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Weekly Round[s] Up: December 12-18, 2022

Well… at least a White Christmas has been secured. As families are wrapping up presents, we are wrapping up legislation in the Senate. We’ve had reasons for optimism this past week, including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed in the Senate. We’ve worked hard on the NDAA all year, which authorizes funding for our national defense and includes many victories for South Dakota. Additionally, my legislation, the RESPECT Act, also passed in the House of Representatives. Both bills will now head to the president’s desk for signature. More on both of these bills below in the Weekly Round[s] Up.

Meetings this past week: I met with Julie Smith, the United States Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council; Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax; Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia; and Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia. I also attended a roundtable with sub-Saharan African leaders, Department of State officials and several members of Congress.

We also had our Senate Bible Study (Our verse of the week was Hebrews 4:12). This week at Senate Prayer Breakfast, instead of a traditional speaker, we gathered together and sang Christmas carols. We do this annually during the holiday season with one of my colleagues playing the piano (this year it was Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan). We also had Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia playing the harmonica!

Topics discussed: The NDAA, the B-21 Raider bomber coming to Ellsworth Air Force Base, the RESPECT Act and U.S.-African relations. 

Votes taken: 13 – the most noteworthy was legislation that extended government funding for an additional week, which I did not support. Each year, Congress is expected to pass appropriations bills that fund government for the fiscal year beginning on October 1. This year, Congress did not do this, but instead passed a continuing resolution (CR) which kept government funding at its existing levels until December 16. I voted against this measure in September. 

Even with an additional two months to work on appropriations bills, Congress has failed again to get its work done. CRs are no way to run a country. They’re wasteful, ineffective, destabilize government programs and could end up hurting South Dakota families. They also jeopardize our military readiness. Military leaders continue to warn that CRs have a detrimental impact on our ability to train, equip and maintain the force. This is in part because out-of-date contracts remain enforced and new contracts are not in effect. This should concern us all.

If we’re ever going to stop this reckless practice of not getting our work done on time, we need to send a strong message that enough is enough. The American people expect us to do our jobs, not continue to kick the can down the road.

NDAA: The National Defense Authorization Act is something that deserves its own category this week. The Senate passed this legislation this past week 83-11. The Senate Armed Services committee, which I have served on since coming to the Senate, has worked all year to craft this legislation. I authored 47 pieces of legislation that were included in the NDAA. Many of these were provisions to enhance our offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, and could potentially benefit Dakota State University in Madison. Additionally, the NDAA included over $335 million in military construction funding for projects at Ellsworth Air Force Base to help support the B-21 Raider stealth bomber bed down. I’m pleased to have the NDAA across the finish line in the Senate and heading to the president’s desk to be signed into law. You can read more on the NDAA here.

Legislation passed: The RESPECT Act. This is my bill to repeal discriminatory federal laws targeting Native Americans passed the House of Representatives this past week.

The RESPECT Act repeals 11 outdated federal laws, including laws that stripped Native American children from their families for the purpose of placing them in “Indian reform schools,” such as the now-infamous Carlisle Indian Industrial School. It is long overdue to remove these immoral federal laws from our books. I’ve worked on this legislation for seven years, and I am pleased this bipartisan, commonsense legislation is heading to the president’s desk to be signed into law. You can read more on the RESPECT Act here.

Hearings: We had a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on cryptocurrency and the fall of FTX. Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank testified before our committee on this issue.

Classified briefings: I had a classified briefing with General Saltzman of the Space Force and a classified briefing with Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Additionally, I served as ranking member for a classified briefing on Russian activity in Africa for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.

Snow received: Like most people in the state, my state offices were snowed in and talking to South Dakotans remotely this past week. My Sioux Falls office received about six inches of snow, and my Aberdeen office received nearly 11. Pierre received over 14 inches, while the Rapid City office received nearly eight. I know my staff is looking forward to getting back on the road soon!

Steps taken this week: 55,123 steps or 25.09 miles.

Video of the Week: This week I visited with KELO about the NDAA. You can watch their news report here: