U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the remaining items the 114th Congress will tackle this year, including the National Defense Authorization Act, which is important legislation that would provide our troops with the resources they need to keep Americans safe. Thune also discussed two important issues that Republicans plan to take on at the beginning of the 115th Congress: repealing Obamacare and confirming a Supreme Court nominee.
Thune’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. President, the business of the 114th Congress is drawing to a close as we wrap up a few final bills.
“One of the most important bills we’ll be passing this week is the National Defense Authorization Act.
“In fact, this is one of the most important bills we pass each year.
“The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the two bills that ensure that our military men and women have the tools and resources they need to defend our country.
“It’s the bill that authorizes funding for the body armor our troops wear and the weapons they carry into battle.
“The bill that authorizes funding for the advanced technology our military needs to be successful on today’s battlefield.
“And the bill that authorizes troop pay increases, which help us retain an all-volunteer force.
“Making sure our troops have what they need to defend our country is pretty much our most important responsibility as members of Congress.
“First, of course, because the security of our country depends on it.
“And second, because we owe our men and women in uniform nothing less.
“This year’s NDAA authorizes the largest troop pay increase in six years.
“It modernizes the military health care system to improve quality of care for our troops and their families.
“It reduces Pentagon bureaucracy to focus resources on our nation’s warfighters.
“And it supports our allies amid growing threats.
“It also addresses the dangerous underfunding of the military that has occurred under President Obama.
“It stops troop reductions for the Army and Marine Corps, and authorizes additional funds to address readiness shortfalls.
“Members of our military should not have to be salvaging spare parts from retired aircraft to keep their planes in the air.
“Over the next few years, the Republican majorities in Congress will work with President-elect Trump to rebuild our nation’s military and ensure that we have the strongest fighting force in the world.
“This bill is an important start.
“Mr. President, as we finish up the work of the 114th Congress, we’re also looking forward to the start of the 115th.
“Republicans will move quickly to take up a number of important measures.
“Two big issues that we’ll tackle right at the beginning are repealing Obamacare and confirming a Supreme Court nominee.
“I don’t need to tell anyone that Obamacare is a failure.
“A Gallup poll released last week found that 80 percent of Americans want major changes to Obamacare or want the law repealed and replaced.
“That’s not a surprise.
“The president promised lower premiums and affordable care.
“But Obamacare has meant exactly the opposite.
“Premium costs have soared, and soared again.
“Deductibles have increased.
“And health care choices have been sharply reduced.
“One constituent contacted me to say, and I quote:
“‘My Obamacare premium went up from $1,080 per month to $1,775.
“‘A 64 percent increase.
“‘$21,300 a year for health insurance.’
“Another constituent wrote to say, and I quote:
“‘My Obamacare premium doubles next year.’
“Doubles, Mr. President.
“I don’t know too many Americans who can afford to have their health insurance premiums double.
“Still another constituent wrote to tell me, and I quote:
“‘Today I received a new premium notice … for my Obamacare insurance.
“‘My policy rate for myself, my wife, and my teenage son has increased by 357 percent.’
“Mr. President, Obamacare is on the brink of collapse.
“We know what millions of Americans already know: that the status quo is unsustainable.
“It’s time to repeal this law and replace it with something that works.
“And that’s precisely what we’re going to do.
“We’re going to get started on a repeal as soon as the 115th Congress convenes.
“And we’re going to work step-by-step to replace Obamacare with real health care reform.
“Mr. President, another thing we’re going to get started on right away in January is confirming the president’s nominees, including his nominee for the Supreme Court.
“My Democrat colleagues have spent a lot of time talking about the importance of confirming a ninth justice to the Supreme Court.
“I trust that they’ll bring that same eagerness with them in January.
“I look forward to working with them during the confirmation process.
“Mr. President, after Justice Scalia’s death, I came down to the floor to honor him.
“Like others who spoke at the time, I mentioned his keen mind.
“His gift for language.
“And most of all, his absolute commitment to the law.
“For Justice Scalia, the Constitution truly was the supreme law of the land.
“And he didn’t let anything interfere with that.
“His politics, his personal opinions, his feelings about a case … none of those things were allowed to play a role in his decisions.
“That, Mr. President, is the key right there.
“We all know that Justice Scalia had personal opinions.
“But when it came down to deciding cases, he ignored them.
“He looked at the law and the Constitution – which is the supreme law – and he judged accordingly.
“Mr. President, it’s wonderful to have strong opinions.
“It’s wonderful to have sympathy for causes or organizations.
“It’s wonderful to have plans for fixing society’s problems.
“But none of those things have any business influencing your ruling when you sit on the Supreme Court.
“There are only two things that should influence a Supreme Court justice’s ruling: the law, and the Constitution.
“The minute something else comes into play – whether it’s a justice’s personal feelings or her political philosophy – you’ve done away with the rule of law, and replaced it with the rule of personal opinion.
“And Mr. President, we’ve gone through a lot in this country to ensure that we’ll be governed by the law, and not by someone’s personal opinion.
“Justice Scalia will be a hard justice to replace.
“But I’m confident President-elect Trump will nominate a justice with a similar respect for the rule of law.
“And I look forward to working with my colleagues to get a qualified nominee confirmed.
“Mr. President, repealing Obamacare and confirming a Supreme Court nominee are two important things we’re going to do next year, but they’re just the beginning.
“Republicans are going to spend the 115th Congress fighting for the American people’s priorities – from growing our economy to securing our borders and protecting our nation.
“We have a chance to do big things for the American people in 2017, and we can’t wait to get started.”