U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today, after last week’s successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile by the North Korean regime, addressed North Korea’s increasing threat to the United States. Thune called for military deterrence against a nuclear-capable North Korea. Thune also discussed the ongoing failures of Obamacare and the Democrats’ continued obstruction of critical executive branch nominations.
Thune’s remarks are below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, as usual, the bad Obamacare news continues to pile up.
“Just take a look at a few recent headlines:
“From the Cincinnati Enquirer: ‘Another insurer leaves Ohio health care exchange’
“From Bloomberg: ‘Anthem’s Exit Creates Obamacare ‘Crisis’ for Rural Nevadans’
“From the Washington Free Beacon: ‘Recent Obamacare Insurer Exits Lead to Two More Counties With No Choices’
“And again from the Washington Free Beacon: ‘19th Obamacare Co-Op Folds, Leaving Only Four Operating in 2018’
“Across the United States, the story’s the same:
“Huge premium increases.
“And a system that is well on its way to complete collapse.
“In late May, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report comparing the average individual market insurance premium in 2013 (the year most of Obamacare’s regulations and mandates were implemented) with the average individual market exchange premium in 2017 in the 39 states that use healthcare.gov.
“Here’s what they found:
“Between 2013 and 2017, the average individual market monthly premium in the healthcare.gov states increased by 105 percent.
“That’s right, Mr. President.
“On average, individual market premiums more than doubled in just five years.
“In my home state of South Dakota, premiums increased by 124 percent – or $3,588.
“That’s money that South Dakota families had to take from other priorities – like saving for retirement or investing in their children’s education.
“Over the past five years, the average individual market yearly premium has increased by $4,800 in Arizona.
“By $8,364 in Alaska.
“By $3,648 in Louisiana.
“By $5,064 in North Carolina.
“By $4,488 in Tennessee.
“By $5,292 in West Virginia.
“And premium hikes aren’t over.
“In fact, in many cases they’re getting worse.
“Here are some of the premium hikes insurers are proposing for 2018:
“In Maryland, one insurer has proposed an average premium increase of 52 percent.
“An Iowa insurer is seeking an average 43.5 percent premium increase.
“A North Carolina insurer is pursuing an average 22.9 percent hike.
“A Virginia insurer is looking for an average rate increase of 38 percent.
“A Delaware insurer is looking for an average rate hike of 33.6 percent.
“And a Maine insurer is seeking an average rate hike of 40 percent.
“I could go on.
“And remember, these are all rate hikes for just one year.
“The double-digit rate hikes for next year are in addition to years of dramatic Obamacare premium increases.
“Mr. President, the Obamacare status quo is not sustainable.
“This law was fatally flawed from the beginning, and it is rapidly imploding.
“And the American people need relief.
“Inaction is not an option.
“My colleagues across the aisle seem to want to do one of two things:
“They either want to do nothing, which would leave Americans even worse off than they are now.
“Or they want to double down on Obamacare’s failures by giving the government even more control over Americans’ health care.
“And then raising Americans’ taxes to pay for it.
“Mr. President, neither one of these so-called solutions will provide relief to the American people.
“Republicans are committed to providing real help to the millions of Americans who have been hurt by Obamacare.
“And we’re working on legislation to do just that.
“My colleagues in the House made a good start, and we’re working to build on their bill here in the Senate.
“We are committed to helping to stabilize the collapsing insurance markets that have left millions of Americans with no options.
“We are also committed to freeing the American people from the onerous Obamacare individual mandate, which requires Americans to purchase insurance that they may not want or can’t afford.
“We are committed to improving the affordability of health insurance, which keeps getting more expensive under Obamacare.
“We’re committed to preserving access to care for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“And we’re committed to strengthening Medicaid for those who need it most by giving states more flexibility while ensuring those who rely on this program don’t have the rug pulled out from under them.
“The American people have suffered under Obamacare for long enough.
“It’s time to give them some relief.
“Mr. President, I’d also like to take a few minutes today to discuss the serious threat posed by a nuclear-capable North Korea.
“Last week, on the Fourth of July, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un took the latest and possibly most alarming step in his unwavering quest for a nuclear weapon by successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“Estimates suggest that the missile tested had a range of more than 4,000 miles, which means it could reach Alaska.
“North Korea has not yet demonstrated the ability to arm these missiles with nuclear warheads, but that day may not be far off.
“North Korea’s nuclear program has achieved a disturbing number of milestones this year alone.
“Mr. President, the United States must do everything we can to prevent a nuclear-capable North Korea, but we must also be prepared should Kim Jong-Un put the final pieces together.
“And that starts with maintaining a credible military deterrence.
“This weekend’s B-1 bomber flights were but a sliver of the response the U.S. could bring to bear in direct military engagement.
“General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of Pacific Air Forces, said of the exercises: “Let me be clear, if called upon, we are trained, equipped, and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”
“We need to make sure that we maintain that lethal capability.
“Congress has a key role to play here by making sure we adequately fund our military and pass defense appropriations in a timely manner.
“While Kim Jong-Un has not shown much of an inclination toward rationality, we need to keep emphatically reminding him that his regime would not survive a war on the Korean Peninsula.
“Mr. President, a robust and redundant defense is also an important component of the U.S. and allied response to North Korea.
“A key part of building our defenses should be a rigorous test schedule to inform research and development of anti-ballistic-missile technology.
“It’s true that some U.S. missile intercept tests have failed, but those setbacks lead to improvements.
“Some of our best men and women are working to keep us ahead of threats, and we must repeatedly and aggressively test intercept systems to ensure they are effective.
“General John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, has pointed out that our testing schedule for intercept systems lags behind the pace of North Korea’s aggressive missile testing.
“Tuesday’s successful THAAD missile defense system test against a simulated intermediate-range ballistic missile attack was a timely demonstration of this critical defense capability, and I hope we can see further deployment of this promising system.
“Placing THAAD or the Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Japan would bolster front-line defenses against future North Korean missile launches.
“We should also increase information-sharing and military cooperation in the area around the Korean Peninsula to ensure sanctions are enforced.
“The joint maritime operations conducted by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force are a good example of this cooperation.
“Mr. President, we must also examine how we have gotten to this state.
“For a so-called ‘hermit kingdom,’ North Korea has made significant advancements while evading international sanctions.
“Those advancements, which build off a legacy of Soviet support, have been facilitated by North Korea’s ties with Iran and a passive China providing North Korea with an economic lifeline.
“Not all of the blame rests with China, but we know President Xi has proved largely unwilling to curtail North Korea’s agenda.
“Late last month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions on Chinese entities with financial ties to North Korea.
“This is a positive first step, but more can be done to target banking and front companies that serve as financial conduits for North Korea.
“Increased transparency in Chinese customs and export reporting, for example, would restrict oil and steel exports to North Korea and ensure China is adhering to its ban on coal imports from North Korea.
“The U.S. should also weigh whether new sanctions, both punitive and preventive, could exert additional pressure on China to rein in North Korea.
“I hope the administration will seriously consider such sanctions alongside measures to address other problematic Chinese actions, such as its continued military buildup on disputed reefs in the South China Sea.
“Mr. President, Kim Jong-Un is clearly ready and willing to threaten the United States and its allies.
“And we should have no illusions that he is planning to reverse course.
“We need to make sure that we are prepared for any threat he poses.”