Remember When Republicans Were Conservative?
Recently, the majority of Republicans and Democrats voted for a typical, all-you-can-eat buffet of Washington spending, including $15 billion in new spending added to our projected annual deficit of $500 billion. Only ten Republicans voted to offset the new spending with cuts to foreign aid welfare. Republicans voted for this monstrosity and in exchange got nothing — no reforms, cuts, or even promises to be ignored later.
Historically, the debt ceiling vote has been leveraged to get spending restraint.
Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, Pay-as-you-go, and the sequester were all forced on big spenders by holding the debt ceiling hostage.
This time around, capitulation came first, and nothing came later. With barely a whimper, most Republicans and all Democrats agreed to expand the status quo $500 billion annual deficit without any reform in exchange.
A sad day for fiscal conservatives.
Republicans have control of the House, Senate, and White House and have not passed a single dollar of cuts or fiscal reform. Fiscal conservatives are right to be very disappointed.
But while many were decrying the fact that Democrats “won” a shorter debt limit than Republican leaders wanted (3 months instead of 18 months), the length of the debt ceiling increase is rather insignificant when compared to the need for budgetary reform.
The fake news, in their glee to report President Trump making a deal with Senator Schumer, once again missed the point. Conservatives are unhappy, not so much about the length of time but about the absence of new spending restraint.
Let me be clear: I don’t think we should raise the debt ceiling at all. We should cut up the government’s way-overdrawn credit card and force it to live within its means. That’s one of the reasons I voted against this ill-conceived deal.
But if we are going to raise the debt ceiling, at the very least, Republicans, who control the entirety of government right now and claim to be fiscal conservatives, should demand major reforms as the price for doing so.
That didn’t happen this time, but perhaps we have been given an opportunity with the short-term extension instead of the long-term one.
We now have 3 months, and potentially longer if they use extraordinary measures, to rally to this cause. Do we want to keep borrowing hundreds of billions per year, adding to our $20 trillion mountain of debt, until our economy crashes?
Conservatives in Congress must immediately decide what our demands will be. In 2011, such an effort led to Cut, Cap, and Balance, a good fiscal reform that passed the Republican House but died in the Democrat-led Senate as President Obama threatened a veto.
What did it do? It forced a balanced budget, limited the growth of spending to the traditional amount of revenue we received, and cut specific areas of government, including some entitlements.
Just actually having this fight produced a good result in 2011, even with the Democrats holding 2/3rds of the cards. We secured the first spending cuts in recent memory, and, from 2011 to 2013, actual federal spending went down.
It wasn’t the solution, but it was a good first step.
Why did it happen? Because conservatives showed up to fight. They made demands. They showed the big spenders in Congress and in the White House that they would not simply roll over and let them keep spending.
Our budget needs balancing. Our programs need reform. Our spending ourselves into debt needs to end.
With this next three months, conservatives, and really all Republicans, need to get together and act. We need to insist that there will be no debt ceiling increase the next time if we aren’t heard, and if reforms aren’t enacted.
I plan to start right now — not wait until December. Last week, I met with conservative fighters in both the House and Senate to put together a coalition that says, “Stop.” No more spending without real reforms.
It is what we said we would do, and I plan to keep my word.
Rand Paul serves as United States Senator from Kentucky.