By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
But a closer look at America’s debt situation reveals Rehberg and Tester are both accountable for the country’s fiscal woes.
In a new attack scheme, Tester blasts Rehberg for supporting raising the nation’s debt ceiling, leading to the mountain of debt equal to a staggering $140,000 per taxpayer.
“Dennis Rehberg stuck it … to Montana,” a July 30 post on Tester’s website says. Tester is seeking to retain his seat in November against Rehberg.
“Montana families sure can’t afford (Rehberg’s) irresponsible decisions anymore,” a Tester TV ad warns.
Despite the message in the ad, Tester and Rehberg are aligned closely on debt matters, with each justifying his votes to raise the national spending cap as reasonable and thoughtful.
From 2002 until Tester took office in 2007, Rehberg voted four times to raise the debt limit, totaling more than $3 trillion. The congressman’s last vote, cast in March 2006, brought the cap to $8.9 trillion.
When Tester took office, Rehberg stopped supporting debt hikes. Tester, on the other hand, voted seven times to raise the debt ceiling, adding about $7.4 trillion to the limit, now at $16.4 trillion.
While the two trade barbs over the national debt, each man defends his votes.
Rehberg spokesman Chris Bond likens Rehberg’s votes to operating a business. He says companies often take on debt to make critical investments that will forward business. Tester, Bond says, supported irresponsible and reckless debt hikes to fund left-wing goodies.
Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy did not return an email message requesting comment.
With Rehberg in Congress and President George W. Bush occupying the White House, spending exploded. Veronique de Rugy, a libertarian economist with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., reports that Bush was the biggest spender in recent history.
“In fact, President Bush increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including Lydon B. Johnson,” de Rugy wrote in March 2009.
“In eight years, President Bush increased (federal spending) by a whopping 104 percent.”
Some of the new money was, of course, for defense items related to terrorism in the post-Sept. 11 world and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush created the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and strengthened the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Border Patrol.
As de Rugy notes, Bush and Congress — Republican-controlled through 2006 — thought they could have their cake and eat it too. Instead of cutting domestic and social programs to compensate for new security spending, officials simply spent more and put it on plastic.
“If the administration and Congress wanted more security spending and wanted to be fiscally responsible, they should have found savings elsewhere in the budget,” de Rugy notes.
The fiscal irresponsibility didn’t stop when President Barack Obama moved into the White House in January 2009.
Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress brought America the Tester-backed $800 billion stimulus package, the national health-care law and steady growth in social programs enrollment.
The Heritage Foundation , a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., that promotes the free market, limited government and a strong national defense, reflects on Obama’s big spending ways.
“Federal spending as a share of the economy will average over 24 percent during Obama’s term, and each and every year of that term will see a higher share than during any year since the Second World War,” Heritage analyst J.D. Foster wrote in May.
Yet, Tester remains comfortable launching anti-debt attacks against Rehberg. After the last debt hike vote in August 2011, Tester said the situation wasn’t optimal, but necessary, similar to Rehberg’s logic.
“This isn’t the bill I would have written,” he said. “But a vote against this bipartisan bill is a vote against Montana’s veterans, active-duty troops, seniors and small businesses, and Montanans deserve better.”