I have consistently supported legislation and policies to get the nation’s long-term fiscal house in order by balancing the budget and reforming mandatory programs, so we can eventually pay down our debt.
Budget and Spending
The federal government must cut back on spending so that it can run efficiently and effectively for its citizens. Of the more than $3.7 trillion in annual spending by the federal government, about one third is spent on discretionary programs (those that Congress and the president control on an annual basis). But unless we take on the complicated task of reforming the other two thirds of government designated as mandatory spending (mostly entitlement programs), America will eventually go bankrupt.
The real challenge is that the mandatory side of the budget – including interest on the national debt – is by far the largest category and rapidly growing. Numerous facts, figures and economic analyses have for years warned about the unsustainable growth of mandatory spending. For example, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that mandatory represented 34 percent of all government spending in 1965; today, that figure has risen dramatically to reflect more than two-thirds of all spending in 2018. By 2028, mandatory is on track to cover at least 77 percent of all spending.
With mandatory spending, it’s not only the rapid rate of its growth, eclipsing discretionary spending, that is alarming. CBO has also projected that the federal trust funds connected to Medicare and Social Security are quickly nearing insolvency and thus will eventually fail to deliver on the benefits promised. On the current path and according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security as a whole is expected to become insolvent in 2032 – with the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund unable to pay out full benefits as early as 2028.
Long Term Reforms
Clearly, to make real progress toward tackling our burden of debt, tough decisions and careful solutions are required. But the solutions must include reforms to save and sustain the mandatory programs serving many vulnerable Americans. I believe a good place to start would be passage of legislation I introduced again this Congress, the Bipartisan Social Security Commission Act. The bill calls for a bipartisan and bicameral commission tasked with recommending reforms to ensure Social Security is solvent for at least 75 years. Congress would then be required to vote up or down on the commission’s recommendations within 60 legislative days. This approach worked in 1983 when the solvency of Social Security was extended by 50 years. It can work again if our political leaders will face up to their responsibilities and work in a bipartisan manner.
More on Economy
Although there is broad bipartisan agreement in Congress that additional coronavirus relief is needed, I regret that the status of delivering relief hasn’t changed a lot since May. It’s even more disappointing since lawmakers already agree on how to approach several aspects of needed relief.
Throughout most of this year, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly disrupted our lives and dealt harsh hits to our economy out of nowhere. Sadly, some of the most ruthless economic hits have been felt by America’s small businesses. While the federal government has done a lot already to help save and sustain struggling small businesses and their workers, there is more that could be done if Speaker Nancy Pelosi would allow the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on a simple and commonsense piece of legislation related to the Paycheck Protection Program.
Every year, on the first Monday in September, most Americans take an extra day to relax, travel or spend time with their family, friends and loved ones. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, this Labor Day will be observed differently than usual. By no fault or choice of their own, many hardworking Americans have fallen on difficult times and are out of work. During these unprecedented circumstances, I encourage you to remember that these dark days are only temporary. Indeed, our country has proven its strength, tenacity and resilience time and again throughout our history.
During the first couple weeks of July, the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, met for a marathon of legislative markups. Specifically, we worked through the 12 annual bills that fund the federal government. While I am always encouraged to see this critical process moving forward in Congress, the bills as written provide a false sense of accomplishment.