Hardliners in debt talks have debt problems of their own
Utah Sen. Mike Lee
July 28th, 2011
08:29 PM ET
3 years ago

Hardliners in debt talks have debt problems of their own

Washington (CNN) – They’re hard-charging, compromise-damning members of Congress, and they’ve changed the debate in Washington over the size and spending of the government.

In recent days, Republican hard-liners in the debt ceiling talks have been vociferous in their rhetoric.

At a tea party rally, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said his faction needs to push forward a balanced budget amendment and other measures “… in order to save our country from a Congress that for decades has been burying our children and our grandchildren, both born and unborn, under a mountain of debt.”

But according to recently released disclosure forms, Lee and others in his caucus have some significant personal debt of their own.

The documents — annual personal financial disclosure forms that were released in June — show that Lee had amassed at least $15,000 in credit card debt and had a $50,000 line of credit at a Utah bank as of late last year.

He’s not alone. Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas had at least $15,000 of debt accumulated on an American Express card, according to the forms. Griffin, who won his seat with tea party support, has recently said Washington has “a spending addiction.”

Rep. Kevin Yoder, a freshman Republican from Kansas, said in a recent press release, “Washington needs to cut up the credit cards.” But Yoder’s own form shows he amassed at least $15,000 in what’s called a “revolving charge account” with Citigroup.

The forms are not exact. They do not reveal exact amounts of assets or liabilities. They only list ranges; for example, the form for Griffin shows his credit card debt to be between $15,000 and $50,000.

The disclosures, added to the recent language these congressmen have been using to stoke the debate in Washington, have drawn criticism from at least one watchdog group.

Ryan Alexander, president of the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, says, “It raises that question: How are you managing your personal debt? You're telling us how to manage our debt as a country, you're making ultimatums, and we don't know what you're doing with your personal debt. And they're holding credit card debt. Not every American does that. That's a choice that you made, to put that kind of debt on your own personal finances.”

CNN contacted the offices of Griffin and Yoder for comment. They didn’t respond. An aide to Lee said the senator could not do an interview with CNN, but the aide did push back hard on the criticism.

“Senator Lee's personal finances are in order. Like many Americans who are not independently wealthy, Senator Lee is managing his debt responsibly,” said spokesman Brian Phillips.

Separately, Phillips told CNN he thought the criticism of Lee was “crackpot.” He said given that the senator is managing his debt responsibly and there is no evidence of financial impropriety, who are the critics to question his role in the budget debate.

Then there’s the case of freshman Rep. Joe Walsh, Republican from Illinois. Walsh is another tea party favorite who has pushed for a tougher line with Democrats in negotiations.

This week Walsh told CNN, “Thank God congressmen like me were here. Imagine - step back and imagine - if Republicans hadn’t taken over Congress, this city would have raised the debt limit who knows how much.”

But Walsh’s ex-wife Laura Walsh says he needs to pay up on a big debt: $117,437 in child support. That figure is part of a lawsuit against Walsh she filed.

CNN could not reach Walsh’s attorney, R. Steven Polachek, for comment. But Polachek told the Chicago Sun-Times the claim of a $117,437 debt is “unfounded”: “I dispute that he owes the child support that she’s claiming or anywhere near that amount.”

Contacted by CNN, Walsh issued a statement saying in part: “It is not lost on me that a court case filed almost 8 months ago regarding a marriage that ended more than 8 years ago would be brought up today … I’ve always given everything I have to meet my financial obligations to my children and I will fight until my last breath against anyone who says otherwise … These latest attacks against me are false and I will fight them in the appropriate venue.”

The attorney for Laura Walsh told CNN that Walsh has not paid any child support since 2008.

In an interview with CNN, Walsh admitted that he had struggled financially and had lost a home. “Look, I’m the most openly vetted candidate in the world. I have had financial troubles and I have talked about them throughout the campaign,” he said, “This is where the real America is.”


