U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) this week urged his Democrat colleagues to abandon their obstruction of President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Thune added that this continued obstruction of certain nominees can have consequences for our national security and diplomacy. In addition to the Pompeo nomination, Democrats have obstructed South Dakota native Andrea Thompson’s nomination to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
Thune also discussed how businesses are passing on the benefits of tax reform to their employees and customers.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I was reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal last week by Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
“His piece made an important point that doesn’t often come out as clearly as it should, and that is that when American businesses benefit, American workers benefit.
“My friends on the other side of the aisle like to obfuscate this point.
“Presumably, they think they can gain political points by pitting businesses and workers against each other, as if benefits for businesses and benefits for workers are somehow diametrically opposed.
“As if somehow workers could thrive while businesses are struggling.
“But as the piece I was reading pointed out, and I quote, “In a modern competitive economy, workers do well when their employers do.”
“It’s just common sense, Mr. President.
“The vast majority of working Americans work for businesses – whether they’re self-employed, an employee of a small business, or an employee of a large corporation.
“And for those employees to thrive, the businesses they’re working for have to thrive.
“Struggling businesses do not invest in their workers. They can’t.
“They don’t hire new employees.
“They don’t raise wages.
“They don’t improve benefits.
“Thriving businesses, on the other hand, do invest in their workers.
“They do hire new employees.
“They do raise wages.
“They do improve benefits.
“Leaving aside the fact that most business owners want to invest in their workers, successful business owners have to invest in their workers if they want their business to keep thriving.
“For starters, successful businesses tend to need new workers.
“And the way to attract new workers is with good wages, good opportunities, and good benefits.
“And once a successful business has good employees, it tends to want to keep them, so the business can keep thriving.
“And how do businesses keep employees?
“The same way they attract them in the first place – with good wages, good opportunities, and good benefits.
“Or as Mr. Hassett notes in the Wall Street Journal, and I quote: ‘Research by economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Summers, both of whom served in the Obama administration, shows that more-profitable employers pay higher wages. Any company that attempts to pay a worker less than he is worth will quickly lose that worker to a competitor. Thus, firms that want to thrive must invest in their plants and workers.’
“Ask any business owner in the country, and he or she will tell you it’s a competitive labor market.
“Unemployment is at a 17-year low, and in a tight, competitive labor market, employers have to work to keep their employees.
“Mr. President, our focus with last fall’s tax reform was on making life better for ordinary Americans.
“And so we set out to put more money in their pockets right away by cutting tax rates across the board, nearly doubling the standard deduction, and doubling the child tax credit.
“As a result, for 2018, a family of four making $73,000 will see a tax cut of more than $2,000.
“But we knew that tax cuts, as helpful as they are, weren’t enough.
“Americans also needed access to profitable careers – to good jobs, good wages, and good opportunities.
“And we knew that the only way to guarantee access to good jobs, wages, and opportunities was to make sure businesses were prosperous enough to create and maintain them.
“And so when it came time for tax reform, we set out to improve the playing field for American workers by improving the playing field for businesses as well.
“And it’s working.
“Companies are putting tax reform to work: They are investing in new equipment, expanding their facilities, and growing their lines of business, all of which means more jobs and opportunities for Americans.
“And most importantly, companies are passing along the benefits of tax reform.
“Company after company has announced pay raises, bonuses, 401(k) match increases, and other benefits for their workers.
“Others are passing tax savings on to their customers in the form of things like utility rate cuts.
“And the tax reform law has only been in place for four months.
“As businesses continue to see the benefits of tax reform, we can expect to see the playing field for workers continue to improve.
“Ultimately, by helping American businesses thrive, tax reform will help give more Americans access to the kinds of jobs, wages, and opportunities that will not only benefit them right now, but will give them access to security and prosperity for the long term.
“Mr. President, before I close, I’d like to take a couple of minutes to discuss the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state.
“I don’t need to tell anyone how incredibly qualified he is for this job.
“First in his class at West Point.
