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Weekly Round[s] Up: January 8-21, 2024

Welcome to the first Weekly Round[s] Up of 2024! I was grateful to be back home in South Dakota for a couple of weeks, making visits to Mission and Sioux Falls and spending time in the Pierre and Fort Pierre area with family for Christmas. Now that the Senate is back in session, we’re continuing to work on fixing the big issues that are at the top of everyone’s mind, specifically our southern border. Due to the policies of the Biden administration, the border has become a national security and humanitarian crisis. Senate Republicans are requiring real steps toward fixing it as part of a supplemental funding package for Ukraine and Israel. As we continue to focus on border security, we keep busy with meetings, hearings, votes, briefings and more. Here’s my Weekly Round[s] Up:

Meetings this past week: Molly Phee, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the Department of State; Karim Sadjadpour, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Jake Loosararian, CEO of Gecko Robotics; Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI; Alex Wang, CEO of Scale AI; Andrew Ng of AI Fund; Bill Gassen, CEO of Sanford Health; Aidarus al-Zoubaidi, Vice President of Yemen; Sabastian Niles and Eric Loeb of Salesforce; and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. I also had our Senate Bible Study, where our verses of the week were Romans 12:19 and Romans 13:4.

Over the long weekend, I went on a CODEL trip to visit with our NATO allies in Europe. We traveled to Poland and visited with government officials, including President Andrzej Duda, Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski, Deputy PM & Minister of Defense Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz and US Ambassador to Poland Mark Francis Brzezinski. We also traveled to Slovakia, where we met with President Zuzana Caputova, Prime Minister Robert Fico, Defense Minister Robert Kalinak, Foreign Affairs Minister Juraj Blanar and US Ambassador to Slovakia Gautam A. Rana. In addition, we went to Liechtenstein to meet with Prime Minister Daniel Risch and H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois. I also spoke on an artificial intelligence panel at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Switzerland.

Votes taken: 8 – Most noteworthy was my vote on the continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded past the January 19 and February 4 deadlines, which were set by the previous CR. I voted yes to keep the government open and funded through March 1 and 8, giving us more time to complete the necessary appropriation bills for FY2024.  

Hearings: I attended one hearing in the Select Committee on Intelligence. I also attended one hearing in the Senate Banking Committee, titled “Stopping the Flow of Fentanyl: Public Awareness and Legislative Solutions.”

Classified briefings: I attended two classified briefings this past week as part of my work on the Senate Armed Services Committee: one on Israel and one on the Indo-Pacific region.

Amicus brief: I joined my Senate Republican colleagues in filing a Supreme Court amicus brief challenging the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to keep former President Trump off of the ballot. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is wrong. The former president has not been convicted of any crimes and should not be kicked off the ballot for political reasons.

Letter to Secretary Vilsack: I sent a letter with Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai asking them to begin discussions on updating trade agreements to allow for potential usage of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) vaccine. The avian influenza outbreak has impacted more than 5.3 million birds in South Dakota and has cost the federal government nearly $1 billion. You can read more about this, along with the full text of the letter, here.

Legislation introduced: I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Angus King (I-Maine) to allow combat veterans to enroll in their health care benefits program before officially transitioning out of active duty in order to make certain that service members don’t experience a lag in coverage. The Combat Veterans Pre-Enrollment Act would eliminate the lapse in care that many service members face when transitioning from the military to civilian life, and make certain that service members have timely access to the health care services they need upon separation from the military. You can read more about this legislation here.

Headline of the week: U.S. Senator Mike Rounds helps secure first Native American veteran charter – SDPB

My staff in South Dakota visited: Aberdeen, Brookings, Pierre, Sioux Falls, Vermillion and Watertown.

Steps taken this past week:

Week 1: 60,169 steps or 29.81 miles.

Week 2: 46,605 steps or 23.22 miles.

Video of the week: Earlier this month in Sioux Falls, I had the opportunity to present Joel Greene with his father Harry Greenstein’s lost military service medals, including a Purple Heart. Harry was a WWI veteran who immigrated to the United States from Russia and served in France with the United States Army. More information in this clip from Keloland: