"I think you need to pick and choose your battles," Thune told an audience of about 95 people at a town hall meeting on Monday. "I don't think it was a well-thought-out strategy, the government shutdown."
Led by a group of conservative Republican members, the House of Representatives tried to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as part of the appropriations process. After the Senate rejected that proposal, no budget deal was reached, resulting in a partial government shutdown from Oct. 1-17.
President Barack Obama was not going to sign any bill defunding his own program, Thune said.
"It has his own name on it," said Thune, explaining that a fight over the debt ceiling is on firmer ground because most Americans realize the federal government is spending too much money.
The senator spent much of the town hall meeting focusing on the need to reduce government spending. This year, the government will rack up a $642 billion deficit. That is less than the $1 trillion deficit from the previous year, Thune said, but it is still putting the economy and nation at risk.
The Democrats keep wanting to lift those spending caps, which would be the wrong approach, he said.
Thune said Congress needs to address long-term issues, such as reforming entitlement programs, developing a pro-growth tax code, controlling spending, expanding trade, approving the Keystone XL pipeline and easing regulation.
Thune addressed many issues during the question-and-answer period. Here are some of his comments:
• Affordable Care Act — Thune said there will be opportunities in the future to reform the ACA, because voters will respond to failures in the system.
"The overall cost is going to come as a big surprise," said Thune, explaining the program will drive up health insurance costs and have high costs to the government.
Bureaucratic inefficiencies are going to result in dissatisfaction with the program, said Thune, pointing to people who already are seeing confusion with the health exchange.
• Farm bill — Thune said he is optimistic the farm bill will pass, but it will be difficult. The main sticking point is funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Thune said it will be difficult for the Senate, which has proposed $4 billion in savings, and the House, which has proposed $40 billion in savings, to reach a compromise.
There is, however, a sense of urgency to pass a bill in order to fund the agricultural disaster relief program, which has lapsed. Relief is needed for ranchers who lost thousands of cattle in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming because of a rare early October blizzard.
• Future shutdowns — Thune said the continuing resolution to end the partial government shutdown was necessary because "at least it got us out of the hole temporarily." The debt limit was raised until Feb. 7.
Thune said he is hopeful Republicans and Democrats will be able to negotiate a compromise by that time.
• Chained CPA — Obama has proposed an adjustment in the way the Consumer Price Index is calculated as one way to reform entitlement programs, such as Social Security and the Federal Employee Retirement System. A chained CPA would result in slightly lower cost-of-living increases.
Thune said he was not in favor of a chained CPI if it were considered on its own, but might be in favor of it if it were a part of a larger grand deal on reforming entitlement programs to reduce deficit spending.
Before the town hall meeting, Thune spoke at Aberdeen Christian School. He gave a short talk on the three keys to a successful life. The three keys are a commitment to excellence, developing good character and a commitment to a life of service.
Thune answered many questions from the students on the topic of the federal deficit and ways to fix it.
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