Since arriving in Congress, I have been singularly focused on advocating for the needs, opportunities and challenges for South Dakota. From day one, I've worked in a bipartisan way to do what is right for our state. While the new Congressional leadership comes from a different party than the outgoing leadership, I will continue to work to put South Dakota's needs at the forefront of the debate in Congress.
Over the last few years, I have been working to build bridges and build coalitions around issues like renewable energy, and I will continue to do so in the 110th Congress.
I do believe, however, that the changes in Congress will benefit South Dakota. In my role as co-chair of the House Rural Working Group, as well as through the Blue Dog Coalition, I will continue to be an aggressive advocate for our state. I also have good reason to believe that the new House Leadership will focus on priorities that a majority of the country can agree with.
Consider that in the first 100 hours of House legislative business, the new leadership team has pledged to do the following:
- Clean up Congress by instituting tough new ethics reforms.
- Make America more secure by implementing all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
- Put the federal government on a path to fiscal health by making sure we don't spend what we don't have.
- Make college more affordable by cutting the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans.
- Make America energy independent by investing in the production of renewable biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel.
- Fix the Medicare prescription drug program by allowing negotiation for lower drug prices.
I believe that these priorities can gain a majority consensus and, more importantly, are in line with the mainstream thinking and priorities of most South Dakotans. In particular, it is clear to me that the new Democratic majority is more interested in renewable fuels than the prior leadership, and with a Farm Bill coming up, the timing couldn't be better. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I will work with new Chairman Colin Peterson from Minnesota to ensure that the next Farm Bill is good for agriculture in the upper Great Plains.
For too long, Congress has had misplaced priorities. During the last six years, we have had single party control, and that has clearly led to abuses of power, ethical lapses, and misuse of taxpayer dollars. With divided government, there is more incentive to govern from the middle, and to be inclusive of other viewpoints. I believe the time is right to put partisanship aside and put common sense first. Governing from the middle – rather than the extreme edges of the right or the left – makes sense. So does increased transparency and openness in government.
I am hopeful the Congress is ready to do the work the American people expect of us.
I look forward with great optimism to 2007, and I welcome your ideas, input and concerns as we work together over the coming weeks and months to put South Dakota's needs first.