Last week, I voted for the Fiscal Responsibility Act, legislation that will responsibly raise the debt ceiling through 2025, all while enacting provisions that limit Washington’s irresponsible spending and create a better future for the American people. The Fiscal Responsibility Act was signed into law on Saturday. This is a significant victory, especially considering the President’s original position on the debt ceiling.
It was only a few weeks ago that President Biden’s stance on the debt ceiling was that he would not negotiate with House Republicans, and that Congress should just pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling without enacting any changes to how the federal government spends and borrows money.
This was an unacceptable position for the President to take.
It was with the help of President Biden’s spending sprees that the United States government has nearly doubled the national debt over the past decade, reaching more than $31 trillion. That’s about $250,000 of debt per taxpayer.
The American people know that Washington’s spending addiction has caused many problems, like skyrocketing inflation, multiple bank failures, and the threat of insolvency for critical programs like Social Security and Medicare. That’s why it was unsurprising to learn that most Americans believe Congress should only raise the debt ceiling if it cuts spending at the same time.
Fortunately, when House Republicans passed our original debt ceiling bill – the Limit, Save, Grow Act – we were able to force the President to meet us at the negotiating table and reach an agreement in the form of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act is the largest deficit reduction package in American history. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, taxpayers will save an estimated $2.1 trillion, and Congress will spend less money next year than this year – for the first time in a decade.
Other provisions in this bill will do the following:
- Enact work requirements for food stamps and welfare benefits.
- Claw back $28 billion in unobligated funding from over 120 different accounts created through COVID spending bills.
- Accelerate projects and cut costs with the first significant reform to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) since 1982.
- Rescind the $1.4 billion that Democrats and President Biden had planned to use for new tax enforcement agents at the IRS and set the stage for up to $20 billion in additional recissions for the IRS over the next two fiscal years.
- Require borrowers to restart student loan repayments, saving taxpayers an estimated $5 billion per month.
- Ensure full funding for critical veterans’ programs and national defense priorities, while preserving Social Security and Medicare.
- Reject all of President Biden’s $5 trillion in proposed new taxes, new government mandates, and new federal programs.
This legislation is a great first step in returning to fiscal sanity, and I was proud to support it. But our work is far from done. After 15 years of Obama, Biden, and Pelosi enacted policies, it is going to take more than one bill to fix our debt crisis.
Critics of this bill will tell you that it doesn’t go far enough to cut spending. And admittedly, it does not go as far as the Save, Limit, Grow Act. However, I would argue that this bill does what is possible in a divided government to reduce the out-of-control spending that has plagued Washington, D.C. for far too long.
The alternatives to the Fiscal Responsibility Act were a clean debt ceiling lift or defaulting on our obligations. I was not willing to consider either option, but especially the latter as it would catapult our nation into economic crisis.
Absolutely no disrespect to my colleagues who voted against this bill, but they are not looking at the full picture. I also would have liked to pass bigger spending cuts, but the fact is that Republicans only narrowly control one-third of this process.
We may wish that we weren’t dealing with President Biden in the White House or a Democrat majority in the Senate, but that is our current reality, and this was the legislation that we could get signed into law. We cannot make perfection the enemy of good. And remember, the best way to get more spending cuts in the future is to elect a new president in 2024.
As we move forward, we should all also be aware of the real driver of our national debt: mandatory spending programs. In 2022, 76% of our total federal spending was mandatory spending. As you may recall, mandatory spending is spending that does not take place through appropriations legislation and includes entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid as well as interest on the debt. The other 24% is accounted for through discretionary spending, or spending stemming from annual appropriations bills, like defense.
Even though mandatory spending accounts for a vast majority of the federal budget, it goes untouched because the programs are wildly popular. I can’t think of a single senior citizen that would be interested in having their Social Security or Medicare benefits disrupted. And caring for our veterans? I don’t know about you, but that remains a top priority of mine. How about remaining the number one nation in the world? That takes a strong defense budget. It’s all about cost-benefit analyses, and because of these factors, this deal was a win, all things considered.
Both sides of the aisle must work on solutions to this larger issue, which is why Speaker McCarthy recently announced a bipartisan commission to allow policymakers in both parties to take a serious look at all parts of the federal budget and develop recommendations that put us on a more sustainable path.
HOW DOES THIS IMPACT THE APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS?
The folks who are upset that the Fiscal Responsibility Act does not provide enough of a check on spending may feel better watching how we appropriate the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2024. As a reminder, the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process is completely controlled by House Republicans and serves as an important piece of the puzzle in how we will limit spending going forward.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act contains a critical provision authored by Representative Thomas Massie to ensure a more fiscally responsible outcome for these appropriations bills every year. This tool requires the House to pass all 12 appropriations bills separately, and if we cannot get all of them passed, then we automatically pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running with an automatic 1% cut to funding.
The 12 appropriations bills are often lumped together when we vote on them. In fact, the last time all 12 bills came to the House separately for consideration was Fiscal Year 2010. This strategy has been used to force Members to vote for all 12 funding bills, even if Members didn’t agree on what was included in just one or two of the individual bills. Many Members are less likely to vote against a bad package when it also contains important provisions, like a pay increase for servicemembers, for example. Tricks like this are part of the reason why our nation’s debt is so high.
Thanks to the Massie amendment, the 12 appropriations bills will remain separate and if we don’t get all of them passed because a few of them are filled with bad or costly provisions, then we avoid a government shutdown because an automatic Continuing Resolution gets passed and the government gets funded at 99% with an automatic 1% spending cut. It may seem minor, but this provision essentially gives us an opportunity to make real changes, especially when we don’t have complete control over the process.
As an Appropriator in the House, I personally recognize that the real work comes now and that the Fiscal Responsibility Act is just the first step in what will be a very long process of reigning in the out-of-control spending rubber-stamped by Democrats year after year. Please know that I am committed to reducing the national debt and putting us back on the path of fiscal responsibility.