WASHINGTON, D.C. — In Donald Trump’s third bid for president of the United States, he has vowed to cut out-of-control spending in Washington. But his Republican rivals are slamming his federal debt record.
“For 200 years under our system of government, it was undisputed that the president had the constitutional power to stop unnecessary spending through what is known as impoundment,” Trump said in his Agenda47 video released in June.
FAILURE TO “DRAIN THE SWAMP”
But at a town hall event last week in New Hampshire, Governor Ron DeSantis criticized Trump for failing to “drain the swamp” and reduce the national debt.
“He actually said he was going to eliminate the national debt,” DeSantis said. “He added $8 trillion to the debt.”
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley wrote an op-ed in USA Today arguing that both Trump and Democrats in Washington supported “multi trillion-dollar deficits that have brought us to a $31.6 trillion national debt and counting.”
Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence – now his rival – said Trump “could have done a better job” to control federal spending during his term as president.
TRUMP’S “RECORD-BREAKING SPENDING BINGE”
But it’s not just his 2024 rivals slamming Trump’s federal debt record. Conservative leaders are speaking out on Trump’s spending patterns as the U.S. approaches $33 trillion in national debt.
“The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which Trump and Pelosi pushed through in 2020 despite my objections, was a disastrous bill that funded lockdowns, fueled panic, enabled fraud, and perhaps worst of all, initiated the highest inflation in generations,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said. “More than three years later, we are still suffering from the fallout of that record-breaking spending binge, compounded by the utter failure that is Bidenomics.”
Even though Trump is the current frontrunner, conservatives are beginning to focus on issues that may break the former president’s hold on the Republican primary race, including his role in increasing the national debt.
“Why is core inflation so high?” Daniel Horowitz wrote in the Blaze. “It’s simply undeniable that the insane spending baseline that was built under Trump even before COVID and then blew to the sky with the failed COVID policies is the cake onto which Biden added the icing.”
DOES IT MATTER TO PRIMARY VOTERS?
At the end of the 2016 fiscal year, the national debt hit $19.5 trillion, according to the Associated Press. At the end of the 2020 fiscal year, when Trump was leaving office, the national debt increased to $26.9 trillion – a $7.4 trillion increase.
ProPublica reported in 2021 that under Trump, the nation’s debt increased by $7.8 trillion – more than double the total costs of what Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards, and every other type of debt besides mortgages.
But some Republican strategists contend that even though the federal debt increased under Trump, it may not matter to GOP primary voters who currently support Trump over all others.
The economy will still likely be an important topic during the first Republican primary debate on August 23. But if Trump decides to skip the debate, he won’t be able to defend against attacks on his record.