John Thune's Deficit Proposal Could Launch a 2012 Presidential Bid

Thune’s introduction of what he calls a plan for common sense budget reform is leading some to conclude that he is testing the waters for a presidential bid in 2012.

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South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune garnered national attention in 2004 when he ousted Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle from the seat he had held since 1986. There have been a lot of eyes on him ever since.

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Now Thune, who developed a national donor network while besting Daschle in what turned out to be a $30 million race, is taking a major step forward into the policy arena. His introduction of what he calls a plan for common sense budget reform is leading some to conclude that he is testing the waters for a possible presidential bid in 2012.

The Thune plan, which he admits would not be a “cure all” for America’s economic problems, does have several interesting features that are sure to be fodder for talk radio and for debates in the new media. The most prominent is his proposal for a permanent Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction that would, every other year, introduce legislation that “eliminates or reduces spending on wasteful government programs and achieves a savings of at least 10 percent of the previous year’s deficit.”

[Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the economy.]

It’s a meritorious idea given that the current congressional budgeting process is structurally biased in favor of spending and that there is no effective way to check the power of congressional appropriators, especially in the House.

Thune’s legislation--“The Deficit Reduction and Budget Reform Act of 2010”--proposes other changes to the federal budgeting process including discretionary spending caps, the establishment of a legislative line-item veto and the creation of a biennial federal budget. And, in another move that is sure to echo positively through the Republican base, he calls for an end to the unobligated stimulus spending as of September 30, 2010.

It’s a compelling package, one that sets out a clear and different approach to the way Washington does business today. “As families across our country make tough financial choices to live within their means, Washington continues to spend borrowed money at an alarming and dangerous rate,” Thune said in a release. “Our dangerous national debt is not an issue we can continue to pass along to future generations of Americans. This legislation is a necessary first step toward reining in Washington's runaway spending habits, while restoring fiscal accountability to our government.”

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