Washington’s whip

Eye on KELOLAND

He is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington D.C. and he’s from right here in South Dakota.

Senator John Thune slowly climbed the ranks in the Republican party after defeating Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle back in 2004.

Now he’s the majority Whip in the Senate, making him among the highest ranking republican Senators.

Senator John Thune rarely has any down time when he’s in Washington, D.C.

“Not around here, not much if I have free time it’s probably earlier in the morning when I get up and kind of hit the trail; take a run or hit the gym in the evenings,” Thune said.

We caught up with Senator Thune at his Dirksen office around 9 in the morning. It was a brief meeting, because as a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, he had to speak on the Senate floor on how tax reform has benefited the American people.

Thune has introduced six tax reform bills this year.

At 10 a.m., he rushed back to his Dirksen office to meet with South Dakota soybean growers.

At 10:30 Thune had to attend his Finance Committee hearing.

Then quickly darted out of there to attend a Commerce Committee hearing.

Then, it was back to the Senate floor to cast three votes on different pieces of legislation.

At 11 a.m., he stopped by the Capitol steps to meet and greet students from Brandon Valley High School who were in D.C. as part of an education program and sight seeing tour.

Thune says these types of visits take time out of his busy schedule, but he likes doing it.

“As you can tell any particular time of year we have just tons of groups from South Dakota sometimes every 15 minutes or so,” Thune said.

At 11:30, we got a chance to sit down with Thune and ask him questions about his new role as the Senate majority whip.

“The whip is, you want to work with the leader and leadership team to move your agenda and so on any given day it’s taking whatever we are putting on the floor whether it’s legislation, nominations; we’ve done a lot of judicial nominations that’s been a big legacy issue for the Republican Senate, but it’s trying to get the vote it’s basically trying to win the vote and sometimes that can be easy and some times you have big partisan majorities for certain bills, nominations and sometimes it’s a heavy lift,” Thune said.

I asked the Senator about President Trump.

“I get a chance to work with him quite a bit and he’s doing a lot of the right things, I believe in his agenda when it comes to judges, the economy is in a great place and 50 year lows when it comes to unemployment, wages are up, growth is up on national security for the most part I think he’s doing the right things to keep America safe in what is a very dangerous world, so a lot of policy things I agree with him on,” Thune said.

But he doesn’t always agree with the way the President goes about handling certain issues.

“His use of social media creates a lot of distractions for us we spend a lot of time up here answering questions from the media about whatever the President’s latest tweet was so I’d like to see him dial that down I’ve said that before, but he’s the President and in South Dakota they are very divided on him, they love him or they hate him there isn’t a lot in between and when people come up to me who don’t like him and say ‘how can you work with this guy’ I just say 62% of the people in South Dakota voted for him and my job is to work with the President where I can and I think there are a lot things that he’s doing that are the right thing for South Dakota,” Thune said.

Speaking of the Presidency, because his name has been brought up numerous times in the past, I asked Thune if he’ll ever run for President.

“I don’t anticipate that happening, I respect the people who want to run, it’s a heavy commitment and obviously these days takes an enormous amount of money, I got my work cutout for me here and I think I have a voice for the people of South Dakota and ultimately for me at least in the end that’s how you want to be evaluated did you do a good job representing your state, so I want to keep doing the best I can here,” Thune said.

Like the President, Thune has a lot of security with him every day while here in Washington and in South Dakota, which he says takes some getting used to, because he wants to be accessible when meeting with constituents.

When Senator Thune is here in the Capitol, he doesn’t have to walk far to get to his office.

That’s because the whip has an office in the Capitol building not far from the Senate floor.

“It’s an ornate office, it’s been here since the Civil War and a lot of interesting occupants over the years,” Thune said.

Like John F. Kennedy, who had asked the leadership for a room near the Senate chamber, so he could fulfill his Senate duties while running for President.

Thune says his two offices in Washington allow him to work more efficiently in a short amount of time.

“I’m usually busy here in the office until 8 or 9 at night and usually take stuff home with me to work on when I get home, but that’s kind of what I signed up for and actually it works for me; my wife and family are back in South Dakota, so when I’m here I just try and make the most of it and get as much done as I can in the day,” Thune said.

Days that he says are always dedicated to the people in his home state.

“What we do here, it’s all about them and I don’t forget that and hopefully they don’t either,” Thune said.

To learn more about the whip and its history click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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