U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) this week discussed the long list of Senate Republican accomplishments over the last two years, all of which were aimed at making life better for American families.
Thune’s speech (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the 115th Congress is drawing to a close, and it’s been a good two years.
“Our goal two years ago was simple: Make life better for American families.
“And that’s what we’ve done.
“We knew that a huge part of making life better for American families was expanding opportunity and putting more money in their pockets.
“And so we passed a historic reform of our outdated tax code that slashed tax rates for families and removed barriers to economic growth.
“And it’s already producing results.
“Since we passed tax reform a year ago this December, we’ve seen unemployment drop to its lowest rate in almost 50 years.
“We’ve seen job openings reach a record high: For the past seven months, there have been more job openings than there are Americans looking for work.
“We’ve seen company after company dispense raises or bonuses or boost benefits for employees.
“We’ve seen the best wage growth since the Great Recession.
“Most importantly, the economic benefits of tax reform are reaching the people who need them the most.
“During the Obama administration, what economic prosperity there was tended to be concentrated in large metropolitan areas.
“But under Republican government, growth and prosperity are reaching small cities and rural families and communities.
“Thanks to tax reform, a lot of families are finding it easier to pay their bills and put a little bit away for the future.
“But of course tax reform is far from the only thing we did in this Congress to improve the lives of the American people.
“Along with the White House, we lifted burdensome regulations.
“We enacted legislation to improve career and technical education programs.
“We passed legislation to make it easier for Main Street banks and credit unions to lend money to small businessmen and farmers and ranchers.
“We passed the largest pay increase in nearly a decade for our men and women in uniform.
“And we delivered real reforms for our veterans through the VA Mission Act.
“This legislation streamlined the VA’s community care programs to help ensure veterans receive efficient, timely, quality care.
“Once fully implemented, it will also expand caregiver assistance to disabled pre- 9/11 veterans, an overdue benefit for generations of our heroes.
“We also modernized the Veterans Benefits Administration appeals system to develop a quicker, more responsive system for veterans.
“On the national security front, we’ve reinvested in our nation’s military to ensure that our troops are equipped not only for today’s missions, but to meet the threats of the future.
“A recent report from the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission outlined how dangerously our military superiority has eroded, to the point where it would be difficult for us to win a war against two major powers.
“This alarming reduction in our military’s readiness is why Republicans have made rebuilding our military such a priority this Congress.
“There is no better way to ensure peace for our country than to make sure that the United States military is the strongest, best-equipped fighting force in the world.
“On the health care front this Congress, we passed the Support for Patients and Communities Act to address the nationwide opioid epidemic.
“This bipartisan legislation reflected ideas and input from no fewer than 72 of our members here in the Senate to support prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts.
“We also repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate tax, which forced patients to buy insurance that they didn’t want and couldn’t afford.
“And we eliminated Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, which would have empowered a board of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to make substantial changes to Medicare.
“We also passed legislation to give terminally ill patients access to experimental care.
“And in February, we passed the longest extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in the program’s history.
“Then, of course, there are the many excellent judges we’ve confirmed to the federal bench – judges who can be relied on to uphold the law and the Constitution and give anyone who comes before their bench a fair shake.
“Mr. President, as usual, more than one of our accomplishments this Congress would not have been possible without the leadership of Senator Hatch.
“He spearheaded the historic tax reform bill that is putting more money in the pockets of the American people, and he is also responsible for the longest extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in the program’s history.
“In his forty-plus years of public service, he has been a powerful voice for the people of Utah and for all Americans.
“He’s fought for economic growth and job creation.
“For trade policies that benefit American companies and American workers.
“For judges who will uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
“For fiscal responsibility and intellectual property rights.
“He has long been a leader on the issue of religious liberty.
“Together with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, he authored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect Americans’ First Amendment right to live in accordance with their religious beliefs.
“A stalwart conservative, he has nevertheless known how to reach across the aisle to get things done for the American people.
“No legislator alive today has had as many pieces of legislation he or she has sponsored signed into law.
“Mr. President, it’s difficult to imagine a Senate without Orrin Hatch.
“I’ve been privileged to serve with Senator Hatch throughout my time in the Senate, including on the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs.
“It’s hard to imagine him not being here.
“But the impact he has had on the Senate will not soon be forgotten.
“He leaves a record of legislative achievement and an example of character and leadership – of fierce conviction paired with a consummate gentlemanliness.
“There are few people to whom the term statesman can be more fittingly applied.
“I wish him the very best in his well-deserved retirement.“I know he will enjoy having more time to spend with his wife Elaine, his children, and his numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren – as well as some extra time to follow the Utah Jazz.