Conservatives bash GOP spending binge

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — The GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility no more.

That's according to some conservatives who are grappling with a Republican-backed spending binge that threatens to generate trillion-dollar deficits for years to come while staining a cherished pillar of the modern-day Republican Party.

While Trump and most of his closest allies largely avoided the subject, fiscal conservatives lashed out against Monday's release of President Trump's $4 trillion-plus budget, which would create $7.2 trillion in red ink over the next decade if adopted by Congress. That follows congressional passage of last week's $400 billion spending pact, along with massive tax cuts, which some analysts predict will push deficits to levels not seen in generations.

Deficit hawks in Congress and conservative activists who railed against President Barack Obama's spending plans called the GOP debt explosion "dangerous," ''immoral" and "a betrayal." Trump's own budget director, former South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, told lawmakers Tuesday that he probably would have voted against the spending plan if he were still in Congress.

American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp warned the Republican-controlled Congress not to underestimate the political impact of its spending decisions.

"If the Republicans in Congress don't realize that spending control is one of the most important issues that our winning coalition cares about, if they are cavalier about spending decisions, I think we do risk our ability to go to the voters and say it matters to have us in the majority," Schlapp said. He added, "I would urge the White House to be willing to move congressional leaders to take tougher stands when it comes to spending."

The conservative backlash against government spending is hardly new.

Many still complain about the spending boom under Republican President George W. Bush that wiped out surpluses left by Democratic President Bill Clinton and helped produce big gains for Democrats in the 2008 election. The conservative tea party movement was borne in the subsequent years by the outrage over President Barack Obama's spending.

But barely a year into his first term, Trump's GOP has shown inconsistent commitment at best to the three planks that have defined his party since the Reagan era: fiscal responsibility, traditional family values and a strong national defense. Beyond fiscal responsibility, the party's commitment to family values is also suffering as Trump and some high-profile allies struggle under the weight of repeated allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse.

Economic conservatism has long helped unify an otherwise divided GOP, but that no longer appears to be the case as Republicans brace for a difficult midterm election season.

Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the network backed by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, described the recent spending from Trump and Congress "a far cry from the so-called fiscal responsibility Americans heard on the campaign trail."

Voters may forgive Trump's spending habits because he's still learning the ways of Washington, but they will not be as kind to Republicans on the midterm ballots, said David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, who lashed out at last week's Republican-backed spending plan as "of the swamp, by the swamp and for the swamp." "They're not going to give a pass to the Republicans in Congress unless they start doing something to restrain the growth of government," he said.

"You can't let (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and the spenders in the Senate set the agenda this year," McIntosh continued. "Because politically, if they set the agenda, then you're going to see big losses in the House and the Senate."

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