Congressional Roundup: Rounds advocates for defense and AM radios
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, participates in a Senate Banking Committee hearing in March 2023. (Screenshot from committee hearing video)
A congressional defense spending bill includes about $400 million for South Dakota construction projects, according to Sen. Mike Rounds.
Rounds, a Republican, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Earlier this week, the committee sent the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2024 fiscal year to the full Senate.
“The NDAA is a critical piece of legislation that provides for our national security and supports our service members and their families,” Rounds said in a news release. “While I am disappointed the top-line numbers do not adequately fund those needs, I am pleased the bill contains measures supporting South Dakotans, including the service members at Ellsworth Air Force Base.”
This is the latest installment in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.
Ellsworth is near Rapid City. Rounds said the bill would authorize $395 million for construction projects at the base related to the future arrival of B-21 bombers, which are under development by the Air Force. The Ellsworth-specific funding includes $160 million for hangar construction, $160 million for a weapons-related facility, and $75 million for a fueling facility.
In other South Dakota-related provisions, the bill would:
- Provide $5.25 million in funding for the construction of a National Guard Readiness Center in Sioux Falls.
- Promote the use and funding of “cold spray” technology for equipment maintenance, repair and overhaul to increase the service life of aging systems, provided exclusively by a South Dakota company using a technology developed at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City.
- Direct the secretary of defense to support and work with universities, including Dakota State University in Madison, on cyber workforce education.
The broader bill would raise pay for military and civilian defense personnel by 5.2% and provide $887 billion in total defense funding, an increase of about $70 billion over last year’s bill.
A group of senators from both parties have come together to introduce the AM for Every Vehicle Act. The bill, supported by Rounds and 19 other senators, would direct federal regulators to require automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio as a standard feature in new vehicles.
The legislation comes as some automakers are dropping AM radio from newer models.
“Free AM broadcast radio has been an important resource for decades,” Rounds said in a statement. “I am pleased to join Senators Markey and Cruz on this bipartisan legislation so our future generations have access to this free, key resource, especially in our rural areas across South Dakota.”
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley and 16 other attorneys general voiced support for the legislation recently in a letter.
“AM Radio is important in rural states like South Dakota where AM stations may be the only reception available,” Jackley said in a statement.
Rounds introduced legislation to name a post office in Sioux Falls after the late Staff Sgt. Robb Lura Rolfing, who died while serving in Iraq in 2007. The bill seeks to designate the post office as the “Staff Sergeant Robb Lura Rolfing Post Office Building” as a tribute to his service and sacrifice.
“Staff Sgt. Rolfing represents the best of our country,” Rounds said in a statement.
Rolfing, while serving in Special Forces, was fatally shot in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad. He was originally from Sioux Falls.
Reaction to student-debt decision
South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson, both Republicans, issued written statements on the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday that the Biden administration does not have the legal authority to enact a one-time student debt relief program.
Thune’s statement: “Not only was President Biden’s budget-busting student loan bailout fundamentally unfair, now it has been found unconstitutional. Instead of putting together a real plan to lower the costs of higher education, President Biden put forward an unserious scheme to force 87 percent of Americans who do not have student loan debt to bear the costs of the 13 percent of Americans who do. Anyone frustrated by today’s decision should direct their complaints to the White House, where they knew this executive order would likely be struck down by the courts but did nothing whatsoever to meaningfully address exorbitant costs in higher education.”
Johnson’s statement: “Forgiving tens of thousands of dollars in debt for those who haven’t made payments in years is insulting to the millions of Americans who have paid back every penny they borrowed. The cost of this debt forgiveness would be a baffling $500 billion or more. Our national debt is skyrocketing, and a policy like President Biden’s would only make it worse.”
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