Fiscal conservatives had some big wins last Tuesday, but their post-election statements indicate that they might not mean what they say.
For example, Pat Toomey refused to take on the issue of the debt limit during an interview on MSNBC.
“Let's see the context that we're that in at the time the vote comes,” he told MSNBC host Chuck Todd. “We have to look at all these pieces when we approach this question.”
Todd persisted. “So you don’t rule out having to raise the debt ceiling if you absolutely have to?”
"I want to see where we are when the vote comes, and what the context is, and what we've been able to -- what kind of progress we've made on the budget,” Tommey responded. “Let's look at where we are then."
In Toomey’s defense, raising the debt limit is an issue on which he's darned-if-he-does, and darned-if-he-don't. If he does raise the limit, it’s a tacit indication that he has sanctioned higher debt levels. If he doesn’t, the U.S. is at risk of defaulting on its loans, with serious fiscal consequences.
Toomey was the former president of the Club for Growth, so it’s hard to doubt his fiscal credentials. But it’s worth keeping a close eye on him during the first 100 days. He understands that voters will only endorse the GOP as long as they live up to their expectations.
“I do think that many voters still remember being disappointed by Republican majorities,” said Toomey on CNN’s State of the Union. “And I think this has not been a huge embrace of the Republican Party or the Republican brand.”
Rand Paul, on the other hand, has barreled out of the gate with the same kind of electric rhetoric that earned him early popularity during his campaign. During his November 4 interview with CNN host Wolf Blitzer, Senator-elect Rand Paul was questioned as to why he wouldn’t support the extension of the Bush tax cuts for only those Americans who make under $250,000.
“You remember a few years ago, when they tried to tax the yachts, that didn’t work,” he said. “You know who lost their jobs? The people making the boats, the guys making fifty and sixty thousand dollars a year lost their jobs.”
“We all either work for rich people or we sell stuff to rich people,” he continued. “So just punishing rich people is as bad for the economy as punishing anyone. Let’s not punish anyone. Let’s keep taxes low and let’s cut spending."
Not so fast, though. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough asked Paul on Wednesday just how willing he was to take on the “Republican bulls” in the Senate, who might want to resort to establishment politics.
"You think they're going to listen to me, Joe?" Paul replied.
Marco Rubio’s attitude is just as difficult to discern. Shortly after he was elected, Rubio affirmed his commitment to serving under GOP-establishment minority leader Mitch McConnell, after initially receiving support from conservative hard-liner Sen. Jim DeMint. McConnell rewarded Rubio with the first post-election weekly address, during which he recognized that this new GOP congress had a lot to live up to.
"Hold us accountable to the ideas and principles we campaigned on," said Rubio. "This is our second chance to get this right."