WASHINGTON – Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) said he opposes the omnibus spending agreement that passed last week and that Congress needs a “good targeted” government shutdown to “drain the swamp” and get the nation’s fiscal house in order.
During the Conversations with Conservatives event Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Harris said congressional Republicans should make sure members of the military get paid in the event of a shutdown and suggested they attach the debt ceiling to the next budget battle in September.
“Let’s drain the swamp. The president says he’s going to drain the swamp and nothing drains the swamp like a good targeted shutdown,” Harris said.
President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that “our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said the Republican-led Congress should examine the “bloated” Pentagon budget.
The $1 trillion temporary spending agreement the White House and Congress negotiated raises defense spending by about $15 billion through September.
Meadows and other conservative lawmakers were asked whether or not they oppose the defense spending increases in the agreement and how the GOP would be able to balance the budget without defense budget cuts and entitlement reform.
“The major driver is obviously entitlement reform. I met with Director Mulvaney this morning to talk about what our budget may be and what their budget may be. When you look at defense, I think there’s a couple of areas that I have communicated very clearly with some of our defense hawks – we have a bloated Pentagon and it is time that we addressed that. And that might be lightning on a chalkboard to some in here, but we need to really look at the Pentagon and how that has disproportionately grown with regards to our conventional military forces,” Meadows said during the discussion.
“The other is that when you have $125 billion you can’t account for and you can’t do an audit, you know, eventually that adds up to real money. And so we really have to address both of those things. I think, are we willing to do that? The answer is yes. And even among many of us who believe in a strong national defense – we also have to have an accountable military to the American people,” he added.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) agreed that Congress should find future savings in the Pentagon budget.
“We’re all for a strong defense, as strong as possible, but we think that’s something that has to be examined,” he said.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said roadblocks in the Senate would likely prevent the GOP-led Congress from implementing policies that move the federal government toward a balanced budget in the future.
“I love the optimism of your question. I did not realize anyone was thinking we might actually balance the budget over the next eight years – that would be fantastic. The only way that’s going to happen is if there is explosive economic growth based on the kinds of policies we need to in place to free up our enterprise system – but unfortunately there are too many roadblocks, particularly in the Senate, to implement those kinds of economic policies,” he said.
Brooks said the deficit and debt are the “greatest danger” facing the nation. He warned of a “significant risk” that the U.S. could face the same economic fate as Venezuela and Greece within the next 10 years.
“They [the American people] need to look at what’s happening in Greece. They need to look at what’s happening in Puerto Rico right now. They need to look at what’s happening in Venezuela and you can choose any number of countries and the history of bankruptcies and insolvencies to see what happens and how to best prepare,” he said. “In my judgment, there is a significant risk we will suffer a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy within 10 years – a significant probability within 20 years.”
Brooks called on Congress to avoid bankruptcy and begin reducing the deficit to eventually balance the budget. Brooks said he’s been looking at budget plans for the past 5 years that would balance in 10 years.
“I’ve been seeing those for 5 years, and we’re still no better than 10 years away. This Congress either lacks the intellect or lacks the backbone to deal with this in a fiscally responsible way,” he said.
In response to PJM’s question, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said reporters should also ask the Democrats about balancing the budget since conservatives in Congress want to cut spending.
“I like the question. I think the question should be part of the news, too,” Brat said. “On defense, on healthcare, on pre-existing questions, it’s ‘why don’t you spent more?’ Then from the press the next question is ‘why did you spend me? Aren’t you fiscally responsible?’”
Brat continued, “They [Democrats] want a constant lit up Christmas tree, no fiscal responsibility, and so the press has to do a better job. We get the tough side on both questions and they get a free ride.”
Brat said third-graders know the nation’s $20 trillion debt and approximately $100 trillion in “unfunded liabilities” are not sustainable.
“Should we do more or less in Washington, D.C. if we are $100 trillion short? A third grader will tell you less – they are very smart, but up in D.C. it’s hard getting to that answer. It’s quite amazing,” he said.