It has been a year since I was sworn into the United States Senate. When you trusted me with your vote to represent you in Washington, I promised to work to reduce burdensome regulations, promote pro-growth policies and make the government more effective and efficient. The new Republican-led Senate got to work right away, passing legislation to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a balanced budget, repeal major provisions of Obamacare, update the Toxic Substance Chemical Control Act, reform Social Security, protect Medicare, defund Planned Parenthood and provide permanent tax relief to South Dakota families and businesses. While I am proud to be a part of the Senate majority responsible for this progress, much more must be done.
Before the Senate reconvened in 2016, I spent a week traveling across the state, hosting public meetings in Pierre, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. The goal of these meetings is to hear firsthand from South Dakotans about the issues and policies they care about most. As we look ahead to the coming year, it is now even clearer to me what our priorities must be: enacting a budget through regular order, continuing to strengthen national security and care for our veterans and rein in President Obama’s continued executive overreach.
Like many South Dakotans, I too am concerned about transparency in government. A prime example of how Washington can be more transparent is to enact a budget through regular order, instead of mammoth end-of-year omnibus bills crafted behind closed doors by a few individuals. Reviving and staying committed to a normal budget process in which all 12 appropriations bills are passed individually will allow us to make policy changes. It is the best tool we have to make certain the federal government is being a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars while reining in spending and reducing our debt. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have said that passing all of the appropriations bills through regular order—something that hasn’t been done in more than 20 years—is one of their top priorities for 2016. I will do everything I can to help them become successful.
We must also continue to prioritize national security in 2016. With terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino late last year, continued aggression by Iran and North Korea and weaknesses in our own border screening process that have come to light in the past few months, we must make certain our military and border security agencies are keeping us safe. Further, we must make certain the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States are properly cared for after their service. The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to be plagued with mismanagement and unaccountability. As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, I will continue to seek policies that strengthen and reinforce these principles.
Finally, we must work to protect Americans from damaging new rules and regulations being promulgated by the administration. New restrictions on gun control are the latest example in a long list of regulations President Obama has sought to implement by executive order, bypassing Congress entirely. Addressing “regulation without representation” and pushing back on the president’s overreach will continue to be a top priority of mine as we move into 2016.
After spending the holidays hearing firsthand from many of you, continuing to work toward a more accountable, effective and efficient government will continue to be my focus in 2016. I look forward to addressing these and other challenges in the coming year.