“Five years of active-duty service in the Army, achieving the rank of captain.
“An editor of the Harvard Law Review.
“Elected to Congress four times by Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, serving on the House Intelligence Committee.
“And finally, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Clearly, he has proven his dedication as a public servant and is an outstanding candidate for secretary of state.
“His nomination should be sailing through the Senate.
“And normally it would be.
“Prior to this presidency, we were on a pretty bipartisan track for secretary of state confirmations.
“Members of both parties believed that it was important that a president have a national security team to support him, and they voted accordingly.
“John Kerry was confirmed as secretary of state by a vote of 94 to 3.
“Hillary Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state by a vote of 94 to 2.
“Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as secretary of state by a vote of 85 to 13.
“And Colin Powell was confirmed as secretary of state unanimously.
“Now this doesn’t mean that Republicans agreed with all of John Kerry’s or Hillary Clinton’s policy positions, or that Democrats agreed with all of Condoleezza Rice’s or Colin Powell’s.
“But members of both parties recognized that these nominees were qualified, and they believed that partisanship shouldn’t play a role when it came to making sure the president had a national security team to support him.
“Fast forward to today, Mr. President.
“Gone is the bipartisanship of the past.
“Today, Democrats are obstructing an eminently qualified candidate for secretary of state for the sole reason that they don’t like this president.
“They didn’t get their way in the last election, and in response they’ve spent the past year and more obstructing one qualified nominee after another.
“Mr. President, I get that the Democrats don’t like President Trump.
“But when you’re a member of the U.S. Senate, you have to think beyond your own preferences – and accept the fact that in a free country with free elections, sometimes you don’t get your way.
“Obstructing nominees has consequences, Mr. President.
“At the very least, delaying a president’s ability to staff his administration diminishes his ability to serve the American people effectively.
“But that’s not all.
“Obstructing certain nominees, like a nominee for secretary of state, can have consequences for our national security and diplomacy.
“An incomplete national security team is a detriment to the safety and security of our country.
“And right now, Mr. President, the United States and our allies are currently facing a number of serious challenges, from North Korea and an increasingly emboldened Iran, to chemical attacks in Syria and the ever-present threat of terrorism.
“It is vital that the president have a fully equipped national security team to monitor and address these dangers.
“And it is beyond irresponsible that Senate Democrats are compromising the president’s ability to respond to threats simply because they would prefer not to confirm anyone he’s nominated.
“Democrats should immediately drop their obstruction of Mike Pompeo and confirm him as secretary of state.
“And they should stop obstructing other qualified national security nominees, like Andrea Thompson, a native of my home state who has been nominated for undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
“Mr. President, you’d think Democrats would be content with their unprecedented obstruction of the president’s nominees.
“But unfortunately there’s another important thing Democrats are obstructing right now, and that’s the Coast Guard authorization bill.
“And once again, it’s clear that Democrats are obstructing not because they have serious objections to the bill, but because obstruction has become their default response to legislation in the Republican-led Congress.
“Democrats claim that the Coast Guard reauthorization bill has not received sufficient input or debate.
“That could not be further from the truth.
“The portion of the bill they’re ostensibly concerned about, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, has been introduced in the last five Congresses, more than one of those times by Democrats.
“The current version of VIDA is the product of not just months but years of hearings, meetings, and negotiations.
“And despite the fact that this year’s original version of VIDA had bipartisan support, we’ve made a number of further concessions to address any Democrat concerns.
“But Democrats just keep moving the goal posts.
“And it’s become pretty clear that Democrats’ real objection is not to the bill itself, but to working with Republicans – or to seeing the president accomplish anything.
“Mr. President, I hardly need to say the Coast Guard authorization bill is an important bill.
“It authorizes the Coast Guard’s funding as well as pay and benefits for Coast Guard personnel, who play a vital role in maintaining national security and law and order in the waters around the United States.
“It would be nice if Democrats would consider dropping their partisan objections and working with Republicans to pass this essential piece of legislation.”