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Weekly Round[s] Up: June 12-25, 2023

It’s time we do something we’ve never done before: a special two-week edition of the Weekly Round[s] Up. The past two weeks have been jam-packed as we’ve worked in the Senate Armed Services Committee to write the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is an annual bipartisan bill that authorizes funding for the Department of Defense. You can read more about this legislation and some of the victories for South Dakota that made it through this step in the process, including nearly $400 million in funding for construction projects at Ellsworth Air Force Base, later in this report. In between helping write and voting on this legislation, we were also able to squeeze in meetings with South Dakotans who were visiting us in Washington. Here’s my two-week Weekly Round[s] Up:

South Dakota groups I visited with: Students from Lyman, Sanborn Central, Castlewood and Milbank; Students participating in the National History Day contest; South Dakota Future Farmers of America (FFA) members and advisors; Kellie Wasko, South Dakota Secretary of Corrections; Ashley Kingdon-Reese with the South Dakota Nurses Association; Charlee Kolb, winner of the SD Congressional Art Competition; City leadership from Box Elder; and a group of South Dakota 4-H students. I also spoke to a group of officials from different sectors across South Dakota about foreign owned agricultural land, including my work at the federal level on legislation like the PASS Act.

Additionally, this past week I met with landowners, state legislators and county officials from across the state who are concerned about their ability to protect their own property from carbon dioxide pipelines, specifically the use of eminent domain. As a landowner, I am concerned about the strained relationship between a private company and South Dakota landowners. While working as governor, I stressed local buy-in before projects should move forward. In any case, eminent domain should only be used as a last resort. You can read more about our meeting here in an article from The Dakota Scout.

Meetings these past weeks: Dr. Adriana Kugler, nominee to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve; Gen. Eric Smith, nominee to be the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps; Dr. Ned Sharpless, former Director of the National Cancer Institute; Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO; Martin Gruenberg, Chair of the FDIC; Margaret Brennan and Norah O’Donnell with CBS; Representatives from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies; Brian Gumbel, President of Armis; Maryanne Donaghy, Assistant Secretary for Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs; Tom Brand, Director of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters; Lisa Cook, member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors; Doug Duskin, CEO of Avel eCare; and General Randy George, nominee to be Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army. I had breakfast with George Will, where our discussion focused on immigration reforms. He wrote about our conversation in his Washington Post column this past week. You can read that here.

I also had the opportunity to speak with a group of interns who are working on Capitol Hill this summer, where they asked great questions ranging from why I started working in public service to the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI).

Speaking of AI, the bipartisan working group on AI that I lead with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hosted our first all-senators briefing. We heard from Antonio Torralba, who is a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Our goal is to unite the Senate in a bipartisan way to address the challenges and opportunities posed by AI. Additionally, I attended an AI roundtable with a bipartisan group of senators that featured Microsoft’s Chief Scientific Officer and the Executive Director at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

We also had our Senate Bible Study (Joshua 1:9 was our verse of the week) and our Senate Prayer Breakfast (Senator Chris Coons from Delaware was our speaker this past week; Senator James Lankford from Oklahoma was our speaker the week before).

Met with South Dakotans from: Box Elder, Bridgewater, Buffalo, Castlewood, Faith, Florence, Forestburg, Hoven, Lake Andes, Milbank, Pierre, Presho, Rapid City, Salem, Sioux Falls, Waverly, White and Wilmot.  

Topics discussed: Public service both on and off Capitol Hill, nurses in South Dakota and legislation impacting their work, foreign ownership of agriculture land and priorities for our national security.

NDAA: As I noted in the introduction, much of my work over the past two weeks focused on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This is the ninth NDAA I’ve had the opportunity to work on as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The NDAA provides for our national security and supports our service members and their families. In this year’s NDAA, we were able to include a 5.2 percent pay raise for both military service members and DOD civilian workforce. We were also able to include $5.25 million in funding for the construction of a National Guard Readiness Center in Sioux Falls and $395 million for construction projects at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Box Elder as we prepare for the bed down of the B-21 Raider Bomber.

Additionally, we’ve included provisions in this bill to stop the toxic “woke” ideologies in the Department of Defense at their source. Our military should be focused on performance, not pronouns.

You can read more about this year’s NDAA here.

Votes taken: 20 over the past two weeks – Most of these were on nominees to positions within the executive and judicial branches. We also attempted to override the president’s veto on a joint resolution, which would have rejected an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that places further regulations on truckers and small business owners. Though all 49 Republicans and one Democrat voted to override the veto, it needed 67 votes to be overturned.

Hearings: Six – one in SASC, two in the Banking committee and one in the Select Committee on Intelligence. We also spent two long sessions on NDAA markup in SASC.

One of these hearings in the Banking committee was a markup on the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, legislation that I cosponsored which aims to stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States by cutting off income sources for those who traffic fentanyl. This bill passed out of committee after the markup and will now head to the Senate floor.

Classified briefings: I had one briefing related to my work on the SASC Subcommittee on Cybersecurity.

My staff in South Dakota visited: Aberdeen, Box Elder, De Smet, Fort Pierre, Howard, Huron, McLaughlin, Mitchell, New Underwood, Rapid City, Sisseton and Watertown.

Steps taken this week: 49,215 steps or 23.61 miles the first week. 50,169 steps or 23.71 miles the second week. We are moving in the right direction!

Photo of the Week: Last Monday, we made a big announcement in Madison at Dakota State University. DSU and U.S. Army Cyber Command signed an educational partnership that will give students opportunities to collaborate with the Army on research in cybersecurity. It was a great day for DSU and our nation, but it has been long in the making. I appreciate the work of Dr. Michael Sulmeyer, the Army's Principal Cyber Advisor, whose visit to DSU at my request helped pave the way for the signing of this agreement. Additionally, I am grateful for the visionary leadership of Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, who continues to find ways to take DSU to the next level as a top institution for cybersecurity. This agreement opens up a world of possibilities for DSU students and is another opportunity for South Dakota to play a critical role in maintaining the defense of our country. You can find more photos from the day on my Facebook by clicking on the photo below.