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Senator Cramer's Weekly Update February 1-7

Senates Passes Partisan Budget Resolution

I voted against the 2021 Budget Resolution, which the Senate passed early Friday morning after 15 hours of voting. This was the first step for the budget process known as reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority for passage, allowing Democrats to advance this legislation without any support from Republicans. This would be in stark contrast with the five previous COVID-19 relief packages, which were all bipartisan and received over 60 votes in the Senate, including the largest bill known as the CARES Act, which passed unanimously last March.

Instead of working together on a proposal, Democrats are trying to rush a nearly-$2 trillion partisan stimulus package through Congress before all of the money from previous relief bills has even been spent.

As of late January, this includes:

  • $14 billion remains for COVID-19 testing remains unspent,
  • $64 billion of the $68 billion for K-12 schools remains unspent,
  • $5 billion of the $8.75 billion for vaccine distribution remains undistributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
  • $10 billion of the $13.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program remains unspent, and
  • $4.3 billion of the $4.7 billion for mental health and behavioral health programs remains unobligated.

Based on numbers available from late January, billions in funding even from the most recent relief package passed in December remains unobligated, including:

  • All of the $27 billion for the Department of Transportation,
  • $24.5 billion of the $26 billion for agriculture and nutrition,
  • $211 billion of the $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, and
  • $11 billion of the $19.6 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department.

As Democrats advance their extreme agenda, Republicans offered a series of amendments to hold them accountable, help the American people, and ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. I introduced numerous amendments on Thursday and voted for several pieces of legislation to keep Democrats' partisan spending package in check, including amendments to:

  • Ensure illegal immigrants and high-income Americans do not receive stimulus checks,
  • Support schools which lose funding because of the Biden Administration's federal moratorium on oil and natural gas leasing on public lands,
  • Prevent tax increases on small businesses during a national pandemic,
  • Protect religious freedom,
  • Preserve the Navigable Waters Protection Rule which replaced the Obama-era Waters of the United States Rule,
  • Back funding for Police Officers,
  • Keep the number of Supreme Court Justices at nine,
  • Prohibit schools from receiving COVID-19 relief funds if they do not reopen for in-person learning after their teachers are vaccinated,
  • Oppose minimum wage hikes during a global pandemic,
  • Prohibit a federal carbon tax,
  • Fund border security and ensure enforcement of all immigration laws,
  • Stop the Biden Administration from using the Environmental Protection Agency to ban fracking,
  • Hold governors like New York's Andrew Cuomo accountable for failing to offer accurate reporting on the deaths of nursing home residents and staff during COVID-19,
  • Oppose policies which will increase our reliance on energy or critical mineral imports from foreign countries who have worse environmental or labor standards than the United States,
  • Create bipartisan congressional committees to improve solvency of federal trust funds,
  • Keep the U.S. Embassy in Israel stationed in Jerusalem, and
  • Uphold contracts awarded for construction of physical barriers along the nation's border.

I also voted for bills I previously helped introduce which were offered as amendments, such as:

  • Sarah's Law led by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA),
  • The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act led by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE),
  • The Keystone XL Pipeline Construction and Jobs Preservation Act led by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).

I urge my Democratic colleagues and the Biden Administration to change course and work with us to craft a bipartisan, targeted relief package which will deliver relief to those who actually need it.

Getting Students Back to School

On Wednesday I helped introduce legislation led by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) entitled the Put Students First Act of 2021, a bill to prohibit federal funding to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by the Biden Administration's promised deadline of April 30, 2021. Schools have no reason to not be letting our kids get back into the classroom. There is no substitute for in-person learning, and the consequences for our country of not properly educating the next generation could be severe. Our legislation prevents schools from receiving federal funds if they are not following the science and prioritizing our children's education.

Josh Meny and I had a KX Conversation about getting students back in school:

Bill to Authorize Keystone XL Pipeline Construction

I joined Senators John Hoeven, Steve Daines (R-MT), and several western senators in introducing the "Keystone XL Pipeline Construction and Jobs Preservation Act" to authorize the continued construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline following President Biden's decision to revoke the cross-border operation permit. Congressman Kelly Armstrong introduced companion legislation in the House.

