WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how he has worked to address South Dakotans’ priorities in Congress so far this year.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I always find that the end of the July work period here in D.C. is a good time to take stock of the year so far.
“I’m looking forward to getting out of D.C. in the next few days and heading home to South Dakota.
“I’m lucky enough to get to meet with South Dakotans most weekends, but congressional recesses provide unbroken blocks of time to spend in the state and hear about South Dakotans’ needs and priorities.
“It’s been a busy year here in D.C. so far.
“In the last seven months, the Senate has worked to confirm nearly 50 well-qualified judges, provide funding to address the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border, give our military the resources it needs to defend our country, and more.
“I’m proud that in May the Senate passed my bill to address illegal and abusive robocalls by an overwhelming bipartisan margin.
“My legislation would increase the financial penalties for making illegal robocalls, and it would give law enforcement more tools to go after these scammers, who prey on vulnerable populations.
“The TRACED Act, my bill to address illegal robocalls, is one of more than 80 pieces of legislation I’ve introduced or co-sponsored this year.
“My robocall bill grew out of my work on the Commerce Committee, which I’ve served on for seven years now, including four years as chairman.
“Serving on the Commerce Committee has given me an up-close look at the issue of consumer privacy.
“Last year, as chairman of the Commerce Committee, I convened hearings into consumer data privacy and the accessing of millions of Facebook users’ personal data by the political intelligence firm Cambridge Analytica.
“I also led a hearing to discuss the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and California’s new privacy-related law.
“And I’ve continued to focus on consumer privacy this year as chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.
“I recently convened a hearing to look at the use of persuasive technology on internet platforms like Facebook and YouTube and how these technologies can be – and have been – abused.
“I believe that developing bipartisan consumer privacy legislation needs to be a priority, and it’s an issue I will continue to focus on here in Congress.
“Another thing I’ve focused on at the Commerce Committee is paving the way for 5G technology – the next phase of the wireless revolution – and ensuring that Americans in rural communities have access to the same broadband technology residents of more urban areas enjoy.
“Last year, the president signed my bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act, which I introduced to help secure adequate spectrum for 5G technology.
“And in June, I reintroduced my STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act to address the other part of the 5G equation – infrastructure.
“Among other things, the STREAMLINE Act will make it more affordable to bring 5G to rural areas by addressing the costs of small cell deployment.
“Mr. President, I am privileged to represent South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers here in the U.S. Senate.
“And year after year, one of my major priorities is making sure that the needs of our nation’s farmers and ranchers are addressed.
“One of my priorities right now is pushing for passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement here in Congress.
“Farmers and ranchers have been through a tough few years, and one of the things they tell me they need the most is market access for their products around the globe.
“The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will preserve farmers’ access to two of our nation’s most significant agricultural export markets – Canada and Mexico – and substantially expand market access for U.S. dairy products in Canada.
“It will also expand market access for U.S. poultry and egg producers.
“And it will make it easier for U.S. producers to export wheat to Canada.
“Senate Republicans are ready to pass this agreement as soon as the president formally submits it to Congress.
“We’re just waiting for Democrats in the House, who have still not indicated that they’re ready to take up the agreement, despite the significant steps taken to address their priorities.
“I will continue to urge them to take up this agreement so that our nation’s farmers and ranchers can experience the benefits.
“I will also continue to push for a swift conclusion to the other trade agreements the administration is negotiating.
“Mr. President, being a member of Congress doesn’t just allow you to push for legislation.
“It also gives you an important platform to advocate on your constituents’ behalf with the president and his administration.
“This year, I was able to help persuade the Department of Agriculture to move the haying and grazing date to September 1 for this year for cover crops on prevent plant acres.
“This will allow farmers and ranchers in northern states like South Dakota to sow cover crops without worrying that they won’t be able to harvest or graze them before winter weather sets in.
“Mr. President, I’ve been advocating for higher blends of ethanol for more than a decade – both here in Congress and with multiple presidential administrations.
“And I was very pleased that this year the Trump administration moved to lift the ban on the year-round sale of E15, 15 percent ethanol-blended fuel.
“This is a big win for American consumers, our growing energy independence, and especially for U.S. corn producers, including those back home in South Dakota.
“Corn producers are thankful that the president delivered on his commitment to year-round sales of E15, but it’s still a tough environment for agriculture.
“That’s why we need to update the EPA’s emissions modeling to reflect ethanol’s 40 percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gases, which will boost its export potential.
“And most pressing, the administration needs to curb the issuance of small refinery waivers, which are in part forcing ethanol plants to slow down, idle, or shutter across America’s heartland.
“This is critical to seeing through the president’s commitments to farmers.
“Mr. President, throughout my time in the Senate, I’ve been proud to advocate for Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, South Dakota.
“I’ve spent years working with the other members of the South Dakota delegation and Ellsworth and community leaders to build up Ellsworth.
“Among other things, our efforts resulted in the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex into the largest training air space in the continental United States.
“And it’s undoubtedly partly thanks to this air space that this May Ellsworth was chosen as the first home for the future B-21 bomber, hosting both training and operational squadrons.
“I’m very proud of Ellsworth for receiving these exciting new missions, and I look forward to more great developments for Ellsworth in the future.
“Mr. President, I’ve worked on a lot of other bills this year to make life better for South Dakotans and the American people.
“I’ve introduced tax reform bills to help small businesses, update the tax code for the 21st century economy, encourage charitable giving, and permanently protect family farms from the death tax.
“I’ve introduced legislation to strengthen the agriculture economy.
“Support the Second Amendment.
“Help states like South Dakota with low unemployment rates address workforce shortages.
“And there’s a lot more to come.
“This fall, I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue building on the economic progress we’ve made, tackle our nation’s infrastructure needs, and lower health care costs, among other things.
“I’m proud to represent the people of South Dakota here in the United States Senate.
“And I will continue to do everything I can to address South Dakota’s priorities and expand opportunities for South Dakotans and all Americans.”