Newly elected Rep. Randy Feenstra says that he’ll be among the fiercest deficit hawks in the new Congress, aiming to institute a 99% spending limit, among other measures, to force the government to balance its books.
Feenstra, a Republican from Iowa, leans on his time in the Iowa state legislature, where he touts success with similar efforts for putting the state in a position to successfully deal with crises.
“In the last 12 years I’ve been a state senator, we’ve done so many great things. And the one thing that we did is figure out a way, how you balance your budget?” Feenstra said in an interview with Fox News. “We had to make some very difficult decisions when it came to infrastructure, when it came to what gets funded. But collectively, we came to a balanced budget and we passed the 99% spending limit for our state so we can only spend 99% of what came in.”
Iowa’s fiscal prudence, Feenstra said, helped it “get through things like the COVID virus and through a drought. And we had a big [wind storm] that came through.”
Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, told Fox News he wants to balance the federal budget, a goal that would be at odds with Republicans’ approach to spending for much of the Trump administration.
But spending cuts aren’t the only way Feenstra believes the U.S. can deal with its debt and deficit.
“We also lowered taxes. I was the author and wrote the largest income tax reduction in state history, being chair of Ways and Means. And what that did is, we specifically looked at individual income tax, and when you cut income tax, it dramatically grew our state. Our economy just took off,” Feenstra said. “And that put us in, right now we have over a billion dollars in cash reserves because the economy just took off in the state of Iowa… That is something I continue to look at, is how you can grow your economy. Because when it comes to debt, there’s two ways you can do it. You can either cut or you can grow the economy.”
Feenstra isn’t alone among Republicans concerned about the deficit and debt, the latter of which is more than $27.5 trillion. Following four years under President Trump in which the U.S. added more to the national debt than it did under former President Barack Obama — a trend that was vastly accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic — there are signs the GOP might be moving to turn off the spending spigot.
Republicans all summer and fall blocked Democrats’ requests for a coronavirus stimulus package totaling trillions of dollars. And even after Trump requested $2,000 stimulus checks in late December — after complaining about the fact the stimulus checks Congress finally passed were only $600 — top GOP senators blocked a bill to do just that. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the checks “socialism for rich people.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republican Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told The Hill in November that that cutting spending is “kind of getting back to our DNA… I would expect you’ll hear a lot more about that.” He also warned that he hopes the next president realizes “how serious the debt crisis is and how important it is that we put measures in place to address it.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, renewed a GOP push for entitlement reform in the second half of 2020. And a bevy of other Republicans, both veteran lawmakers and incoming freshmen, have emphasized their desire to cut spending and the deficit.
“We are in a very tumultuous situation in our in our nation with $26.8 trillion of debt,” Feenstra told Fox News. “The federal government right now, we’re having big things that have occurred over the last 10 or 15 years. And you can’t continue to go in debt. So one of my top priorities is balancing the budget, trying to create a means to get down that path.
“When it comes to spending, I think everything has to be looked at and evaluated on the facts and data,” Feenstra continued. “What we have to do is come up with plans that we can start figuring out a way over the next three to five years to a balanced budget and then have a 99% spending limit where our nation spends 99% of what it takes in.”
Feenstra added that cutting other programs would help “get us to a strong footing for things like Social Security and Medicare, because if you don’t, we’re on a catastrophic plan over the next five years.”
The freshman representative, however, will be in the minority in the House for at least the next two years. And President-elect Joe Biden has broad and expensive spending plans that would increase the deficit. It will be hard to get any GOP-supported plans, especially those cutting spending, past Democrats.
But Feenstra says he plans to work across party lines to get as much done as he can, especially on economic issues.
“I’ve been in the Iowa Senate. I was in the minority and the majority. And you have to work together on issues like agriculture, on issues like business,” he said. “If we truly believe in our nation and our states, then we have to figure out ways to grow the economy.”
Feenstra, notably, is the Republican who beat former Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in a primary. King had a history of racist comments that led House leadership to strip him of his committee assignments. Feenstra told Fox News that he’s excited to give his district more of a voice in Congress, particularly on the House Agriculture Committee.
“It comes back to delivering results,” Feenstra said when asked why he ran against King. “It’s just critical for us to have a voice.
“We absolutely in Iowa need a voice on the Ag committee,” Feenstra said. “It’s the driving factor of our state and we need to have a voice. And it comes from the voices for the producers that grow the corn or the soybeans, grow the grains or feed the cattle and hogs.”
Feenstra added: “My district is the No. 1 ethanol producer in the country. So being on the Ag committee, those things are twofold.”