In the House of Representatives, Kristi Noem has found a lot of people just like her.
The freshman class, of which Noem is a member, is filled with normal, everyday people who have been running their own businesses, she said.
“They're just like you and me and are ready to go to Washington, D.C., and really address a lot of our fiscal situations and concerns that we have,” the South Dakota Republican said in an interview Wednesday.
“I think that we've got 37 members of the freshman class who've never held public office before. Seven of them are farmers. There are several doctors. But there's a lot of members, new members, that have run businesses. I think that traditionally is very different than what you see for a class of new members of Congress. So it's been great and surprising to meet them, hear their stories and find out that their priorities are much like mine.”
The new members of Congress were sworn in Jan. 5. Her first month in office has been good and has been busy, she said while driving in South Dakota.
“We started the first week with reading the Constitution on the House floor, and then every week we've had a spending-cut bill, which is something we're determined to do at least once a week,” she said. “For the past several years, there haven't been any bills that have cut spending.”
Her top issue is going to be “making sure that we stop spending the dollars that we don't have,” she said. “That is one of the reasons that I ran, is because I believe in a budget and I believe it tells you what your priorities are. That's the best way to create jobs and get our economy going again, is by addressing the deficit the country carries.”
Beyond that, there are other big issues that South Dakotans face, she said. They include the agricultural economy and the authorization of the new farm bill. Noem traveled this week to the Black Hills, where she toured the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake in Lead, discussed the mountain pine beetle and toured Ellsworth Air Force Base.
In addition, “Our banking and financial industries are taking a hard hit here in South Dakota,” she said. “So beyond the larger scope of shrinking the size of government and containing spending, we've got a lot of other issues in South Dakota that need to come to the forefront.”
She's working to be effective, she said.
“This House is very dedicated to following the open rules process that we've implemented as well, so getting up to speed with that is going to be very important as well.”
Last week, Noem voted to repeal the federal health care law.
“I believe that we do need reforms in our health care system, but that bill wasn't the answer,” she said. “I'm hoping the Senate will take that up for a vote and put it on the president's desk. But in the meantime, we're going to continue to work in the House to make sure that we put in reforms to health care that actually bring down the cost of health care and give more options to people and families that are looking to get coverage.”
Some have expressed concern that South Dakota's lone member of the House is not a member of the Agriculture Committee.
“Well, it is is the first time in several years that that has happened, but also it's the first time in 30 years that we've had representation on the Education and Work Force Committee. So that's very key. If you have children in your life, or if you have an employee, you certainly care about what goes through that Education and Work Force Committee.”
Noem said she has always been passionate about agriculture and “will still be very involved in agriculture issues,” she said. She's been a farmer most of her life, lives on a fourth-generation family farm and has invested in the ethanol industry.
“So to think that I wouldn't be involved would be foolish because agriculture has been my life,” she said.