Sen. John Thune
It’s a new year, but I’m focused on the same principles and priorities that have always guided me during my service to the people of South Dakota: working hard, fighting for what matters, listening to my top advisers – you, the people of South Dakota – and never, ever forgetting where I come from. Because if there’s one thing I’m committed to doing it’s giving the issues that matter to our state and its people the national attention they deserve.
With the new year comes a new Congress – one that looks a little different than its predecessor. Democrats now control the majority in the House of Representatives, and while partisan differences are often laid bare throughout the 24-hour news cycle, a divided Congress doesn’t have to mean gridlock. Just the opposite, actually. There are plenty of areas where we can find common ground and do the work the American people expect from their elected leaders.
If you look back at other periods of divided government over the last 20 or 30 years, Republicans and Democrats have been able to achieve big things together. For example, the 1986 Reagan tax reform, 1996 welfare reform, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, 2012 legislation to help working families by making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and a major reform of the VA in 2014 all occurred during divided governments. These are consequential issues that required compromise and hard work.
We could start this Congress by setting a good example and passing bipartisan legislation that ends the partial government shutdown and responsibly addresses the critical need for additional border security, which experts throughout the national security community say we need.
Border security is part of national security, and every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, should take seriously our responsibility to protect our nation by ensuring that our borders are secure. Republicans and Democrats used to agree on this. In fact, just six short years ago, every Senate Democrat supported legislation requiring the completion of a 700-mile fence along our southern border. And less than one year ago, nearly every Senate Democrat supported $25 billion in border security, which is nearly five times as much as the administration is now seeking.
So, what’s changed between then and now? Many of the Democrats who supported previous efforts to secure our border are still serving in Congress, so I’m afraid it’s the far-left wing of their party that’s dragging them toward the dangerous idea that we don’t need to secure our borders at all. Every nation needs to secure its borders, and the American people agree.
At the end of the day, any solution that makes it to the president’s desk will require Democrat votes to get there. I’m hopeful they can negotiate in good faith, knowing that it’s one of our most solemn duties to provide for the safety and security of our nation. Achieving that goal starts with a secure border, and we can take positive steps to help make it stronger, if only our Democrat colleagues come to the conclusion that it’s a priority that must be addressed.