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Wrapping up 2018

As we wrap up the year, I’m pleased that we’ve been able to take steps to make Washington work a little better for all of us who live in South Dakota.

We used the Congressional Review Act to roll back a total of 16 heavy-handed, Obama-era regulations that were hindering small businesses, farms, ranches and banks from reaching their full potential. The Trump administration has taken actions to stop or dismantle approximately 2000 federal regulations, which has saved Americans at least $50 billion in regulatory costs, or an average of $150 per person in the United States.

We recently marked the one-year anniversary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act being signed into law. Since then, America’s economy continues to grow. It grew at 3.5 percent in the third quarter, putting the economy on track for its fastest annual growth in 13 years. Meanwhile, unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years. Just since this time last year, more than 2.2 million jobs have been created and hourly wages are up over three percent from last year. Federal revenue is rising due to increased economic activity. A strong economy is good for all Americans.

This year, the president signed into law the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which included seven of my provisions to undo unnecessary regulations and make sure families and businesses have access to credit from local banks and credit unions when they need it.

A five-year farm bill was signed into law this month, which will provide certainty and stability for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. With more than 31,500 farms across the state, South Dakota ranks in the top 10 for ag production, providing a $21 billion dollar impact on our economy annually. Passing a five-year farm bill was necessary to give South Dakota producers the certainty they need to help weather times of low commodity prices, such as the one we are experiencing now. Measures included in the farm bill can help them keep their operations viable during tough times.


We will continue urging the administration to finalize strong trade deals for South Dakota producers and manufacturers. Earlier this fall, the president agreed to a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement to replace NAFTA. Maintaining strong relationships with Mexico and Canada—our top two trading partners—is vitally important for the overall health of our economy. Congress will begin reviewing the USMCA in the New Year, and I look forward to receiving input about the measure from South Dakotans. We still have work to do with our trading relationship with China, but it’s a positive sign that China purchased 1.13 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans this month.

One of the lasting accomplishments from the past year is the number of fair-minded, impartial judges we were able to confirm to the federal bench. 85 judges have been confirmed by the Senate since President Trump took office, including two Supreme Court justices who received lifetime appointments. These men and women have the ability to shape our judiciary for generations. They will apply the law as it was written, not based on their personal political beliefs.

I serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, we were able to secure the largest pay raise for our troops in nearly a decade. We increased military investment, but we still need to do more next year. Spending constraints from the Budget Control Act prevented the military from modernizing its weapons and equipment. If we want to continue to have the best military in the world, we must make sure our troops have the best equipment, vehicles and weapons available. 

We were able to finalize a comprehensive, bipartisan opioid bill that will help put a stop to the heartbreaking issue of opioid abuse in our country. Work still remains to repair the damage caused by Obamacare. Over the past two years, we have been able to chip away at parts of Obamacare, including the elimination of the individual mandate and the removal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board. However, the program continues to crumble under its own weight. More work is needed.

Improving aging American infrastructure is another priority for 2019. We took steps to improve our nation’s water infrastructure this year by passing the America’s Water Infrastructure Act. This bill includes a number of my provisions including language that directs the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the snowpack and moisture monitoring program that was authorized in 2014. This system will help to make sure we don’t have another devastating Missouri River flood like in 2011.

2018 was a productive year in the Senate. We accomplished a number of major priorities, many of which were done on a bipartisan basis. I look forward to accomplishing even more in 2019.