Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton Voted For More Federal Spending Than Bernie Sanders Last Congress, Data Show

The nationalist Right would have you believe that Republican senators like Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton are the future of American conservatism. But their actual voting records more closely resemble Bernie Sanders than Ronald Reagan, according to spending data.

We looked at data from for the last session of Congress, which ran from 2019 to 2021 while President Trump was in office, to see how the nationalist senators’ voting record stacks up with their peers. We counted all the spending they voted for, not just bills that ultimately were passed, because SpendingTracker says this gives a “fuller picture of intentions versus results.” (Although looking at just the passed bills doesn’t change the result, in this case).

The findings? Hawley and Cotton voted for more total federal government spending than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren!

Per SpendingTracker, Hawley voted for a whopping $3.6 trillion in spending, while Cotton one-upped him, with $3.7 trillion in federal spending getting his approval. That puts them at the high end of the GOP rankings. For context, fiscally-conservative Republican senator Rand Paul voted for just $510.7 billion, while Mike Lee voted for only $1.06 trillion.

“During the Trump years, there were many Republicans who never saw a spending bill they didn’t like,” creator Jonathan Bydlak said when BASEDPolitics asked him about these findings. “We shouldn’t forget about the impact of those votes. It’s those votes that paved the way for the government to expand and the national debt to balloon as we’re seeing now.”

Yet Hawley and Cotton aren’t just big spenders compared to their peers in the GOP—they’re even more profligate than some of the Democratic Party’s biggest spenders. Last Congress, Warren and Sanders—two of the furthest-left members of Congress—voted for just $2.9 trillion in spending. (Sanders is a registered independent but caucuses with Democrats).

So, the data show that Hawley and Cotton’s brand of “nationalist” conservatism has more in common with the politics of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders than the GOP’s traditional fiscally conservative principles. If you want Big Government, a cash-flush federal bureaucracy, a runaway national debt, and high taxes, forget the Democrats: Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton are the guys for you.

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


  1. Excellent column here Brad. I strongly concur with the points you made. Hearing a lot of these so-called “common good conservatives, “common good originalists”, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish their rhetoric from the hard progressive left. Therefore, the fact that Hawley and Cotton spent more than Bernie Sanders is not really all that surprising. Still it is disappointing to see many in the conservative movement embrace right wing populist nationalism in increasing numbers. The GOP certainly has had a flawed record when it comes to fiscal conservatism over the past couple of decades or so. But prior to about 5 or so years ago, at least they would try to some extent, even if a bit half-hearted. But the past few years have seen many Republicans that not only don’t give a crap about spending, but as you noted in you column here, would engage in a spending pissing contest with far left progressives in the Dem party. President Reagan mentioned that the heart of conservatism is libertarianism. As a libertarian leaning conservative, I’ll say that people of good faith can reasonably disagree as to what degree of libertarianism is prudent and sound. But I think you and I can agree that we definitely NEED more libertarianism in the conservative movement and the GOP!


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