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Fighting Our Debt in the Next Congress

Nov 16, 2012 | Blog

This week, my Senate colleagues and I voted on several measures to be included in our Senate Republican platform for the next Congress.  I was proud to support each of the following measures that aim to make our federal government more accountable, transparent and fiscally responsible:

Balanced Budget Amendment

A Balanced Budget Amendment would require the President to submit an annual budget in which total federal spending does not exceed total federal revenue. I believe Washington should play by the same rules that most American families live by, living within their means and not running up dangerously high debt that threatens our children’s futures.  In this last Congress, I was proud to co-sponsor a strong balanced budget amendment and vote for it during the course of our debt ceiling debate in 2011.  I will continue to be a supporter in the 113th Congress.

Surplus Member Office Allocations

Just as the federal government must learn to live within its means, so too must individual Senate offices. Each senator receives an appropriation of federal funds to be spent on daily operations, staff salaries and various office expenditures. Since assuming office, we’ve strived to operate a productive and fiscally responsible office that leads by example, resulting in a budget surplus of at least 10% in both FY2011 and FY2012. Unfortunately, these returned funds do not go towards paying down the debt as other colleagues and I wish.  Instead, they go back in a pool of money that is spent elsewhere. In every aspect of our government, not just our offices, we need to end this perverse incentive to spend taxpayer money that is not needed.  It’s why in the next Congress, I will re-introduce the REFUND Act to allow states to decline unnecessary federal funds and use that money to pay down the debt.  Similarly, I joined my Republican colleagues in supporting a change that will allow surplus office funds to be used to pay down the national debt.

Earmark Ban

As I did two years ago, I joined my colleagues in adopting a moratorium on earmarks. In the past, we’ve seen earmarks used to slip in wasteful spending projects to larger bills with no scrutiny.  During my first two years in the Senate, I am proud to have requested zero earmarks and hope our Senate Democrat colleagues will follow suit as they did two years ago in making the Senate an earmark-free zone.

Ban on New Entitlement Spending Programs

The biggest drivers of our debt today and in the long run are our entitlement programs.  As Americans, we should be proud of the safety net we’ve established for our people through vital programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicare, among other programs that take care of our seniors, our disabled and others who have fallen and need help getting back up.  Unfortunately, these programs are heading towards bankruptcy unless there is a real effort to save them.  We need to save necessary programs like Medicare and Social Security that have helped Americans like my mother in their retirement, while ensuring they exist for future generations.  The last thing we need are new entitlement programs that will further strain our ability to pay for them.  For this reason, I support a ban on any new entitlement or mandatory spending programs during the 113th Congress. By preventing any new entitlement programs from being enacted, Senate Republicans will be able to dedicate ourselves to reform existing entitlements and restore fiscal sanity to Washington.

Non-Defense Discretionary Spending Cap

Federal spending has grown at unsustainable levels under President Obama, including a 16.73 percent increase in non-defense related discretionary spending between FY 2008-2012. This increase has led to record-setting deficits that are threatening the long-term economic strength of our nation. To counter this, I joined my colleagues this week in supporting a reduction of non-defense discretionary spending to FY 2008 levels, adjusted for inflation, and capped at those levels for the remainder of the fiscal year.