In September, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to fund much of the government to the tune of $854 billion. I voted for it in order to avert a partial government shutdown and because the bill funds Eastern Washington priorities like a pay raise for troops, money to rebuild our armed forces, and funds to care for our veterans. But despite securing these priorities, our budget process is broken – and it has been for a long time. We continue to see deficits and rising debt. Something must be done to turn the tide and bring fiscal restraint back to Congress.
The previous administration said the “new normal” of economic growth was 2 percent. We cannot pay down the debt and reduce the deficit without strong economic growth. That’s why I’m proud that our Republican tax cuts, regulatory rollback, and pro-jobs agenda have put more taxpayers in the workforce, led to 4.2 percent GDP growth, and added $19 billion in federal revenue this year alone. Washington state just increased revenue estimates for next year by $348 million. By continuing to grow our economy we can keep increasing revenues to help us pay down our debt – not to mention creating thousands of jobs here in Eastern Washington in the process.
Increasing revenues is an important part of the solution – but we must also get serious about prioritizing and controlling federal spending. To start tackling our spending problem, we should address unauthorized spending so that taxpayer dollars are only spent on programs that are working and properly scrutinized. That’s why I introduced the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act that would prevent spending on programs that have expired authorizations. This bill would force Congress to do its job of reviewing, rethinking, and possibly eliminating government programs that are currently running on autopilot.
I have also long supported a Balanced Budget Amendment and believe it is critical to forcing Congress to live within its means and set priorities. Despite my opponent’s false claims, a Balanced Budget Amendment would not trigger cuts to Medicare or Social Security. Families and small businesses here in Eastern Washington have to live within their means and budget effectively – and so should the federal government.
But we can’t fix a spending problem without knowing how much we’re actually spending. In order to get a more accurate picture, we should institute zero-based budgeting – a budget process that looks at what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous years.
Separate from fixing the spending problem, but just as crucial, is getting the budget done on time and fixing our broken budget process. That’s why I helped lead in getting a bipartisan, bicameral budget commission approved to provide recommendations on fixes we can make so our budget process works more effectively for people here in Eastern Washington. To stop Congress from lurching from one crisis to the next, I also believe we should move to biennial budgeting and a calendar-year budget cycle. This will allow more time to assess programs and provide necessary, effective oversight. I also voted to update the outdated Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974, which is the framework we work within to exercise the power of the purse.
The U.S. Senate is also a roadblock to passing responsible government funding. It’s time for the Senate to consider a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold, on must-pass spending bills. Unfortunately, the Senate’s outdated rules empower a small minority of senators to obstruct must-pass measures over partisan politics.
We saw this when the Republican-controlled House passed all 12 appropriations bills last year only to see the Senate pass zero. As a result, we were forced to vote on multiple continuing resolutions, endure a government shutdown for nearly three days and temporarily lift spending limits in order to pass funding through the House and Senate. We can avoid this in the future by changing the Senate’s vote threshold.
This broken budget process, coupled with the federal government’s spending problem, is exactly why people here in Eastern Washington have lost trust in government to use their hard-earned dollars responsibly. In order for any reforms to work so we can rebuild that trust, both sides of the aisle will need to show leadership, fix the process, and have the courage to put America’s fiscal sanity ahead of political party.
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