Thank you Mr. Chairman. Americans are tired of the habitual promises Congress makes to fix our annual deficits and growing national debt. This conference committee is yet another one of those promises. It was part of a promise that if members supported more borrowing then we would talk about how to control spending. Now what are we hearing about this committee from the Senate majority and its leadership? The same thing. ‘Let’s raise spending limits – let us spend more – and then we’ll talk about it later.’ I’ll tell you from the start, that was not good enough for me before and it’s not good enough for me now. If we work together we can control spending without a “make it hurt” mentality, but if we don’t, we’re all in for real hurt.
It’s time to move forward. We’re here now, today, so let’s do something. Our goal during this conference should be to find common ground on solutions that address our country’s annual deficits and $17 trillion-and-growing debt.
We shouldn’t be in the situation we are in, and the government should not have shut down. In the Senate, the majority could have brought up the appropriations bills on the Senate floor earlier this year – one per week, and we would have had the time to fully debate the measures, offer amendments, and improve the bills. No one senator or one party has a monopoly on good ideas. Instead of identifying all of those good ideas, we got another deal that raised the debt limit and did nothing to address the underlying spending problem. We’ve got to start legislating and stop deal-making. I hope we can at least make a small move in that direction with this conference committee.
I’ve got several ideas for how to keep us out of the situation we were just in and make reasonable, but real, progress on our deficits and debt. I have a penny plan, an idea on biennial budgeting, some relevant amendments for spending bills, end the shutdown bill, and forced prioritization and tax reform. We should consider my penny plan, which cuts overall spending by 1 percent for two years and balances the budget so that we don’t have to raise the debt ceiling. We’ve got to stop spending more than we take in and find a way to start paying down the $17 trillion – and growing – debt. The penny plan doesn’t mandate any specific cuts. Congress would have the authority to make targeted cuts and focus on the worst first, but would be required to meet the 1 percent overall cut. Everything would be on the table. And I would argue that we should focus on identifying and eliminating all of the wasteful spending that occurs in Washington before we look to other important programs and services. Let’s not make the cuts hurt – let’s be smart about the spending cuts and prioritize how we spend taxpayers’ dollars.
My biennial appropriations bill would allow for each of the appropriation bills to be taken up over a 2-year period, with the more controversial bills taken up in a non-election year and the less controversial bills taken up in an election year. The defense appropriations bill would be taken up each year. This would allow us to get into the spending details more and eliminate duplication and waste. Let’s stop making the spending cuts hurt, like the Administration wants to do with sequestration. Let’s get rid of what we really don’t need and start living within our means.
Finally, I want to thank my colleague, Senator Portman, for his leadership on the End Government Shutdowns Act. I am a cosponsor of this legislation that keeps the government open in the event of a lapse of funding but which reduces funding until the appropriations bills are enacted. It’s a smart piece of legislation that brings folks to the table to work out the differences on the appropriations bills.
We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We do not need to raise taxes in order for Washington to spend more. We cannot spend our way to prosperity. Identifying a process forward for tax reform – that’s where part of our efforts should be focused. I’m a member of the Finance Committee – I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work on tax reform. Let’s open the doors for Senator Baucus and Congressman Camp to move forward expeditiously on tax reform – they are ready to do so. Let’s help make that happen. If done correctly, tax reform will help to generate additional revenue through economic growth to reduce the deficits and pay down the debt. I’m ready to make that happen.
I understand that some think all that might be accomplished by this conference committee is to replace this year’s automatic spending cuts – the sequester. What we need to do is prioritize those cuts – find the spending cuts that will do the least harm and start there. It worked in Wyoming, and it can work here. Raising taxes to offset more spending is not the path forward. Reigning in out-of-control spending is.
Our nation’s over-spending has to stop. The latest Congressional Budget Office estimates show that deficits and the nation’s debt are only going to get worse if we don’t take action now. If we don’t make cuts now, all the scenarios down the road are worse than what we’re facing today. A little pain now is better than a lot of pain in the future.
I’m glad to have the opportunity to serve on this conference committee, and I look forward to a robust debate on our nation’s fiscal path forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield the balance of my time.