State of the Union reactions

Here’s the reactions that have flowed into my inbox last night and this morning to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night:

Sen. Tim Johnson:

I believe the tone of the President’s speech, one of optimism for the nation as the economy continues to recover, is the right one.  He laid out solid proposals for helping the middle class including more investment in high-tech manufacturing, universal early childhood education, and job training that the country needs.  I hope Congress will work to pass many of these proposals to provide more economic opportunity for South Dakotans and the American people.

Rep. Kristi Noem:

I have always believed the responsibility of government is to empower its people to get ahead regardless of where they started.  That’s what we do in South Dakota.  We do it by keeping taxes low, our fiscal house in order and regulations at a minimum.   The strategy has worked, so I was disappointed that I didn’t hear similar ideas in the President’s speech this evening.

The House has already passed dozens of bills that encourage job creation and help make sure the American workforce is equipped with the training and skills needed to fill higher-paying positions.  They are smart, field-tested policies that lead to strong economies and higher salaries.  They should be taken into consideration and included in the debate as we work together to move the country forward.  I urge the President to put the pen aside, take a look at the proven policies the House has already drafted and work with us.  That’s a better starting point than an executive order.

 Sen. John Thune:

The president has called for a year of action, yet tonight he failed to mention common-sense, bipartisan measures thatwould actually make it easier and less expensive to create jobs, like approving the Keystone pipeline, repealing the job-killing ObamaCare medical device tax, or stopping the EPA’s backdoor energy tax. The only way to give Americans real opportunity and prosperity is to give them access to jobs. A year of action should be about creating jobs to lead to a better, brighter future for middle-class families.

I’ll post more if I get them.

Thune, Johnson vote yes to shutdown deal; Noem a no

South Dakota’s two senators both voted for the deal to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling, while Rep. Kristi Noem voted no.

Here are their statements:

Sen. Tim Johnson, yes:

“I am glad the Senate leadership came together in a bipartisan fashion to find a way out of the mess we are in now, open up the government, and pay the nation’s bills.  This compromise will help keep our economic recovery on track by sending a strong signal to consumers and businesses.

By holding firm in opposition to the House attempts at extortion, I hope that President Obama has permanently closed the door to the possibility of government default by either Republicans or Democrats. 

A key piece of the agreement is jump starting a constructive budget process to find real solutions to address our deficit in a setting free of hostage taking.”

Sen. John Thune, yes:

“We fought hard to protect as many Americans as possible from ObamaCare, and that fight doesn’t end today, but we’re now 16 days into a shutdown and risking a possible default, and Congress needs to end this impasse. This isn’t a perfect proposal, it’s far from it, but it will ensure that we don’t blow past the default date that’s been set by the Treasury, and it will force Congress to have a broad debate about Washington’s dangerous levels of spending and debt, which are hamstringing the economy and mortgaging our children’s futures. This debate should be an opportunity to focus on fiscal policies that will actually grow the economy and strengthen the middle class.”

Rep. Kristi Noem, no:

“This agreement will reopen the government and stop any talk of a default, which are both good things.  However, I could not support this bill because it didn’t do anything to address our continued deficit spending, which has resulted in a $17 trillion debt.”

Who’s running that social media account?

In this morning’s paper, I took a look at South Dakota politicians and social media. I was a little surprised at how many are personally involved in running their official Facebook and Twitter pages, though it’s far from unanimous. The two key factors seemed to be:

  • Age, with younger politicians more likely to use social media and older politicians more likely to leave it to aides
  • Length of time in politics. People who were private citizens before running for office in recent years likely had personal social media accounts, leaving them more comfortable than someone who’s been a public figure for a decade or more.

You can read the story here.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s a run-down of who actually is managing the accounts:

  • Sen. Tim Johnson: Aides
  • Sen. John Thune: A mixture of aides and Thune personally
  • Rep. Kristi Noem: A mixture of aides and Noem personally
  • Gov. Dennis Daugaard: Aides
  • Mike Rounds: Aides
  • Stace Nelson: Nelson personally, with minor clerical assistance from an aide
  • Annette Bosworth: Bosworth personally
  • Rick Weiland: A mixture of aides and Weiland personally
  • Larry Rhoden: A mixture of aides and Rhoden personally

Most of the politicians who let aides handle their accounts said they still provide input — telling aides what to put up, or drafting statements and giving it to them to post.

Another point worth noting: none few of South Dakota’s politicians provide any input into whether a given post was written by the politician or an aide. Some accounts, such as President Barack Obama’s Twitter account, append the politician’s initials (“-BO”) when they make the post themselves, with everything else from staff.

