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David Perdue, a deficit hawk, weighs Trump's pricier fiscal priorities


WASHINGTON – David Perdue, Georgia’s junior U.S. senator, has built his three-year D.C. career on his image as a deficit hawk.

The Republican constantly rips what he sees as Washington’s budgetary dysfunction and spendthrift ways. The country’s debt has become so crippling, he argues in speeches, statements and op-eds, that it’s become a threat to national defense.

Perdue was a frequent ‘no’ vote on spending bills during the Obama years, but the freshman has found himself in a different situation since his ally Donald Trump took office: occasionally saying yes to spending plans -- even if they add to the deficit.

He weighs many of pieces of fiscal legislation through the prism of whether they will help lighten the country's debt load over time. That's why Perdue said he backed the Senate GOP’s budget last week.

The blueprint clears the way for tax cuts that could add as much as $1.5 trillion to deficits over the next decade, a grand total that has prompted some fiscally conservative groups such as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to pan the proposal.

Perdue indicated the tax cuts were acceptable in his book because they could lead to even more revenue for the government down the line due to the economic growth they would encourage. He compared his vote in favor of the budget to his time as a corporate CEO.

“None of the turnarounds I was involved in could we cut our way out or could we raise prices -- which is the same as taxing. We had to grow our way out of it,” he said Tuesday. “So the $1.5 trillion is an investment to grow the economy.”

Perdue has taken other spending proposals on a more case-by-case basis.

He backed a $1.1 trillion government spending bill in May that Trump later signed, funding that wasn’t offset with other budget cuts. He also voted for three-in-one legislation in September that funded federal agencies for three months, sent emergency money to Hurricane Harvey victims and lifted the government’s borrowing limit. Perdue at the time indicated he was supporting the latter plan in order to clear the legislative decks for Trump so he could advance other priorities.

Not all of Trump's spending priorities have passed muster with Perdue in recent months. On Tuesday, he joined 16 other Republicans to reject a $36.5 billion emergency spending bill requested by the administration to aid hurricane victims, including those rebuilding in the Southeast following Hurricane Irma.

Perdue, whose Sea Island home was in the path of Hurricane Irma, indicated his opposition to the plan was rooted in the fact that it would add to the deficit without being offset.

“Washington’s inability to get its financial house in order is causing us to lose the ability to pay for all the things we need to do,” he said in a written statement. “Four words not in Washington’s vocabulary: ‘We cannot afford it.’ Unless we solve our debt crisis, we won’t be able to deal with emergency situations, invest in our infrastructure, or fund any of our national priorities.”


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.