The response was as uniform as it was predictable.

When Joe Biden unveiled an audacious $1.9tn coronavirus relief package, Senator Rick Scott of Florida warned: “I think one thing the Biden administration really has to focus on is the risk of what all this debt is going to do to us.”

When the president followed up with $2tn for infrastructure, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, made clear his opposition: “If it’s going to have massive tax increases and trillions more added to the national debt, it’s not likely.”

Republicans are beating the drum of small government and fiscal responsibility. Critics say they are only doing so because Democrats control the purse strings. They argue that past Republican administrations have shown little regard for the spiralling national debt.

The charge of hypocrisy could hamper efforts to stall or pare down Biden’s ambitions. After Donald Trump’s cavalier spending, and tax cuts for the rich, the GOP faces a battle for credibility.

“Republicans spent the better part of the Obama presidency talking about ‘tax and spend liberals’ and ‘living within our means’ and balancing budgets and debt and deficits and then, as soon as they got the reins of power, all of that went out the window and they spent money like drunken sailors,” said Kurt Bardella, a former Republican aide, now a Democrat.

“…They spent it on the rich, on the wealthy, on corporate interests. The hypocrisy of the Republican party when it comes to spending and deficits is just another example of how almost every facet of traditional conservatism has been abandoned during this Trump era … if Donald Trump released the same plan Joe Biden did, they would be all for it.”

Republicans talk a good game on debt but their record tells a different story. Ronald Reagan, worshipped by many as the patron saint of “responsible” spending, left office having almost tripled the national debt and having cut taxes for the rich. George W Bush doubled the debt with military spending after 9/11 – and more tax cuts.

In 2016, Trump promised to eliminate the debt within eight years. It was then about $20tn. By October


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