Senator Mike Rounds is listening—just five days after hosting a live town hall in Rapid City, he’s hosting a public teleconference on Wednesday, May 24 (that’s tomorrow!). Here’s the e-mail invitation that’s popping up in various South Dakotans’ mailboxes:
That’s only a day’s notice, but it sure beats the surprise teleconferences Rep. Kristi Noem has held, where the phone rings and a voice announces that Noem is holding a tele-town hall right now.
The e-mail provides this link to a page at TeleForumOnline.com, which the e-mail says will activate around 7:50 p.m. Central/6:50 p.m Mountain Wednesday evening, ten minutes before our junior Senator comes online.
Note also that the e-mail says “submit” questions, not “ask”, which suggests the website will take questions in writing that Team Rounds can then filter for the boss’s convenience. O.K. fine—we make what we can with the opportunities we get.
Senator Mike Rounds has an excuse for not holding a town hall in South Dakota this year until Friday, May 19: The Trump Senate is just working so darned much harder!
Rounds says there’s quite a bit more activity going on in Washington D.C. than in previous years…
“We’re actually working again in Washington D.C.,” Rounds says. “So, the number of days that we actually have to be back in the state and moving around is a little more limited than what it was in the past. A couple years ago, as Senator Thune shares with me, there was a time there where the Senate only voted on the floor 15 times in an entire year. That gave them a change to be back home a little bit more. Right now we’re literally voting Monday through Thursday, then we try to get back into the state for Friday and Saturday and then we’re back rolling again first part of the week” [Lee Strubinger, “Rounds Holds First Town Hall in Rapid City Since New Congress,” SDPB, 2017.05.19].
Working harder than last year certainly isn’t much to brag about. According to Senate records, Rounds and his colleagues spent just 781 hours—not quite 98 full work days—in session and held 163 votes. Both figures are twenty-year lows. So actually holding a vote almost day in session—which for regular workers like you and me is like saying, “actually doing my job almost every day that I come to the office”—must feel like a whirlwind pace above and beyond the slack duty Rounds performed last year.
So far this year, the Senate has held 132 roll call votes. Last year by May 19, the Senate had only cast 82 votes, but in 2015, they’d cast 182 votes, and the average of those two figures is 132. From 2007 to 2016, the average number of roll call votes cast in the Senate through May 19 was 139. So no, Senator Rounds, the Senate isn’t really working that much more than in recent years… at least not in any discernible way that excuses your not being around for a town hall until May 19.
Senator Marion Michael Rounds has a good excuse for missing the March for Healthcare in Aberdeen tomorrow: he’s actually holding a public meeting in Rapid City Friday! Friends transmit this invitation from Senator Rounds to coffee and conversation at Western Dakota Tech tomorrow morning:
I would like to invite you for coffee and conversation in Rapid City on Friday, May 19, 2017. I will be hosting a coffee at Western Dakota Technical Institute’s library to give a short update on what is happening in Washington, take your questions and hear about the issues important to South Dakotans. I hope to see you there!
May 19, 2017
9:30 a.m. MT
Western Dakota Technical Institute, Library, 800 Mickelson Drive, Rapid City, SD 57703 [email from Senator Rounds, 2017.05.17]
Of course you know, if Senator Rounds goes long and visits with interested Rapid City constituents until noon Mountain, he could still hop in his plane and buzz here to Aberdeen in plenty of time for our 5 p.m. Central march!
When the director of the FBI decided not to bring charges against a Presidential candidate for transmitting classified information on a private server in a way that could have allowed the information to be intercepted by the Russians or adversaries, Senator John Thune still demanded consequences:
“Access to classified information is a serious responsibility; at a minimum, they should not be trusted to handle this sensitive national security information in the future,” Rounds said [Ferguson, 2016.07.07].
When the FBI found evidence of more questionable transfers of classified information by the same Presidential candidate, Rep. Kristi Noem jumped in to expound on the importance of protecting classified information:
“Careless mishandling of classified information jeopardizes our national security and the safety of our troops and diplomats abroad. With significant questions remaining, further investigation is not only warranted, it is required for the public’s trust to ever be restored,” Noem said [“Source: Clinton-Related Emails Came in Weiner Investigation,” AP via KELO-TV, 2016.10.28].
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies” [Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassdor,” Washington Post, 2017.05.15].
