Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told reporters on Sept. 6 that he isn’t concerned about the possibility of a federal government shutdown, because he’s already “convinced it’s going to happen” since Congress is deadlocked on a new budget.
The North Dakota Republican also said the dire prospect of a federal budget deficit of $2 trillion or more, according to a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CFRB) projection, doesn’t surprise him, either.
“Spending keeps going up, and so do regulations and bad, bad regulatory policy and enforcement policies,” he said. “And [Democrats] talked about they want tax increases, all of which would weigh heavy heavily on an economy that’s already struggling.”
Mr. Cramer’s comments were echoed by other senators and representatives who were asked by The Epoch Times about the projection and potential shutdown and expressed similar sentiments.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), for example, warned that Democrats and Republicans alike “need to put away the partisan shenanigans and sit down and take some real looks at what we can do.”
She reminded reporters that she is one of eight bipartisan co-sponsors of the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” which would withhold congressional paychecks when senators and representatives fail to agree on an annual spending plan for the government.
While Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) is a Senate freshman, he’s quite familiar with previous shutdowns, having served three terms in the House of Representatives.
“Washington has a spending addiction, and the numbers bear that out,” he stated, regarding the $2 trillion deficit projection. “What Congress should do is pursue real, structural spending reforms that fundamentally alter our current fiscal course.”
Without such reforms, Mr. Budd told The Epoch Times, “we will be condemning our children and grandchildren to tens of thousands of dollars in debt, a federal budget that spends more on interest payments than on defense, and a country that is financially vulnerable to adversaries like China.
“We must act now to solve this debt crisis.”
Meanwhile, Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran had but one word when asked about the deficit projection: “Terrible.”
Other congressional leaders on budget matters appear to be keeping their powder dry, as spokesmen for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Jody Arrington (R-Texas) didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ requests for comment on either the prospect of a shutdown or the deficit projection.
The heart of the budget problem is tw0-fold: The government is divided, with Democrats in control of the White House and the Senate, while Republicans control the House, but only by the slim margin of four votes, which puts Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a headlock.
In order to be elected as speaker, Mr. McCarthy promised, among much else, a return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic spending levels and to get the House back to regular order on the budget. That means approving 13 major appropriations bills and avoiding temporary special measures such as continuing resolutions (CR) that maintain current spending levels for a set period of time or a monstrous omnibus spending bill that requires thousands of pages and gets only up or down votes in both chambers.
But, as Congress returns from its August recess, the House has approved just one major appropriation bill, funding the Department of Defense (DOD), and has sent it to the Senate. The remaining dozen spending bills are ready for floor votes, but with only 12 actual legislative work days before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, getting passage on all of them looks doubtful.
Consequently, Mr. McCarthy is expected to offer a short-term CR to buy time for the House to act into October and possibly November. But going the CR route angers members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), the 42 most principled conservative representatives who have vowed an end to business-as-usual budgeting in the nation’s capital.
The frustration is palpable among HFC members, both because of the daunting political challenges of achieving long-term spending reforms and the immensity of a federal budget, most of which is consumed by spending made mandatory by prior Congresses.
Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), for example, told The Epoch Times that a $2 trillion annual budget deficit “is tragic for this nation,” and he pointed out that nondefense discretionary spending “accounts for only 11 to 13 percent of our budget. Yet there’s plenty in these pockets, these ridiculous, progressive agendas, to help bend the curve.”
Even so, Mr. Murphy continued, 70 percent of the mandatory spending portion of the federal budget is for entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, with defense only at 30 percent.
“As we add 10,000 individuals to the Medicare rolls each day, with dwindling numbers of individuals buying into the system, we must reform mandatory spending if we are ever to get control of our deficit,” he said.
Similarly, Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), another HFC member, told The Epoch Times that he’s “been talking about the $150 billion per month deficit for a couple of months now and yes, that equates to $2 trillion, and with a Republican [House] majority no less.”
Asked if he senses frustration among his colleagues on budget and spending, Mr. Good agreed, noting that “a Republican majority should have passed all the appropriation bills with spending cuts to go back to pre-COVID spending levels of non-defense discretionary spending as was committed to do back in January.” With 222 House Republicans, Mr. Good said, the appropriations should have been approved and sent to the Senate, “as we promised the people back home we would do.”
Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.), who is a member of both the House budget panel and HFC, told The Epoch Times: “The fact that our federal deficit is expected to double this year to $2 trillion should be eye-opening for all Americans. Economic security is national security. We cannot continue to live beyond our means and expect there to be no consequences. I hope these dire economic projections lead more politicians in Washington to conclude that we must change course to save our country for future generations.”
Rep. Ralph Norman, the Georgia Republican who is both the No. 2 GOP member of the House budget panel and a leading HFC voice, told The Epoch Times that a $2 trillion deficit couldn’t be erased with tax increases because that destroys the economy. The only solution is to “reduce federal spending and eliminate the countless billions on ridiculous, useless, inappropriate projects that we cannot afford and do not need.”
Mr. Norman said he doesn’t know “how the process will play out when we come back to D.C. next week.”
“[But] I can tell you I am not voting for the status quo. I don’t care about reelection,” he said.
“I don’t care what the liberal media claims. I am not putting my head in the sand on this issue, and I simply will not support any appropriations bill that doesn’t contain meaningful, responsible spending reductions to keep us on a trajectory to balance the budget within the next nine to 10 years.”
From The Epoch Times