After blowing up the deficit with tax cuts, these Republicans want credit for fiscal responsibility

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

“The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation,” the 2016 Republican party platform warned. To get off “the path to
bankrupting the next generation,” they vowed to “fight for Congress to adopt, and for the states to ratify, a Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Now that the GOP controls Congress and the White House, however, the party has apparently abandoned these principles. Rather than move toward a balanced budget, the GOP majority and President Trump instead have massively increased the budget deficit they once decried, thanks in large part to the tax bill they passed. And yet that has not stopped Republicans from audaciously running on a balanced budget again in 2018.

A ThinkProgress review of House Republicans running for re-election in districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report found 18 of them explicitly call for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget on their current campaign re-election websites, yet also voted for massive Trump tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. The plan is predicted cost the government more than $1 trillion in revenue, massively increasing the current budget deficit.

Thirteen of those lawmakers also voted for the 2018 omnibus spending bill, which cost another $1.3 trillion. Combined, these helped swell the annual federal budget deficit (which was $584 billion in Fiscal Year 2016) to an estimated $1 trillion starting next year.

The hypocrites include:

  1. Rep. French Hill (AR-2). Hill voted for both the tax cuts for the rich and the omnibus spenidng bill. Still, he complains on his campaign site that “Washington spending is out of control and bankrupting our country,” and boasts, “While in Congress, I have co-sponsored two versions of balanced budget amendments to the U.S. Constitution to bring our spending in line. We must take the necessary steps to ensure that all taxpayer dollars are being used wisely, and we can no longer kick the can down the road on mandatory spending. Our children and grandchildren depend on us to solve our debt problem and give them a brighter future.”
  2. Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-6). Schweikert voted for the tax cuts for the rich. Yet he warns that “Our national debt is out of control,” and says, “Throughout his term, David has also sponsored real reforms like a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would mandate that Congress balance the budget each year.”
  1. Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-4). McClintock voted for tax cuts for the rich. Nonetheless, he writes that the “single greatest peril to our nation is our national debt – now exceeding $19 trillion. That debt grew by $595 billion this year – think of that as more than $4,000 added to an average family’s credit card bill,” pretending his own vote had nothing to do with that growth. “Interest on the debt is now the fastest growing component of the federal budget and the Congressional Budget Office warns that on our current trajectory,” he continued, “interest costs will exceed what we are currently spending on our entire defense establishment in just six years. Obviously, the current budget system is not working. We need a balanced budget amendment to constrain borrowing, while restoring budget procedures that will allow Congress to regain control of the purse strings.”
  2. Rep. Mimi Walters (CA-45). ” The debt is a spending problem, not a tax problem. I voted for a balanced budget resolution that forces Washington to live within its means,” Walters claims, though she voted for both the tax cuts for the rich and the omnibus spending bill, making it her problem either way. Still, she brags, “I voted for a balanced budget resolution that forces Washington to live within its means.”
  3. Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-16). Though Buchanan voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich, he lists the Balanced Budget Amendment as part of his “10 point plan to create jobs and restore our economy.” Such a move, he claims, would “help bring stability to our economy.” Still, his site claims that he “knows what it means to balance a budget, meet a payroll, and to exercise fiscal discipline that keeps a business moving forward.”
  4. Rep. Brian Mast (FL-18). Mast voted for tax cuts for the wealthy. Still, without recognizing the irony he claims in the same paragraph, “We must pass a Balance Budget Amendment that will force government to live within its means. The tax cuts passed have allowed you to keep more of your money, stimulated the economy, and led to more investment.”
  5. Rep. David Young (IA-3). Young voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. But his “Iowa common sense” principles for “holding government accountable” include a Balanced Budget Amendment. “The concept here is simple: never spend more money than you have revenue. In Iowa, this concept is just common sense.”
  6. Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2). Walorski voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. In a section called “Cut Wasteful Spending,” her site warns still: “With our national debt standing at $19 trillion and counting, Jackie firmly believes we must put an end to runaway spending in order to protect future generations and sustain a strong economy. The first piece of legislation that Jackie introduced in Congress was a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a model that worked in the State of Indiana, to ensure the president and Congress live within their means and stop overspending money that we simply do not have. Jackie knows that Hoosier families sit around their dining room table to budget and live within their means, and she supports reforms to cut wasteful spending and hold Washington accountable to use your hard earned taxpayer dollars responsibly.”
  7. Rep. Andy Barr (KY-6). Barr voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. Still, in the “fiscal responsibility” section of his issue page, the first item Barr lists under examples of his “getting results” is that he “Voted for H.J. Res. 2, Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on 4/12/18.” 
  8. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (ME-2). Poliquin voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. Yet he brags that he has “been a leading voice pushing a federal Balanced Budget Amendment to once and for all force Washington live within its means” and “that he voted “repeatedly for a Balanced Budget Amendment.”
  9. Rep. Fred Upton (MI-6). Under “fiscal responsibilty,” Upton’s website says, he “has voted to enact real spending cuts to reduce our deficit and supports common sense budgetary reforms to put us back on a sound fiscal footing. He is a supporter of the constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment, which would require the federal government to live within its means each year, just like the rest of us.” Still, he voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. 
  10. Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7). Walberg voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. Still, beneath a quote from Walberg that the “federal government needs to live within its means,” it says, “Tim Walberg understands the $21 trillion and climbing national debt threatens the future of our country and causes a significant portion of our federal budget to be used for simply paying interest on this debt. Tim voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment to force the federal government to live within its means, and he voted for fiscally responsible budgets that dramatically reduce the deficit and place our government on a path to long-term balance.”
  11. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1). Though Fitzpatrick voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich, his website claims that on “his first day in office, Brian Fitzpatrick proposed a comprehensive government reform plan challenging the career politicians in Washington,” including “a Balanced-Budget Amendment to our Constitution to end the limitless borrowing which is crippling our future.”
  12. Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22). Olson voted for for both the tax cuts for the rich and the omnibus spending bill. His campaign site, however, presents him as a Balanced Budget Amendment champion. “Only in Washington is having a balanced budget a novel concept. Our families do it. Small businesses do it. And the State of Texas does it,” he notes. “It is way past time for Congress to pass an Amendment requiring the federal government to have a balanced budget just like the rest of us do in our daily lives. I will continue to vote in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment and hope that we will one day have a Senate and a President who agree – it is time for a Balanced Budget Amendment for the federal government.
  13. Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32). Sessions voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. But his website’s “fiscal sanity” section claims, “Washington has a spending problem that has placed our nation on an unsustainable path of trillion dollar deficits and a $17 trillion national debt. That is why I have consistently voted to limit federal spending, reform entitlement programs, and am a co-sponsor of a bill that calls for the passage of the balanced budget amendment. Thanks to the Republican majority in the House, we have been able to hold the line of federal spending, putting total expenditures on a slightly downward path.” Even the Trump administration’s budget tables contradict this claim.
  14. Rep. Mia Love (UT-4). “The federal government is on an unsustainable path. Despite increasing revenue from taxes, deficits are now on the rise and our national debt has increased to more than $19 trillion dollars,” Love warns on her campaign site’s “fiscal responsibility page.” She claims that she “has kept her promises to the 4th District” by cosponsoring a balanced budget amendment. But Love also voted for tax cuts for the wealthy.
  15. Rep. Dave Brat (VA-7). Brat voted for tax cuts for the rich. Yet he touts “fiscal responsibility,” writing, “Our national debt has skyrocketed, reaching over $21 trillion dollars. What our leaders in Washington fail to mention is the $127 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities (see U.S. Debt Clock). This lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle threatens our nation’s stability and long term growth and forces an undue burden on our children and grandchildren. We must balance the federal budget by reducing spending. I have introduced a balanced budget amendment which will force Congress to rein in the out-of-control federal spending and restore confidence in the American economy.”
  16. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5). McMorris Rodgers voted for both the omnibus spending bill and the tax cuts for the rich. Still she lists as tops among her budget accomplishments that she has consistently pushed for a Balanced Budget Amendment and voted for it on the House floor in April.”

