TAKING CONTROL OF THE BUDGET
The Congress continues to face serious budgetary challenges and it is time we take control of spending instead of letting it control the Congress. In the last three years, federal spending has increased 23 percent. Government programs have continued to expand while the amount of money available to spend has continued to decrease. Unless spending is brought under control, Americans could face substantial tax increases and a slowing econ¬omy that provides fewer jobs and lower incomes.
This year, the Congress took steps to rein in government spending by reducing overall federal expenditures by $39.5 billion. While this is a significant step in the right direction, I believe we need to be even more ambitious in controlling spending.
Efforts to control spending should begin in the first stages of the budget process when the fundamental decisions are made as to how much money should be spent overall. The federal budget cycle begins each February when Congress receives the President's proposed budget. Unfortunately, most of the attention by many Congress watchers is on the last stages of the appropriations process when spending bills are finalized. By that time, it is often only a matter of where spending will go, not whether or not it will be spent, and decisions that some would consider wasteful have already been made. It is the budget at the beginning of the year that sets the stage for fiscally responsible spending.
In the 108th Congress, I supported several measures promoting the establishment of a balanced budget. In 2003, I was one of only 80 members of the House of Representatives to vote for an amendment to the FY 2004 budget, which would have achieved a balanced budget in 4 years and frozen total discretionary spending for one year. In 2004, I was joined by 115 Representatives in supporting an alternative budget that would have decreased discretionary spending by $8 billion and cut the deficit in half in three years as opposed to five.
In addition, this Congress I have again cosponsored Representative Ernest Istook's balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would force Congress to rein in government spending and make the tough choices among priorities.
Congress has a clear choice in the coming months. We can control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, or we can allow out of control spending to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits leaving our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own. Families, businesses and state and local governments have all had to tighten their belts. It's time the federal government did the same.