Congressional Roundup: SD delegation unanimous in support for debt limit deal

By: - June 2, 2023 10:14 am
South Dakota's all-Republican congressional delegation, from left: Sen. John Thune, Rep. Dusty Johnson and Sen. Mike Rounds. (Photos courtesy of Thune/Johnson/Rounds offices; composite by South Dakota Searchlight)

South Dakota’s all-Republican congressional delegation, from left: Sen. John Thune, Rep. Dusty Johnson and Sen. Mike Rounds. (Photos courtesy of Thune/Johnson/Rounds offices; composite by South Dakota Searchlight)

Congressional Roundup

This is the latest installment in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation. Other recent installments:

South Dakota’s three members of Congress expressed varying levels of enthusiasm for the deal to avert a default on the national debt, which all three voted for this week.

Rep. Dusty Johnson was featured in an NPR story Thursday that credited “low-key lawmakers” like him for getting the bill through the House of Representatives. Johnson has made frequent appearances in local and national media to promote the bill, including one on CNN where he called the legislation “a remarkable conservative accomplishment.”

“When you’re reducing spending, when you’re peeling back the regulatory state, when you’re unlocking American energy and getting people back to work, this is a big deal,” Johnson said.

The legislation includes new work requirements for some recipients of government aid, an idea Johnson helped inject into the debate in March with a bill proposing work requirements for food-aid recipients.

Johnson is a Republican, as are Sens. Sen. John Thune and Mike Rounds. Thune went on Fox News just before the debt limit deal passed the House and gave the legislation a mixed review.


“This isn’t a perfect deal. You know, it’s less for defense than I would have liked and not enough [cuts] on the non-defense discretionary,” Thune said. “But if you look at the permitting reforms, you look at the work requirements, you look at the clawback of COVID funds and IRS funds from the Democrats’ big spending spree from last summer, there are a lot of good things in here that bend the curve in the right direction, and that’s what this is really all about.”

On the Senate floor, Rounds bemoaned the limits on defense spending. 

“Why, as a part of the negotiation, should we be required to look at a reduction in the amount of dollars necessary for our young men and women to be able to defend our country?” Rounds said.

Efforts to amend the bill in the Senate failed, and the Senate passed it 63-36 on Thursday nighter after the House passed it 314-117 on Wednesday night.

Besides suspending the nation’s borrowing limit through Jan. 2, 2025, the legislation will: 

  • Limit the federal government to spending $886 billion for defense and $704 billion for nondefense during the fiscal year that’s set to begin Oct. 1; the next year, fiscal 2025, the bill sets the ceiling at $895 billion for defense and $711 billion for nondefense.
  • Rescind $28 billion in COVID-19 funding that hasn’t yet been spent and about $2 billion in funding for the Internal Revenue Service that Democrats approved in August.
  • Impose new work requirements for some people participating in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Amend the National Environmental Policy Act by limiting requirements for some projects and requiring environmental reviews to be completed in a one-to-two-year time frame.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation will lower the deficit by $1.5 trillion during the next decade.

Veterans’ health care choice bill

Rounds and fellow Republican Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, reintroduced the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act this week. It would allow veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affairs health system to receive care outside that system.

Currently, veterans have to meet eligibility criteria and get approval from the VA to seek care in non-VA facilities. The legislation would remove the VA from the referral process and allow veterans to seek care where it’s most convenient. 

“Our veterans deserve the freedom to choose where they receive care, whether it’s at the VA Clinic in Wagner or through a local community provider in Mobridge,” Rounds said in a news release.  

PTSD training

Rounds and a Democratic colleague, Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, reintroduced legislation this week to improve training for Veterans Affairs personnel who handle post-traumatic stress disorder claims. 

The bill would require the VA to implement recommendations in a 2020 report by the Office of the Inspector General. For that report, the office reviewed 150 claims from veterans who were trying to gain VA-covered treatment by establishing that their PTSD was connected to their military service. The office found 24 of the 150 claims – 16 percent – were inaccurately processed. 

“This kind of error rate is unacceptable,” Rounds said in a news release. 

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


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