U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the long list of legislative accomplishments over the last two years. From tax reform to improving veteran care to addressing the opioid crisis, Senate Republicans have worked to make life better for the American people.
Thune’s speech (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the 115th Congress is drawing to a close.
“And we’ve accomplished a lot over the past two years.
“Our goal for this Congress was simple: Make life better for the American people.
“And a big part of that was getting the economy going again.
“After years of economic stagnation under the Obama administration, American families were feeling the pinch.
“Growth was sluggish.
“Wages were stagnant.
“And opportunities were often few and far between.
“For too many families, getting ahead had been replaced by getting by.
“We were determined to change that.
“And so we took action.
“We passed a historic reform of our tax code that put more money in American families’ pockets and made it easier for businesses to grow and create jobs and opportunities for American workers.
“And now we’re seeing the results.
“Robust economic growth.
“The lowest unemployment level in almost 50 years.
“A record number of job openings.
“Near-record confidence among small businesses.
“And the list goes on.
“In human terms, Mr. President, that means more opportunities for American workers looking to grow and advance.
“It means more options for Americans searching for a job.
“It means bigger paychecks and better benefits for workers, and less worry for families.
“I’m proud that tax reform is making life better for American families, and grateful to Senator Hatch and our colleagues on the Finance Committee for the incredible work they did to get this historic reform through Congress.
“Tax reform was our biggest economic achievement this Congress, but that’s not the only thing we’ve done to help American workers.
“Along with the White House, we lifted burdensome regulations.
“And we enacted legislation led by Senator Enzi and Senator Alexander to prepare students for the workforce by improving career and technical education programs.
“We also enacted Senator Crapo’s legislation to give Main Street lenders relief from burdensome Dodd-Frank regulations.
“On the national security front, under the leadership of the late Senator McCain and Senator Inhofe, 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.
“We passed the largest pay increase for our troops in nearly a decade.
“And we delivered real reforms for our veterans through the VA Mission Act.
“This legislation, helmed by Senator Isakson, 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 health care front this Congress, we passed the Support for Patients and Communities Act to address the nationwide opioid epidemic.
“This was a product that contained policies championed by multiple committees and multiple senators, and I’m grateful for all the work my colleagues did to advance this important initiative.
“We also repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate tax, which forced patients to buy insurance that they didn’t want and couldn’t afford.
“We passed legislation led by Senator Johnson to give terminally ill patients access to experimental care.
“And under the leadership of Senator Hatch, we passed the longest extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in the program’s history.
“Another major achievement this year has been the tremendous number of good judges we’ve been able to confirm to the federal bench.
“Senator Grassley has done an incredible job of moving these judges through the process and presiding over the confirmations of two Supreme Court justices.
“The federal bench will be stronger for many years because of his work.
“Mr. President, Senate Republicans have accomplished a lot in the 115th Congress.
“And we’re excited to get to work in the 116th.
“Our agenda will stay the same – growing our economy and expanding opportunities for American workers, and protecting our nation.
“Now, there are those who wonder how much Congress will be able to accomplish in the next two years.
“After all, we’re facing a divided government.
“We have a Republican president, and the American people voted for a Republican majority in the Senate.
“But they also voted in a Democrat majority in the House.
“But Mr. President, divided government doesn’t have to spell the doom of productivity.
“Over the last 30-plus years, some of our greatest legislative achievements have been the product of divided government.
“The 1986 Reagan tax reform.
“1996 welfare reform.
“The Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
“National security legislation in 2002.
“The 2012 legislation to help working families by making the Bush tax cuts permanent.
“A major reform of the VA in 2014.
“All important bills, all the product of divided government
“So, Mr. President, I know that it’s possible for the Republican Senate and the Democrat House to achieve big things in the 116th Congress.
“And Senate Republicans are ready to work with our Democrat colleagues.
“Now it’s up to Democrats to decide whether they want to work with us.
“Democrats have spent a lot of time over the past two years trying to relitigate the last presidential election.
“But if they want to get anything done in the 116th Congress, they’re going to need to move past 2016.
“Tying up the House with partisan investigations of the president or running a presidential campaign from the Senate floor is not a good use of anyone’s time.
“We need to spend our time focused on the American people’s priorities -- like helping working families and increasing opportunities for American workers.
“That’s what Senate Republicans will be focused on in the next Congress.
“And I hope our Democrat colleagues will join us.
“If they’re willing to work with us, I know that together we can achieve big things for the American people.”