UPDATE: Weiland, Ryan Casey points out, does sign his personal tweets with “RW.”

All the politicians I asked said they didn’t think that was necessary because they’re still approving posts even when they’re not making them.

All five U.S. Senate candidates oppose Syria attack

None of the five South Dakotans running for U.S. Senate would vote to authorize the use of force against Syria, but their reasons and preferred alternatives are different.

Democrat Rick Weiland and Republicans Annette Bosworth, Stace Nelson, Larry Rhoden and Mike Rounds all say President Barack Obama hasn’t made the case for an American attack on Syria, and all say they’d probably vote against the resolution were they in Congress now.

"What is our objective? What will we consider to be a victory?" asked Rounds. "I would be very skeptical of just stepping in and saying, ‘What the heck, we’ll just go in and send a couple of cruise missiles in,’ unless we know what the endgame is."

Weiland said he, like many, has “grown weary of these international conflicts,” and said he doesn’t want to see the U.S. getting involved in Syria — or at least not without a strong coalition.

"Based on what I know right now, I’m opposed to any unilateral decision by the United States to declare war on Syria," Weiland said.

Obama isn’t asking for a formal declaration of war, just an authorization to use force, but Weiland called that a semantic difference.

Rhoden said he would be “hard-pressed to vote in favor of a military strike.”

"The overlying question we have to ask ourselves is how it affects our national security," said Rhoden, who added that "anybody with a heart would abhor the use of chemical weapons, especially on innocent civilians and children."

Obama’s request for a military strike was prompted by the allegation that Syrian regime forces launched a chemical weapon attack against rebel forces around the city of Damascus.

Nelson said attacks pose risks to both the American military and American interests.

"Every time we send one of our fighter planes into that area, we put U.S. service members at risk," said Nelson. "If we don’t have a clearly-defined national security interest… why are we taking a risk over provoking further terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests worldwide?"

Alone among the five candidates, Bosworth said her trepidation is not that the U.S. will do too much in Syria, but that it will do too little.

"His proposal for such a limited strike will only help the radical militants in that area, and not send the full message of what should be done," Bosworth said.

Bosworth said her feelings on the matter are driven by the impact on “our allies in Israel,” and said a more comprehensive blow that considers “the concerns of Israel” would be better than a short-term cruise missile strike or brief bombing campaign.

Unless Obama were to lay out a clear strategy for more aggressive action, Bosworth said she would vote against the use of force

Nelson also said he’s worried a U.S. strike could cause Syria to “retaliate against our allies” like Israel.

Several candidates added a disclaimer to their positions, noting that they hadn’t seen classified intelligence about Syria.

"Since we have not been privy to the briefings, the closed-door briefings, all I can go with is based on what they have told us so far," Rounds said.

Weiland and Rhoden also noted they don’t have all the information that would inform their votes were they in Congress right now.

Among South Dakota’s current congressional delegation, Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican, says she’s opposed to attacking Syria. Sen. John Thune, a Republican, and Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, are undecided.

Legislators petition Johnson on Glass-Steagall

A bipartisan group of South Dakota legislators asked Sen. Tim Johnson to hold “immediate, emergency hearings” about reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, a repealed 1933 law that, among other things, separated commercial banks and investment banks.

"There is strong support for the Glass-Steagall Bills in the Senate and the House," the petition reads. "Our people are facing economic and social ruin. The collapse of Detroit, which used to be the U.S. arsenal of democracy, is the handwriting on the wall for economic ruin across our once strong United States."

It’s signed by an interesting mix of Democrats and conservative Republicans. Democratic signers include Jim Bradford, Jason Frerichs, Dennis Feickert, Kevin Killer, Dean Schrempp and former lawmaker Frank Kloucek. Republican signers are Tim Begalka, Ryan Maher, Stace Nelson, Betty Olson, and former lawmakers Patty Miller and Lyndell Petersen (whose name is misspelled “Peterson”).

Momentum for the call came from the successful passage this year of a joint resolution supporting reinstating Glass-Steagal. Senate Concurrent Resolution 6 narrowly passed the state Senate 19-16, but overwhelmingly passed the House 67-2.

The petition was released to the press by activist Tim Luke.

But Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, isn’t interested in revisiting Glass-Steagall.

"Throughout my Chairmanship on the Banking Committee I have made oversight of Wall Street reform a top priority and have held a number of hearings on this issue of systemic risk – most recently on July 11," Johnson said in a statement. "We have learned at those hearings that most economists say a return to Glass-Steagall would not address today’s challenges. Size, risk and complexity are not synonymous, and I believe Wall Street Reform passed by Congress in 2010 provides the tools necessary to end ‘too big to fail.’"

