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Senator John Thune: Obama Administration "Overreaching"

Senator John Thune: Obama Administration "Overreaching"

By Tom Bevan - July 27, 2009

In an exclusive interview with RealClearPolitics last week, South Dakota Senator John Thune said the Obama administration is "overreaching" and that Republicans in the Senate would stand together in opposition to a health care proposal that included either a public option or an individual mandate.

"I think there are 40 Republicans who are united on the point that we don't want a government takeover of health care," Thune said last Thursday in the thirty minute interview in his Senate office in the Russell Senate Office Building. "So if [Democrats] insist on this public plan option, and if they insist on an individual mandate and all these things they want in the bill, I think it's going to be very hard to get any kind of Republican support. So they're going to have to pass it with Democrats. Can they do it? Maybe they can."

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Asked if he thought Majority Leader Reid would move health care legislation through the Senate using reconciliation, Thune responded, "I think they could, but if they do it'll mean they want a partisan solution."

Thune knocked Reid for pursuing a strategy he said was designed to "basically shut Republicans out of the process at the committee level" and also criticized President Obama for failing to deliver on his promise of bipartisanship.

"The President, for all his talk about bipartisanship and wanting to include Republicans really hasn't done that," Thune said. "I always say you have to judge a politician not by what they say but by what they do, and so far there hasn't been any follow through on the issue of involving Republicans."

As to the atmosphere in the Senate, Thune said Republicans were still adjusting to life in the minority. Thune ticked through a list of "partisan" moves by Senator Reid and said that with the Republican caucus reduced to just forty members they were working hard to avail themselves of procedural tools to "try and make sure we are relevant to the process" and not "being run over."

Thune admitted this created "animosity" from the perspective of his Democratic colleagues, before adding, "but we've been elected and represent constituencies all across this country and we have to make sure we're doing everything we can to exercise our rights and make sure that they're not running roughshod over our ability to offer amendments and to have some level of fair play in the Senate."

Speaking about the future of the GOP, Thune said after a rough couple of years he felt "things are looking up," in part because President Obama has tried to do too much.

"I think that the new administration is overreaching," Thune said. "Most political recoveries are triggered by mistakes made by the other side, and I think they're making plenty of them. They're giving us lots of ammunition."

Thune said to get their "mojo back," Republicans need to reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility and use their principles to win the war of ideas on issues that voters care most about.

"If we can win the war of ideas, I think we will win back a lot of those political independents who left us in 2006 and 2008," Thune said. "I think the people who moved away from us are a lot of the Independents, and what moves them are economic issues. And I think one of the reasons you see Obama's numbers dropping and the support for his policies dropping is these Independents are evaluating his agenda and saying, 'we don't think this makes a lot of sense.'"

Though social issues remain important to the Republican base, Thune said that fiscal issues were the key for any potential Republican resurgence.

"I think that people out there who care deeply about those [social] issues, there's still a tremendous intensity for them," Thune said, adding, "I do think if you're looking for issues that really unite all Republicans and can help us put a coalition together that can make us a governing majority again, it does have to center around economic issues."

Asked about his political future and whether a 2012 presidential run might be on the horizon, Thune deferred.

"I've got a job to do right now, and of course I'm running for reelection in 2010 for the Senate, so I'm very focused on that I haven't given consideration to anything beyond that," he said. "So I guess at this point that's how I'd characterize my interest: Senate 2010 and trying to do everything I can right now to keep these guys from nationalizing every part of the American economy."

Read the full transcript of RCP's interview with Senator Thune here.

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Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of Election 2012: A Time for Choosing. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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