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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today honored the life of former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who passed away last month. Thune also discussed the many Democrat-led crises that unfolded in 2021 and noted that Democrats should permanently abandon their reckless tax-and-spending spree and instead focus on inflation and the border crisis and commit to bipartisan solutions for the American people.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to express my deep sorrow at the death of former Senator Johnny Isakson.
“I served with Johnny for a long time – not just here in the Senate, where we were both freshman members in 2005, but in the House of Representatives.
“And I was honored to call him my friend.
“Johnny was a tremendously effective legislator – in particular, a champion for veterans – and a model of decency and graciousness.
“When I came down to the floor to discuss his retirement two years ago, I read a quote from a politics professor in Georgia that I thought really captured Johnny.
“I still think so.
“Here’s what that professor had to say:
“‘As a political science professor and an administrator, I’m often asked by students if good people can serve in government and keep their integrity. Johnny Isakson is always the first example I come to. It’s very often a shocking revelation to most people – that good people can, and often do, serve in government for long periods, fight hard for what they believe in, and remain true to themselves and their principles. And they don’t have to sell their souls to do it. It’s a great lesson, really.’
“Mr. President, that was Johnny.
“A good man – one of the best I’ve ever known – who came to Washington to serve his state and his country and served them faithfully throughout his life.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Johnny’s wife Dianne and with his children and grandchildren.
“I also want to mention former Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid, who also passed away this Christmas.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Landra and with his family.
“Mr. President, the end of 2021 marks the end of a year of Democrat governance, and the picture is sobering.
“If we were issuing a report card for 2021, I’m afraid Democrats would earn a D for ‘dreadful.’ Or ‘disaster.’
“Or an F for ‘failure.’
“Because 2021 was filled with one Democrat-led crisis after another.
“Take our current inflation crisis.
“When Democrats took office last January, inflation was well within an acceptable range, or what’s known as the target inflation rate.
“And it might have stayed there, had Democrats not decided that they needed to pass a massive government spending spree under the guise of COVID relief – mere weeks after Congress had already passed a major COVID bill.
“December 2020 saw Congress pass its fifth bipartisan COVID relief bill – a nearly $1 trillion piece of legislation that met essentially all current pressing COVID needs.
“But the ink was barely dry on the page before Democrats decided that they needed to take advantage of the COVID situation to pass another bill – this time a hyper-partisan $1.9 trillion piece of legislation packed with unnecessary government spending and payoffs to Democrat interest groups.
“And that unnecessary government spending, of course, had serious consequences.
“Mr. President, the definition of inflation is too many dollars chasing too few goods and services.
“And that’s exactly the situation Democrats created.
“They sent too many federal dollars into the economy – and the economy overheated as a result.
“Since Democrats passed their so-called American Rescue Plan, inflation has gone up and up again.
“In November, inflation hit its highest level in nearly 40 years.
“And American families are dealing with the consequences.
“Spikes in food prices.
“Used car and truck prices.
“Propane, kerosene, and firewood prices.
“The list goes on.
“Inflation is so bad that despite wage growth in 2021, Americans saw a de facto pay cut.
“Mr. President, you would think that the economic pain Americans are experiencing would be giving Democrats pause.
“But in fact, despite massive inflation, Democrats have been trying to double down on the reckless spending strategy that helped cause so much inflation in the first place.
“Fortunately they have so far been unable to summon a majority in the Senate to support their latest reckless spending plan, but their unconcern with the dangerous economic consequences of their proposed new spending spree is deeply troubling.
“Mr. President, I wish I could say that our inflation crisis was the only Democrat disaster to come out of 2021.
“But that wouldn’t be true.
“Democrats have also presided over a massive crisis at our southern border – a crisis that Democrats are apparently completely content to ignore.
“Illegal migration across our southern border picked up in the wake of the president’s inauguration and reached stratospheric levels in 2021.
“And the crisis shows no signs of abating.
“In November, the latest month for which we have statistics, Customs and Border Protection encountered 173,620 people attempting to cross our southern border illegally.
