Senator Heidi Heitkamp is quick to name as her mentor the man she replaced in the Senate, Kent Conrad. That seems apt, as Conrad’s legacy of talking tough about the debt and deficits while simultaneously being a wet blanket for any proposals to actually rein in government spending is alive in well in Heitkamp.
Case in point, Heitkamp’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Heitkamp was asked about the nation’s poor fiscal health, and she talked tough about needing a balanced budget amendment (though, remember that Heitkamp’s version of such an amendment wouldn’t apply to most federal spending) but when Heitkamp was asked if she’d support tying spending cuts to debt ceiling negotiations, Heitkamp said “no.”
HEITKAMP: Let’s look at where we are right now. 40 cents of every dollar that we spend in this Congress is borrowed. Interest on the debt is our third largest expenditure. We have a debt that almost equals our gross domestic product. We can’t sustain this. We have to look at reality. And why I came out for a balanced budget amendment is in 2000 we were on a path, we were on a path to balance the budget. The budget was balanced, and we were on a path to retire our debt. Guess what happened? It blew up. And saw we saw committees. We saw Bowles/Simpson, and none of it did it, and I think we need the discipline of a constitutional amendment.
CROWLEY: So, but the debt ceiling is going to be the first thing you’re going to deal with.
CROWLEY: And Republicans are, as I’m sure the congressman will tell you, are going to want to have at least one dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that they raise that debt limit. Is that something you can support?
HEITKAMP: We cannot jeopardize the full faith and credit and the credit rating of this country.
CROWLEY: So no?
HEITKAMP: No. We have got to — to take this in an incremental way, and then recognize we need these spending cuts. We need to take a look at where we go on a path forward.
A big part of balancing this budget is in fact getting people back to work. That balances us twice (ph), so that’s another big piece of it. That’s not really getting talked about here.
CROWLEY: But you won’t — you don’t want to link the two of them, the spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling.
Kent Conrad cast his final vote in the US Senate for a “fiscal cliff” deal that raised the nation’s projected budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and he said he had to do so because he was afraid of spending cuts.
“I hate it with every fiber of my being,” Conrad told the media, but claimed “we had to support the proposal because to fail to do so would send us back into a recession.”
If we can’t cut spending to lower deficits, what are we left with? Tax hikes.
This is the position Heitkamp is echoing. Talk tough about deficits, but only support tax hikes as the solution, not reductions in government down to something taxpayers can actually afford.
Heitkamp, like Conrad before her, believes in bigger government and bigger taxes to pay for it. That’s not the sort of leadership we need in Washington DC.