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GOP Freshmen to Candidates: Focus on the Debt

Poliquin is leading a group of House freshmen calling on the presidential candidates to focus on the national debt. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a weekend Republican presidential debate filled with personal bickering, nearly 30 House GOP freshmen are calling on their party's White House hopefuls to refocus the conversation on the national debt ahead of South Carolina's primary on Saturday.  

In a letter first obtained by Roll Call that will be sent to the presidential candidates Wednesday, the group of first-term members, led by Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin, asks the candidates to publicly commit to supporting a balanced budget amendment. To those who have previously supported such an amendment, the group is asking them to recommit.  

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Caron have all supported a balanced budget amendment.  

"One of the primary threats to our freedoms and way of life is the smothering $19 trillion national debt," the group wrote in its letter. "Washington desperately needs fiscal disciplines not only in Congress but also in the White House."  

The members go on to tout spending restraints pushed by conservatives in the House that they claim have reduced the annual budget deficit by two-thirds over the past four years.  

"We House freshmen are ready to work with all Members of the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, and with our new President to finally put our nation's fiscal house in order," the group wrote. "In addition to the immediate and urgent work needed on our annual budgets, we have concluded the best way to ensure lasting fiscal discipline and economic health of our country is to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. That's why many of us co-sponsored this bill on our second day in the Congress. That's why some of us spoke about this critically important initiative on the House Floor as our first official order of business in Washington."  

A number of the signatories, including Poliquin, have not yet endorsed, according to Roll Call's Endorsement Tracker . They include Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman, Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen, Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk, North Carolina Rep. David Rouzer, Georgia Rep. Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, Illinois Rep. Mike Bost, Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, New York Rep. Dan Donovan, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, Oklahoma Rep. Steve Russell, Iowa Rep. David Young, Louisiana Rep. Ralph Abraham, Iowa Rep. Rod Blum and Texas Rep. Will Hurd.  

Utah Rep. Mia Love and Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood have backed Rubio, while Michigan Reps. Mike Bishop and Dave Trott have endorsed Bush. Texas Reps. Brian Babin and John Ratcliffe have thrown their support behind Cruz. New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who exited the race last week. Arkansas Rep. French Hill backed former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has also quit the race.

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