Filed under: Congress • Debt • Deficit • Tea Party movement
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Jeetu

    How can these politicians hold Americans hostage and not increase the debt ceiling when their own loans are there? How can they ask for balanced budget amendment when they themselves don't live within their means? This makes me believe that these republicans are hypocrites and don't care for the Americans. They are just in DC for their own benefit and those of their richest friends. I do not know why ordinary people vote for them.

    I would like a different type of a constitutional amendment: one that can recall elective politicians immediately and also term limits on their re-elections (I am willing to consider 4-year staggered term for a representative). This will take care of many problems in DC and perhaps even lower the costs.

    July 28, 2011 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  2. Mikey

    ...and these are the guys who are lecturing other about personal responsibility. What a joke. We've all seen the losers who want blame their own failings on others (immigrants, welfare recipients, afirmative action), so they to have to acknowledge their own respoinsiblity for their lot in life. Their reaction is to be angry, bitter, and hateful.

    July 28, 2011 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  3. zazu

    It is always the new converts who are more conservative than the Pope! one can never go with calling them a "Hypocrite! Like Jesus did to the conservatives of his day.

    July 28, 2011 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  4. Kevin Cantu

    .......That's all I'll say on this...........

    July 28, 2011 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  5. Silence Dogood

    I'll admit this could have been a little more nuanced article had the debts of the Dems been disclosed. That being said, it is not surprising that those who shout the loudest against something actually deeply harbor the same problem. Those that decry gays are closet gay themselves, those that espouse family values are not only out of wedlock themselves but their children also have out of wedlock kids, and those that push for fiscal responsibility can't control their own expenses. That is a problem with conservatives, that they are so against everything they have no standing except to exclaim, "I have sinned!"

    July 28, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  6. fayse

    Sorry, I did not have the opportunity to finish my statement. The bottom line is that the GOP is past history.. They a re "spinning" as fast as they can but the truth will always win in the end. John Boehner cannot lead the House. Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi but, she had control of the House. We are now seeing the results of the 2010 eledtions. And, it has poven to be a catatstrophe. The Tea Party does not represent the majority of all Americans. The number one priority of the GOP has been and will always be to discredit this President. I can say this, if this President goes down then each and every one in the House, the Senate, Local and State wide. We need to vote out all incumbents. There is no reason that any elected official should ride the gravy train in office for 20 to 30 years. Not one of the GOP candidates that are out there are up to the task. This is truly a mess. and whom do you think will pay the price? We, the American middle class. Vote them all out in 2012.

    July 28, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  7. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE – The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    It might come as a big surprise to libtards that have no assets other than the computer in their mother's basement, many people have debt AND assets. Generally people borrow money because people will lend to them because they are good for it. Debt in and of itself in not necessarily bad.

    Now let's talk about having $15 TRILLION in debt while lining up another $15 TRILLION over the next ten years while we have another $48 TRILLION in unfunded liablities. So the question becomes "Are the next 5 generations of Americans good for all this money?" Totally immoral!

    July 28, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  8. Jim

    The pot calling the kettle black

    July 28, 2011 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  9. nintex

    Hmmmm. . . . .they're not as perfect as they would like us to think they are. It's just not right that these hypocrites preach to the rest of the country about fiscal responsibility, and then we come to find out about their own fiscal responsibility. I guess they think they're better than the rest of us. Can't wait for the next election!

    July 28, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  10. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I know that the House is to be representative of the country, but this isn't a good way. If a member of the House owes money for child support or alimony, then it should be investigated by the Ethics Committee. If it is found to be true, then the paycheck should be garnished.

