For the past few weeks, Republicans have been engaged in a make-believe game of forcing Democrats to reduce spending and avoid default on the national debt by raising the debt ceiling, but the reality is that neither side wants to end the spending spree because it’s how they buy the votes necessary to remain in power.
Sure, it’s easy to target Joe Biden as the one looking to spend up to $6 trillion on “infrastructure” and a laundry list of kickbacks for his political friends and allies, but the only reason he’s in the position to propose such outlandish spending in the first place is that Republicans are frauds and liars when it comes to spending.
In fact, Trump and the Republican Party paved the way for Biden’s spending spree.
Last week, the big issue in budget negotiations was finding a way to raise the debt ceiling to avoid having America go into “default,” and a temporary raise in the debt ceiling was passed with help from 11 Republicans — they claimed they were opposed to doing so — until December.
Republican protestations against raising the debt ceiling were nothing more than political grandstanding and lies because they held a different view when they ran the show.
Well before COVID provided cover for their record-breaking spending, Republican-controlled Washington abandoned fiscal restraint in February 2018 when Trump, then-House Speaker Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell surrendered to Democrats’ demand to suspend the sequester and the debt ceiling until 2020.
The Budget Agreement today is so important for our great Military. It ends the dangerous sequester and gives Secretary Mattis what he needs to keep America Great. Republicans and Democrats must support our troops and support this Bill!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2018
I’m sure that 2020 being an election year had nothing to do with their decision.
After Republicans took a shellacking in the 2018 midterms, Nancy Pelosi — Trump’s personally endorsed pick to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker — made spending and the debt limit top priorities. In one of her first orders of business, Pelosi approved a resolution outlining the new rules the House would use govern the Chamber.
Included in the resolution was the revival of the “Gephardt Rule,” which allowed Democrat to abolish the debt limit automatically once the House passes a budget. This rule change made it possible for the House to spend unlimited amounts of money without holding a vote to put members of Congress “on the record” to raise the debt limit.
Even before Nancy’s proposal, Donald “I’ll eliminate the national debt in eight years” Trump was cheerleading the idea of eliminating the debt ceiling entirely.
“For many years, people have been talking about getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether. And there are a lot of good reasons to do that, so certainly that’s something that will be discussed. We even discussed it at the meeting that we had yesterday.”
Immediately after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress in the 2020 election, Republicans went right to work pretending to be concerned about government spending and the debt ceiling, and they promised to tackle the problem after doing the exact opposite over the previous four years . . . Really!
“I think that’s kind of getting back to our DNA. … I think spending, entitlement reform, growth and the economy are all things that we’re going to have to be focused on next year, and, yeah, I would expect you’ll hear a lot more about that.” ~ Sen. John Thune (SD)
“I think we’ve got to understand that we’re going to be raising the debt ceiling in perpetuity if we don’t find a way to bend the curve.” ~ Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said at the time that he wanted to see offsets such as required spending cuts be included in any deal to raise the debt ceiling:
“I think you can expect there to be conditions. At least some members will try to get them. I don’t think there’s any question that a lot of conservative Republican members are going to require some sort of conditions.”
In the days following last week’s temporary lifting of the debt ceiling, Trump and a host of Trumpist Republicans pretended to be opposed to the idea, despite their track record (via New York Post):
“If Democrats want an expedited process to use reconciliation to raise the debt limit they can have it,” [Lindsey Graham] tweeted Thursday morning. “However, if Republicans intend to give Democrats a pass on using reconciliation to raise the debt limit – now or in the future – that would be capitulation.”
“I can’t vote to raise this debt ceiling, not right now, especially given the plans at play to increase spending immediately by another $3.5 trillion,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said shortly before the vote was called.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), added that Democrats had been on “a path to surrender” on the process used to lift the debt cap, “and then, unfortunately, yesterday Republicans blinked.”
“We screwed up,” Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Thursday night. “For two months, we promised our base and the American people that we would not help the Democratic Party raise the debt ceiling so they could spend $3.5 to $5 trillion in reconciliation. At the end of the day, we blinked.
“Two things have happened,” Graham added. “We’ve let our people down, and we’ve made the Democrats believe we’re all talk and no action. At the end of the day, every Republican voted against raising the debt ceiling. Every Democratic senator voted for it, but we had a process in place. We made a promise for two months that we would make them do it without our help and we folded. And I hate that.”
Moments before the vote, former President Donald Trump had implored GOP senators: “Do not vote for this terrible deal being pushed by folding Mitch McConnell. Stand strong for our Country. The American people are with you!”
“The Republican Senate needs new leadership,” Trump told [Sean] Hannity Thursday. “I’ve been saying it for a long time. Mitch is not the guy. He’s not the right guy. He’s not doing the job. He gave them a lifeline. It’s more than a lifeline. He gave them so much time now to figure out what to do, because they were in a real big bind. They wouldn’t have been able to do anything. He had the weapon and he was unable to use it, and it’s a shame.”
Washington’s spending addiction and getting re-elected every two years has always taken priority over fiscal responsibility, shrinking the size and scope of government, and living under the debt ceiling.
This is why, even when Republicans controlled Congress, we witnessed a record-breaking explosion of the national debt. This is why when Trump’s term was over, we witnessed an increase in the national debt of nearly $8 trillion in four years — roughly the same increase Obama gave us in eight years
And this is why we are hearing faux-conservative Trumpists spinning the lie today that they are ready, willing, and able to tackle the national debt, provided you elect more of them in 2022 and 2024.
DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT!
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.