Missing: Fiscally conservative Republicans

Congress agrees to spending increase, breaking years of promises

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, stands with Republicans as they wave to President Donald Trump at an event to celebrate Congress' passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, stands with Republicans as they wave to President Donald Trump at an event to celebrate Congress' passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

America is broke.

Congress passed a bill last week to unchain federal borrowing and significantly drive up the debt. By next year, the federal government’s annual budget deficit is expected to reach $1 trillion, and keep growing from there.

If the new spending authorities are made permanent, our total federal debt will be bigger than our gross domestic product within 10 years, according to an analysis by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget.

All this, courtesy of the party of fiscal responsibility.

Throughout the Obama era, Republicans campaigned promising to cut taxes and spending. Now that they hold power in Congress and the White House, they’re only making good on half that promise.

Iowa’s federal lawmakers were split on the spending bill last week.

Among three House Republicans, Rep. David Young joined the majority of Republicans in supporting it, while Rep. Steve King was against, and Rep. Rod Blum was not present due to illness, though a staff member told me he would have voted against.

Rep. Dave Loebsack was one of 73 House Democrats voting yes.

Sen. Joni Ernst voted for it, while Sen. Chuck Grassley was one of 16 Senate Republicans against.

So far, none of those politicians has taken the time to explain to Iowans why Congress is strapping America with unpayable debt.

As of Monday, more than 72 hours since the budget-busting vote, none of them had published news releases or social media posts to explain their positions.

There is a crack in the foundation of the Republican Party, and it’s growing. It separates politicians who are actually against reckless government spending, from those who only say they are.

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, made a last-minute effort to force his Senate colleagues to vote on a measure to keep spending limits in place, saying “When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party.”

In full disclosure, I was paid by a political action committee supporting Paul for president in 2016.

The Paul amendment never saw a vote, but the delay did cause a brief government shutdown. Republican leaders lashed out, with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn telling Washington, D.C. reporters it was “grossly irresponsible.”

Irresponsible is a federal debt bigger than the national economy. Irresponsibility is embodied by a Congress unable to pass a budget, crashing from one crisis to the next, shutdowns ever looming.

Democrats are right to point out that many of the Republicans voting to increase federal spending are the same ones who voted for major tax cuts late last year. Even with optimistic estimates on economic growth, the tax bill will add around $500 billion to the federal debt over the next decade.

I’ve never seen a tax cut I don’t support, but they must be paired with spending cuts. Republicans promising both but delivering only half may find themselves out of jobs.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

Updated Feb. 12 at 5:35 p.m. — A representative for Rep. Rod Blum said he had the flu during Friday’s vote.

“There have been 779 votes this session, and Rep. Blum has made 762 votes — that’s a voting record of 98%. Any non-votes have been due to weather-induced travel delays at O’Hare, with the exception of last week when Rep. Blum had the flu and was advised to rest when the House held an unscheduled vote at 4:30 a.m. Congressman Blum would have voted no if available and his intention to do so is placed in the official Congressional Record,” spokesperson Alexah Rogge said.

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