Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) is the Gerald Solomon Big “I” Legislator of the Year for 2019.
Sen. Thune (pictured below) is the No. 2 Republican in Senate leadership and serves on the Finance, Agriculture and Commerce Committees. Last year, Sen. Thune and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) ushered through a year-end package that included a long-term reauthorization of TRIA, an extension of the NFIP and full repeal of the Cadillac Tax. He was also instrumental in ushering through the pass-through component of the 2018 tax reform which benefitted tens of thousands of Big “I” members.
Now, with the U.S. faced with tackling the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Thune is helping Americans weather the storm and protect the millions of small businesses that are vital to communities across the country.
“We're going to continue to fight for policies that we think are good for entrepreneurs in this country, for growth, for jobs and for providing more security for people in this country,” Sen. Thune told Bob Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO, during the 2020 Virtual Big “I” Legislative conference on Tuesday. “That's really what this is all about.”
A key element of the federal response to the coronavirus crisis is the CARES Act, which included billions of dollars of funding for small businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program. The potential for expanding the program and providing additional funds to the businesses in need is a question that lawmakers are “grappling with,” said Sen. Thune. “But one thing I can tell you is we will do whatever it takes to get the country through this” and “make decisions predicated on what we think needs to be done to keep the economy moving, knowing full well that the way to win this fight and the way to get the economy rolling again is to open it up.”
Sen. Thune also remarked that he and his colleagues are looking at liability issues because “lawyers are literally lined up as we speak and they have made it very clear that they see this as a rich environment where they can go after and file a lot of lawsuits to take advantage of the situation,” he said.
“There's no place for that at a time when we're trying to make sure that all the cylinders are hitting as we gradually climb out of this hole that we're in right now,” he said. “There has to be protections in there from liability that would come from all these lawsuits filed by an overzealous trial bar that is looking to this opportunity to enrich themselves.”
On the agenda for 2021 will be the usual budget negotiations but “much of what we're doing right now is centered around and focused on responding to the virus,” Sen. Thune said. “This isn't going to happen overnight, but we want to put the right policies in place that will encourage investment and get people back out there.”
The senator understands the valuable role that independent agents and small businesses will play in getting the economy and the country back on track and praised their “indomitable spirit that characterizes this country,” he said
After reserving praise for healthcare professionals, people in the transportation industry and employees working at grocery stores, Sen. Thune thanked Big “I” members and insurance professionals who “are on the front lines too,” he said. “Thank you for the many contributions that Big 'I' members make on a daily basis toward making this country better and stronger.”
“In times of crisis, Americans always rise to the occasion and it makes me proud,” Sen. Thune added.
Will Jones is IA managing editor.