Congressional Roundup: Watchdog group rates effectiveness of SD delegation
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest installment in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.
All three of the people representing South Dakota in Congress are among the most effective in their party, according to new scores published by a congressional watchdog group.
In its “effectiveness scores” for the 117th Congress, the Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked Rep. Dusty Johnson 14th among 222 Republican House members, while Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune ranked ninth and 13th, respectively, among 50 Senate Republicans.
Johnson also had the highest rank among House Republicans on agricultural issues.
Further rankings by topic are available on the website of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, which is a project of the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University. The effectiveness scores are “based on the combination of 15 metrics regarding the bills that each member of Congress sponsors, how far they move through the lawmaking process, and how substantial their policy proposals are.”
I am proud to be named the Most Effective Republican on Agriculture issues for the second term in a row.
I’ll continue to work hard for South Dakota and look forward to doing even more in the Republican Majority. pic.twitter.com/uNUsdY0QIN
— Rep. Dusty Johnson (@RepDustyJohnson) March 22, 2023
Rounds joined other Republicans this week to introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution to prevent the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from enforcing a new rule on pistol braces.
The rule reclassifies pistols as short-barreled rifles if they have a stabilizing brace attachment, and also requires registration with the bureau.
Bureau Director Steven Dettelbach explained the logic behind the rule in a January news release, saying, “In the days of Al Capone, Congress said back then that short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns should be subjected to greater legal requirements than most other guns.”
“The reason for that is that short-barreled rifles have the greater capability of long guns, yet are easier to conceal, like a pistol,” Dettelbach added. “But certain so-called stabilizing braces are designed to just attach to pistols, essentially converting them into short-barreled rifles to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, they must be treated in the same way under the statute.”
Rounds said some disabled veterans rely on braces to use their firearms. He said they could face jail time, fines and the loss of their firearm if they fail to register pistols with stabilizing braces.
The new rule, Rounds said in a news release, “is nothing more than a harassment of law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights – plain and simple.”
In another gun-related development, Johnson introduced a bill to allow members of federally recognized Native American tribes to use their tribal identification cards to obtain a firearm from a federally licensed dealer. Thune and Rounds are cosponsors of a similar bill in the Senate.
Thune led Republican colleagues this week in introducing the Merchant Category Code Neutrality Act. The legislation would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from auditing taxpayers based primarily on the category code used by their business, Thune said in a news release. The bill would also require the IRS to issue a public report with an annual total of audits initiated for each code.
Thune’s news release said the legislation is a response to the recent creation of a merchant category code for firearm and ammunition stores by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization. The codes are submitted on IRS forms to verify transaction data, which creates a potential avenue for the IRS to initiate targeted audits against certain codes, according to Thune.
“The IRS shouldn’t have free rein to use audits to inappropriately scrutinize or intimidate taxpayers due to the nature of their lawful business, including licensed firearm dealers,” Thune said in his news release.
Interstate meat shipments
Rounds issued a news release and a one-page explainer about his bill to allow meat and poultry products inspected by state programs to be sold across state lines.
In the past, Round has framed the problem this way: “Today, if you had meat or poultry processed at a South Dakota-inspected facility in Hudson, South Dakota, you wouldn’t be able to sell it across the border just a few miles away in Iowa. But you could sell it several hundred miles away in Lemmon, South Dakota.”
There is an existing federal program that allows for interstate shipments of state-inspected meat. South Dakota avoided joining that program, known as Cooperative Interstate Shipment, for 13 years due to criticism that the program didn’t fully recognize the validity of state inspections.
After the COVID-19 pandemic strained the meat supply chain, South Dakota officials changed their minds, and the state is now one of 10 participating in the program.
Rounds’ bill would remove the necessity of that extra layer of bureaucracy. It would authorize the interstate shipment of meat inspected by federally approved state inspection programs, without the need for states to opt in to an additional federal program.
Rounds submitted written comments about a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation on radio frequency identification for cattle and bison.
The regulation would amend animal disease traceability regulations to require that the ear tags used to move cattle and bison between states be not only visually but also electronically readable.
Rounds highlighted numerous concerns about the regulation. Those include data security, the need for better traceability standards for international trading partners, and the costs that the new regulation could impose on cattle producers.
“Our farm and ranch families in South Dakota are already facing a range of challenges, including drought, high input costs and declining prices, and the added cost of complying with this mandate could push even more out of business,” Rounds wrote.
In other congressional action this week:
The Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Rounds and Thune to honor the life and legacy of the late Jim Abourezk, a Democratic former member of Congress from South Dakota who died last month at age 92.
Thune introduced a bill to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from monitoring cattle’s gastrointestinal emissions of methane, which is a heat-trapping gas that contributes to climate change.