An overwhelming majority of speech-viewers liked President Donald Trump's speech before Congress Tuesday night, but conservative radio host Laura Ingraham is pressing Vice President Mike Pence on how all the proposals will be paid for.
Ingraham, a staunch Trump supporter, asked Pence: "Have you gone from a deficit hawk to a deficit dove?"
The question from the radio host followed Trump's proposed increase in military spending — cutting funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and lifting Obama-era military budget caps put in place as part of the 2013 sequester — and his $1 trillion infrastructure project, which the president presented during his joint address.
Here's what Ingraham told Pence, who was a congressman before he became Indiana governor and, ultimately, vice president:
Back in 2010, you were described by many — including me — as a deficit hawk, that the way you saw government was that it was one of our sacred responsibilities not to pile future debt and big deficits on future generations.
And yet, in this budget that we're looking at — at least the outlines of it, the priorities the president struck last night — it's not clear how we're going to be trimming this deficit after we've had some success in doing so with these sequester cuts in previous years.
The vice president, however, told Ingraham he has not backed away from his "deficit hawk" positions. "Not in the least," he assured the radio host.
"Let me say the president's full budget will be out in a few weeks," he continued. "The budget outline that was sent to Capitol Hill earlier this week is deficit-neutral."
Pence went on to tell Ingraham that the U.S. "desperately" needs to increase military spending and echoed Trump's belief that economic growth will reduce deficits and the national debt, which is quickly approaching $20 trillion.
"So is that how you'll pay for this? You're going to pay for this additional spending, you think, through the additional tax revenues that are coming in?" Ingraham asked. "Because, again, I'm trying to make sure that the Republicans don't get themselves in that bind that they got themselves in, and you were there, Vice President Pence, in 2006."
Ingraham was referring to then-Rep. Pence's criticism of the Bush administration's increased spending. During his 2006 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Pence said the Republican Party had drifted "off course."
"We are in danger of becoming the party of big government," he said at the time. "For the sake of our party, for the sake of the nation, we must say here and now, to all who would lead us in this new century, 'The era of big Republican government is over.'"
Ingraham told the vice president that the GOP lost both the 2006 midterm elections and the 2008 presidential election because "we lost our credibility on being deficit hawks and being really smart with money."
Pence reassured Ingraham, telling her that Trump has instructed Congress to "sharpen their pencils" to make sure the government "find[s] our savings." He continued:
"Ultimately, I truly do believe that meeting the obligations of today, dealing with that mountain range of debt, is all dependent on getting this economy moving again and the president's vision for rolling back excessive red tape and regulation, which he's already been implementing, cutting taxes, having smarter and tougher trade deals and making the kinds of investments in infrastructure that will support jobs."
Pence insisted that the president's budget will be "fiscally responsible" and said all military spending increases will be "offset by domestic cuts," though he didn't offer many specifics.
Regardless, it will likely take some convincing to get Republicans on board with a $1 trillion infrastructure program. Last September, when The Atlantic's Ronald Brownstein asked House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) if he'd be willing to help Trump pass "a $550 billion, or more, infrastructure program," the leading GOP lawmaker laughed loudly before saying such an initiative is "not in" the GOP's agenda.
It is worth noting the irony in Ingraham's conversation with Pence about debt, given her news site, LifeZette, was just sued by The Associated Press for about $50,000 after a check from the media outlet, meant to cover unpaid licensing fees and lost revenue, bounced, according to BuzzFeed News, indicating that Ingraham's website is likely operating with a deficit.
In the AP's complaint, which was filed last Friday in the District of Columbia Superior Court, the news wire claims LifeZette, in July 2015, entered into a year-long licensing agreement to use AP content for $4,200 per month. The AP said it suspended the conservative website's account in February 2016 because of nonpayment.