Rich Dunn: A tale of two deficit hawks
Driving across the border at Lake Tahoe, either at Crystal Bay or at Stateline, you’re traveling from Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District to California’s 4th. Both districts have Republican incumbents, Mark Amodei and Tom McClintock, and both won their seats campaigning as deficit hawks.
In 2012, Tom McClintock opened up on his free-spending Republican colleagues with both barrels. In an interview with The Hill, he famously said, “This government doesn’t spend money unless the House authorizes it. We are more than a year into a period where we have controlled the House and we are a trillion dollars deeper in debt. The buck starts here. We can’t blame the president.”
And McClintock has definitely walked the walk of a deficit hawk. For example, he defied his party’s whip and voted against the Small Business Tax Cut Act, which gave a 20 percent tax break to businesses with fewer than 500 employees because it had no offsets and the entire cost went straight onto the deficit. McClintock didn’t mince words, saying, “Tax cuts without either spending reductions or real economic growth are an illusion.”
So what about McClintock’s neighbor Mark Amodei? If you check the “Debt and Deficit” page of his congressional website, you’ll find a section entitled “Stop the insanity!” It begins on a strong note: “As a fiscal conservative, I believe that our nation’s deficit is out of control. We now borrow 42 cents for every dollar we spend.” It goes on to make it personal for him: “Our runaway spending problem is exactly what motivated me to run for Congress,” he wrote.
With that he recounts his cosponsorship of a balanced budget amendment that would require a 60 percent super majority in both houses of Congress to either raise the debt limit or allow spending to outpace revenues in any fiscal year.
The moment of truth was at 3:31 p.m. on Jan. 13. The final roll call vote on the joint budget resolution was taken on the House floor. This resolution had been touted as the legislative vehicle by which the Affordable Care Act would be repealed. But if you actually read it, you’ll see that it doesn’t specifically mention the ACA. The title of the resolution is: “Setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026.”
That title leaves no room for ambiguity. With both houses of Congress firmly under Republican control, this resolution is no less than the Republicans’ budget plan for the next decade. Having said that, it’s also clear that Republicans in Congress were hoping that nobody actually read it, since it calls for the federal debt to rise from $20 trillion in 2017 to $29 trillion in 2026. You read that right. Congressional Republicans are planning to add $9 trillion to the debt over the next decade, mostly by way of big tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals.
Not a single Democrat voted in favor of this budget resolution, but nine House Republicans broke ranks and voted against it, mostly because they feared a backlash to repealing the ACA without anything to replace it. But one brave Republican, McClintock, voted no because he actually meant what he told his constituents about being against deficits. Amodei, McClintock’s deficit-hating neighbor, voted in favor of a $1 trillion dollar deficit in fiscal 2026, topping up $9 trillion in accumulated debt between now and then.
Little wonder Amodei volunteered to chair Donald Trump’s Nevada presidential campaign. Trump also has trouble telling voters the truth.
Rich Dunn is currently secretary of the Carson City Democratic Central Committee, and was the 2012 Democratic candidate for Assembly District 40.