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 SpendingTracker.org 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,” SpendingTracker.org 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.