Weekly Round[s] Up: March 6-12, 2023
Another busy week out here in Washington! We earned a major victory for American consumers and producers this past week. More on that good news later. This past week, I attended hearings, met with South Dakotans and other groups, introduced multiple pieces of legislation and gave a floor speech attempting to extend the spectrum auction authority. You can read more about that and so much more in my Weekly Round[s] Up:
Product of USA labeling: This past week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new rule proposing that the ‘Product of USA’ or ‘Made in the USA’ labels can only be applied to meat, poultry and egg products that are born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. This is major victory for American consumers and producers. For years, we’ve called on USDA to take action to stop foreign beef from receiving the ‘Product of USA’ label. I’ve met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, submitted multiple comments to USDA on this issue and introduced bipartisan legislation since 2019 that closely mirrors this rule. Our work is finally starting to pay off.
With this announcement, integrity has been restored to the ‘Product of USA’ label. Once this proposed rule is finalized, American consumers will no longer be misled by a ‘Product of USA’ label that is allowed to be applied to foreign products. American cattle ranchers will no longer be disadvantaged in the marketplace against lower quality foreign beef that falsely bears the ‘Product of USA’ label. The USDA’s ruling is a major step in the right direction, and I applaud Secretary Vilsack for taking the necessary actions to fix this label.
While we acknowledge the magnitude of this ruling, there is still more work to be done. We need to address meat packer concentration and Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef in order to restore transparency and fairness to the cattle market. I remain committed to fighting for American ranchers and consumers.
I spoke with KELOLAND about our work on this issue. You can watch the clip here.
South Dakota groups I visited with: Frank Star Comes Out, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe; Dustin Hermansen and Max Lightfield, South Dakota’s delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program; members of South Dakota’s branch of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); and Mike Belshe, CEO of BitGo.
Meetings this past week: General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Dwight Scott, Blackstone’s Global Head of Credit; General Anthony Cotton, Commander of USSTRATCOM; and David Zalkiani, Georgia’s Ambassador to the United States.
We also had our Senate Bible Study (Genesis 1:26 was the verse of the week) and our Senate Prayer Breakfast (Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan was our speaker).
Met with South Dakotans from: Aberdeen, Brookings, Buffalo, Huron, Milbank, Pine Ridge, Rapid City, Redfield, Sturgis and Wessington Springs.
Spectrum: You may remember that I previously promised that we’d have a broader discussion on spectrum – this is your lucky week. To give you a brief explainer, electromagnetic spectrum is all around us, but we can't always see or feel it. There are many different kinds of waves in the electromagnetic spectrum, like radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light (which we can see with our eyes), ultraviolet waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Each type of wave has a different frequency and wavelength, which determines what it can do and how we can we use it. For example, radio waves are used to send signals for radios and TVs, while X-rays are used to take pictures of our bones. In simplest terms, we identify spectrum based on the frequency and length of the waves. The Department of Defense (DOD) utilizes radio waves, specifically the 3.1-3.45 GHz band of electromagnetic spectrum, for radar and other sensors that protect our nation from attack.
It’s important to know that the use of spectrum is limited. There is only so much available for use, which makes it incredibly valuable and its licensing competitive. Wireless telecommunications companies have an interest in acquiring access to the 3.1-3.45 GHz band of spectrum as they continue to deploy 5G technologies. Many bands of spectrum can be purchased at auctions managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The 3.1 – 3.45 GHz band, however, is currently not available for auction. Recognizing a tension between the DOD and the telecommunications industry, Congress mandated a joint study be completed by the DOD and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which would identify ways in which the DOD can share this band of spectrum. This study is expected to be completed by September. We want to extend the FCC’s current authority until the end of the fiscal year, which would allow the study to be completed before they try and auction off the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for non-military use.
With that in mind, I introduced bipartisan legislation this week with Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii to extend the FCC’s spectrum auction authority through September 30, 2023. This extension would allow time for the DOD and NTIA to complete their joint study on the spectrum needs of critical defense capabilities before frequencies in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band could be auctioned. This extension would assure American national security is safeguarded throughout the study process.
This past week, I asked for unanimous consent that this bill be passed in order to avoid a lapse in the spectrum auction authority. Unfortunately, my proposal was blocked on the Senate floor and the authority expired on Thursday evening. Some Senate Commerce Committee members want to extend the authority for a few weeks, giving them an opportunity to rewrite protections that are currently found within existing law concerning this part of the spectrum prior to the study being completed. I am still open to the extension of the auction authority as currently found within law until September 30.
Legislation introduced: I introduced the Traveler’s Gun Rights Act, a bill that would allow full-time Recreational Vehicle (RV) travelers, as well as active duty military personnel and military spouses, to use a P.O. Box, Private Mailbox (PMB) or duty station address to purchase a firearm. Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requires a physical address and prohibits P.O. Boxes, PMB and duty station addresses on firearm purchase forms. You can read more about the Traveler’s Gun Rights Act in this story from Fox News.
Votes taken: 13 – The most noteworthy was a vote to overturn Washington, DC’s new crime bill that was put forth by the DC City Council. I voted yes to block this bill which would reduce maximum penalties for crimes like robbery and armed carjacking.
Hearings: I attended five hearings this week. We had two hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and two in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
I had one hearing in the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee where we heard from Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve. I questioned him about whether the Federal Reserve has the tools in place to properly address the president’s policy-induced inflation. You can watch a clip of that here.
Classified briefings: I had two classified briefings this week: one on spectrum and one with SASC’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
My staff in South Dakota visited: Aberdeen, Brookings, Enning and Watertown.
Steps taken this week: 58,726 steps or 27.11 miles.
Video of the Week: As the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, improving our nation’s cyber capabilities remains a top priority for me. I joined Fox & Friends to discuss our efforts: