House Republicans are set to vote Thursday for a Senate budget that allows up to $1.5 trillion to be added to the $20 trillion national debt and does not include provisions from a previously passed House budget that called for $203 billion in spending cuts. For many, it will represent a stark departure from months or years of warning about the dangers of America’s growing debt.
“Those willing to go along include several members of the landmark GOP class of 2010, a group of 63 mostly stalwart conservatives who were as critical of their own party’s failure to contain the national debt as they were of Democrats,” The Washington Posts’ Mike DeBonis reports. “But it’s not only top House leaders who have stepped away from budget hawkery in recent weeks as the tax bill has come together. Self-styled fiscal sentinels such as the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee have largely held their fire on deficit-related criticism.”
Under pressure to show they can get something done after the GOP’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, many of those self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives on the hill are focused for now on making sure they can move ahead with a tax overhaul. They describe their support for a budget that would increase deficits as a concession to the difficult political realities they face in pushing for spending cuts, or to the demands of constituents who they say are more concerned about taxes than they are about the debt.
A handful of true believers may vote no. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said he didn’t want to “vote for a budget nobody believes in so we have a chance to pass a tax bill nobody has read,” according to the Post. But most of the hard-liners appear to be willing to play along. “The budget that came back to us is a crap sandwich,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), a member of the Republican Study Committee, “but it happens to be the only thing on the menu.”
Some leaders in Congress and the administration also insist that, contrary to the warnings from many economists and analysts, the final tax plan won’t balloon the deficit — at least not after the effects of economic growth are factored in. “We don’t anticipate a big deficit effect from this tax reform,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday, “because we will broaden the base and lower the rates, plug loopholes and get faster economic growth.”