Daschle, Johnson, Conrad, Dorgan to host Weiland fundraiser

The Washington Post reports that Sen. Tim Johnson and former Democratic senators Tom Daschle, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan will host a fundraiser tomorrow for Rick Weiland.

The four men have around a century of combined experience representing North and South Dakota in Congress, and is a minor vote of confidence in Weiland’s campaign when some — like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — have been doubtful.

It’s unclear whether the Weiland fundraiser is in South Dakota or Washington, D.C. UPDATE: The fundraiser is in Washington, D.C., at the VFW Ketchum Hall.

Read it here.

UPDATE: A reader sends in an invitation they received to the fundraiser, which also includes a number of other Democratic senators:

Senate committee approves extra water project funding, but more hurdles await

The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System could get extra money next year, enough to let it resume construction toward Luverne, Minn.

If the U.S. House and Senate approves an appropriations bill that passed a Senate committee today, Lewis & Clark will be able to compete for a part of $25 million pool of money. That won’t take it all the way to Luverne but would get construction moving.

The federal water project has been stalled since Congress eliminated earmarks, by which members of Congress redirected hundreds of millions of dollars to Lewis & Clark. Now the House and Senate can’t appropriate more money for Lewis & Clark than the president recommends — and President Barack Obama’s recommendations have fallen far short of what the project needs to finish.

Missouri River water is treated and piped north to Beresford, Lennox, Sioux Falls and other southeastern South Dakota cities. It’s supposed to also take water east, with one spur going to Sioux Center and Sheldon, Iowa, and another to Worthington, Minn. But laying all those pipes will cost an estimated $200 million.

Just taking the pipeline from its current position east of Sioux Falls to Luverne will take around $18 million.

But Obama’s budget last year gave just $500,000 to Lewis & Clark, and he proposed $3.2 million this year. Funding at that level doesn’t even keep up with inflation, meaning the project actually gets further away from completion, said Troy Larson, executive director of the Lewis & Clark system.

But if Lewis & Clark were able to get some of the $25 million fund, “it stops the bleeding,” Larson said.

Connecting more communities to the water system also lowers costs for the cities already connected, because it adds revenue without increasing the fixed costs of running the water treatment plant, Larson said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed a bill funding energy and water projects. It funds Lewis & Clark at $3.2 million, the most it could, and then creates the $25 million pool that Lewis & Clark and five other existing water projects could use. The federal Bureau of Reclamation would distribute that fund among the six water projects.

Sen. Tim Johnson sits on that committee and pushed for the funding.

"Unfortunately, the maximum amount the bill can provide is limited to the President’s budget request due to the earmark ban—no matter how deserving the project has shown to be," Johnson said in a statement. “The good news is Lewis & Clark will be able to compete for a part of the $25 million provided to the Bureau of Reclamation for ongoing projects if the funding is retained in the final bill."

But for Lewis & Clark to have a chance to compete for part of the $25 million, it would have to pass the Senate, which hasn’t passed an Energy & Water Development funding bill in years.

Moreover, the House would have to concur, either on its own or in negotiations with the Senate. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee passed its own energy and water appropriations bill. It had $3.05 million for Lewis & Clark and no extra fund of money.

Rep. Kristi Noem doesn’t sit on the House Appropriations Committee, but is “a strong supporter and advocate for Lewis & Clark and will continue fighting for adequate funding for rural water projects that have been continually shortchanged by President Obama’s budgets,” her spokeswoman Courtney Heitkamp said.

The money would apply for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

Tags: Tim Johnson

Thune, Johnson on immigration reform

A comprehensive immigration reform bill just passed the U.S. Senate 68-32. Sen. Tim Johnson voted for the bill, Sen. John Thune voted against it. Here’s their statements:


Today, my colleagues and I came together to pass the Senate’s bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill by a vote of 68-32. It was clear that something needed to be done to address our border security and immigration policies. And while this bill is not perfect, it takes a crucial step in addressing these issues. It is important that our first priority is to maintain and further secure our borders. With over 11 million undocumented individuals already living in our country, it is time we develop common sense solutions to help bring these individuals out of the shadows. This legislation is a responsible step forward to strengthen our borders and improve our immigration system. 


Our immigration system is broken and must be fixed, but the legislation passed by the Senate today fails to make the necessary improvements to secure our borders and comes with an enormous price tag to the American taxpayers. I offered a number amendments to the bill that would not only have strengthened border security, but also would have offered accountability to the process by requiring implementation of the border security provisions before granting legal status to over 11 million undocumented residents. 

