As US budget fight looms, Republicans flip their fiscal scrip

WASHINGTON: The head of a conservative Republican faction in the US Congress, who voted last month for a huge expansion of the national debt to pay for tax cuts, called himself a "fiscal conservative" on Sunday and urged budget restraint this year.

In keeping with a sharp pivot under way among Republicans, US Representative Mark Meadows, speaking on CBS' Face The Nation, drew a hard line on federal spending, which lawmakers are bracing to do battle over this month.

When they return from the holidays tomorrow, lawmakers will begin trying to pass a federal budget in a fight likely to be linked to other issues, such as immigration policy, even as the November congressional election campaigns approach, in which Republicans will seek to keep control of Congress.

US President Donald Trump and his Republicans want a big budget increase in military spending, while Democrats also want proportional increases for non-defence "discretionary" spending on programmes that support education, scientific research, infrastructure, public health and environmental protection.

"The (Trump) administration has already been willing to say: 'We are going to increase non-defence discretionary spending... by about 7 per cent,'" Mr Meadows, chairman of the small but influential House Freedom Caucus, said on the programme.

"Now, Democrats are saying that is not enough, we need to give the government a pay rise of 10 to 11 per cent. For a fiscal conservative, I do not see where the rationale is... Eventually you run out of other people's money." - REUTERS