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Rounds, Noem maintain support of Trump

Two of South Dakota's most recognizable politicians continue to stand behind Donald Trump. During weekly media calls Thursday, both Rep. Kristi Noem and Sen. Mike Rounds spoke in favor of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee despite Tr...

Two of South Dakota's most recognizable politicians continue to stand behind Donald Trump.

During weekly media calls Thursday, both Rep. Kristi Noem and Sen. Mike Rounds spoke in favor of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee despite Trump's recent comments calling a Mexican-American judge biased due to the judge's heritage.

"I'm very disappointed in his language and things that he has said," Noem said. "Although I still believe that Hillary Clinton is an endorsement of President Obama's policies and I just cannot support that agenda going forward."

Both Noem and Rounds were asked for their thoughts on Trump, the candidate who called U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel "incapable of being impartial" toward Trump in a case involving Trump University.

Rounds also backed Trump, but not until distancing himself from the businessman's comments on Curiel.

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"Mr. Trump, also, he's made some comments that we're not going to defend, and Mr. Trump will have to be able to do that himself," Rounds said. "We'll continue to point to the fact that we think he's hit a key chord out there with regard to a lot of Americans who feel very strongly that the overreach at the federal level, or regulations and executive orders and so forth, is way out of line."

Rounds, who initially supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the GOP nomination, said he has not been approached by Trump's camp about the possibility of campaigning alongside Trump in anticipation of November's general election.

IHS update

Noem and Rounds, two of three elected officials representing South Dakotans at the federal level, also shared their concerns over recent Indian Health Service management that has shut down emergency services in Rosebud and led to deficiencies at the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City.

Noem spoke of recent legislation she helped introduce - called the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership and Transparency in Tribal Healthcare Act (HEALTTH Act) - that would establish provisions to make the existing student loan repayment program tax free and provide other incentives to attract competent hospital staff.

With the HEALTTH Act, which Noem believes is the most comprehensive legislation to overhaul the IHS in recent years, she hopes to address the lack of quality care she saw when visiting the Rosebud IHS Hospital last week.

"IHS is certainly in need of reform, and we find consensus on that issue," Noem said. "I'm committed to making sure that we get that done so that we can better take care of people in South Dakota."

The plan would also require the IHS to provide timely care to its patients. The act is similar to legislation Sen. John Thune and Rounds helped propose in May called the IHS Accountability Act of 2016.

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Through the IHS Accountability Act of 2016, and by meeting with tribal leaders and Health and Human Services officials, Rounds is looking to address the years-long problems within the agency.

"Until we understand the organization and its system, we can't solve the problems," Rounds said. "Sadly, South Dakotans are all too familiar with IHS's failures to live up to the trust responsibilities to deliver quality healthcare to Native Americans."

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