Weeks ago, Colorado Republican Mike Coffman, representing the sixth district, included a section on his website that stated, “The greatest threat to the long-term stability of the United States is our rising and unsustainable national debt. A constitutional amendment, to strip the power away from the Congress to continually spend money that our country does not have, must be passed by Congress and referred to the states for ratification.” Perhaps recognizing the irony of this claim after voting for trillions of unfunded tax cuts for the rich and corporations, he simply wiped this section from his campaign site in the past two weeks.

While Rep. Claudia Tenney, the Republican Representative from New York’s 22nd District does not explicitly call for a constitutional amendment, her website includes similarly dishonest deficit rhetoric. “Obama and the Washington establishment in Congress have run up over $18 trillion in fiscal operating debt and over $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities,” her campaign wrote. “The operating debt alone is larger than entire American economy. This is unsustainable and immoral. She challenged the big spenders in Albany and will do the same in Washington by bringing kitchen table common sense to their committee rooms. She will not vote for any additional spending that adds to the debt and will scour the budget to eliminate wasteful spending to protect the country’s financial health for our children’s future.” This language, unchanged since 2016, demonstrates a lot of gall and a broken promise, given she voted for both the tax cuts and the spending bill.

And while he was not in Congress at the time of the votes, new Rep. Troy Balderson from Ohio’s 12th district, ran his support for the on tax cuts. Still, his campaign site declares, “Troy Balderson supports a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution forcing Washington to live within it means, just like American families. With our nation trillions of dollars in debt, it’s time Congress stop the out of control spending.”

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Reposted from Think Progress

Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

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