We need to have an immigration system that not only secures the border and increases national security, but that also reduces the wait-time and simplifies the process for those entering the country legally. Unfortunately, instead of proving to the American public that Congress is serious about border security and enforcing the laws already on the books, the final Senate bill gives weak promises on border security, leaving many aspects of implementation to the discretion of the Secretary. Simply put, the Senate immigration bill is legalization first and empty promises of border security second. 

While we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. I am disappointed that the Senate missed this important opportunity to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system.

Senate rejects Thune immigration amendment

With the U.S. Senate debating immigration reform, Sen. John Thune had proposed an amendment requiring 350 miles of border fence be constructed before giving immigrants here illegally “registered provisional immigrant” status and another 350 miles be built before RPIs could apply for green cards. Thune notes that only 36 miles of this fence have been built.

Thune’s amendment was rejected today by the U.S. Senate, with 39 yes votes and 54 no votes. It fell 21 votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed for passage, with almost all Democrats (vulnerable incumbent Sens. Mark Pryor and Joe Manchin voted yes) and some pro-immigration reform Republicans like Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio opposed.

Sen. Tim Johnson voted against Thune’s amendment.

EDIT: For some of these Democrats (though not Johnson) today’s vote was a change of heart. In 2009 a number of Democrats voted for a bill requiring the border fence to be built.

15 Arrested Development quotes about South Dakota politicos

Early Sunday morning, Netflix will release 15 new episodes of the cult, long-canceled sitcom “Arrested Development.” The intricately written tale of the hapless Bluth clan is known for its multi-layered jokes and witty dialogue. I’ll certainly be spending much of the day Sunday binge-watching the new episodes, and in anticipation, I decided to pair up an “Arrested Development” quote from its initial three seasons with a number of prominent figures in South Dakota politics.

(Note that in the humor here I’ve done my best to tease all sides and all individuals equally, and that in many cases the target is not the individual’s actual personality but their public image. I’ve also avoided using some of the saucier lines from the show.)

The below contains some spoilers for the initial run of Arrested Development. But if you haven’t seen that, A) what are you waiting for? and B) you probably won’t get much of the humor.

Mike Rounds: "There’s always money in the banana stand."

Rounds had some high-profile fundraising difficulties the first three months of the year. This caught people by surprise because they had assumed Rounds’ connections from his time as governor and support from national Republicans would make him a fundraising behemoth — sort of like how family patriarch George Bluth assumed the $250,000 hidden inside the family banana stand would always be there as a backstop. So long, at least, as Rounds’ banana stand doesn’t go up in the flames of a vicious primary battle.

The DSCC: “…and that’s why you always leave a note.”

The Bluth children learned the importance of good communication from their father, who used an employee’s prosthetic arm to create exaggerated consequences for their failure to leave notes. Similarly, the national Democrats suffered a communication breakdown in the past month when they focused so much on keeping Brendan Johnson out of the race that they forgot to leave a “don’t run” note to Rick Weiland or Tom Daschle.

Gordon Howie: “He’s going to be all right.”

When the Bluths suffered various injuries, they frequently got assigned the Doctor Wordsmith, an over-literal physician whose diagnoses were inevitably misinterpreted. After Tobias Funke was hit by a car, the family was told he “looks like he’s dead.” He wasn’t dead — he just looked like it. Similarly, they were told Buster Bluth would “be all right” after a run-in with a loose seal — by which he meant Buster had lost his left hand and would be all right from then on. “All right” is a good way to describe Howie, who ran for governor as a “tea party conservative” and has continually criticized right-of-center politicians like Dennis Daugaard and Mike Rounds as raging liberals.

Tim Johnson: "You can always tell a Milford man."

The prestigious Milford Academy is a private school where children are taught to be neither seen nor heard. South Dakota’s senior senator is hardly invisible, but even his supporters describe him as a “workhorse, not a show horse” who focused on less prominent aspects of his job like constituent service. Compared to flashier politicians like John Thune, Johnson might very well be a Milford man.

Kristi Noem: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

The hardest part of all of this was deciding which of South Dakota’s various fallible politicians got “huge mistake,” perhaps the most quotable of all “Arrested Development’s” catchphrases. Eldest son Gob Bluth would often utter this admission of folly and regret after realization set in, and his relatives soon joined in. Noem’s “huge mistake”? You can take your pick, but I’m going with her decision to run for House leadership in her first term, which exposed her to political attacks but didn’t seem to bring any tangible benefits. Noem recognized this alleged “mistake” by passing on a leadership role for her second term.