Eliminating the Keystone XL Pipeline will raise emissions, energy costs, the risk of transportation accidents, and the number of Americans without a job. It is ironic President Biden, who bills himself as a unifying jobs creator, would start his presidency by going after an industry that provides opportunity and a better way of life for every American. Our legislation protects these jobs and the energy security they help provide.

Pledge to Block Bills that Undermine the Hyde Amendment

I signed onto a letter led by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) to Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer pledging to vote to block any bill that would undermine the Hyde Amendment or any other pro-life protections.

“We are united in our resolve to guard against any changes to federal law that would unsettle nearly half a century of bipartisan consensus against taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, or otherwise threaten the lives of unborn children. Accordingly, we are committed to vote against the advancement of any legislation that would eliminate or weaken the Hyde Amendment or any other current-law pro-life protections, or otherwise undermine existing federal pro-life policy,"

My Message on the Controversy Surrounding Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene

Newsweek requested I write an opinion piece on what lessons we can learn from the controversy surrounding Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-GA) and her past comments.

"Such views have no place in political discourse, and there is certainly no room for them in the Republican Party. They have been characterized by many in the media as far-right. They are not. These statements are not based on an extremely conservative ideology. They are horrifying and completely untethered to reality, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, and should be reported as such by the media."

I wrote about the importance of improving our civil discourse and covering the balance between cancel culture and proper consequences for improper behavior. I also highlight the Left's hypocrisy in quickly condemning Republicans but not holding their own members accountable.

"We need more debate on differing viewpoints, not less. We should be able to disagree with others without being disagreeable. And we can stop pretending to be offended by every criticism or take every expression of speech literally. The claims of victimhood to every offense diminish actual victims and serve to silence people from expressing their convictions. It also robs us of enjoying each other rather than carrying the burden of grudges. Americans ought to be more resilient and joyful. We do live in the best country in the world, after all."

Reintroducing Bill to Make Charitable Giving Easier for Middle-Income Seniors

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and I reintroduced the Legacy IRA Act, legislation to increase the tax incentive of elderly middle-class Americans to give to charity.

Most nonprofit organizations rely on charitable donations to stay afloat and continue their missions. Our legislation cuts the red tape in the tax code to make it easier for middle-class Americans to generously give their money to worthy causes.

Resolution Opposing Iran Nuclear Deal

I joined Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) in introducing a resolution expressing opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and urging President Biden to work with Congress and refuse to re-join the deal without significant reform.

The Iran Nuclear Deal jeopardized the security of our allies in the region and the American people, and we gained nothing in return. Re-entering it without significant changes would endanger the world. Instead of retrying what already failed, President Biden should work with Congress to develop a strategy to properly combat this state sponsor of terrorism.

Confirmation Hearing for Deputy Secretary of Defense Nominee

During a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) confirmation hearing on Tuesday, I pressed Dr. Kathleen Hicks, President Joe Biden's nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense, on the cost of delaying nuclear modernization efforts. One of my focuses on SASC has been to ensure the timeline for replacing the Minutemen III's housed at Minot Air Force Base with the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missiles stays on track. I also highlighted the importance of the Grand Forks Air Force Base and its Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance mission.

Senate Confirms Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary

I joined the majority of my colleagues in voting to confirm Pete Buttigieg as U.S. Secretary of Transportation on Tuesday.

Whether in the air or on the road, transportation infrastructure is a bipartisan priority vital to the success of our economy and key to unlocking its full potential. North Dakota enjoyed a solid relationship with the Trump Administration’s transportation leaders, working with them to support our airports, protect our energy producers, and improve regulations governing our truck drivers.

As a mayor from a small town in Middle America, Secretary Buttigieg understands how important these issues are. I look forward to replicating that productive relationship as we tackle issues like the highway reauthorization bill, which our committee unanimously passed last year and - if passed in a similar fashion this year - presents an opportunity for us to deliver a unifying win for the American people.

