Q: What are the next steps to resolve the budget impasse in Washington?
A: The 16-day partial government shutdown ended with a deal to appoint a budget conference that includes 29 lawmakers from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The bicameral, bipartisan panel is tasked with reaching an agreement on government funding levels. I was named to serve on the budget conference, which is operating under a December 13 deadline to issue its final recommendations to Congress. The vote to reopen the government did not lock in policy changes to address the $17 trillion national debt. Now the budget conference is working to create a blueprint for future revenue and spending levels. The last budget conference took place more than four years ago in April 2009.
Q: What priorities will you promote as a member of the budget conference?
A: First, to restore credibility and fiscal integrity to one of Congress' primary constitutional responsibilities: the power of the purse. The United States is not only facing a debt crisis. We are also facing a crisis in confidence by the American people in our institutions of government. Lawmakers need to come together to put the federal budget and budgeting process back on track. For too long, Washington has been riding the gravy train, refusing to turn the corner on deficit spending or put the brakes on the national debt. The federal budget has been driven off the rails by overpromises and overspending. A driving force behind the reckless fiscal path includes unsustainable entitlement spending that's creating long-term generational inequity. Consider the largest federal pension and health care entitlements, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that serve older Americans. As the historic demographic shift continues over the next two decades, reforms are needed not just for spending discipline but to save the programs themselves, programs that have become part of the social fabric of America. Other federal entitlements, such as food stamps, unemployment benefits and disability payments, have seen dramatic growth as eligibility was expanded during the Obama administration. Adding even more burden to the taxpaying public, new federal subsidies paid out under the Affordable Care Act also will add to the wealth redistribution formula that is reshaping the size, scope and influence of the government into the U.S. economy and its reach into the lives of Americans. On the budget conference committee, I intend to drive a hard bargain on behalf of the taxpaying public with a simple, straightforward message: Washington cannot tax, spend and borrow its way to prosperity. To that end, I'll work to restore principles of good governance during the negotiations, including transparency, accountability and fiscal integrity.
Q: What needs to happen to reach a budget agreement?
A: A concurrent budget resolution requires majority approval by the conferees to advance for a final up-or-down vote by Congress. The budget resolution does not require the President's signature. Instead, it has the authority to set the spending and taxing levels by which lawmakers on the respective committees will allocate tax dollars that operate services and functions of the government. It boils down to lawmakers reaching an agreement on taxes and spending. I disagree with those who believe raising taxes is the solution to reducing deficits and paying down America's $17 trillion debt. Remember, less is more. Spending less and taxing less will do more good for the economy. The key to America's prosperity is rooted in the genesis of our republic. We are a nation of self-starters who believe in personal responsibility, wealth creation and upward mobility. Generations of Americans have worked hard to lay claim to their piece of the American Dream. A tax-hungry, spendthrift Uncle Sam puts that dream at risk. Restoring long-term prosperity will require a bipartisan consensus for permanent solutions to strengthen public entitlement systems and enact job-creating reforms of the federal tax code. So, in addition to laying the groundwork for spending reductions that shrink the deficit, the budget conference should take the high road and identify long-lasting solutions that steer us away from fiscal cliffs. Restoring fiscal integrity is the best way to avoid defaulting on the full faith and credit of the U.S.