WASHINGTON – Members of the Freedom Caucus urged other Republican lawmakers Wednesday not to negotiate with Democrats, or play games on a budget deal.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said at the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit that Republicans must break the cycle of trading higher defense spending for spending on social programs. The majority should resist the impulse to pour more money into the military, he said.
“Most (Republicans) are afraid to vote against the defense budget,” Meadows said. “Democrats are happy to see this because for every penny we ask for, the Democrats are going to ask for more social spending. Until we figure out how to change this game, then the overall environment of the place is not going to change.”
This week, the Senate and House budget committees’ first hearings for fiscal year 2017 are scheduled. Meadows, along with Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho and Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said Republicans should not pass a budget unless it promises to cut tens of billions of dollars from government spending.
Rather than accept the budget presented by party leadership, the speakers pressed Republicans write a plan that better represents their interests.
“We can’t just be about saying the right things,” Labrador said. “We must be about doing the right things. Otherwise the American people will never trust us again.”
The panel discussion came less than a day after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.., met with Freedom Caucus members to discuss the budget – an internal planning document — and just hours after he called for unity among Republicans on the same Heritage stage.
“When voices in the conservative movement demand things that they know we can’t achieve with a Democrat in the White House,” Ryan said at the summit, “all that does is depress our base and in turn help Democrats stay in the White House. We can’t do that anymore.”
Jordan said his caucus’ isn’t looking to offend, but to “present the truth in a compelling way.” If that angers opponents, he’ll accept it. Anything worth fighting for isn’t easy, he said, before comparing this battle with the struggle for independence.
“We have got to get back to ‘we the people’ instead of ‘we the lobbyists,’” Meadows said.
But it is an in-house fight. The House and Senate budgets do not go to the White House for the president’s signature.
The caucus members said the relationship between military spending and the budget goes beyond numbers on a page. A major deficit, even with a high military appropriation, is a threat to national security, they said.
“The great nations in history,” Labrador said, “they weren’t defeated by military. They were defeated because they couldn’t afford to fight for themselves.”