Opposing New Homeland Security Secretary

I voted against Alejandro Mayorkas' nomination to be Secretary of Homeland Security on Tuesday.

Mr. Mayorkas is not the right choice to run the Department of Homeland Security. His disregard for the rule of law coupled with his scandal-ridden past paints the picture of a government official more interested in doling out favors than fulfilling his duties. He assisted in the creation of the DACA program, won't support enhancing security along the southern border, and used his position in the Obama Administration to help wealthy foreign investors with Democratic Party connections get their visa requests approved. With threats both foreign and domestic on the rise, we need leaders who are ready to defend American interests, not just their own.

Confirmation Hearing for EPA Administrator Nominee

I questioned Michael Regan, President Biden's nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), during the Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on his nomination. I applauded Mr. Regan's pledge to work with stakeholders and states on environmental issues while noting President Biden's Administration has not followed such a path when it comes to energy policy. I also highlighted the recently-finalized EPA methane rule and commented how a one-size-fits-all replacement rule would disqualify states that already have methane rules.

Reintroducing the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act

Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Angus King (I-ME), and I reintroduced the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, legislation which would allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection programs to be sold across state lines.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us the United States needs to take steps to strengthen its food supply chain. The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act would increase opportunities for beef and poultry producers without sacrificing safety standards. By making a simple change to allow already-inspected meat to be sold across state lines, we would create new markets for producers and increase the competitiveness of smaller processors, while giving consumers more choices at the grocery store with no added risk.

Calling on Biden Administration to Distribute Funding to Help Rural Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

I joined Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prioritize and quickly distribute the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to rural and underserved communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the very concerning trends in rural America, additional resources are needed to ensure that health providers and health departments have the funding necessary to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund set-aside should be distributed to support rural and underserved communities across the United States as quickly as possible.
Not only is rural America experiencing higher rates of COVID-19, but rural communities are home to a greater percentage of older Americans, with 17.5 percet of the rural population being 65 years and older, compared to 13.8 percent in urban areas, and have higher rates of chronic illnesses.”

Bicameral Effort to Strengthen Program that Helps New Veterans During Transition to Civilian Life

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and I led a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office urging it to look at how to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Solid Start program. It aims to contact all veterans multiple times by phone in the first year after they leave active duty to check in and help connect them to VA programs and benefits.

“We believe the Solid Start program will become a critical piece of the VA's efforts to reach out to veterans who may not otherwise access the resources the Department has to offer. We therefore request that the Government Accountability Office assess the program to ensure that it is meeting its stated goals and to analyze whether any improvements or other changes should be made to the program.”

Contact Me

As recommended by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our in-state offices are taking precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our staff members are available by phone or email and are taking in-person meetings by appointment only.

Bismarck

328 Federal Building

220 East Rosser Avenue

Bismarck, ND 58501

701-699-7020

Grand Forks

114 Federal Building

102 North 4th Street

Grand Forks, ND 58203

701-699-7030

Minot

105 Federal Building

100 First Street SW

Minot, ND 58701

701-837-6141

Fargo

306 Federal Building

657 Second Avenue N

Fargo, ND 58102

701-232-5094

Williston

125 Main Street

Suite #217

Williston, ND 58801

701-441-7230

Washington, D.C.

400 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

202-224-2043

Weekly Radio and TV Schedule

RADIO

What's On Your Mind with Scott Hennen

Fridays from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. central

KFYR 550 AM - Bismarck

1100 The Flag - Fargo

KLTC 1460 AM - Dickinson

KTGO 1090 AM - Tioga

WDAY 970 AM - Fargo

The Jarrod Thomas Show

Thursdays from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. central

KNOX 1310 AM - Grand Forks

Rick Jensen

Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. central

KHND 1470 AM - Harvey

Jay Thomas

Every other Tuesday from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. central

WDAY 970 AM – Fargo

TELEVISION

Chris Berg - Point of View

6:30 p.m. central (Semi-Monthly)

Valley News Live - Fargo

Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism and the Office of U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer

Credits:

North Dakota Tourism