Rick Weiland: "Her?"

George-Michael Bluth’s girlfriend Ann didn’t have the most dynamic personality, and his father Michael and various family members seemed perpetually surprised by Ann’s existence. “Her?” was a common refrain whenever Ann — or “Bland” or “Egg” — was referred to. That’s similar to the initial reaction when Rick Weiland entered the Senate race after months of speculation about Brendan Johnson and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Leslee Unruh: "No touching!"

Who else for the guards’ refrain at George Bluth’s prison than South Dakota’s most vocal proponent of abstinence-only sexual education?

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: "Co-ca-co-ca-co!" Or, "a-coodle-doodle-do!" Or, "coo-coo-ca-cha!" Or, "cha-chee-cha-chee-cha!"

The Bluth family frequently accuses Michael Bluth of being chicken — and accompanies the slur with their extremely loose interpretations of what a chicken looks and sounds like. “Has anyone in this family ever SEEN a chicken?” Michael asks. Meanwhile, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin probably had a lot of reasons why she passed on a U.S. Senate run, but lacking the proverbial “fire in the belly” for a tough primary followed by a tougher general election might have been in the list.


Dennis Daugaard: "I was once voted the worst audience participant Cirque du Soleil ever had."

Attorney Wayne Jarvis is a very serious man, whether he’s defending the Bluths or prosecuting them. (He’s allowed; it’s in the Patriot Act.) Similarly, Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s dry, restrained Scandinavian demeanor is common-enough knowledge even the governor makes jokes about it. (Plus I couldn’t find any suitably funny and appropriate quotes from the many situations where Michael Bluth urges his family members to cut back on their spending to fit with Daugaard’s famous budget cuts.)

Brendan Johnson: “I don’t understand that question and I won’t respond to it.”

Lucille Bluth doesn’t mince words when she doesn’t feel like answering a question. The same goes for U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who’s certainly friendlier than the Bluth matriarch but just as taciturn when asked in public about politics. To a large degree he’s constrained by his job, but as a political junkie I’ll quote (bonus!) Gob with a hearty “Come on!”

Daniel Willard: "I’m doing the time of my life!"

Daniel Willard isn’t in prison like George Bluth after he’s accused of securities fraud, embezzlement and light treason, but Willard is in legal difficulties after being fingered for masterminding last year’s political robocalls. But Willard, like George after he starts making friends behind bars, doesn’t seem too perturbed by his brush with the law. He seems confident his actions were constitutionally protected and seems interested in taking his case to higher courts. (If you disagree with Willard here, you can substitute another quote: “I’ve got the worst (bleeping) attorneys.”)

Ryan Casey: "There are dozens of us — dozens!"

That insistent plea was spoken by Tobias Funke about the community of “never-nudes”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You can also get senses of that same insistence listening to people like Casey talk about the strength of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in South Dakota. These liberal activists are vocal, but polling didn’t show a lot of discontent with centrist Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin among South Dakota Dems.

Stace Nelson: "There’s so many poorly chosen words in that sentence."

Michael Bluth made that comment after one of the many unintentionally homoerotic comments by Tobias Funke (most of whose direct quotes were too risque for me to use on this general-audience blog), who seemed oblivious to how other people responded to his malapropisms. The outspoken Stace Nelson doesn’t have much in common with Tobias, but they do share the lack of filter in their communication style. Nelson doesn’t uncork sexual double-entendres, but his fiery floor speeches sometimes leave fellow Republicans fuming over his strong, blunt language. 

Mike Huether: "Steve Holt!"

Sioux Falls’ energetic mayor has a flair for public relations — a flair that sometimes rubs people the wrong way when they perceive (fairly or not) the mayor taking too much credit for things like a new Walmart. Meanwhile, “Arrested Development” jock Steve Holt never missed the chance to celebrate himself by lifting his fists in the air and chanting a vigorous “Steve Holt!”

John Thune: "Well, that was a freebie."

What else for the Republican senator who geared up for a high-profile reelection battle only to have Democrats decline to nominate even a token opponent. Thune was unopposed in his first reelection bid, and Michael Bluth would certainly appreciate how unexpectedly easy that was.


There’s plenty more good quotes I didn’t use (even discarding the risque stuff). I couldn’t think of any applications for things like “You’re gonna get some hop-ons,” “You don’t fire crazy. You never fire crazy” and “You don’t need double-talk, you need Bob Loblaw.” Fellow “Arrested Development” fans, join in in the comments if you want.

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