When you sent me to the Senate, I promised to do all I could to get Washington working again. For too long, the red tape and excessive bureaucracy of the federal government hindered the ability of South Dakotans to succeed. Overregulation made it difficult for farmers, ranchers, small business owners and local financial institutions to do their jobs. Families were paying so much money in taxes that they weren’t able to reinvest back into the economy. We still have work to do, particularly when it comes to improving our ag economy, but the Republican-led Senate has been able to deliver significant results to the American people.
We reformed the tax code for the first time in 31 years. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law by President Trump, more than 1.8 million jobs have been created, unemployment is at the lowest level since 1969, incomes are rising and our economy is soaring. The economy grew at 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the fastest pace in nearly four years.
We’ve also rolled back a record number of excessive, Obama-era regulations. Over the past 19 months, Republicans have saved Americans at least $50 billion and 16 million hours of regulatory paperwork. This means Americans have more time and money to spend however they want. As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, we passed major legislation to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act. It included a number of provisions that I offered to limit the burdensome regulations on community banks and credit unions in South Dakota, so they can do what they do best: serve their customers and support businesses in their communities. This has helped our economy flourish.
The Senate has confirmed a record number of judges who will interpret the law as written, not based on their personal political leanings. So far, we have confirmed 29 circuit court judges, 53 district court judges and two Supreme Court justices. The Senate Judiciary Committee is hard at work to send even more judges to the full Senate floor before the end of the year. These men and women have the opportunity to shape the direction of our country for a generation or more.
We also passed and the president signed into law the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included investments to strengthen our military long-term. It gave our troops the largest pay increase in nearly 10 years. Protecting our nation through a strong military is a fundamental role of the federal government. My priority as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is to make sure our military remains the best in the world. To do this, our military must be properly funded, trained and equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Additionally, I continue working to make sure Ellsworth Air Force Base plays a vital role in our national defense now and in the future. It was recently announced that Ellsworth will be one of three bases that will be home to the new B-21 Raider bomber.
South Dakota is home to more than 72,000 veterans, many of whom have had problems dealing with the VA. My office works directly with South Dakota veterans to help cut through red tape so they can get the care and benefits they were promised. We confirmed a new secretary at the VA who has publicly committed to cleaning up the agency’s scandals and mismanagement. I sit on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and will continue monitoring the VA to make sure it supports our veterans and follows through on our country’s promises to them.
Senate Republicans have made good on our promise to get Washington working again, but we aren’t done yet. With farm income down 50 percent in the past five years, we continue working to improve the ag economy. This includes assuring year-round sales of E-15 during next summer’s driving season and finalizing trade deals so we can export our commodities like soybeans, corn, wheat, beef, pork and more. We also need to finalize the farm bill so farmers and ranchers have some stability as they work to feed and fuel the world. These are a number of the issues that I look forward to taking up in the coming months when the Senate is back in session.