Conservative Republicans say COVID spending must consider growing debt

Conservative Republicans say COVID spending must consider growing debt
© Greg Nash

Top members on the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) say future spending measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic should be offset with spending cuts to control the deficit.

In a letter sent to the top four leaders in both chambers, Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonHouse Republicans call for cutting office budgets of lawmakers who use proxy voting The Hill's Morning Report - Treasury, Fed urge more spending, lending to ease COVID-19 wreckage Floyd's brother urges Congress to take action MORE (R-La.), who chairs the RSC, and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) argued there is an “urgent need" to address the debt. 

The lawmakers said that while they understand the need to help Americans weather the financial hit caused by the pandemic, they feel the “fiscal health of our nation” can’t be ignored. 

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“Annual deficits were already expected to surpass $1 trillion for FY 2020 and only grow in perpetuity," they wrote, referring to the current fiscal year. "Recent COVID-19 legislation will now add trillions more debt in the next several years while federal revenues will nosedive in the midst of an economic downturn.”

“Congress should offset future COVID-19-related deficits. Given the present fiscal crisis, the thought of any more debt-financed spending seems unimaginable," they wrote.

The group is proposing that the growth of future spending be limited to 60 percent of the growth in federal revenue, which itself would be capped as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

It also suggested a "debt brake" that ties spending to potential GDP. 

Other proposals the group supports include automatic votes to consider the deficit reductions in budget resolutions, “expanding the reconciliation process to include on and off-budget items and discretionary spending” and requiring a super-majority to pass emergency spending. 

It also said mandatory budget cuts through sequestration could be considered.

“To rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, it will take the collective strength and effort of our entire nation,” the letter reads. “That same resolve will be needed to overcome the threat posed by our seemingly insurmountable debt. It is not too late for us to take the actions necessary to secure the future of America and our posterity — but that work must begin now. 

Banks said he’s spoken with a number of his Republican colleagues in the House who have also expressed a sense of unease over the spending levels in recent bills, adding he believes there will be a stronger pushback on future coronavirus stimulus measures that don’t include provisions to limit its impact on the debt.