SPEARFISH | Sen. John Thune said that President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday on threats posed bu sequestration were designed to raise fear about federal spending cuts and to pressure Republicans into caving in for tax hikes.
Thune, R-S.D., spoke to about 200 people at a town meeting at the Spearfish Holiday Inn Convention Center after the president's speech.
"What I see out of the White House," he said, "is a whole lot of rhetoric."
The senator said the president signed the sequestration bill and if he wants it changed before the March 1 deadline he needs to work with Republicans who want the government to quit borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends.
He said Republicans have a proposal to keep the sequester from cutting defense, but Democrats only want another tax hike without real spending cuts.
Republicans are willing to see the sequestration come into force, he said, "if that's the only way we are going to get cuts in spending."
Spending and the national debt are the real issues, he said. He emphasized that Democrats have not proposed a new budget in more than three years but spending keeps rising.
Before Thune began his speech, Spearfish economic development executive Bryan Walker said that a local business survey showed 82 percent believe the nation's deficit spending is the major concern.
Thune's West River office director Qusi Al-Haj said calls to the senator's office are nine to one about national issues rather than local problems.
"We are not more than a few years away from a major catastrophe," Thune said. "The stakes are really high, folks."
Hiking taxes, executive actions and new regulations only slow the economy.
After his program in Spearfish, Thune headed to Sturgis to talk with business and manufacturing leaders.