Showing up to work

For the last few months, essential employees across the country have been showing up for work, often risking their health and safety when they do. We’ve all heard harrowing stories of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who’ve spent weeks away from home so they could help treat patients and comfort families, sacrificing time away from their own.

We’ve also heard stories and seen the realities of other heroes who, up until the pandemic, have all been members of the unsung variety: delivery drivers, sanitation workers, grocery store workers, and cable and utility technicians, just to name a few. They’re the people we often took for granted on trash day or after placing an Amazon order or when we made a trip down the meat or dairy aisle. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a fully stocked grocery store the same way ever again.

Essential workers have helped keep America running, and during a crisis, Congress is an essential industry.

At the height of the pandemic, after Congress passed a massive, multi-trillion dollar coronavirus relief package, the Senate practiced what it was preaching. We spent a few weeks working from our home states to help reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Our top priority was – and is – keeping people safe. During that time, the attending physician and others at the Capitol worked hard to develop a plan for the Senate to safely return to Washington as soon as possible, and we did on May 4.

We’ve been hard at work monitoring the $2.4 trillion comprehensive response to the coronavirus pandemic, convening important committee hearings to conduct oversight and prepare legislation for future floor consideration, and walking and chewing gum by passing bills and confirming executive and judicial branch nominees.

I’ve participated in several Commerce Committee hearings that have examined how the coronavirus crisis has affected transportation in the United States – a critical industry for South Dakota. The committee heard directly from the airline, automotive, and railroad industries about how they’ve dealt with the pandemic and how they’re planning to be part of the reopening. The Commerce Committee has also examined the heightened reliance of broadband – another critical issue in South Dakota – particularly the dependence on keeping America connected over the last few months. And the Finance Committee, of which I’m also a member, has convened hearings to examine unemployment insurance during the pandemic and conduct oversight of certain Food and Drug Administration inspection processes.

As the economy continues to reopen in South Dakota and around the country, the Senate is going to continue to focus on those buckets: monitoring COVID relief efforts, convening hearings and conducting oversight, and passing bills and confirming nominees. All of them are important to our state’s and nation’s recovery and reopening.

This has been a difficult year. I know it feels like there have been more downs than ups. I think it has highlighted, though, that while our individual struggles might be unique, so too is our shared optimism that tomorrow will be better than today. Despite any obstacles we find in our way, we still wake up every morning in the greatest country the world has ever known. We are American together, and that’s why brighter days are always ahead.

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