What is probably most impressive about South Dakota Senator John Thune is that his down to earth regular guy persona is actually the real thing. I had the rare opportunity to sit down to lunch with Senator Thune and about 40 other lucky souls for a little more than an hour today in Santa Ana to hear his views on the state of our country. Senator Thune spoke and answered questions for more than an hour without notes, a teleprompter or handlers. He comes across as incredibly intelligent, poised, humble, genuine and was needless to say easy to like. He took all questions without any pre screening and actually answered the questions without trying to deflect the answers to “what he really wanted to talk about.”
Obviously much of his talk centered on discussion of the budget and the difficulties Congress faces with the upcoming March expiration date for federal funding. Senator Thune was not surpisingly disappointed with President Obama’s version of the budget but especially with the President’s complete failure to start any discussions addressing “entitlement programs” such as social security, medicare and medicaid. Instead, the President’s budget calls for an additional $1.7 TRILLION of new taxes and did nothing to rein in the budget deficit. Senator Thune believes there are members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that are ready to meaningfully discuss modifications of those “enitlement programs” but the President is unwilling to start the discussion.
Senator Thune also discussed “Obamacare” at length including the numerous unintended consequences with little or no linkage to health care. Making light of Nancy Pelosi’s comment that Congress needed to pass the health care bill so that they could figure out what was in it, he detailed issues such as the 1099 reporting requirements that needed to be removed. He also discussed the problem of regulating agencies promulgating regulations that Congress was unwilling or unable to pass into law, such as the EPA’s new “fugitive dust” requirements that mandates that farmers keep the dust from their farming operations on their own farm (laughter should follow). This myriad of regulations has created an air of uncertainty in which business is, for good reason, unwilling to make investment.
Having met Senator Thune and Marco Rubio of Florida over the past year, I feel like the future of the Republican party is in very competent hands.