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Why Putting America First Matters to South Dakota

In his first hours in office just over one year ago, President Joe Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and delivered a severe blow to South Dakota families and American energy independence. A few months later, President Biden opened the door for the construction of a Russian pipeline, delivering a costly gift to a dangerous adversary.  
Today, we are seeing the high price of both decisions—and what happens when leaders in Washington do not put the American people first.  
In South Dakota, we are heavily dependent on energy: We need heat in our cold winters, air conditioning in our hot summers, and gasoline to fuel our long drives to just about anywhere we go. But President Biden ignored the energy needs of South Dakota—and of every American—when he stopped Keystone XL in its tracks to appease anti-energy extremists, on top of banning drilling on federal land.  
It did not take long for Americans to feel the consequences of those actions. President Biden’s orders immediately terminated dozens of jobs in South Dakota—where the pipeline was being constructed—and destroyed the potential for thousands more. Small towns like Philip and Midland lost businesses at their hotels and gas stations—and lost potential property tax revenue that would have funded their budgets for decades. President Biden made it more expensive for every family across the country to fill their gas tanks and heat their homes. Then last year, as inflation skyrocketed due to Washington’s trillions of dollars in spending, the price of gasoline went up right along with it.  
Facing a crisis of his own making, President Biden blamed oil companies and released 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve—a veritable drop in the bucket. To put that in context, Keystone XL was expected to carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada’s Western tar sands to Nebraska. 
When I drive across South Dakota, I am reminded of other decisions that a president can make that have tragic consequences at home. I saw the impact of those decisions first-hand as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  Through our “Fallen Heroes Bridge Dedication” program, we honor our state’s sons and daughters in the military who died while serving in combat. Each time I drive across one of those bridges, I think of the 3,000 South Dakotans who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I think of the families they left behind. And I think of the men and women serving us today. 
I thought of those brave soldiers when I read some troubling news this week. Russia has 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and is threatening to invade. At the same time, China is increasing its aggression toward Taiwan. President Biden is considering deploying thousands of U.S. troops to Eastern European countries in response to Russia’s actions, and the State Department ordered Americans to leave Ukraine on Sunday. The world is on edge as tensions rise, along with the threat of war. 
The construction of another pipeline figures prominently in this geopolitical crisis, and one of President Biden’s decisions is again front and center. In May of last year, he waived sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany. In doing so, he handed a massive amount of leverage to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Should the new pipeline be completed, Europe will grow more dependent on Russia for energy, Ukraine will be more vulnerable to Russian aggression, and the Russian government will add billions of dollars per year to its treasury.  
A stronger, emboldened Russia threatens Europe, our allies, and America’s security. It is no wonder that President Donald Trump blocked this Russian pipeline and that Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress strongly opposed it as well. Together, they feared that Putin would leverage the pipeline to his own advantage and to America’s detriment. With Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine, we are seeing in real-time what a dangerous, emboldened Russia looks like. The consequences will be immeasurable. I pray that our leaders in Washington—including the president—recognize this threat and have the wisdom to protect our country, defend our freedom, and stand by our allies.  
We know all too well what a fragile world we live in. In South Dakota, we are doing our part to build a brighter future and prepare for challenges ahead. We respect our armed forces and our veterans. In fact, our Army National Guard and Air Guard are both top-ranked units in the nation. We realize the consequences of leadership—the impact that our decisions have on the lives of the men and women who serve. I am proud to live in a state where wisdom like that is the rule, not the exception. We are setting an example for the nation. Let’s call on Washington to follow our lead, put America first, and uphold the values that make us the greatest nation on earth. 


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