Thune eyes ’08 spending levels

THUNE EYES ’08 SPENDING LEVELS…. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) six years in the Senate haven’t been especially interesting. He isn’t known for working on any major policy initiatives; he hasn’t distinguished himself as an expert in an area; and his most notable accomplishment appears to be Thune’s ability to impress people with his handsomeness.

Say hello to the Republicans’ John Edwards.

Of course, John Thune has taken conservative adoration to heart, and is now apparently eyeing a possible presidential campaign in 2012. It’s the kind of thing that leads to silly gestures like these.

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) plans to offer a resolution to cut discretionary spending to 2008 levels during the Senate GOP’s closed-door meeting Tuesday.

The nonbinding resolution is part of a broad effort by GOP leaders to line up a series of votes for the Conference meeting to demonstrate that they are heeding the tea party movement’s calls to restrict spending and reduce the federal debt.

“My resolution highlights the tremendous growth in non-security discretionary spending over the past two years and calls for returning to FY 2008 non-security discretionary spending levels,” Thune said in a letter circulated to colleagues last week.

Now, Thune’s resolution may very well be approved by his Republican colleagues, but it won’t actually mean anything. If endorsed, we’ll know what the Senate GOP caucus wants, but then again, we already knew this. It’s not like the resolution is actual legislation.

As for the substance of this, the notion of cutting “discretionary spending to 2008 levels” may seem largely inoffensive. After all, the argument goes, 2008 wasn’t that long ago. Much of the country would probably hear this and assume the cuts would be pretty manageable.

But like most debates, Republicans are counting on the public not looking too closely at the details. The NYT recently noted, “Independent analysts say that would require eliminating about $105 billion — or more than 20 percent of spending by departments like Education, Transportation, Interior, Commerce and Energy — a level of reductions that history suggests would be extremely hard to execute.”

Bloomberg News added that such a budget plan would necessarily “slash spending for education, cancer research and aid to local police and firefighters.”

We’d be talking about one-year cuts that would be nearly quadruple the largest discretionary cuts of the last generation.

If Thune thinks this would prove popular, and might even help make him president, he’s been sipping too much tea.