Congressional Roundup: Thune wants to rein in electric vehicle incentives

By: - April 22, 2023 6:00 am
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, meets with leaders of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in April 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Sen. Thune's Office/Twitter)

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, meets with leaders of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in April 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Sen. Thune’s Office/Twitter)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest installment in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, says the federal government gives too much help to the electric vehicle industry.

Automakers can tap into the Department of Energy’s $40 billion pool for loans and loan guarantees to lower the cost of electric vehicle production. Buyers are also eligible for up to $7,500 in tax credits.

Thune calls that “double dipping.” This week, he reintroduced a bill to make automakers choose one incentive or the other.

“My bill would protect American taxpayers from footing the bill for the Democrats’ sweeping windfall for EVs, especially for subsidy costs that would skyrocket under the administration’s recent proposal to phase out gas-powered vehicles,” Thune said in a news release.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed emission regulations for new cars and trucks that could cause two-thirds of all new vehicle sales to be electric within a decade. The administration has said a multipronged approach to incentivizing electric vehicle manufacturing and sales is necessary to “bring a clean, safe, affordable, and reliable transportation future to Americans even faster.”

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, is one of the five cosponsors – all Republicans – of Thune’s bill.


Anti-China legislation

Rounds introduced a bipartisan bill this week with Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, that aims to counter China’s influence on Taiwan.

The bill would require the U.S. Department of Defense to expand cybersecurity cooperation with Taiwan, which suffers millions of cyberattacks from China per month, according to Rounds.

“With increasing aggressiveness by the People’s Republic of China toward Taiwan, this legislation will help deter and, if necessary, defeat an attack by the PRC on Taiwan,” Rounds said in a news release.

Lead ammunition

Rounds and Thune teamed with Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and 22 of their Senate Republican colleagues to introduce a bill that would stop several federal agencies from banning lead ammunition or tackle on public lands in some circumstances.

An exception in the text of the bill says bans could be imposed if field data show that lead ammunition or tackle led to a decline in the wildlife population on the land in question. 

Rounds said in a news release that the bill “keeps the heavy hand of government from interfering with our way of life in South Dakota.” Some hunters prefer to use lead where it’s allowed, including on private land, saying it’s more effective for pheasants and other game. 

Yet South Dakota already requires nontoxic ammunition, such as steel, when hunting some species on public land

The bill is partly motivated by a successful lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity that forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin phasing out lead ammunition and tackle at several wildlife refuges. The center says lead can poison endangered animals like whooping cranes that ingest it when feeding in fields and waterways. 


Johnson supports GOP debt deal

U.S. House Republicans unveiled a debt limit proposal Wednesday that would lift the nation’s borrowing capacity by $1.5 trillion into next year. 

The bill, introduced by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, carries numerous Republican initiatives that are unlikely to get the bipartisan support necessary to clear the divided Congress. Congress faces a deadline as soon as mid-June to raise the debt limit or risk the nation’s first-ever default. 

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, said in a news release that he took part in efforts to draft the plan. He said priorities of the Republican Main Street Caucus, which he chairs, were included.

“We are $32 trillion in debt, and in six weeks our nation defaults on our debts,” Johnson said in a news release. “We are duty-bound to address both of those crises. Republicans have a reasonable plan to do so.”

President Joe Biden criticized Republicans for tying dozens of conservative policy positions to their debt limit bill. 

Popularity ratings

New rankings from the polling firm Morning Consult say Thune is the fourth most popular senator in the country among his constituents, and Rounds is the seventh.

The rankings are based on surveys of registered voters in each state conducted from January to March. Sixty-three percent of respondents approved of Thune’s job performance, and 61% approved of Rounds.

How they voted

In notable floor action this week:

  • Johnson voted yes on a bill to prohibit transgender student athletes from competing on girls sports teams consistent with their gender identity, which passed 219-203 but is viewed as doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
  • Thune and Rounds each voted in favor of an attempt to block abortion access at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities but the bill failed 48-51.
  • Johnson voted yes on a veto override to stop Biden’s expansion of waters that can be regulated under the Clean Water Act; the override, which needed a two-thirds majority, failed 227-196.
  • Johnson voted yes on a bill that would require U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials to report to Congress their work with allies deterring Chinese surveillance aircraft and to provide a classified briefing on any airborne spying over the U.S. by the rival nation since 2017; the bill passed 405-6 and now heads to the Senate.

– States Newsroom’s D.C. Bureau contributed to this report.

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Seth Tupper
Seth Tupper

Seth is editor-in-chief of South Dakota Searchlight. He was previously a supervising senior producer for South Dakota Public Broadcasting and a newspaper journalist in Rapid City and Mitchell.