GOP senators admit making debt worse — but don't want to change anything

744

The same senators who added trillions to the debt with massive tax cuts for the rich are now complaining about debt — while trying to make those tax cuts permanent.

As Senate Republicans complain that President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan would add too much to the national debt, some are acknowledging that their own party bears some responsibility for that record debt. But they have been mum on what spending or tax cuts they regret backing.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last Thursday the massive infrastructure proposal would get no Republican votes at all.

"That package that they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side," the Kentucky Republican vowed.

A day earlier, he called the bill a "Trojan horse" that would "be more borrowed money, and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy."

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, used a similar argument, blasting the bill as Biden's "plan to increase America’s debt."

But nearly a third of the nation's $28 trillion-plus debt came during Donald Trump's administration. While some of that was emergency spending to address the COVID-19 pandemic, much of it preceded that and resulted from GOP policies of tax cuts and spending increases.

The Washington Post noted Thursday that a handful of Republican senators have admitted recently that the Trump administration and congressional Republicans share responsibility for the largest debt in American history.

"I don’t think anybody has a very good record for the last decade on this," Roy Blunt of Missouri told Fox News on Sunday.

"Republicans and Democrats alike have been responsible for increasing the spending, but it’s always Democrats wanting to spend more than the Republicans,” said Ohio's Rob Portman in March.

"To some degree that’s true. I mean the previous administration, debt and deficits weren’t a high priority for them," Minority Whip John Thune conceded a few days earlier, asked about the Trump-era debt increase.

And days before the November 2020 election, Ted Cruz of Texas told Axios that he wished "that it was a higher priority for the president to rein in spending and the debt," while falsely claiming that Trump "didn’t run, principally, on reining in spending and the deficit and debt. That’s not what he promised to do." Cruz pledged that deficit reduction would become a GOP priority again after the election.

The American Independent Foundation reached out to each of the four senators to ask what specific tax cuts or spending legislation that contributed to the historic debt they regretted backing.

A spokesperson said in an email that "Sen. Cruz believes that the expanded child tax credit, increased standard deduction, and lower rate for businesses are key to ensuring that millions of families can build their own American dream for generations to come." The others did not immediately respond.

But all four voted for Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which massively reduced taxes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans and increased the national debt by an estimated $1 trillion to $2 trillion over a decade.

All four also voted in February for an unsuccessful budget amendment that would have made the individual tax cuts permanent, further increasing the budget deficit.

Cruz is currently the lead sponsor of a stand-alone bill to do the same thing.

Blunt, Portman, and Thune also voted to increase the debt by more than $1 trillion during the George W. Bush administration by backing his tax cuts. They also voted to add another nearly $2 trillion by backing the Iraq War.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Cruz's spokesperson.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.