We have come a long way in this historic debate on how to best reform our broken health insurance system. Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I have worked hard to improve this health care package to ensure it will make affordable health care available to all Colorado families and reduce the federal debt by $130 billion.
These cost savings are incredibly important as we try to lift our struggling economy out of a recession, put people to work, and set our country on a path toward fiscal responsibility.
But it isn't enough.
Massive spending and huge deficits threaten our economic livelihood and, worse yet, will saddle future generations with debt that could trigger disastrous inflation if we don't take action.
This has been a priority for me throughout my time in the U.S. House of Representatives. And, as your Senator, I am continuing to work with my colleagues to find a bipartisan agreement that will enable us to rein in our deficit spending and reduce our debt.
Improving the Health Insurance Reform Bill
From the beginning of this historic debate about health insurance reform, I have argued that legislation must focus on wringing out inefficiencies and containing exploding costs that are hurting working families. To accomplish these goals, I joined 10 other freshman Senators to introduce a package of amendments to the Senate health insurance reform bill that will encourage innovation, cut red tape and reduce costs for consumers.
The package has been endorsed by many of the nation's leading business, consumer, policy, and health provider organizations, such as the Brookings Institution, AARP and Business Roundtable, a group of leading American CEOs who understand the need to rein in out-of-control health care costs.
I believe our contribution is a winning addition that will help fix our broken health insurance system, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to build bipartisan support for it.
Getting Control of the Deficit
Colorado families have to make tough financial choices every day, and they expect the same from Congress. We have reached a crisis point with regard to federal spending, yet Congress shows no sign of changing its ways.
Right now, we are $12 trillion in debt - nearly the maximum federal debt allowable under current law. Before the end of the year, Congress must pass legislation to increase the debt limit for the ninth time since 2001, the last year we reported a budget surplus. We can't continue on this path. Without a change in course, our fiscal irresponsibility will saddle future generations with debt that could trigger disastrous inflation, cripple our economy and stymie long-term job growth.
That's why I've joined with several of my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce legislation that would create a bipartisan fiscal task force to review the federal budget and make recommendations for long-term fiscal sustainability. The legislation would also mandate that Congress take an up-or-down vote on the recommendations to prevent the partisan gamesmanship that has previously bogged down any real attempts at reform.
It will be hard to swallow, but it is medicine we need to take. Getting the deficit under control is crucial to rebuilding our economy and putting people back to work.
Fighting the Bark Beetle Epidemic
The bark beetle infestation is one of the most serious threats to forest health that we face in the West. Entire mountainsides are now covered with rust-red dead trees, which pose an unprecedented safety hazard from wildfire or falling trees and threaten our water supplies and mountain economies.
To combat this critical challenge, I have introduced the National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency Act of 2009. This bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Senator Risch (R-ID), and it will provide additional tools and resources to the U.S. Forest Service.
We still have a long way to go in combating this problem, and I will continue to work to ensure we are doing everything we can to address this serious threat to our forests.