The need for fiscal responsibility in Washington

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The need for fiscal responsibility in Washington, August 22, 2019 | Chris Berardi (202-897-7700) | comments
In Congress I have consistently criticized the excessive, irresponsible spending promoted by both parties, which has taken our national debt to a stratospheric $22.6 trillion. Since elected, I have consistently voted against legislation like this. Even worse than their excessive and irresponsible spending, many of these bills contained subsidies — billions for sugar, ethanol, cotton and other commodities that should not be artificially propped up by government.

Just this year alone, I voted against three reckless bills that saddle future generations with insurmountable debt.

The uncomfortable reality is that debt matters and unless we get spending under control, sometime in the future it is inevitable that our standard of living in America and stature in the world will suffer. It has happened to every other spendthrift nation in history. The United States is currently over $22 trillion in debt — about $174,000 per household, and is on pace to hit $24 trillion by the end of 2020. The projected ratio of debt held by the public approaches 98% of gross domestic product by 2029. This amount was 31% at the end of President Clinton’s terms, 52% at the end of President Bush’s and 78% at the end of President Obama’s. A nineteen-year continual taxpayer funded spending spree.

Most recently, I voted against the Bipartisan Budget Act, which would raise spending caps by $322 billion and suspend the debt ceiling until July 31, 2021. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, this bill will add $1.7 trillion to public spending over the next 10 years. In total, 131 other Republicans voted with me against this, 65 voted for it, and 16 Democrats against, 219 for — a bipartisan failure of discipline and responsibility.

Prior to the Bipartisan Budget Act, I also voted against a bloated appropriations bill, H.R. 2740. This package contained nearly $1 trillion in discretionary spending and was $176 billion above current spending caps. Even with all this excessive spending, Democrats inserted language to explicitly prohibit any funding for securing our borders – which seems to be the only area where they have supported spending constraint. Congress has a responsibility to address its spending addiction in a serious manner, not by playing politics with border security. Needless to say, we also have an obligation to our citizens to secure the border.

Finally, I was against a so-called disaster relief bill that far exceeded initial amounts requested — 86% of the supplemental disaster funding included was never requested by the Trump Administration. It has become all too common for Congress to use disaster funding to break through spending caps that are in place. There are legitimate needs for funding to assist with recovery from natural disasters that affect Florida and other states, but I could not support a bill that was so fiscally irresponsible. In typical “swamp” fashion, the bill was packed with pork that had nothing to do with disaster recovery, including $55 million for Head Start education programs — which are widely considered to be failures and examples of taxpayer waste. As of May 1st, the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) contained roughly $29 billion, so it was unnecessary to appropriate any additional money anyway. This was just an excuse to smash open the piggy bank.

Congress is failing the American people, especially our children and grandchildren. Just a campaign cycle ago, Republicans across the country ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and eliminating our debt. I intend to continue my opposition to out-of-control Washington spending and am in full support of a Constitutional Amendment to require a balanced budget.
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