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Luetkemeyer Column- Reining in the National Debt


Location: Washington, DC

On New Year's Eve, 2012, I had the opportunity to answer phones in our Washington D.C. office and the majority of the folks who called from back home in Missouri made it clear that they are sick and tired of out of control government spending.

These hard-working folks understood that a $16.4 trillion-plus national debt is not sustainable. Now is the time to fight for significant spending cuts, real spending controls, entitlement reforms, and pro-growth tax reform to get our country out of debt. I am more committed than ever to ensure that these priorities become reality.

There are tough spending decisions ahead, but I was sent to Congress by you to make tough decisions and I am not going to shirk that responsibility. With the Bush tax cuts now made permanent for 99 percent of Americans that pay income taxes, now is the time to move forward and do everything we can to make the government live within its means, just like Missouri families and businesses do every day.

As your elected official in Washington, I have a duty to apply your principles to the realities of governing. While being prudent, I must weigh the benefits and the costs of action--and of inaction. Unless we get at the heart of the spending problem, Americans face a debt crisis that will threaten our country's economic well-being and the future America that our children and grandchildren will inherit. It would be irresponsible of Congress not to do everything it can to prevent such a crisis.

Unfortunately, the president wants to pretend spending isn't the problem. While he has promised the American people a balanced approach to the debt, his proposals have been anything but balanced. Instead of beginning to solve our debt problem, the president and his top officials have called for more spending, a new "stimulus' and the ability to raise the debt ceiling whenever he wants, without cuts and reforms.

By contrast to the unbalanced proposals the president has put forth, Republicans in the House offered a reasonable plan consistent with the balanced approach the president promised the American people during the campaign but has failed repeatedly to deliver. Republicans offered the president new revenue through pro-growth tax reform that would close special-interest loopholes and deductions, but also lower rates in order to stimulate the economy. It would have also cut another $1.2 trillion in spending on top of the spending cuts enacted over the past two years. Needless to say, the president and his allies made it clear that this plan was not acceptable to them.

Meanwhile, during the first week in the 113th Congress, I co-sponsored legislation requiring a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Under the bill, total spending for any fiscal year must not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year. It also would require a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber to increase the public debt limit; would direct the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress annually; would prohibit any bill to increase revenue from becoming law unless approved by a majority of each chamber by roll call vote; and would authorize waivers of these provisions when a declaration of war is in effect or under other specified circumstances involving military conflict.

We cannot spend our way out of this economic downturn but, rather, Congress needs to enact pro-growth economic policies and also make the tough choices to seriously cut spending. Missouri families and businesses have to balance their budgets, and so should Washington. That's the message you sent me on New Year's Eve, and as your voice in Congress I am prepared to share that message with my colleagues in Congress and with the president.

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