With federal budget deficits in the news, Tea Party activist and Republican Senate candidate Jamie Radtke has been painting primary opponent George Allen as a spendthrift.
Allen spent one term in the Senate before being defeated by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb in 2006, who will not seek reelection next year. After Congress reached a late-night budget agreement April 8, avoiding a government shutdown, Radtke and Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate, called on Allen to state how he would have voted on the deal. Kaine said he favored the agreement; Radtke said she would have voted against it.
On April 12, Allen said he would have "reluctantly voted for this small effort to reduce spending increases in order avoid a government shutdown."
Hours after he made the statement, Radtke pounced.
"He reluctantly voted yes to add $3 trillion to the debt, he reluctantly voted yes on the federal takeover of education called No Child Left Behind, he reluctantly voted yes to increase the debt ceiling four times, he reluctantly went along with the rest of the D.C. establishment as the federal debt went up $16,000 every second he was in office."
We aren’t mind readers, so we can’t look back and determine Allen’s reluctance at any given moment. But we can tell you whether Allen really did make those votes, as Radtke claims.
Let’s start with the claims on debt. The statements -- that the nation added $3 trillion in debt, or $16,000 for every second of Allen’s six-year term -- are identical to charges Radtke made in January.
Though Radtke’s math was off a touch when she made the original claims, we found she actually underestimated the debt added by the budgets approved by Allen and other members of Congress during his tenure.
Under the budgets approved during Allen’s term, debt climbed by $3.202 trillion. Congress sets budgets through a series of appropriations bills, and Allen supported all of the roughly four dozen bills to hit the Senate floor during his term.
Allen served 2,193 days in the Senate, or 189,475,200 seconds.
He voted for budgets that increased the debt by $16,896.68 per second. That’s almost $497 a second more than Radtke credited to Allen. But consider this: The debt has risen by $51,856.89 a second since he left office.
So Radtke’s right about the total debt. What about the debt ceiling, the limit on U.S. federal borrowing that is set by Congress?
Chuck Hansen, Radtke’s director of communications, pointed us to four votes, which occurred in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.
On each occasion, according to Senate records of the votes, Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling. Virginia’s senior Senator at the time, Republican John Warner, also voted for three of the bills. Warner voted "Nay" in 2002 along with 14 other Republicans and 14 Democrats.
So this part of Radtke’s statement also is valid.
Let’s move to our final check: that Allen supported No Child Left Behind, former President George W. Bush’s program into install education standards in public schools across the nation.
Sure enough, Allen voted for it. The legislation swept through the Senate on a bipartisan 85-10 vote. Radtke’s right again.
Let’s tally all the votes together.
Radtke said debt increased by $3 trillion during Allen’s Senate term, a figure equal to $16,000 per second. The actual figures were $3.202 trillion, or $16,896.68 per second.
She also said Allen voted to increase the debt ceiling four times, and she’s right. John Warner voted with Allen three of those times, and most of Virginia’s House Republicans supported the the increases as well. Finally, Radtke is correct in noting that Allen supported the No Child Left Behind Act. Eighty-four other senators backed the bipartisan bill.
We rate Radtke’s statement True.
Radtke for Senate, "Reluctant George" Allen, April 12, 2011.
U.S. Senate, Roll call vote on H.R. 1, No Child Left Behind Act, Dec. 18, 2001.
U.S. Senate, Roll call vote on S. 2578, June 11, 2002.
U.S. Senate, Roll call vote on H.J. 51, May 23, 2003.
U.S. Senate, Roll call vote on S. 2986, Nov. 17, 2004.
U.S. House of Representatives, Roll call vote on S. 2986, Nov. 18, 2004.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Senate candidates show differences on fiscal issues, April 13, 2011.
U.S. Senate, Roll call vote on H.J. 47, March 16, 2006.
PolitiFact Virginia, Jamie Radtke says debt grew by $16,000 every second of George Allen’s Senate term, Jan. 23, 2011.
NCLB U.S. Senate, Roll call vote on S. 2578, June 11, 2002.
E-mail interview with Chuck Hansen, director of communications, Radtke for Senate, April 13, 2011.
Interview with Katie Wright, director of communications, George Allen for Senate, April 14, 2011.
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