If there’s one thing Sen. David Perdue really hates, it’s the federal deficit.
When he was first running for the Senate in 2014, Perdue constantly emphasized the need to reduce the deficit and ease the burden of debt on our grandchildren.
"The crushing national debt has surpassed $17 trillion," Perdue said at the time. "We must act now to rein it in before it becomes unsustainable."
Perdue has continued to rail against increases in the deficit since going to Washington. He has become what is known in political circles as a "deficit hawk," someone who believes that the worst thing you can do is pile on more federal debt.
"Our debt crisis is directly impacting our ability to protect our nation and project power around the world," Perdue said last year. "This puts in jeopardy our very ability to deal with these global threats as they come up every day — and believe me, they’re coming up every day."
"The debt, honestly, and this is no embellishment, the debt I believe is the greatest threat to our national security and even our very way of life," Perdue said.
His Senate website even includes an app that provides a running update on increases in the national debt.
I can tell you from personal experience that the senator’s aides have filled my email inbox with dozens of statements from Perdue explaining the awfulness of the national debt.
Late week, the Senate voted on a budget bill that was intended to be a first step toward voting on a tax cut bill later this year.
Among other things, the budget bill would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade to help pay for the tax cuts, which would primarily benefit the country’s wealthiest taxpayers.
Surely, I thought, after everything he had said about the dangers of the rising deficit, Perdue would vote against a bill that adds $1.5 trillion more to the deficit.
As it turns out, I was wrong. Perdue was one of 51 Republican senators who voted to pass the bill, described by one account as a measure that "authorizes lawmakers to blow a gaping hole in the deficit."
When questioned about Perdue’s contradictory vote, his office contended that the action was simply a procedural matter.
"This is strictly just a messaging vote," said Perdue spokesperson Lesley Fulop. "It’s just a way to get to tax reform."
Perdue released a statement after his vote blaming everything on a "broken" budgeting process.
"In order for the federal government to have the ability to act on our national priorities, we must solve the debt "crisis," Perdue said. "To solve the debt crisis, we have to fix our budget process. Job one is getting the economy going, and the economy will move if we get this tax deal done. It’s as simple as that."
This is Washington, of course, where you can always find 30 different excuses for why a vote on a bill is really not a vote on a bill. That’s a load of bull-hockey. If Perdue really believed that the national debt was such a serious threat to national security, he would never have voted for a bill that calls for adding $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit.
There comes a time in politics when you have to put up or shut up. Perdue stood down and voted to increase the deficit, even though he tried to pass it off as a "messaging" vote.
We found out that the man who tried to pose as a deficit hawk is, in reality, a deficit chicken.
Why would Perdue want to abandon his lofty principles on debt issues? Because he and his Republican colleagues are desperate to pass a tax cut that will primarily benefit wealthy campaign donors.
Billionaires like the Koch brothers have been putting pressure on congressional Republicans to cut their taxes. Perdue is only too happy to comply. After all, he’s also a wealthy man who was once a corporate CEO, even if the company he headed did go into bankruptcy.
As the tax cut bill moves along, you can be sure that Perdue won’t worry about his constituents. He’ll be too busy taking care of his billionaire buddies.
Crawford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.