BALTIMORE — South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune told reporters Thursday that he is “personally very offended about being called the establishment” by some GOP presidential candidates.
“I think in a presidential campaign the rhetoric is kind of hot. I think it’s just inevitable. We can’t control what candidates are going to say or are going to do,” said Thune, who is the Senate Conference Chairman, during the GOP retreat. “We can only control what we are going to do here and as individual members of Congress.”
Two of the top Republican primary leaders have run hard against Washington Republicans, who are often accused of being the “establishment” by conservative grassroots supporting front-runners Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Cruz called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “liar” at one point, and the Senate Judiciary Committee rebuked Trump 16-4 with an amendment that confirmed that the U.S. should not block people from entering the country based on religion.
“I’m personally very offended about being called the establishment. We understand that politics isn’t very popular right now. There’s a good amount of the American electorate, which I totally get, that’s frustrated with Washington generally,” Thune told The Daily Caller during a press conference.
He added, “I think that’s fueled with the rise of some of our presidential candidates on our side, as well as on the Democrat side with Bernie Sanders. There are people who are generally frustrated. Many of us who had served in the Senate, I can’t speak with the House — you do your best to reflect the will of the people you represent.”
House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers agreed, telling reporters, “There is a lot of frustration around the country. And that is reflected among our members. That is the reason why we have dedicated time to article two,” she said referencing the House’s power of the purse.
“Everybody knows what’s at stake in the 2016 elections. … There’s still many candidates that are going and presenting their cases to the voters in the primaries. We want to, at least in Congress, show what a bold agenda would be to get our country back on track,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise told reporters.
“But if you look on the Democrat side, I think that you’ll see more fractures,” Scalise added. “I’m excited about our field. I think whoever comes out of our field will be able to unite our party and is going to be able to win in November.”