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Senate's Budget Deal Spends Too Much Money, Rep. Davidson Says

Feb 8, 2018
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, employed a little-used word yesterday, compromise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: A compromise we've reached will ensure that, for the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe.

INSKEEP: A federal spending deal also includes more money for disaster victims, infrastructure and more. What its supporters like, the extra federal money here and there, is precisely what Republican Congressman Warren Davidson of Ohio does not like. He's a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group in the House of Representatives. He's in our studios again.

Congressman, welcome back.

WARREN DAVIDSON: Thanks for talking with me.

INSKEEP: What's wrong with this deal?

DAVIDSON: Well, it spends too much money. I mean, we had a compromise in the House as well, and that united Republicans and Democrats in funding our military. There's a real readiness issue. We needed to address that. But unfortunately, due to DACA, we were on our fourth CR. We've not been able to get that money to our troops. And I think out of desperation to get that done, we've signed up for a lot more spending. The bill that passed the House raised the defense caps for - but it did not raise the discretionary caps for nondefense.

INSKEEP: Right.

DAVIDSON: So we sent this bill over to the Senate, and it comes back with $300 billion worth of extra spending.

INSKEEP: Well, you've just described why Democrats couldn't or would not have signed on to that - because things they were concerned about, like disaster relief - just to give one example - they weren't in there.

DAVIDSON: Well, it's not like Republicans aren't concerned about disaster relief or Republicans aren't concerned about funding community health centers or dealing with the opioid crisis. There are wins that everyone likes. But when you add them all up, it adds to an awful lot of spending. And we have more good ideas and good causes than we have money, and that's the problem. It's not compassionate to bankrupt America.

INSKEEP: So you say bankrupt America. I think you're telling me that you'd be OK with this or that spending item. Your concern is the federal deficit, which builds up debt over time.

DAVIDSON: Absolutely. And we just got tax reform that - really, we were on a path of sustained growth at 1.9 percent. At 1.9 percent, we don't balance the budget. At 2.6, we do. But the tax reform that we passed, I believe, will get us growing at a sustained rate of 3 percent. And now we're spending all that growth. Now, it'll be good for the economy in the interim. But on a fiscal path, paying for the spending - this is a commitment that has to be paid for.

INSKEEP: Well, let's explore this a little bit, though. You're concerned about the deficit, but you voted yes for this tax measure, which, as you know, nonpartisan analysts said that reducing taxes in this way would increase the federal budget deficits cumulatively $1.5 trillion over a decade. I know there was a hope that that wouldn't happen, but you already have the Treasury Department saying the budget deficit right now is soaring by hundreds of billions of dollars. You voted, in effect, to increase the deficit.

DAVIDSON: Well, in the first five years, it does go cash flow negative. In the long - in Year 6 and beyond, it starts to get positive. And if you put it on a longer cycle, it's better. But it's only better if you can maintain fiscal discipline. And this deal that we've just struck, frankly, burns all of the expected win from the government-funding level. Now, it's going to be great for families. Tax reform is going to still do all the things it's going to do for growing our economy with, you know, investments that apparently folks forgot to make when President Obama was president. Now they're getting around to it.

I think it has more to do with tax reform and Republican regulatory reform than a continuation of the 1.9 percent stagnant wage growth path that we were on. The growth path is great, but the spending path to be able to work right has to sustain its previous spending levels. We can't raise spending at the same rates that we are in this bill.

INSKEEP: Have some of your fellow Republicans in the House and Senate lost the concern about deficits, which they definitely did have when President Obama was in office?

DAVIDSON: Well, it's hard to make the case that they haven't, frankly, when - it might take nine Democrats to get to 60 in the Senate, but it takes 51 Republicans. So you can't do this deal without Republicans conceding it. And as I say, people are truly very anxious to get our military men and women the funding they need. We've got more training fatalities than we have combat fatalities in a year when we've seen lots of combat. There are real readiness issues.

But in the desire to do that, we're spending so much money on other things. Truly, we never lost to the Soviet Union on the battlefield. The Soviet Union, however, we never engaged them and defeated them on the battlefield. They collapsed because they bankrupted their country. And I fear that we are on the path that they are. They're on a decades-long way clawing their back onto the - clawing their way back onto the global stage. And the United States cannot be immune to the same things that have happened to countries around the world throughout history. Deficits do matter.

INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks for coming by.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Congressman Warren Davidson, Republican of Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.