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Republican Rep. Mo Brooks Says Americans Can't Afford Latest Spending Bill


And now we turn to a Republican House member who has concerns about the budget deal driving up the debt. Mo Brooks is an Alabama Republican and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and he joins us from his office on Capitol Hill. Welcome.

MO BROOKS: My pleasure.

SHAPIRO: Well, we just heard the Democrat Joe Crowley complaining about $300 billion unpaid for in this deal after a $1.5 trillion tax cut. I imagine you two don't often agree. But I have to ask - with all of this spending, more than any recent democratically controlled Congress, can Republicans still claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility?

BROOKS: Well, I think that's an issue that needs to be raised, and probably it ought to be debated in Republican primaries. Do we want to be just another Democratic Party that racks up spending, that racks up deficits, that increases our debt such that we risk a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy as a country? Or do we want to try to be much more financially responsible? And if we're going to spend more money, first find out how we're going to pay for it other than borrowing from our children and grandchildren.

SHAPIRO: Your leader, Speaker Ryan, says he's going to look at entitlement programs like Medicare and find savings there. Do you find that convincing?

BROOKS: Well, if we're going to do that, let's do it first.

SHAPIRO: So when he tells you that, how do you respond? I mean, are you talking about an insurgency against the leadership? Swallowing this, voting no and moving on to the next thing? What's the strategy?

BROOKS: My response is I've been in Congress for seven years, and I've seen a lot of promises made in order to do things that aren't in the best interests of our country. And then once those promises are not fulfilled, you're in really bad shape as a country. So in my judgment, if there's going to be increased spending for certain segments of what the federal government does, first the revenue has to be on the table whether it be in the form of tax increases or a shift in spending from a lower-priority item to a higher-priority item. But let's see the money. And once we see the money, then we can decide how to spend it. Right now the money is not there.

We're increasing America's risk of suffering a debilitating - underscore that, highlight it, italicize it - debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy that would do great damage to our country and to the people who live here. And so I'm very much concerned about whether we can afford to continue on the path that we're on, particularly in light of all the warnings we get from the entities that we pay a lot of money to to give us financial advice. Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, the comptroller general of the United States routinely, annually, in writing send us warnings that our current financial path is unsustainable.

SHAPIRO: So what...

BROOKS: That's their word, not mine. Unsustainable translates into a bankruptcy with horrific circumstances that result from that.

SHAPIRO: So what leverage do like-minded Republicans, you and the rest of the Freedom Caucus, have to change this?

BROOKS: Well, the problem is the American people have elected so many debt junkies that they're ecstatic with borrowing money today so that they can get elected tomorrow, worrying about someone paying for it after the elections. And that's very unfortunate that so many people are putting their self-interest, their elections before their country.

SHAPIRO: So you're just saying, wait till November. This budget deal is what it is.

BROOKS: Well, if it passes as it is. I don't know if the House and Senate have the votes. I know that as we speak, Senator Rand Paul is holding up the vote in the Senate. I'm not familiar with how long he can do that as an individual senator. I don't know what kind of support he's got for continuing to do that. In the House, there is significant opposition to the idea that we're going to spend away our future, that we're OK with an insolvency and bankruptcy, that we're not worried about the trillion-dollar deficit right now we're looking at for this fiscal year if this bill passes. And so it's very disconcerting. I hope we will have enough members of the House to be financially responsible and act on behalf of America as we should, but I'm very much concerned that we don't have enough votes.

SHAPIRO: All right, Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, appreciate your joining us today. Thanks very much.

BROOKS: My pleasure, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.