Spending Proposals in the Second GOP Debate

by Demian Brady, Michael Tasselmyer / /

While the moderators shaped the general course of the discussion of the CNN Republican debate on September 16th, the candidates had several opportunities to plug their talking points, punchlines, and policies. Each candidate got to speak for an average of just over 12 minutes, ranging from 8:29 for Scott Walker to 18:47 for Donald Trump. How did they use their allotted speaking time? NTU Foundation pored over the specifics of the proposals cited by the presidential candidates to calculate the net potential impact on spending.

The Table below summarizes the cost of the policies presented in the debate. The net spending impact ranges from a net savings of $92.6 billion (Senator Ted Cruz) to a spending increase of $71.7 billion (Governor Jeb Bush). The complete analysis of all the policy proposals of the candidates and detailed information regarding the verifiable costs and potential additional impacts on spending is available as a pdf.


Cost of Policy Proposals in the September 16th Republican Debate (Dollar Figures in Billions)

Total Cost per Year# of Increase ProposalsCost per Year of Increase Proposals# of Savings ProposalsCost per Year of Savings Proposals# of Indeterminate Proposals
Jeb Bush$74.122$74.120 2
Ben Carson$3.802$3.800 2
Chris Christie-$5.621$0.601-$6.222
Ted Cruz-$92.632$2.771-$95.402
MikeHuckabee-$19.280 1-$19.281
John Kasich* 0 0  
Rand Paul-$0.080 1-$0.082
Marco Rubio$0.732$0.730 2
Donald Trump-$87.832$7.571-$95.401
Scott Walker-$57.461$37.941-$95.403
Note: Governor Kasich had no quantifiable proposals.
  • Governor Bush’s debate agenda items had the highest total price tag: “comprehensive” immigration reform ($20.2 billion per year*) and “stopping the craziness of the [defense] sequester” ($53.9 billion per year).
  • Three different candidates, including Ted Cruz (who proposed the lowest agenda in the debate), each called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, for an annual savings of $95.4 billion. Scott Walker (who dropped out of the race yesterday) was the only debater who cited a plan to replace it. Walker’s repeal and replace proposal would have reduced spending by a net of $57.5 billion.
  • Carly Fiorina cited the most spending increase proposals, all focused on expanding the military, for a net cost per year of $43.9 billion. She also proposed the highest number of policies whose costs could not be determined, including reforming the Department of Defense, investing in military technology, and upgrading nuclear weapons delivery programs.
  • In total, the candidates cited quantifiable spending increases 16 times compared to seven quantifiable savings.
  • In addition to the three calls to “repeal Obamacare”, other savings items included sentencing reform ($75 million per year, by Fiorina and Rand Paul), means testing for Social Security (a partial savings estimate of $6.2 billion annually, by Chris Christie), and replacing the current Tax Code with the Fair Tax (annual savings of $19.3 billion, by Mike Huckabee). 
  • NTUF was unable to determine the cost for 22 proposals, and Governor John Kasich presented no policy proposals that would impact spending.


A detailed analysis of the complete debate is available here.

* This figure was updated to include additional discretionary spending included in the source of the estimate.