“That’s well over double the number who tried to cross illegally in November of 2020, and more than four times the number who attempted to cross in November 2019.
“But you’d never know it from listening to the president or congressional Democrats.
“It’s become very clear that the president doesn’t care about what’s happening on our southern border – despite the very real security and humanitarian crisis that this massive wave of illegal immigration represents.
“But our ongoing inflation and border disasters still don’t represent the total of Democrats’ 2021 failures.
“There was also the president’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The president’s arbitrary, chaotic withdrawal was a real low point for our country.
“Thirteen of our military men and women died in a terrorist attack during the evacuation of Kabul.
“We abandoned thousands of individuals who had worked with us in Afghanistan and whom we had promised to protect.
“They are bracing for life under the brutal control of the Taliban – if they haven’t been forced into hiding or met an even more grim fate.
“The president also left behind hundreds of American citizens – and the latest reports suggest that some of them may still be trying to find a way out of the country.
“Meanwhile, the president who was supposed to restore our standing on the world stage left our allies wondering if our word could be relied on.
“Most of all, the president’s disastrous withdrawal has left our country in a more precarious national security position.
“Afghanistan is well on its way to once again becoming a terrorist haven.
“But as with our border crisis, the dangers of the current Afghanistan situation barely seem to register on the president’s radar.
“Mr. President, I could go on.
“I could talk about how the president who promised to be a president for all Americans has instead been a president for the far-left wing of the Democrat Party.
“I could talk about how congressional Democrats, despite holding a razor-thin majority in Congress, have governed in a relentlessly partisan and extreme manner, attempting to force through far-left legislation including a federal takeover of election law and perhaps the most radical abortion legislation ever considered in Congress.
“Or I could talk about how Democrats are even now plotting to overturn a decades-old Senate rule in an attempt to force their partisan priorities through the Senate.
“But I’ll stop this discussion here.
“Thanks to Democrats’ disasters, 2021 was a very rough year for our country.
“And I would love to think that Democrat governance in 2022 would be better.
“That Democrats would get serious about inflation, abandon their plans for another reckless spending spree, address our border crisis, and commit to bipartisanship.
“But given the way things have been going, I’m not getting my hopes up.
“Mr. President, before I close, I want to take a moment to comment on the situation in Ukraine.
“Tensions remain dangerously high as Russia has amassed a reported 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.
“This, of course, is just the latest aggressive move by Russia, which already illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and has been supporting separatist forces in the Donbas [Don-boss] region of eastern Ukraine.
“It may have been overlooked during the busy holiday season, but I’d like to note for the record a bipartisan, bicameral virtual meeting that occurred on the morning of Christmas Eve with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
“I participated in this meeting, which enabled us to discuss the current security situation directly with President Zelensky.
“We discussed the importance of the more than $2.5 billion in security assistance the U.S. has provided since 2014, including $300 million in the latest National Defense Authorization Act.
“But given the urgency of the situation, the Biden administration must consider additional, emergency assistance at this critical time.
“And security assistance must also be backed by strong sanctions to deter any further Russian advances.
“Unfortunately, President Biden has already given Russia a pass on one of Vladimir Putin’s top priorities, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“I’ve spoken before about the European security risk and economic harm to Ukraine that will be caused by Nord Stream 2.
“Yet President Biden has not enforced sanctions related to the pipeline – mandatory sanctions required by law.
“Per an agreement made prior to the Christmas break, the Senate will soon have a vote on these sanctions.
“And our message to Russia and President Putin must be clear:
“Don’t interfere with the aspirations of Ukraine.
“And let Ukraine determine its future by the will of its people.
“This is not a case of the U.S. and NATO looking to push east.
“This is a former Soviet state seeking to cast off Russia’s grip, assert its sovereignty, and, of its own accord, align itself with the ideals of freedom and embrace peace and prosperity as a free, independent nation.
“The U.S. should stand with Ukraine and against Russia’s aggression.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”