Keith Rothfus (left), Tom Marino (center) and Mike Kelly (right)
Twenty-one trillion dollars and counting. That is what the national-debt clock reads on the homepage of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly
(R-Butler). A similar clock also appears on the pages of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) and U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).
The increase in the national debt has always been a big issue for these Pennsylvania Republicans, as they have consistently campaigned on shrinking the debt and have warned of the dangers if the U.S. can not pay it back. In 2014, Kelly voted against raising the debt limit and said in a statement after his vote: “My constituents in Western Pennsylvania sent me to Washington because government spending has reached a crisis level, and I gave them my word that I would to do everything in my power to reverse course.”
In addition to the debt clock visible on Rothfus’ home page, his website has an issue page solely dedicated to explaining the problems of a rising national debt. “The surging debt and persistent deficits run up by the federal government are a threat to our economy, national security, seniors, and veterans,” reads Rothfus’ website.
The debt clock on Keith Rotfhus' homepage
“The federal government must work to both eliminate every cent of waste and squeeze every cent of value out of each dollar our citizens entrust to it," is written directly below the debt clock on Marino’s website.
But on Dec. 19, a vote for a Republican-backed tax bill came up, and apparently concern for the debt flew out the window. Kelly, Rothfus
and Marino all voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as did every other Republican U.S. Congressmen from Pennsylvania. Several nonpartisan studies of the bill show that the changes in the tax code
will lead to over $1 trillion in additional debt; and those are low estimates. Studies also show that even though nearly every American is due for a tax cut, the vast majority of the benefits supplied by the bill will go the richest Americans
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan deficit-hawk group, recently reported that if the temporary tax cuts, like the ones that apply to low- and middle-income earners, are extended, more than $2 trillion dollars could be added to the national debt. Even if substantial economic growth is factored in, which Republicans believe will happen, the CRFB still believes the bill will add at least $1.5 trillion to the debt. Some Republicans have argued that there will be enough economic growth to balance out any additions to the deficit, while critics of the bill believe Republicans are setting the stage to cut programs like social security and Medicaid to offset the debt.
The debt clock (lower left corner) on Mike Kelly's homepage
Kelly, in a statement, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “an incredible piece of legislation that means more take-home pay for everyday working people. It also makes us competitive globally so jobs don’t leave the country—they come back home and they stay home.” His statement also detailed the many changes the tax bill will make, but in his more-than-three-page statement, the debt is never mentioned.
In a statement, Rothfus also lauded the tax bill for providing “meaningful relief to Americans of all walks of life,” but his statement also failed to mention the national debt.
In a Facebook post, Marino wrote “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides middle-class families with much needed relief and will grow our economy.” His post also never mentioned anything about the national debt.
The debt clock on Tom Marino's homepage
But at least one Pennsylvania congressman did show concern over the tax bill’s effect on the national debt. U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle
(D-Forest Hills) wrote in a statement sent to Pittsburgh City Paper:
“Enactment of the Republican tax bill will leave most households worse off in the long run. Their tax cuts will be replaced with tax increases, and Republicans plan to use the increased national debt as justification to cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid that most Americans rely on.”
Doyle, like all other Democrats in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, voted against the tax bill.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cleared the House 227-203, with only 12 Republicans, mostly from California, New York and New Jersey, voting against it. The bill cleared the Senate 51-48 along party lines. And the bill now goes to President Donald Trump, who has vowed to sign it.