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
During the 2011 debt ceiling debate, President Obama famously declared that the government should "eat our peas" and raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached. But it is the president who needs to get comfortable with the idea of eating not only peas but carrots and spinach, as well. Now that Congress has made the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for 98 percent of American workers, tax rate increases are off the menu. The president's only options for reducing the deficit are spending cuts, entitlement reform and tax reform.
Ada News - Eric Swanson
Congress’ last-minute deal to avoid a “fiscal cliff” of middle-class tax increases and federal spending cuts isn’t perfect, but it sets the stage for reducing the deficit down the road.
That was the view of U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican who voted for the measure late Tuesday night. He said passing the bill ensures that upcoming budget debates will focus solely on reducing federal spending.
Washington Post - Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake
At the end of November, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole broke with party orthodoxy, insisting that his fellow Republicans should take a fiscal cliff deal that raised taxes on those making more than $250,000 immediately.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the House approved the Senate-passed fiscal cliff agreement to extend and make permanent low tax rates for individuals earning up to $400,000 per year and families earning $450,000. The legislation delays devastating military cuts for two months and prevents numerous other damaging tax policies including an increase in the Alternative Minimum Tax.
The fiscal cliff fiasco has been perhaps a fitting end to a year and a legislative session full of frustrating, down-to-the-wire legislative battles. Passing major legislation is often such a contentious, eleventh-hour process, it seems as if all of Washington is hopelessly dysfunctional. While this is largely true, there are a few congressional success stories worth highlighting.
The media coverage of the fiscal cliff misses the point so consistently, it's enough to provoke a James Carville-esque outburst to remind them: "It's the spending, Stupid." The fixation with the tax side of the equation obscures that the real solution to the fiscal cliff involves spending cuts and entitlement reform.
Days after President Obama presented his opening offer in the fiscal cliff negotiations, House Republicans presented our counterproposal as the next step in the process toward reaching consensus before the December 31st deadline. Unlike President Obama's proposal, which reads like a Christmas wish list of liberals' most extreme ideas, the Republican plan is based on both reality and on common ground the two parties have established in previous discussions.
The Hill - Kevin Bogardus
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Sunday that House Republicans should agree to extending tax cuts for the majority of U.S. taxpayers.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cole continued to champion his case that the GOP caucus should take the deal that President Obama is offering: keeping tax rates in place for those making less than $250,000 a year, while allowing rates to increase on the wealthy.
Cole said no one wants to see higher taxes, but noted that unless Congress acts, everyone’s tax rates will go up.
With less than a month to go before the fiscal cliff deadline, there is no time for political posturing or rigid demands. Yet President Obama's opening offer in the fiscal cliff negotiations is so extreme and irresponsible that it has significantly undermined the process before discussions have even gotten off the ground.
Weekly Standard - John McCormack
Speaking Friday afternoon with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Oklahoma congressman Tom Cole, a Republican who has emerged this week as an advocate of compromising on taxes, panned President Obama's proposal to avert the fiscal cliff.
"I think honestly the president’s initial proposal is just laughable," Cole told me. "There’s no spending restraints. There’s very little entitlement reform. He’s asking to essentially double the revenue that he’s asked for in the past."