The Stew Reporting on news from inside the Beltway

GOP leaders abandon fiscal responsibility

Politics | Conservatives voice anger over Washington’s runaway tab
by Evan Wilt
Posted 2/15/18, 04:10 pm

WASHINGTON—Fiscal conservatives are still reeling from last week’s federal budget deal, with no spending pivot in sight.

The government shut down for a few hours last week after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delayed leaders on both sides from agreeing to a two-year budget agreement that busted mandated spending caps and added another $300 billion to the taxpayer tab.

Days later, President Donald Trump introduced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal and then released a new long-term budget framework that would add $7 trillion to the national deficit during the next decade.

Some conservatives fear the Republican Party no longer has any motivation to rein in spending and address a mounting federal debt now closing in on $21 trillion.

“A lot of us were really stunned that our party, the one for a long time that has stood for fiscal discipline, would even be voting on a budget deal as bad as the one we voted on last week,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio. “It’s not compassionate to bankrupt America.”

It’s also not based on reality, noted Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C.: “We’re just printing money out of thin air.”

But there’s only so much money the United States can borrow before falling off the economic cliff.

During a hearing this week to address national security threats, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats ran through a list of risks posed by Russia, China, North Korea, and terrorist groups, as well as rogue cyberattacks. But he noted the biggest threat to U.S. prosperity might come from within.

“The failure to address our long-term fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over $20 trillion and growing,” said Coats, who served in the U.S. Senate for nearly two decades. “This situation is unsustainable, as I think we all know, and represents a dire threat to our economic and national security.”

Over the last year, Republicans have shown a proclivity for spending money. The White House’s first budget plan in 2017 called for drastic spending cuts across many government agencies in order to reduce the deficit and find a way to balance revenue and spending after 10 years. But the latest plan from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney veers in the other direction. The White House budget would create a deficit of nearly $1 trillion for the next fiscal year, about double what the administration promised a year ago.

Mulvaney took to Capitol Hill this week to defend the president’s proposal. But the budget director, who spent three terms in the House of Representatives as an ardent proponent of fiscal responsibility, admitted he probably wouldn’t have supported the plan in his past job: “I probably would have found enough shortcomings in this to vote against it.”

Congress has no intention of appropriating spending as the president directed, but it opens a window into the GOP’s future. With Trump’s budget plan, plus the two-year agreement endorsed by GOP leaders last week, Republicans have shown they are comfortable running up the deficit amid dwindling motivation to make tough, fiscally responsible decisions.

Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci President Donald Trump praying during the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month

Prayer’s power on display

In 2017, President Trump delivered a wide-ranging address at the National Prayer Breakfast, highlighting the need for religious freedom protections—but that’s not what made headlines. Reports focused instead on his offhand quip about the need to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poor television ratings as host of The New Celebrity Apprentice.

This time the president stayed on topic and delivered a much more conventional speech, focusing on telling the stories of Americans who demonstrated bravery and sacrifice during the past year.

“You’re never quite sure how [the event is] all going to come together, there are so many moving parts,” Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., the National Prayer Breakfast’s co-host, told me. “How it fit together was, to me, a real encouragement of God’s grace and power.”

This year’s event featured harrowing stories from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who was shot in the hip last year during a practice for the annual congressional baseball game. He returned to work 15 weeks later. Attendees also heard from Scott Smiley, the Army’s first active duty blind officer, who lost his vision in an explosion while on a tour in northern Iraq in 2005.

Hultgren said it was powerful to have both Scalise and Smiley share stories of overcoming adversity through faith. Organizers didn’t plan the common theme of God’s faithfulness ahead of time. And according to Hultgren, no one coordinated with the president to make sure he stayed on message.

“There was nothing as far as telling people what to say and how to say it, other than us praying that it would flow together well and there would be a clear message of ministry and of hope to come out of it,” Hultgren said. —E.W.

Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Harnik Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Harnik Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter

Porter scandal looms over White House

Accusations of domestic violence against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter first surfaced Feb. 6, and he resigned the next day. But the fallout from the scandal is far from over.

President Trump finally weighed in on the situation Wednesday. “I am totally opposed to domestic violence and everybody here knows that,” the president told reporters.

Porter’s two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby, said he physically abused them and that they told law enforcement about the mistreatment. The White House at first defended Porter after the women’s testimonies went public, but as more information became available—including photos of Holderness with a black eye—the administration began backing away.

During his 12 months in the White House, Porter never received a permanent security clearance. The White House first called the FBI’s investigation “ongoing,” insisting no one knew the full extent of the abuse claims until Porter resigned. But FBI Director Christopher Wray denied that this week, telling Congress the FBI completed its report in July and closed its investigation into Porter last month, giving the White House ample information throughout the process.

The House Oversight Committee now wants answers about the conflicting accounts, giving the FBI until the end of the month to offer an explanation. Don’t expect this previously unknown White House staffer to fade again into anonymity anytime soon. —E.W.

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 02/16/2018 08:04 pm

    How can I, the voter, blame Congress for our fiscal woes when I demand that it cut everyone's pet expense but mine?  My neighbor will move toward me only if I move toward him.


  • CarolinaDave's picture
    Posted: Sat, 02/17/2018 04:07 pm

    In round numbers, 1 trillion dollars in national debt comes to about $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the US.  So with 20 trillion dollars and counting, each of us has a personal tab of $60,000 today.  This does not include unfunded liabilities like social security and medicare, which are far higher even than that.

    Our politicians' spending agenda for both parties is out of control, but they are altimately giving the electorate what we demand from them.  Most politicians who would vote for any cut in federal spending would be out of office at the next election cycle.  We the people need to learn to expect less from our government by the way of entitlements, handouts, and top heavy government.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 02/20/2018 12:50 am

    Our country is like Sodom and Gomorrah so we should not be surprised that God would let us go over the financial cliff!  There will be hard times ahead where Democrats will eventually gain control leading to Christian persecution in America.  Trump is a pleasant reprieve, but it will be short lived. Of course, we serve a powerful God who could bring reformation and revival, but God doesn’t have to do this. We Christians need to turn to God, commit to living faithful holy lives, and bring the gospel to the lost all around us. If we do this, then God may be gracious to us and bring real revival. Let us pray and fast for revival, which we desperately need! Carpe Diem.