Rounds talks Navy ships, State of the Union and more

Senator Mike Rounds

HURON – With the Navy expanding its fleet to 355 ships in the not-too-distant future, it’s possible more South Dakota cities could have one named in honor of them, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Thursday.
Last weekend, the state’s junior senator was keynote speaker in Groton, Conn., and Gov. Kristi Noem headed up a South Dakota delegation as the USS South Dakota – a Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine – was commissioned.
Then, earlier this week, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer announced that the next Independence-variant Littoral combat ship would be named the USS Pierre in honor of the state’s capital city.
“I think the more we bring attention to our cities in South Dakota the better,” Rounds said in a conference call.
Having ties to ships named after a city and the state gives people an opportunity to support the Navy, even though South Dakota is a landlocked state, he said.
The USS Pierre will be ready to sail in 2024 or 2025, Rounds said.
In World War II, a Tacoma-class frigate was named the USS Huron. It was sponsored by Mrs. J.S. Tschetter, wife of the Huron mayor.
Rounds said it’s possible two of the ships to be commissioned in years to come could be named in honor of the state’s two largest cities, Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
Meanwhile, he has been reflecting on President Trump’s State of the Union address, saying he thinks the president “laid out what I believe is a good vision for our country.”
He said Trump called on members of Congress to set aside their differences and tackle the tough issues facing the United States.
“I couldn’t agree more with that,” Rounds said.
Important issues that he sees as priorities include growing the economy, border security, a strong national defense, access to health care and affordable prescription drugs.
He said he also wants to see strong trade agreements and more markets for South Dakota commodities, with as many countries as possible involved. He also said he thinks Democrats and Republicans can find agreement with infrastructure improvement projects.
“I think all of those are going to be things we can move forward on,” Rounds said.
In a news release, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said he was encouraged by Trump’s call for unity and bipartisanship at a time when the country is so divided.
“I came to Congress to find solutions to complex problems, and I truly believe the best solutions arise when we work together,” he said.
Rounds was happy to hear the president defend innocent life, a message that he said is long overdue.
One of the surprises in the speech was Trump’s declaration that “America will never be a socialist country.”
While conservative Republicans stood and applauded, he said “many on the other side sat on their hands.”
Long after the speech has faded into history, Rounds said he thinks the direction the country will take in terms of a free enterprise or socialist approach will be talked about.
Asked by a reporter about the status of the negotiations on a border wall and the possibility of a second partial government shutdown, Rounds said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top GOP negotiator, told the Republican conference Thursday that no deal had been struck yet, but that the committee was working in the right direction.
“The best I can tell you is there’s been no numbers,” Rounds said. “They’re working and continuing to talk.”
With the deadline a week away, it’s clear the group must move quickly, he said.
“It appears they were at least feeling there weren’t any red flags up yet,” Rounds said. “No one wants a shutdown.”

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