Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Many of you have contacted me about the recent debate regarding raising the statutory debt limit for the United States government. I appreciate each of your comments and insights on this critical issue facing our country.
In May 2011, the U.S. government reached the statutory debt limit of $14.3 trillion. Using a number of available accounting measures, the Treasury was able to continue funding government obligations until approximately August 2, 2011. As part of the debate surrounding the needed increase in borrowing authority was a critical conversation about the need to restrain government spending. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the federal government has nearly doubled over the last decade from $1.86 trillion in government spending in 2001 to $3.82 trillion in 2011. In 2007, we had the same tax code, our country was involved in military missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the prescription drug benefit program was being implemented and yet our budget deficit was $160.7 billion versus the expected deficit of $1.65 trillion for FY2011. The facts are clear, the U.S. government spends too much money and we must take strong steps to restore fiscal sanity.
On August 1st, I voted in favor of S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011, which passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 269 to 161 and immediately raised the debt ceiling by $400 billion (with another $500 billion to be available in the fall of 2011). It is important to note that this was the second vote by the House of Representatives to increase the debt limit because the Senate refused to consider our original solution, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.
The Budget Control Act is a common sense solution that accomplishes the following objectives: raises the debt ceiling by a total $900 billion over a two-step process, cuts spending by $917 billion, enforces stringent discretionary spending caps over the next 10 years, establishes a Congressional Joint Special Committee to identify an additional $1.5 trillion in budget savings, and requires a vote on a balanced budget constitutional amendment in both the House and Senate. Upon the passage of the recommendations by the Joint Special Committee, the debt ceiling will be raised again by approximately $1.4 trillion or an amount slightly less than the budget cuts identified.
While I would have supported steeper cuts immediately in order to put us on a sustainable fiscal path, defaulting on our debt obligations was not an option; America must always pay its bills. The Budget Control Act ensures that our debt ceiling is only raised if a larger number of budget savings are subsequently identified. This is a critical and balanced first step as we set about meeting our country's fiscal challenges and focusing on growing the economy. The August 5, 2011 Standards and Poor's credit downgrade of U.S. held debt is another wake-up call and presents further challenges. As we move forward, I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find ways to make our government smaller, more efficient, and less burdensome so that our economy can expand and grow to meet our country's needs.
Thank you again for those who contacted me on this critical issue. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts firmly in mind as we find a path forward.
Represents California's 50th Congressional District