    July 28, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  11. Name king

    These repugs are off their rocker, these low taxes are eating up the budget way worst than spending is. Yet these repugs keep spitting those lies that the debt is caused by spending alone. We've got the lowest taxes in history and it is killing us. These repugs lies that low taxes doesn't cost us money. They've fought 2 wars, Medicare part D, tarp, the bush tax cuts, yet the these repugs are blocking every attempt to raise revenue to pay down on this debt. We could kick every old, handicap, student, poor On the street and we still couldn't, pay for all the the debt any time soon. All we would do is is decrease demand and have a lot of middle class people out of of a job. We need to raise taxes and stop lessoning to these right wing lunatic who have one objective, which is to send this country into a crisis again.

    July 28, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    What a ridiculous side story and back-handed attack on people that truly have the best interests of this country at heart. This country cannot survive without serious efforts at reducing spending and the national debt going forward. Boehner's plan stinks because it does absolutely nothing worth while, other than raising the debt ceiling, if you think that's worth while. These Republicans are true patriots for demanding that we do better – to have a plan that works. Raising taxes is generally a bad idea – increasing spending and the debt is a very bad idea.

    July 28, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  13. she

    More to the point is whether these members of congress with debt are in good standing, or are they late payers struggling to pay off their debt? My guess is they make plenty of money to comfortably manage their debt, and that the lenders are more than happy to extend higher limits to someone employed in congress.

    Hardly takes an economics major to figure that out...

    July 28, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  14. lstro

    Not surprised at all. The Tea Party is full of a bunch of PHONIES. Let us not forget about Sharron Angle, Joe Wilson, Christine O'Donnell or Shara Palin for that matter, all of whom are/were Tea Party favorites.

    July 28, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  15. Jon

    I'm not exactly a fan of these debt hawks, but I must say that this is a silly article. A $15,000 balance on a credit card for a congressperson who makes $174,000/year is not a big debt. That's less than 1 month of their salary. Most people are in debt (because of their mortgage), so you could write this same article about essentially any member of Congress or for that member almost any American.

    July 28, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  16. AC

    Don't break. Don't let the country club republicans and communist democrats sell this nation out to the globalists and banking cartels. Stick to your guns guys, and don't let the smear campaign against you scare you.

    July 28, 2011 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  17. tim utz, minnesota

    Ron Paul is in fact the leader in the hard line U.S House against raising the debt, try reviewing his finances,then you would be forced to change the article to. "no debt increase leader in House has his house in order"

    July 28, 2011 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  18. Coloradan

    Extremist Republicans preaching about behavior that they themselves are engaged in??? Nahh, could never happen.

    July 28, 2011 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  19. Greg Gilbert

    What the hell does child support have to do with this? No of them can balance the budget that they are paid to do, that's what is important.

    July 28, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  20. Publician

    I've had it with the diatribes and rhetoric from both sides. The lies and propaganda are ridiculous and they are contagious. American citizens refuse to do their own research. They just repeat the same buzz phrases over and over calling each other stupid. The worst of them are the extreme conservative groups. It's a shame too, since the ideas at the core of this group of idiots has real merit. Telling the truth and using real reasoning apparently isn't good politics.

    July 28, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  21. jon

    How do these people get elected?

    July 28, 2011 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  22. sara

    Deadbeats telling America how to get it's house in order? It's scandalous for Walsh to be sitting in Congress and NOT paying for his own child. A company wouldn't hire ordinary people with this kind of default. If he defaulted on his own child, what the heck would he care about the country defaulting. Get real.

    July 28, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  23. Jeff

    How typical, do as I say, not as I do. Hold the country hostage while trying to make names from themselves. Hypocrites of the worse kind.

    July 28, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  24. Mike

    Republicans always think they are so virtuous and preach till it comes to them walking the walk on what they talk.....

    July 28, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  25. Sean

    Who's at fault? Americans... didn't we vote heavily for Republicans in the house, and maintain Democrats in the Senate, because we think the Democrats got us into this deep... pit? Sure, Americans' memories are so short... who is actually responsible for this crisis we see right now... and who is actually doing the political trick today. Sure, Democrats are playing tricks... but Republicans have ruled us for years.....

    July 28, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
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