U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the long list of accomplishments during the 114th Congress under Republican leadership. The Republican majority worked hard to pass a balanced budget, a major energy bill, a multi-year transportation bill, a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, and an education reform bill, among many others. Thune also discussed the work that’s ahead for the 115th Congress: repealing and replacing Obamacare, immigration and tax reform, addressing the national debt, and finding solutions to various other issues impacting the American people.
Thune’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. President, two years ago, the American people entrusted Republicans with the Senate majority.
“At that time, things were in a bad way here in the Senate.
“Under Democrat control, the legislative process had almost ground to a halt.
“Important bills weren’t getting passed.
“And those that did get passed were frequently drafted behind closed doors, with Republicans and many rank-and-file Democrats shut out of the process.
“Which, of course, means that the American people’s voices were frequently shut out.
“When Republicans took control, we knew that getting the Senate working again had to be our first priority.
“And that’s what we did.
“We opened up debate, so senators from both parties could make their voices heard.
“We started drafting legislation in committee again, so that bills were the result of discussion and compromise instead of being dictated by Democrat Party leaders.
“And we got the Senate passing real, substantial legislation again.
“A balanced budget.
“The first major energy bill since the Bush administration.
“The first significant education reform since 2002.
“I’m particularly proud of two bills that the committee I chair – the Commerce Committee – worked on:
- a Federal Aviation Administration bill with major airport security provisions,
- and the first long-term transportation bill since 2005.
“The terrorist attacks in Brussels and Istanbul that occurred this year broadcast airport security challenges – particularly the soft target offered by large crowds in unsecured airport areas.
“Those were problems that we’d been working on at the Commerce Committee for months before the attacks, and in July we passed an FAA bill that addresses them, and more.
“The bill we passed requires the TSA to look at ways to improve security checkpoints to make the passenger screening process more efficient and effective.
“And it significantly increases the security presence in unsecured areas of airports.
“It also improves vetting of airport employees to address the insider terrorist threat – the risk that an airport employee would give a terrorist access to secure areas.
“The Senate passed this bill in July, and the president signed it into law a couple days later.
“I’m proud of this law, which is the kind of substantial legislation we should be passing for the American people.
“I’m also proud of the transportation bill we passed, part of which came out of my committee.
“When Congress fails to provide certainty about the way transportation funding will be allocated, states and local governments are left without the certainty they need to authorize projects or make long-term plans.
“Important investments in infrastructure that support the economy are shelved.
“And jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.
“The transportation bill we passed changes all that.
“It reauthorizes transportation programs for the long term and provides five years of guaranteed funding.
“That means states and local governments will have the certainty they need to invest in big transportation projects and the jobs they create.
“And that in turn means a stronger economy and a more reliable, safe, and effective transportation system.
“Mr. President, I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish over the past two years.
“But there’s a lot left to be done.
“Some of the most important measures we passed in the 114th Congress went nowhere thanks to opposition from Democrats and the White House:
“An Obamacare repeal.
“Legislation to overturn some of the Obama administration’s most burdensome regulations.
“Legislation to address the dangerous problem of so-called sanctuary cities, which refuse to work with federal immigration officials to deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes.
“I’m hopeful that with a Republican president, we’ll be able to address these issues, and many more, in the 115th Congress.
“Republicans have big plans for the 115th.
“If there’s one thing that this election made clear, it’s that the Obama economy is not working for American families.
“And Republicans are committed to fixing that.
“Growing our economy is going to be our number-one priority next Congress.
“There are a number of things we can do to get our economy healthy again.
“We can reform our tax code, to reduce the burden on American families and businesses.
“Right now, our nation has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.
“More and more, American companies are focusing their business operations overseas because the tax situation is so much better abroad.
“And that means that American jobs are going overseas with them.
“We have lost our competitive edge in an increasingly global economy.
“Instead of pushing corporations out of the country, we should bring our nation’s corporate tax rate in line with those of other countries to keep more jobs here in the United States.
“Another big thing we can do is repeal some of the burdensome government regulations that are weighing down businesses.
“While some government regulations are necessary, every administration has to remember that regulations have consequences.
“The more resources individuals and businesses spend complying with unnecessary government regulations, the less they have to focus on the growth and innovation that drive our economy and create new opportunities for workers.
“The overregulation of the last eight years has left businesses with few resources to dedicate to growing and creating jobs.
“Another thing we need to do is address our national debt, which has nearly doubled over the past eight years.
“All that debt is a drag on the economy.
“It slows growth and reduces economic opportunity.
“It’s time to get our government back on a budget.
“Another way we can help lift the burden on American families is by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
“I don’t need to tell anyone that the president’s health care law is broken.
“The promise of lower premiums and affordable health care has given way to the reality of giant premium increases and massive deductibles.
“A Gallup poll released yesterday found that 80 percent of Americans want major changes to Obamacare or want the law repealed and replaced.
“It’s time to give the American people health care reform that actually works.
“Another priority for the 115th Congress will be national security.
“Americans are rightfully worried about the threat posed by terrorist groups like ISIS, which has spread violence and devastation not only in the Middle East but across Europe and beyond.
“Republicans are committed to defeating ISIS abroad and keeping Americans safe here at home.
“We’re also committed to keeping Americans safe by securing our borders.
“We must have secure borders and policies that encourage legal immigration while discouraging illegal immigration.
“Then there are the other priorities we need to address:
“Confirming a Supreme Court nominee who will judge based on the law and the Constitution.
“Protecting religious liberty.
“Mr. President, Republicans are aware of the trust the American people have placed in us.
“And we are committed to earning it.
“We’re going to spend the 115th Congress fighting for Americans’ priorities.
“We have a real chance to get things done in the next Congress, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the challenges facing our nation.”