U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Ensign (R-NV), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today sent a Dear Colleague letter to all Senators announcing their intention to withhold unanimous consent, or "hold," bills that fail meet the following criteria:
* All New Spending Must Be Offset with Cuts to Lower Priority Spending: Congress authorizes billions of dollars in new spending every year to create new or expand existing government programs. Yet, few bills are passed to eliminate outdated, duplicative, unnecessary, inefficient, wasteful, or low priority programs. To make government more efficient, any legislation authorizing new spending or creating a new agency, office, program, activity, or benefit or increasing the authorization of an existing function must offset the cost of this expansion by eliminating an existing program or function or reducing the authorized funding level of ongoing spending.
* Government Programs Must Be Periodically Reviewed and Renewed: Never ending government programs must end. Congress should periodically determine whether or not every government program is working as intended, is still needed, or is worthy of continued taxpayer support. To ensure this happens, any legislation establishing or continuing an agency, office, or program must also include a "sunset" date at which point Congress must decide whether or not to update or extend the life of the program.
* The Cost and Text of Bills Must Be Available Prior to Passage: Too many bills costing billions of dollars with far reaching implications are approved by the Senate with little debate, few if any amendments, and not even time to read the actual text of the legislation. To guarantee taxpayers and senators have sufficient time to read bills and information to understand their cost and impact, all legislation must be publicly available in an electronic format for at least three full days along with a cost estimate completed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prior to being passed.
* Duplicative Government Programs Must Be Consolidated or Eliminated: Despite the existence of hundreds of duplicative federal programs costing billions of dollars, Congress continues to create new programs with similar missions, goals, and purposes. To reduce redundancy, any bill creating a new program that replicates a current government mission must consolidate overlapping activities or eliminate the existing programs.
* Congress Must Not Infringe Upon the Constitutional Rights of the People: Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress a very limited set of enumerated powers. Far too often, Congress infringes upon the rights and liberties reserved for the people and the states provided elsewhere in the Constitution. These overreaches are no more than an afterthought when most bills are debated. To restore the intended balance of powers between the states and the federal government and to preserve the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, all bills must have a clear and obvious basis connected to one of the enumerated powers and must not infringe upon any of the rights guaranteed to the people.
"Before we can get our fiscal house in order, Congress first has to stop making the problem worse. I'm pleased so many of my colleagues have agreed to withhold consent from bills that borrow and spend new money, duplicate existing programs, violate the Constitution or are not a legitimate role of the federal government. This week's GAO report exposing widespread duplication in the federal government shows why Congress needs to eliminate programs that don't work instead of creating new programs we don't need, and can't afford," said Dr. Coburn.
"Each year, the federal government washes billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain through wasteful and duplicative spending. This waste is even more unconscionable in the present economy, as American families and businesses are struggling financially," said Senator John McCain. "I am pleased to join my colleagues in working to implement simple, commonsense practices in the Senate to reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending."
"The problem in the Senate isn't that we're not passing enough legislation, it's that we're passing so many new spending bills and regulations with little review or debate," said Senator Jim DeMint. "I'm proud to stand with my fellow conservative Senate colleagues to require thorough review of bills to prevent secret passage of wasteful spending and unconstitutional legislation. Our nation is on the edge of bankruptcy and we simply cannot afford more borrowing from foreign nations to spend on programs we don't need."
"These gross duplications in federal programs and agencies, along with billions of dollars in binge spending increases, are crippling the present and future of the United States," said Senator John Ensign. "The GAO report underscores the great negligence of the federal government when it comes to managing hard-earned taxpayer dollars and further highlights the need for Congress to get our fiscal house in order. The time has come for the government to get its act together: decrease its size and increase its effectiveness so that it does what we need it to do not just what some want it to do."
"This year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, we will spend 1.65 trillion dollars that we don't have. That is a huge amount of money and a huge problem. It is a problem we must start to address. The letter I have signed - initiated by Senator Coburn - is just a very common sense approach to beginning the process of reining in the out of control spending and debt. We need to hold the federal government accountable. Families are not able to spend beyond their means; Washington certainly shouldn't be able to do so either," said Senator Ron Johnson.
"The American people deserve better from their federal government," said Senator Mike Lee. "By holding bills that spend irresponsibly and overstep the proper role of the federal government, we can begin to rebuild their trust and make Congress more transparent and accountable. I'm proud to stand with my colleagues who agree that this wasteful, irresponsible spending must stop."
"The status quo in Washington is unacceptable. Rather than continue to create new government programs, we must tighten our belts in Congress and live within our means like families do," said Senator Kelly Ayotte.