concerns of many South Dakotans about the Democrat Congress's health care plans that put government bureaucrats between patients and doctors and the out of control spending that is becoming Washington's answer to every challenge. I look forward to taking the views of these South Dakotans to Washington this fall, where I will continue fighting out of control budgets and increased bureaucratic meddling in businesses.