U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed this week’s important activity in the Senate, including various committee hearings concerning the coronavirus outbreak. For example, the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Thune is a member, will hold a hearing regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to maintain and expand reliable high-speed broadband access during the pandemic. Thune also discussed the Senate’s focus on confirming executive branch nominees and approving legislation to reauthorize several key provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:
“Mr. President, we’re back for our second week in the Senate after spending some time working remotely to help flatten the coronavirus curve.
“We’re getting used to the temporary new normal – social distancing during hearings, floor votes, and meetings; masks; a lot of conference calls and Skype calls instead of in-person meetings; lots of hand washing and hand sanitizer; and as many staff working remotely as possible.
“We’re committed to doing the essential work the American people are depending on us to do in the safest possible way.
“Responding to the coronavirus continues to be at the top of the agenda.
“Last week, we held a number of coronavirus-related hearings, including a hearing on coronavirus testing and a hearing on the impact the pandemic has had on the airline industry.
“When people think about what the Senate does, they tend to think about voting on bills and debating on the floor, but the truth is, committee work is some of the most important work we do here in Washington.
“Committees are where we review nominees’ qualifications, hear from experts in various fields, develop legislation, and conduct essential oversight of government programs.
“The work we do in coronavirus-related committee hearings will inform any future coronavirus legislation we consider.
“This week, the Senate Banking Committee will be voting on the nomination of Brian D. Miller to be special inspector general for pandemic recovery at the Treasury Department.
“If he is confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. Miller will be an essential part of ensuring that the trillions we’ve provided for coronavirus relief are spent properly.
“The Banking Committee will also be holding an oversight hearing with key federal financial regulators to learn about the steps they have taken to ensure the safety and soundness of our financial sector during this challenging time.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee will be examining the issue of liability during the COVID pandemic and discussing ways to prevent frivolous lawsuits from damaging our economy once we reopen.
“The Senate Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, will be holding a hearing looking at efforts to maintain and expand reliable high-speed broadband access during this time, when so many Americans are relying on their internet for work, school, and connection with friends and family.
“And the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will be hearing directly from the leaders of our fight against coronavirus, Doctors Fauci, Redfield, and Hahn, and Admiral Giroir.
“Senators will be talking to these experts about what we need to do to safely reopen our economy and our schools.
“Another big part of our coronavirus response right now is monitoring the implementation of the funds we’ve provided.
“We’ve delivered a tremendous amount of money to respond to the pandemic – equal to almost 50 percent of the entire federal budget for 2020 – and it’s important that any future funding be carefully targeted.
“We’re facing extraordinary circumstances, and they called for an extraordinary, bold response from Washington.
“But it’s important to remember that every dollar of the trillions we’ve provided for the pandemic is borrowed money.
“And our children and grandchildren are going to be paying for that borrowing.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to provide more money if necessary, but it does mean that we need to make sure that we’re spending money wisely and only appropriating what’s really needed.
“And that means monitoring the implementation of the funds we’ve already provided, which haven’t been fully spent yet.
“Once we see how and where those funds get spent, we’ll have a better sense of where we’ve spent sufficiently and where more money may be needed.
“It’s also important that we make sure those funds are being spent in the most effective and efficient way possible.
“Again, these are all dollars that our children and grandchildren will have to pay for – we want to make sure we’re not wasting any of that money.
“And finally, Mr. President, while coronavirus will of course continue to be at the top of our agenda, there are other important things we have to do to keep the government running and protect our nation.
“This week we’ll take up legislation to renew and reform several key provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Democrat-controlled House allowed to lapse despite unanimous support for an extension here in the Senate.
“Our law enforcement officers are working every day to protect Americans from terrorist threats.
“It is essential that we make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs, while also providing critical protections for civil liberties.
“We’re also taking up two nominations this week for senior administration posts – Brian D. Montgomery to be deputy secretary of housing and urban development, and Troy Edgar to be chief financial officer at the Department of Homeland Security.
“Mr. President, the American people are relying on us right now.
“And we have a responsibility to deliver for them.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support our nation’s families and businesses as the country fights its way through this crisis and emerges on the other side.”