Last week, newly-elected members of the House and Senate were sworn-in for the start of the 112th Congress. It is an honor and a privilege to represent the people of Mississippi. It is also a great responsibility, which begins with listening. Americans sent a loud and clear message to Washington in the last election, and Congress needs to respond.
Cutting Federal Spending
The current level of federal spending is unsustainable. In 2010, federal expenditures were nearly 24 percent of the value of all the goods and services produced in the United States. With federal spending at its highest percentage of our economy since World War II, the deficit was over $1 trillion last year. The United States currently borrows $44,000 for every person in the country. We must cut the size and scope of the federal government.
The American people have responded to the economic downturn by making hard choices and trimming their family budgets. Congress must do the same. The legislative branch budget rose nearly 50 percent over the last 10 years. In order to address the nation's fiscal crisis, the Senate should lead by example and reduce the deficit by cutting its own legislative budget.
I have cut my Senate office budget by five percent, and I am leading an effort to get other members to do the same, saving taxpayers more than $20 million. This is only a start, but it is an important first step to tackling our problems. At a time when we are demanding departments and agencies make reductions, Congress must be willing to do likewise.
Repealing and Replacing Obamacare
The President's government health care takeover is another good place to begin reducing the size of government. The November elections showed the American people rejected this government-centered approach, which costs more than $1 trillion, slashes Medicare by $500 billion to create a new entitlement program, and increases taxes by another $500 billion. Members of the House will vote to repeal Obamacare this week, and Leader Reid should allow an up-or-down Senate vote soon.
The massive law creates 159 new bureaucracies and will burden large and small business alike with higher health costs and more regulations. New taxes contained in the law on job creators stifle economic opportunities. At a time when more than one in ten Mississippians are actively looking for work, we should be acting to lower health care costs and simplify the system.
I voted against the health care law, and I will vote to pass a repeal. If we are blocked from repealing it, I will work to stop the worst provisions first, including defunding its implementation. I also plan to reintroduce legislation that would give state leaders a path to challenge parts of the law that infringe on states' rights sooner than they can now.
A Way Forward
The next two years will be a period of divided government. Republicans control the House of Representatives and Democrats remain in charge of the Senate and the executive branch. Still, Congress would be well advised to listen to the election results of November 2. To accomplish that, we must cut spending and reign in the size of the federal government.