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Public Statements

Representative Brooks to Vote No On Obama-Reid-Boehner Debt Ceiling Bill

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Today Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) made the following statement concerning his vote on the Budget Control Act of 2011:

Summary

The Obama-Reid-Boehner Debt Ceiling Bill is bad for America, bad political process, bad for national defense, does not prevent unsustainable budget deficits, kicks the debt ceiling crises down the road to 2013 (when America will have more debt and less financial strength with which to fix the problem), and fails to satisfactorily decrease the risk of an American credit rating downgrade.

Overview

America must, and will, raise the debt ceiling. The question is not whether Congress will raise the debt ceiling; the question is when and how. Regardless of when the debt ceiling is raised, every bill and obligation of America to its citizens and creditors will be paid in full (albeit, with the exception of creditors, some payments may be delayed).

I have voted to raise the debt ceiling provided the debt ceiling bill makes America's financial condition better, not worse.

I voted to raise the debt ceiling on July 22, 2011, when I voted for the Cut, Cap and Balance Plan (cutting FY 2012 expenditures by a modest $111 billion in the context of a $1.5 trillion deficit; capping federal government expenditures within historically justifiable 18-20% ranges; and passing a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment that protect future generations of Americans from revisiting the financial mess we face).

I voted to raise the debt ceiling on July 29, 2011, when I voted for the Boehner Plan (which included a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment requirement).

I will not vote for the Obama-Reid-Boehner Debt Bill (herein the "Debt Bill") because it is not up to the financial challenges America faces.

Background: The Problem

Years of spending binges by the federal government have come home to roost. America's debt exceeds $14 trillion. America has suffered three consecutive years of trillion dollar deficits (and faces trillion dollar deficits into the foreseeable future).

Annual deficits and accumulated debt force America to confront two major financial threats, both with one common cause: unsustainable budget deficits.

In the short term, America faces a debt ceiling crisis. Over the longer term, America faces a debt crisis.

If trillion dollar deficits continue indefinitely, America's insolvency and bankruptcy is certain, thereby risking America's national defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, NASA, and everything else the federal government does.

Debt Bill Deficiencies That Compel a "No" Vote

The accumulative deficiencies in the Debt Bill compel me to vote "No." The deficiencies are:

1. Minimal Time for Consideration and Deliberation.

The Debt Bill is 74 pages of interwoven, complicated legal and budgetary terms. I have read and studied the Debt Bill in the limited time available. The Debt Bill forces onto our children and grandchildren another $2.4 trillion in debt burden, yet we are expected to vote on it with less than 24 hours notice.

This is insufficient time to thoroughly understand the Debt Bill's nuances, for budget experts to digest the Debt Bill and offer their insights, for the public to analyze the legislation and share their insight, and for Congress to make a wise and deliberative decision.

While some argue the Debt Bill must pass by the White House's August 2 deadline; I believe it is better to act wisely than in haste. The economy will be much worse if Congress, in haste, makes a $2.4 trillion error.

1. Significant Defense Cuts in FY 2012 & 2013.

In FY 2012, the Debt Bill cuts national defense by $2 to $17 billion (the variance is due to different Debt Bill interpretations by the House Armed Services Committee).

The Debt Bill creates a 12-member Joint Select Committee (six Senators and six Congressmen; six Republicans and six Democrats). By November 23, the Committee must recommend $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures (spending cuts and/or tax increases). If the Committee makes a recommendation, Congress must vote on the recommendation on or before January 15.

If the Committee splits 6-6 and makes no recommendation, or if either House of Congress rejects the Committee's recommendation, then the Debt Bill mandates that the Defense budget be cut $60 Billion in FY 2013 (i.e. -- in the fiscal year beginning 14 months from now, on October 1, 2013).

National defense is the top priority of the federal government. If the Debt Bill passes, there is an unnecessary and substantial risk that it will trigger risky defense cuts in just 14 months that undermine the defense capabilities of America.

1. The Bill Does Not Fix the Underlying Problem.

The Bill makes America's financial challenges worse by inadequately addressing unsustainable deficits that threaten America with insolvency and bankruptcy and force debt ceiling increases.

The Debt Bill's "cuts" bind no future Congresses. Hence, the only "cuts" that count are those for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013.

In FY 2012, the Debt Bill cuts discretionary federal government spending by only $7 billion (versus FY 2011 levels), while overall federal government spending actually increases ("discretionary spending" is less than 30% of total federal government spending).

In FY 2013, the Debt Bill increases discretionary federal government spending by $4 billion (over FY 2012 levels). Overall federal government spending again increases significantly.

Hence, in both FY 2012 and 2013, the federal government deficit is estimated to exceed $1 trillion/year if the Debt Bill passes and, under the best of scenarios, the Debt Bill's "solution" increases America's debt by $2.4 trillion in less than two years, which makes America's debt problem much worse, not better.

1. Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment.

The Debt Bill requires a vote of Congress on a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment but does not require that Congress pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The July 29 Boehner Bill required passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment before the Phase II debt ceiling increase would occur. The Debt Bill eliminates the requirement for a Balanced Budget Amendment, thereby eliminating the only long-term fix to America's unsustainable deficits.

1. Punting the Debt Ceiling Crisis to 2013.

Because of 2012 election considerations, the Debt Bill "kicks the can down the road" to 2013, when a financially weaker America will be less capable of facing yet another debt ceiling crisis.

America will be weaker because debt service burdens will be $2.4 trillion more and the total debt of $16.7 trillion will likely be subject to higher interest rates and more onerous payment obligations.

America must face its unsustainable deficit issue while it is stronger, not weaker. The longer America waits, the worse the economic outcome will be.

1. Credit Rating Cuts.

In my judgment, the Debt Bill substantially increases the long-term risk of a cut in America's credit rating.

Standard & Poor stated on July 14, 2011, that America's credit rating is at risk if Washington has "not achieved a credible solution to the rising U.S. government debt burden and [is] not likely to achieve one in the foreseeable future." Standard & Poor president Deven Sharma reiterated this concern on July 27, 2011 when he testified before the House Financial Services Committee that, "The more important issue is really the long-term growth rate of the debt... that is the more important issue at hand."

Similarly, Moody's stated on July 13, 2011 that, if the debt ceiling is raised, America's credit rating outlook "would very likely be changed to negative… unless [there is a] substantial and credible agreement [on] long-term deficit reduction."

The Debt Bill does not cut America's short or long-term deficits enough to minimize the risk of downgrade in America's credit rating… a downgrade that will, in turn, drive up America's debt service cost and reduce funding for all other federal government programs. To make matters worse, if America's interest rates go up; state, local and private interest rates are likely to also go up… thereby hurting all Americans at every level.

The Solution

The best solution that protects America from the short term debt ceiling and long term insolvency threats is a debt ceiling increase coupled with a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment that is phased in over a 5 year period.

In as much as constitutional amendments often take years to pass, time that America may not have, the debt ceiling should be raised in a two-step process. The first step partially raises the debt ceiling when Congress passes a substantive and effective Balanced Budget Amendment. If the Senate and House concur, this can be done in as little as a week.

The second step raises the rest of the debt ceiling requirement when the states ratify the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment. This process gives the states an incentive to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment in less than one year (or trigger the effects of not raising the debt ceiling).


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