Former President Donald Trump’s budget chief thinks Republicans have taken the wrong path on fiscal policy, and he is seeking to reroute the GOP with an alternative budget blueprint.
Russ Vought, a veteran House Republican aide, conservative activist and Trump administration staffer, has put together his own budget proposal — entitled “A Commitment to End Woke and Weaponized Government.”
It’s a view largely in line with Trump’s, which was that spending cuts needed to happen and budgets balanced but not at the expense of benefits for seniors. Vought, who’s spent years crunching the numbers, takes a slightly different tack on defense spending than his former boss, who wanted to aggressively grow the Pentagon budget, however.
“There is a view on the Republican side that needs to be really tackled aggressively — that balance in 10 [years] is not possible, that you’ve got to go after Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, that discretionary [spending] is not where the fight is, that defense needs to grow as far as the eye can see for 10 years,” Vought said in an interview. “All of these things are, we believe, assumptions that need to be invalidated.”
The budget blueprint is the product of Vought’s tax-exempt think tank, the Center for Renewing America, which he founded after Trump left office and is full of former Trump administration staffers. He’s shopped the proposal around with GOP lawmakers in both chambers who had been asking him to put something like it together in anticipation of possibly taking back the House in the 2022 midterms, which is now a reality.
The plan envisions wiping out the deficit in 10 years through close to 3 percent economic growth fueled by energy exploration and deregulation and $9 trillion in spending cuts over a decade. Vought hopes the plan will influence the GOP in the current negotiation over a fiscal 2023 omnibus — he wants to punt the talks to next year when Republicans will control the House — and beyond.
Unlike Republicans who stress the need to restructure Social Security and Medicare to avoid their trust funds running out of money, Vought said the GOP should make cutting discretionary spending the priority.
“We have a problem right now because Republicans largely do not want to fight the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., and they allow everyone to point only to the entitlements,” he said.
Most Americans won’t support cutting entitlement programs until Congress gets rid of unnecessary appropriated spending programs, he said.
“You go after that and now you’ve both won the argument that the American people think you’re serious and you have reestablished the goal of balance,” he said. “And you have the credibility to then go after the easier mandatory programs like welfare reform, getting people back into the labor force.”
Vought’s budget proposal advocates smaller increases to defense spending, ending military aid to Ukraine and pivoting from spending in Europe to investments to counter China. It proposes $824 billion for defense in fiscal 2023, more than last year but less than the $858 billion GOP negotiators are currently pushing.
He opposes House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker, saying the California lawmaker “is not a paradigm-shifting [leader] and has not tried to maximize these leverage points that you have with the appropriations process.”