OPINION: Balancing the Budget is Not an Excuse for Obstructionism.

Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

On February 1, Susan Collins and 10 of her Republican colleagues met with President Biden to discuss the new stimulus bill the president wants to pass. Here, we saw a cordial exchange of views with Senator Collins referring to the meeting as “excellent.” However, the senators’ attempt at bipartisanship was a play at being the good republicans. They were concerned about the costs of the president’s new 1.9 trillion dollar bill and offered a bill that was only 618 billion dollars. They knew that the president would never accept such a reduced stimulus package. But at the very least, they made shallow attempts at reconciling with democrats, something that Minority Leader McConnell and the group back of him would not do. For the six years that McConnell and the Republican party were in the majority, they have rallied against democrats for “irresponsible” spending, and their firm “no” against all liberal policies has been a defining characteristic of their time in office. But why are they worried about clinching the nation’s purse strings and reducing spending? It is quite simple; they aren’t.

After the party’s colossal 2009 electoral failure giving democrats a 79 seat advantage in the house and 16 seat majority in the Senate, and the presidency, the party has become the definition of obstructionism (deliberately blocking bills from being voted on). Whenever President Obama proposed large stimulus packages or healthcare reform, we always heard the classic “we can’t afford it.” Republicans claim they don’t oppose the good democrats are trying to do but oppose “wasteful spending.” It would be helpful to understand what the Republicans always base these rejections on: the national debt. 

Without a doubt, this nation’s debt is heading towards the verge of an economic situation that is untenable, with our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) currently 7.5 trillion dollars behind our 27.5 trillion dollars national debt. No one disagrees that there must be reforms to fix this economic mismanagement, but the way in recent years that the Republican Party has weaponized an impending national catastrophe is unprofessional and morally bankrupt. But what is more shocking is that republicans do not care about the national debt at all. Like the old saying goes, “Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.” Under presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. the national debt nearly doubled, unnecessarily spending vast amounts of money on an army during peacetime, all the while rallying to balance the budget. Bush Jr. increased the national debt by an additional 20 percent during his presidency. The fact is that the Republican Party has not fulfilled its promise of balancing budgets, nor does it care to. In fact, after taking back the White House in 2016, instead of raising taxes and lowering spending to begin to heal the debt, the Republican Party passed a tax cut bill that would add an estimated 1.9 trillion dollars to the national debt. 

But as if a mist of reason appears over them, suddenly balancing the budget becomes their top priority whenever the party finds itself in the minority or out of the Oval Office. McConnell has already started his finger-wagging at any democratic spending bills coming to the Senate just as he did with President Obama. Even though most economists advise that Biden’s stimulus bill would generate the GDP bounceback that this country needs to pay off its debts, the republicans have resorted to the same old “irresponsible spending” ploy they used to take back the house in 2010 and Senate in 2014. The republicans have found that in saying “no” and pretending to be the party of fiscal responsibility, they can take back independents who voted for the Democrats. If the Republican Party cared about Fiscal responsibility, it would not outright dismiss every democrat spending bill in a “my way or the highway” approach, but rather compromise and try to find a balanced middle ground that both parties can agree to. We have seen that democratic administrations can balance their budgets as president Clinton created the first budget surplus in many years. Unfortunately, the goal of the Republican party is not to balance the budget but rather to block the Democrats’ bills from ever becoming law.