Thune says top GOP priority must be taking back Senate, blocking Dems' 'crazy radical agenda'

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Senate Minority Whip John Thune, who announced this week that he’s running for reelection, told Fox News Digital that Senate Republicans need to be laser-focused on two simple goals over the next several months: take back the Senate and block Democrats’ agenda. 

“We want to recapture the majority,” Thune, R-S.D., said when asked what a successful 2022 looks like for Senate Republicans. “We think it’s critical to the country that there’ll be a check and balance against this crazy radical agenda that the Biden White House and Democrats in Congress are trying to advance.” 

Thune rattled of a list of policies Republicans want to fight against, including Democrats’ massive reconciliation spending bill, “weakness” in foreign policy and the president’s border policy.

“The Democrats have the slimmest congressional majorities in a generation. They have no mandate from the American people for this radical agenda,” Thune said. 

Sen. John Thune speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Dec. 7, 2021.
(Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With the Senate split 50-50 and President Biden’s approval ratings significantly underwater, Republicans are running in a very favorable political environment. But they’re also defending more Senate seats than Democrats are as GOP senators who won Republicans’ successful 2016 election cycle come up for reelection. 

That dynamic more or less evens the playing field in the Senate, while Republicans are almost assumed to be set to take back the House in the midterms. 

The minority whip said the best tool at Republicans’ disposal to thwart Democrats until at least 2023, when they hope to retake the majority, is the 60-vote Senate filibuster, which Democrats are currently trying to remove for elections bills. 

“The thing we can do… is make sure that they can’t blow up the Senate rules,” Thune said. “It would destroy the Senate.”

President Joe Biden endorsed changes to the filibuster in a speech Jan. 11, 2022, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

“If Democrats carve out an exception for election legislation, a future Senate would likely carve out an exception for something else,” Thune added in a floor speech later in the day, which warned that Democrats would “rue the day” they get rid of the filibuster. “In fact, I strongly suspect that a filibuster carveout solely for election legislation wouldn’t even survive the coming year. I can imagine my Democrat colleagues quickly deciding that some other priority of theirs was also worthy of a special exemption. It’s possible that the legislative filibuster would be gone before the end of this Congress.” 

But while emphasizing his party’s defensive priorities, Thune also said there are some things Republicans can affirmatively get done this year and in 2023 if they win back the Senate majority – even though Biden will still be in the White House with his veto pen. 

The minority whip said there’s room for bipartisan agreement on big tech bills – something Sen. Maize Hirono, D-Hawaii, also said Wednesday – that could bring more transparency and accountability to social media platforms, their apps, their artificial intelligence and their algorithms. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 16, 2021. 
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Thune also said that whether Republicans are in the minority with the filibuster, of if they’re in the Senate majority with Biden in office, they can either block or shrink Democrat-proposed social spending programs while pushing for increased defense funding.

He added that those agenda items, along with the potential that he could play a leading role in the GOP down the road, were part of why he decided to run for reelection this year.

“I think that the country is kind of at a crossroads, and I’m in a position to not only be very hopefully effective and helpful to my state, but also to help shape an agenda for the United States Senate, for the Republican Party, for the country, which is built around right-of-center conservative principles,” Thune said. “Whatever role I can play in helping get us there, to include potential opportunities down the road, we will see about that if and when the time comes.” 

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