Fiscal hawks in the Senate reiterated their demands for fiscal reforms and spending cuts Tuesday as they voiced their support for House Republicans to lead the heavy-lifting on addressing the nation’s debt ceiling crisis.
“We have an opportunity to stop the madness, and it’s incumbent on the Republican majority in the House and Republicans in the Senate to use every lever point we have,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at a press conference on the debt ceiling and runaway spending.
Cruz was joined by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Braun (R-IN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rick Scott (R-FL) in the Senate Radio and TV Gallery.
The U.S. debt hit its current cap, at $31.4 trillion, last week. The clock is ticking on a potential fiscal catastrophe. Congress has until June to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, or it could face a historic debt default. That could be disastrous for the country’s credit rating and the U.S. and world economies.
Johnson said there’s an opportunity to right the federal government’s flagging fiscal ship in budget negotiations. He said he and other conservatives would be willing to take votes they never have, including raising the debt ceiling, to finally get some structural reforms and spending constraints.
“We need to fully understand how the federal government is spending taxpayers’ hard-earned money, and we’re not doing it right now,” Johnson said.
Spending has raged in particular over the run of the pandemic. Johnson noted that the U.S. government’s budget soared from $4.4 trillion pre-pandemic to $6.3 trillion amid spending to cover the costs of the health emergency.
The lawmakers noted the excessive spending over the past couple of decades had been an equal-opportunity addiction. As Cruz pointed out, the national debt was $5.6 trillion in 2000. Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, presided over nearly doubling the debt during his two terms in office. His successor, former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, led the near doubling of the debt again to $19.7 trillion. The bill has soared by more than $11 trillion during the presidencies of Donald Trump and Joe Biden in six years. The national debt climbed $6.7 trillion during Trump’s tenure, and it’s up some $3.8 trillion on Biden’s watch.
U.S. Debt — and the myriad problems it has caused Americans — is a bi-partisan problem.
“The folks that have been running the place have been looting the place,” Braun said.
But things got a lot worse a lot faster under Democrat control of Congress and the White House, Braun said. He noted Biden’s spending blueprint would put the U.S. on a path to hit $45 trillion in debt.
Republicans now control the House, albeit by a thin majority. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) would like House Republicans to take point on a plan to deal with the debt ceiling. With Democrats in control of the Senate, McConnell said Republicans only have so much leverage.
“I can’t imagine any debt ceiling provision passed out of the Senate with 60 votes could actually pass this particular House,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “I think the final solution to this particular episode lies between Speaker McCarthy and the president.”
So the fiscal conservatives called the press conference Wednesday in part to offer words of encouragement to House Republicans.
Paul said they’ve had conversations with House Republicans about the process. The lawmakers would not say with whom they’ve spoken.
Paul is incensed that the Biden administration has said it will not negotiate on the debt ceiling. He stood to correct the president.
“President Biden needs to know he absolutely will negotiate, and it’s best to start now,” the senator said.
Biden, according to German-owned Politico, said he would speak with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy about the debt ceiling, but added that if “we don’t meet our national debt and renege for the first time, we have a calamity that exceeds anything that’s ever happened financially in the United States.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said raising the debt ceiling was too important to be haggled over.
“Congress has always done it, and the president expects them to do their duty once again,” she said. “That is not negotiable.”
Cruz said the mainstream media is repeating Democratic Party talking points. He said Biden wants Americans scared, and he’s “counting on the press corps” to report that “those crazy Republicans want to default on the debt.”
“That’s false,” Cruz said.
– – –
M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.