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Former RNC Chairman Criticizes GOP ‘Spending Spree’ Under Trump as ‘Bad Politics’

michael steele at politicon in pasadena

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told PJM that a lot of conservatives are “wildly disappointed” the GOP-led Congress has increased federal spending, arguing that the move was “bad politics” after years of criticizing President Obama’s deficits.

President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 in early February, which increased the Department of Defense budget by $165 billion above the existing spending caps and increased domestic spending by $131 billion over current levels for a two-year period. According to the Treasury Department, the projected deficit for FY2018 is $955 billion.

Steele, who served as RNC chairman from January 2009 to January 2011, was asked if he agreed with the passage of that spending agreement, which included a continuing resolution to fund the government until Friday.

“No, I don’t. I think a lot of conservatives swallowed hard when they cast that vote. I think a lot of conservatives around the country are wildly disappointed in it. I don't think the economics work. I think it's creating too much cash in the system and I just think it's one of those things that you wind up having to keep one eye on inflation and having to keep one eye on jobs and wages,” he said during an interview with PJM at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

“Instead of trying to bum-rush the process, create some synergies where you incentivize the employers. You incentivize the markets to ease into this environment because, again, I think it's a lot of pressure on the economy and I think it's just bad politics for the party to have advocated and pushed, as we did in 2010, the Tea Party leaders around the country, that we weren't going to come to Washington and spend money that we didn't have. We weren't going to burden future generations with trillions of debt, and that's exactly what we're doing,” he added.

In 2011, the GOP-led House fought Obama on a clean debt limit increase, which led to Standard & Poor's downgrading the U.S. credit rating. Lawmakers argued that spending cuts should match the amount of the debt limit increase. In 2013, the deficit limit hike was a central part of the “fiscal cliff” debate with House Republicans advocating for spending cuts as a condition for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

“So after doing all that, how does that look for the Republicans now that they're in charge?” Steele was asked.

“It's a tough look for them. It's very hard to go out and justify to people that, yeah, under Republicans we can spend this money but under Democrats we're going to sit back and criticize the very same level of spending, if not more. We saw the reaction to the profligate spending of the Bush administration for eight years that doubled the nation's debt. Obama comes in and everyone suddenly wanted to tighten their fiscal belt,” Steele replied.