Hoyer whacks GOP for sudden interest in deficit spending 

Hoyer whacks GOP for sudden interest in deficit spending 
© Greg Nash

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House MORE (D-Md.) hammered Republicans on Tuesday for taking on deficit spending just months after championing tax cuts projected to pile almost $2 trillion onto the debt.

Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said the Republicans’ push this week for a balanced budget amendment — a constitutional change effectively prohibiting deficit spending — is “a political stunt” smacking of hypocrisy.

“This legislation is a charade. I don’t know how anybody can believe the Republicans are serious about tackling deficits after they exploded the deficit,” Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “This is the height of hypocrisy.” 

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Monday estimated the Republicans’ tax overhaul, adopted in December, will add $1.9 trillion to the debt by the end of 2028 — a far cry from the Republican predictions that the cuts would pay for themselves by spurring economic growth. 

The CBO also predicted that deficit spending would hit $804 billion this year — a $242 billion spike over an assessment conducted last summer — and top $1 trillion by 2020. The increases, the CBO indicated, are largely due to the Republicans’ tax cut combined with the $1.3 trillion 2018 spending package, which was enacted last month with broad bipartisan support. 

Considering the source of the increased deficits, some conservatives have joined the Democrats in questioning the move by GOP leaders to vote on the balanced budget amendment, which has no chance of becoming law.

On Twitter on Monday, Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden spar over coronavirus response House chairwoman diagnosed with 'presumed' coronavirus infection Procedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? MORE (R-Ky.) delivered an unsubtle message to Republican leaders by defining “audacity” as “voting on a Constitutional balanced budget amendment only 4 legislative days after ramming through massive deficit spending, because you believe this stunt will convince constituents that you care about balancing the budget.” 

Hoyer has supported balanced budget amendments in the past, most recently in 1995. But he’s changed his position on the concept after becoming convinced, he said, that “it doesn’t work at all and the Republicans who talk fiscal responsibility never pursue fiscal responsibility.”

Hoyer, echoing other Democratic leaders, warned that the Republicans’ strategy is to use the loss of revenues from the tax overhaul to necessitate big, across-the-board cuts in federal programs.

“It will require cuts not just in Medicare and Social Security … it would require a decimation of discretionary programs,” he warned.

Hoyer also went after Republicans for weighing efforts to rescind some of the spending hikes contained in the omnibus bill — “an idea Congressional leaders are taking seriously,” according to senior House GOP source.

Hoyer said any such rescissions would betray the spirit of the bipartisan agreement and poison future negotiations on similar bills.

“It would undermine the belief that your negotiating partner had the integrity that once the deal was made, to stick with the deal,” Hoyer said. “It’s as simple as that.” 

He characterized both the balanced budget amendment and the rescission effort as messaging strategies designed to provide vulnerable Republicans with a crutch in the face of conservative district voters irate over the spike in deficit spending under the GOP’s watch. 

“They’re worried and they’re flailing about,” Hoyer said, “and this is part of the flailing about.”

The House vote on the balanced budget amendment is scheduled for Thursday.