Deficit Hawk Bob Corker? Actually, Not So Much

Larry Hart


In his statement today, Senator Bob Corker said this: “My concern about the impact a rapidly growing $20 trillion national debt will have on our children and grandchildren has been a guiding principle throughout my time in public service and during my 10 years and 11 months in the Senate, I have consistently fought for fiscal discipline in Washington.” Really? Let’s look at the record:

A look at Corker’s overall rating with the American Conservative Union from 2007-2016 shows he has been consistently inconsistent on the wide variety of issues ACU covers. For his first term, from 2007-2012, Corker averaged an 86.5 percent rating, a good if not spectacular conservative number. Safely reelected in 2012, Corker’s numbers dropped precipitously to average 71 (out of 100) from 2013-2016. In fact, in one year, Corker’s rating dropped from 92 percent in 2012 (the year of his reelection) to 64 percent in 2013.
However, those numbers don’t tell the real story. Time and again, this self-styled “fiscal hawk” voted to either increase the deficit or oppose efforts to reduce it. Taking a look at just the select votes included in the ACU annual ratings of Congress can be quite revealing:

·  In 2008, Corker voted to override President Bush’s veto of the farm bill that made reforms to crop subsidies that would have helped reduce the deficit, then later that year voted for the bank bailout bill that gave sole authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to disburse $700 billion “without restriction,” while 25 of his colleagues refused to support this fiscally irresponsible bill.

·In 2009, Corker voted to provide an additional $2 billion to extend the “Cash for Clunkers” program that wasted the taxpayers’ money on buying people’s old cars.

·In 2013, Corker voted for the Water Resources Development Act that included billions of dollars for projects that have nothing to do with infrastructure. The bill also increased the deficit by prohibiting Congress from considering any bill that lowers the funding levels from the previous year, locking in spending increases.

·In 2015, Corker cast one of the deciding votes for an amendment sponsored by Tim Kaine, soon to be the Democrats’ Vice Presidential nominee, to increase the deficit by busting the budget caps. It passed 51-49. That same year, Corker voted against reducing the deficit by opposing a Jeff Flake amendment to eliminate Trade Adjustment Assistance program that duplicates numerous federal job training programs and voted to increase the deficit again by voting for the Omnibus appropriations bill that busted the budget caps by $50 billion.

·In 2016, Corker once again voted against reducing the deficit by opposing an amendment by Senator Joni Ernst to eliminate wasteful and outdated agencies and commissions.

Over time, Corker’s constituents realized their senator was not the conservative champion they had elected and we believe that had he run for re-election in 2018, he would have faced a serious primary threat.


Larry Hart is a Senior Fellow with the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Government Reform.