Before you start chanting, “Lock Him Up!” Miller and Jaffe note that the President “has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.” Of course, I’ll understand if you feel uneasy that Trump has now replaced the formal process for declassifying intel with thoughtless bragging to Russian officials.
But hey, how does Senator Thune feel about Trump’s loose lips?
Concerned—that’s a notable step down from consequences.
Senator Rounds declared three months ago that we need to get tough with a “confrontational” Russia. Rounds is apparently still digging for “share classified intel” in any thesaurus entry for “get tough.” Rep. Noem said in February she hadn’t seen any evidence that the Trump Administration “has been influenced by Russian authorities or those within the Russian government” but said she’d “continuously watch… to see if real evidence comes forward.” She has not yet commented on this real evidence that has come forward.
Related: Thune and Rounds are among 27 Senators who, by FiveThirtyEight.com’s count, have voted 100% so far with Trump. Noem is only at 96.6%, having voted against Trump on one major bill, the appropriations bill for the rest of this fiscal year.
Also Related: The Washington Post reminds us of what Donald Trump said on the campaign trail:
Greenville, N.C., September: “This is really, if we bring it up, this is like Watergate, only it’s worse, because here our foreign enemies were in a position to hack our most sensitive national security secrets. We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘confidential.’ ” [Donald Trump, quoted in Philip Bump, “On the Campaign Trail, Trump Was Very Worried About Revealing America’s Secrets,” Washington Post, 2017.05.15]
“She betrayed her country by exposing national security information to risk by our adversaries. That is a criminal offense. That makes it an impeachable offense. She probably has committed an impeachable offense, therefore she probably should be impeached. But in all likelihood she won’t be because Congress doesn’t have the political will to do so,” Brooks told AL.com in a phone interview Friday. “Looking at it from a strictly legal standpoint, Hillary Clinton has, in my opinion, committed a high crime or misdemeanor or treason, which is the constitutional standard. Which, under those circumstances, she probably should be impeached if she’s elected president. But at the same time, impeachment is a political matter, and I don’t see based on my observations of this Congress … I don’t see it happening” [Howard Koplowitz, “Mo Brooks: Hillary Clinton Should Be Impeached if Elected, but Congress Lacks Political Will,” AL.com, 2016.09.09].
And remember, Brooks made that argument based solely on exposing information to the risk of leakage, not actually recklessly handing over the information directly to a foreign power.
Wow! Senator Mike Rounds is actually giving us three week’s notice of a public appearance, and it’s not at a police station!
The Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce is hosting “Inside Washington with U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds” on Thursday, June 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Holiday Inn City Centre Falls Room. You can get lunch, a speech from South Dakota’s junior Senator, and a chance to ask questions, all for the low-low price of $50. Chamber members get a 50% discount on the price of admission to this great show by a man whose paycheck and gas for getting to the Holiday Inn are already covered by your tax dollars.
So put in some extra hours (meeting your Senator will cost less than six hours of labor at minimum wage) and register today to attend this fabulous event on June 1!
Senator Mike Rounds appears to think that the only way to sell the Republican plan to take health insurance away from millions of Americans is to keep shouting “Obamacare!”
I think the American Health Care Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, is a step in the right direction. Removing the mandates, eliminating the taxes, providing more flexibility for states and clearing a path for the free market to work again are all good steps toward reducing premiums for families and employers.
But, it’s not perfect and I would like to see improvements, including a transition plan for folks closing in on retirement, clear assurances on how we’ll handle pre-existing conditions and stronger promotion of group insurance plans because that is the most effective delivery system we have.
Should the House bill be improved? Absolutely. Is it still better that Obamacare? Without a doubt [Senator Mike Rounds, weekly column, 2017.05.05].
The problem Mike Rounds and his Republican word-warpers are going to hit is that Barack Obama is no longer in office to take the blame. Millions of Americans don’t look at their coverage as Obamacare; they look at it as their health coverage, as decent services that they and their children are going to lose because of Donald Trump, Kristi Noem, and Mike Rounds. Even some Rounds voters will be less scared of Rounds’s tired old bogeyman argument about retired Obama and more scared of losing their basic health benefits.
The House Republican repeal bill narrowly approved Thursday lets states opt out of much of Obamacare — but not a single governor has stepped up to say they want to take advantage of that leeway.
Officials in a dozen states surveyed by POLITICO weren’t eager to embrace opt-outs that would let states skirt key insurance provisions, including safeguards for people with pre-existing conditions and a set of basic, required health benefits.
