HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- U.S Rep. Mo Brooks took on a number of issues during his annual Washington update in Huntsville Monday, but he stressed the biggest national security threat the U.S. faces stems from a rising national debt and growing budget deficits.
Brooks also said he was uncertain about what a high-level meeting with North Korea will produce, raised the prospect of Alabama’s agriculture interests being hurt in a trade war and suggested GOP leaders are worried about the midterm elections.
That concern prompted the leadership in Congress and the White House, to push for more federal spending in the recent bipartisan budget deal, Brooks said.
“Unfortunately it seems there’s kind of a panic atmosphere in Washington amongst Republicans in particular where they believe we have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars that we don’t have in order to have a reasonable chance of keeping the House and Senate later this year in the November election,” Brooks said.
The last time there was a new president, the midterm elections went badly for his party in Congress. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats. Brooks is aware of the history.
"The first midterm election of a new president that president’s party loses on average 25 to 30 seats," Brooks said. "Republicans have a 24-seat advantage in the House and now a one seat advantage in the Senate."
Democrats were swamped in 2010. President Obama’s approval rating at this point in 2010 was 49 percent, according to Gallup, President Trump’s is 39 percent in the same poll.
“The Democrats are excited to go vote in numbers much greater than they normally do, by Donald Trump, much like conservatives and Republicans were inspired to go vote in much greater degrees in 2010,” Brooks said.
Brooks said leaders have a few choices to deal with the rising national debt and increased budget deficits: raise taxes, cut spending or spur economic growth, hoping rising revenue will offset the deficits.
He said the Trump administration and congressional Republicans have chosen the “growth” path, which is the basis for last year’s trillion-dollar tax bill.
Brooks said the U.S. gross domestic product is rising, and is near 3 percent. The administration’s models call for 3.5 percent growth. Brooks said economic growth is the strongest it’s been in more than a decade, but he worries about congressional spending.
“Economically, I think we’re looking really good, but financially, we have to exercise much better restraint than we have,” he said.
Brooks was asked about a possible meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. He said he wasn’t sure how things would turn out, but suggested the best case scenario would include denuclearization, a path toward a unified Korea and the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea.
Brooks said the proposed meeting was consistent with President Trump’s approach.
“Remember his campaign promise? And I think you can really take this one to heart,” Brooks said. “He says, ‘Well I don’t want folks to know what I’m going to do, I want to be unpredictable, because that gives me better leverage.’ And he has carried that campaign promise to the max, OK. And so I really don’t know what’s going to come out of that.”
Brooks said he’s undecided on what to think about proposed steel and aluminum tariffs. He said the products are critical for national defense and would help U.S. steel production.
“You have to have aluminum and you have to have steel production if you’re going to have national security,” he said.
Brooks added that tariffs would likely raise costs for other U.S manufacturers who use those products, hurting their competitiveness. And, he worried about a possible trade war hurting Alabama.
“If the people who are the target of these tariffs start engaging in retaliatory tactics, and they start imposing tariffs on American-made products, particularly with respect to the State of Alabama, agriculture,” Brooks said.