Republicans are not hypocrites for voting to increase spending — at least, not yet
(Opinion) Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) called last week’s budget deal the worst piece of legislation he has voted on since being elected to Congress, with no close second.
No doubt, it spends a lot of money – too much, and it’s borrowed money at that – but it doesn’t mean Republicans have completely reneged on their principle of fiscal responsibility and become a lot of hypocrites. Not yet, at least.
Republicans had three options last week: let the government shut down (which it did anyway, briefly), pass a continuing resolution (which Congress has already resorted to time and again this fiscal year, much to our military’s chagrin), or strike a deal with Democrats and pass a long-term funding solution (which they chose).
That leads me to a key mitigating circumstance against charges of Republican hypocrisy: Though Republicans are “in control of government,” they really aren’t. The Senate’s 60 vote threshold precludes Republicans from pursuing the conservative ideal. They have to make deals. Conservative critics seem either to forget that or to remember it and reinforce pushes to end the 60-vote rule, a bad idea.
Other mitigating circumstances include the desperate need to pass long-term military funding, coupled with appeals for the deal’s passage from both Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
“They both strongly expressed that this is the best deal possible to end the harmful cuts to our military and, on behalf of President Trump, asked for my support,” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said in a statement. It’s tough to say no to General Mattis, let alone the president, when your party’s chief talking point (rightly or wrongly) during the January shutdown was that giving our military the funding it needs is not a priority of the Democrats.
Critics, from Republican Sen. Rand Paul to the New York Times editorial board and CNN’s Erin Burnett, are calling Republicans hypocritical for passing a budget that increases spending when they complained about increased spending under President Obama.
This certainly borders on hypocrisy, but doesn’t quite amount to it. Republicans derided particular types of deficit spending under President Obama. For many, there was an implicit distinction between domestic entitlement spending and defense spending.
These are the overlooked questions dividing Republicans over this deal: Is any new deficit spending acceptable? But moreover, shouldn’t we deal with spending reforms before increasing it?
I see no reason to believe Republicans don’t care about spending reforms anymore. Many of them simply saw the need to fund the military more pressing than solving complex spending problems.
Sen. Paul wants to address federal spending habits now, as do I. In fact, I argued last year that they needed to be addressed simultaneously with tax reform. To avoid becoming a lot of hypocrites, Republicans must take that task on this year.
Jeremy Beaman is in his final year at the University of Mobile and also writes for The College Fix. Follow him on Twitter @jeremywbeaman.