ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf (@zbyronwolf) reports:
With the pulling of the Boehner bill in the House of Representatives Thursday night, the debt ceiling debate shifts. Party leaders from both sides are expected to hash out a final piece of compromise legislation and Sen. John Thune, R-SD, said the two sides will come together and reach agreement.
“Its gotta happen,” Thune told ABC News’s Jonathan Karl in the latest installment of the Subway Series.
You can watch the interview HERE.
Thune said that if the structure of the Democratic proposal written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is paired with some of the spending cuts in the proposal written by House Speaker John Boehner, Congress can make a debt ceiling increase happen either before Aug. 2nd, or sometime next week. Thune and Republicans say that the spending cuts in Reid’s proposal – which include money that will be saved by winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “phony” because those conflicts were already set to be wound down.
“I still believe that between now and Tuesday I mean I don't think they are that far apart there are some questions about the proposed spending reductions in Reid's plan and whether or not they're phony or real and we believe they're phony. But if you can get to, uh, you know, some significant immediate caps on spending for 2012, 2013 put some kind of process in place where you deal with entitlement issues and don't raise taxes I think we get there I still believe it,” Thune said.
Thune said he prefers Boehner’s proposal because it puts in place a system whereby Congress would be forced to address spending entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, which are supposed to snowball in the years to come.
“Boehner's plan at least puts a process in place that gets us a result – it triggers another debt limit vote couldn’t occur until something had happened on reforming those programs so I actually think, I wish there was a better way. You know we've failed to pass a budget here in over two years in the senate so at least this forces something to happen,” Thune said. “I wish there was a better way.”
But Thune said it is clear the debt ceiling must be raised. He sided against many in the Tea Party who oppose a debt ceiling increase altogether or feel that waiting until after a government default would force more drastic spending cuts.
“I do think that, um, at some point you have to realize that this is a problem that has to be solved. I don't buy this idea that some of my colleagues in the house and the Senate that we can push this to the brink and wait to see what happens after Tuesday,” Thune said. “You know there's too much risk associated with that and the focus here needs to be on the economic security of Americans and not on politics “
Support for a Grand Bargain?
Until recently, the focus in Washington had been on accomplishing much more with the debt ceiling increase – using it as a catalyst to reform not only Medicare and Social Security, but also the tax code. Boehner and other Republicans had been prepared to accept some increased revenues in exchange for a wholesale reform of the much of the tax system. And Thune said he could have been party to that sort of compromise.
“Well, I think that's really essential to add to economic growth I'm not talking about increased – re-increasing taxes we're talking about closing – ending tax loopholes in exchange for lower rates a broader base and what I think will be much higher level of economic growth and you would get more revenues with that,” he said.
Regrets on Not Running for President?
Thune, who was elected to the Senate in 2004 in a historic run that ousted then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Dascle. An up-and-comer in the party, Thune was until earlier this year considered to be a likely candidate for President.
“Any regrets on not running for president? I mean when you look at how this field is breaking out?” he was asked by Karl.
“You know, I, uh, I am comfortable with the decision that I made It is going to be a very interesting race and, uh, you know, I think you make a decision based upon the factors that you're weighing on the time. uh, I, uh, I made that decision and I'm not looking back,” he said, adding it's unlikely he’ll change his mind.
“Obviously it's nice I get some encouragement to reconsider but it’s a decision I made and I'm comfortable with it and incredibly busy with what we're trying to get done here in the senate,” he said.
But that won’t preclude him from sitting on any vice presidential short-lists.