Conservative lawmakers and think tanks say the Republican-led Congress is ditching its commitment to smaller government and less spending by signing off on a new, two-year spending bill that would boost spending by $300 billion, and usher in a return to $1 trillion annual budget deficits.
Republican leaders said Wednesday they support the deal as a way to ensure more defense spending, and note it would also create a bipartisan committee that will try to recommend new budgeting reforms. The deal envisions a year-long suspension of the debt ceiling, which should pass this week while Congress spends a few more weeks writing legislation to enact other parts of the spending deal.
But in the short term all conservatives see is a huge boost in spending that will break the budget caps House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., helped enact just a few years ago.
It’s estimated to add $300 billion through fiscal year 2019, something the conservative House Freedom Caucus said is unacceptable.
“The House Freedom Caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years,” the group said late Wednesday. “We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13 percent adds to the swamp instead of draining it.”
“This is not what the American people sent us here to do,” the group added.
On CNN Thursday, HFC Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said the deal is “eye-popping and eyebrow raising.”
Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, agreed that more spending means adding to the swamp that President Trump wanted to drain.
“While our nation’s military was woefully underfunded by the previous administration, today’s deal is fiscally irresponsible and creates serious long-term budget challenges,” the group said.
“President Trump was elected to drain the swamp and speak up for the forgotten men and women,” it added. “The deal, crafted by congressional leaders, also sets the stage for additional policy concessions, including a so-called gentleman’s agreement to bailout Obamacare. It only serves as a reminder of just how out of touch Washington remains with the rest of the country.”
Writing in the Washington Examiner, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said this week’s plan to boost the debt ceiling is forcing the GOP to abandon fiscal reforms, by attaching it to a bill to keep the government open past Thursday.
“The powers that be say, ‘Either vote to continue the deficit spending or shut the government down,'” he wrote. “While I don’t want to shut down the federal government, I also don’t want to keep open a government that borrows a million dollars every minute.”
Those comments stood in stark contrast to comments from GOP leaders, who welcomed the deal mostly as a way to finally boost defense spending.
“It is time that Congress does its Constitutional duty to enact responsible legislation that funds the entirety of the federal government, most importantly our national defense,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.
Speaker Ryan supported it in part by saying it’s a GOP victory because defense spending would increase by $54 billion, while domestic spending, a Democratic priority, would see a lesser increase.
The deal envisions more spending on the opioid epidemic, disaster aid and infrastructure. If passed into law by March, it will likely take a combination of votes from Democrats who can support it even though it won’t have any immigration language attached, and non-deficit hawk Republicans.
Meanwhile, deficit hawk Republicans were already bracing for what they thought would be a deal that blows through the spending restraints Congress passed less than a decade ago.
“I’m afraid that the numbers will get so high and the debt ceiling will get added and it will be a Christmas tree of spending, that a lot of votes will be bought,” Meadows, R-N.C., warned Wednesday.