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South Dakota's Washington delegation split on Congress' $2.7 trillion budget deal, debt limit suspension

John Thune, a senior United State Senator from South Dakota, as well as U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, foreground, listen to the remarks during the Jan. 5 inauguration. Several other members of Congress whom Kristi Noem served with in the United States House of Representatives, attended Saturday’s events. By Jeremy Waltner for Forum News Service.1 / 2
Dusty Johnson speaks at a Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce event. (Daily Republic file photo)2 / 2

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's Washington delegation appears split on the U.S. Congress' two-year, $2.7 trillion budget negotiation already passed by the House of Representatives.

The deal struck between Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suspends the debt limit through July 2021, gives defense spending a 3% boost for Fiscal Year 2020 and increases non-defense spending by $57 billion over the next two years, according to Politico. Budgets for programs like Medicare and social security are set in separate pieces of legislation.

Some lawmakers criticized the package for not addressing the country's debts and deficit. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the country as of May 2 holds $16.6 trillion in debt and is operating in a $896 billion deficit.

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican, was among those critics, and was one of 149 representatives to vote against the package on Thursday, July 25. He told reporters on a media call shortly before casting his vote that he had "grave concerns" about the spending package and called the country's looming debt "a clear and present danger to the United States."

Johnson acknowledged the need for negotiation amid a divided Congress and said the national deficit cannot be solved in one year, but that "we need to move in that direction." Congress' budget deal, he said, does not.

"There are going to be times when I will have to vote for budget deals, ceiling deals that are not perfect," he said. "But if they don't do anything to bend these curves in the right direction, it is always going to be incredibly difficult for me to look South Dakotans in the eye."

The House ultimately passed the bill Thursday, July 25, by a 284-149 vote.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds had a different take than Johnson. He said on a Thursday press call that he "appreciate(s) their concerns on this" deficit spending, but argued that non-defense increases were "reasonable," inflationary increases, and that boosting defense spending should be Congress' "number one priority."

He continued, "For our conservative friends — and I consider myself to be a conservative on this — my question is, which part of the defense budget do our conservative friends want to cut and which part of the payments that we're making to our veterans for their care do they want to cut?"

President Donald Trump has publicly supported the budget. Rounds said Thursday, "It's time we stick with our president and move this thing forward."

A spokesperson for U.S. Senate Majority Whip and Sen. for South Dakota John Thune did not directly respond to Forum News Service's questions on Thune's stance Thursday or Friday. She pointed to Thune's statements made to CNN on the budget negotiations, where he said, "I think we will get there.

"I think in the end, most people realize that even though they may not like everything about it, this represents the best we can do under the circumstances," Thune told CNN. "We have to fund the government and make sure we don't default on our obligations."