That reluctance is striking given that “state flexibility” has been at the top of the governors’ health care wish lists for years. It shows the political peril of endorsing a concept that could spike premiums and risk coverage for the sick, including some with life-threatening or disabling conditions [Rachana Pradhan, “Even Red States Are Wary of Ditching Obamacare Protections,” Politico, 2017.05.06].
Now that’s more like it: Senator Mike Rounds gives us six days’ notice of a public meeting. Our junior Senator offers coffee and conversation with interested citizens in Faulkton on Thursday, April 20, 10 to 11 a.m., at Muffin Tops, 117 8th Ave, just south of 212, according to Google Maps.
Six people out of maybe 500 in Murdo—that 1.2% turnout actually beats John Thune’s turnout in Aberdeen Monday by a factor of three—about a hundred people out of about 28,000 here is just 0.36%. But if six people is all the South Dakotans our junior Senator entertains during his long Easter recess, that’s a pretty low interaction quotient.
My party notes that the other party’s Senator could work a little harder to visit with more South Dakotans:
A sitting Republican U.S. Senator drawing such a low number in John Thune’s hometown does not reflect very well on Sen. Rounds. Reflecting even worse on Sen. Rounds, though, is that by holding an event at a time when most working people and students could not attend, and giving hardly any notice of the event, he almost seemed to be discouraging turnout. Sen. Rounds might be hoping for low turnout at his public events so he is not held accountable for his support of the extreme and out-of-touch agenda of Washington Republicans. However, Sen. Rounds has a responsibility to the voters of South Dakota to meet with them and answer their questions – at times and places that encourage turnout, not discourage it [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2017.04.11].
I’d be happy to report that the Dems are wrong, that Rounds has scheduled a whole string of public appearances and here they are… but I can’t find hide nor hair of a Rounds schedule online. The above Monday Tweet is the most recent post on Rounds’s account. Ditto Rounds’s Facebook: three business days in state, and the Murdo six-chat is all Team Rounds finds social media-worthy. His official Senate page offers no events schedule.
So it looks like input from six South Dakotans during a two-week break is all Senator Rounds can handle.
In their last election cycles, The telecom industry gave Representative Noem $38,200, Senator Rounds $40,166, and Senator Thune $215,000. Their votes this week indicate the industry’s investment in them has paid off, as once again, Representative Noem and Senators Rounds and Thune are putting big-money donor interests above the welfare of everyday South Dakotans. It seems the tens of thousands of dollars (or in Senator Thune’s case, hundreds of thousands of dollars) they received in campaign donations meant more to our state’s congressional delegation than protecting the Social Security numbers, financial materials, and health information of their constituents [South Dakota Democratic Party, statement, 2017.03.31].
Republican sponsors of the legislation insist the FCC plan was unnecesary and an example of government overreach.
But conservative callers to KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage Show Friday morning were dead set against ISP’s being able to make money off their online browsing.
“It just seems like a huge invasion of privacy and I’m with you. I’m shocked that I’m on the side of the Democrats and the ACLU,” one caller complained to Belfrage [Mark Russo, “Rounds, Thune Respond to Online Privacy Pickle,” KELO Radio, 2017.03.31].
Russo quotes Thune saying that “we have to keep looking at how to best protect online consumer privacy under one consistently enforced standard.” O.K., Senator Thune, how about enacting and consistently enforcing a standard that says what we read, write, upload, and download on the Internet is as private as what we check out from the library?
Russo quotes Rounds saying that the FCC “needs to go back to the drawing board on these regulations and to a more evidence-based approach….” What evidence do you need, Senator Rounds, that the videos you watch and the e-mails you send should not be sold by your ISP to any liberal blogger with a big crowdsourced checkbook?
“In the 21st Century, Americans deeply value their privacy when it comes to digital content,” Yoder said in a statement Tuesday. “We don’t want the government having access to our information without our consent, and the same goes for private business.”
“These digital privacy protections put in place by the FCC are commonsense measures similar to long-standing rules that apply to phone companies that will simply ensure internet users can continue to have control over their personal information” [Harper Neidig, “GOP Faces Backlash over Internet Privacy Rules,” The Hill, 2017.03.30].
Yoder got it right, while Thune, Rounds, and Noem got it wrong. As Stephen Colbert noted, “This is what’s wrong with Washington, D.C. I guarantee you, there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this….” Well, not one person except for the telecom execs to whom Thune, Rounds, and Noem sold our online privacy.