Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., says Congress should be cutting spending as it passes bills to help Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from hurricane damage.
"Congress should pay for these emergency packages by cutting spending in other areas that are less of a priority," Walker wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. "Hurricane aid shouldn't be added to the debt."
Congress has been doing exactly that as it reacts to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. The House on Thursday was set to pass a bill offering another $36.5 billion in aid, and tens of billions more are expected to be approved in the months ahead.
Walker, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, said that ideally, the government should run a surplus and save up billions for future disasters. Barring that, there are other more fiscally responsible steps Congress could take instead of adding to the nation's $20 trillion debt.
"Emergency spending can be offset in many ways," he said. "Lawmakers could pass a one-time bill rescinding old funds that have been appropriated but not yet obligated."
"Congress could pass reforms that trim spending over time while still improving government programs, such as putting work requirements on food stamps to save $19 billion over 10 years," he added.
Republicans have been criticized for looking for spending offsets when billions were appropriated to deal with Hurricane Sandy a decade ago. But Walker said that kind of restraint is needed even more today.
"Just because Republicans control the White House and Congress does not mean the national debt can be forgotten," he wrote. "Political expediency should not trump principle."