While our nation continues to emerge from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, we aren't out of the woods yet. Many of Colorado's hardworking families continue to struggle with joblessness, student loan bills and a sluggish credit market. My top priority is to do everything I can to help Colorado families feel secure again – and that must include getting our nation's fiscal house in order.
As the economy recovers, most economists believe it would be premature to dramatically slash federal spending in the near term. But we must commit ourselves to reining in our massive long-term deficits, which threaten to saddle future generations with debt that could trigger disastrous inflation and cripple our economy. Ensuring the long-term health of the U.S. economy will require members of both parties to work together on common-sense solutions that will help position Colorado – and the rest of the country – to win the global economic race.
We can start by reinstating common-sense budgeting practices in the federal government. Families across the country balance their checkbooks, and they expect the same of our government.
That is why I introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require Congress to balance the federal budget each year. I was proud to lead the successful fight to eliminate wasteful earmarks, and I also have long advocated for presidential line-item veto authority, which would allow the president to identify projects for cancellation and require Congress to vote on those cuts. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I authored bipartisan line-item veto legislation and I have co-sponsored similar legislation in the U.S. Senate. This important fiscal reform is long overdue, and I'm continuing to push to bring it to a vote.
We also need to reform the way Congress does business and root out inefficiencies in the federal government. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has identified hundreds of overlapping federal government programs that, if consolidated or cut, could dramatically reduce administrative and overhead costs, among other savings. That is why I've worked with Republican Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas to propose a Committee to Reduce Government Waste, which is based on a similar committee formed after World War II. All too often, Congress rushes ahead to create new programs without asking whether they're necessary or if there are other programs or rules that can be eliminated. That's why this new committee would require Congress to closely examine existing programs to ensure that our government is working as efficiently as possible. I also joined Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma in introducing legislation to amend the Senate rules and require that, before proceeding to any bill, the Congressional Research Service must first issue a report on whether it duplicates existing law.
Finally, to set our nation on a path to long-term fiscal sustainability, we need to pass comprehensive reforms similar to those recommend by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission. While I don't agree with all of its recommendations, the Simpson-Bowles Commission's report is a serious, common-sense plan that would reduce our long-term debt and deficits, and I believe Congress should produce its own plan in the same mold. Building a bipartisan consensus around these kinds of common-sense solutions is far more productive than lunging from one crisis to the next, funding the government in one month increments and arguing about policies like the so-called "sequester" which applies thoughtless across-the-board cuts to federal programs while failing to fundamentally balance our budget.
We must work in a bipartisan way to bridge the ideological divide in Congress and develop a multi-pronged strategy for reducing our nation's budget deficit and debt. That's the kind of common-sense leadership that Coloradans expect, and it's the principle that continues to guide my work every day.
I introduced the bipartisan Energy Efficient Government Technology Act to require the federal government to reduce energy consumption at federal data centers. Data centers are the fastest growing consumers of energy, so focusing on energy efficiency in this arena is a critical component of the United States' plan to achieve energy self-reliance and reduce costs to taxpayers. This is a common-sense example of how a smarter, more efficient approach by the federal government can save taxpayer dollars and keep more money in the pockets of Coloradans.
Coloradans are more interested in results than partisan politics. That's why I organized an effort with my Republican and Democratic colleagues in Colorado urging Congressional leadership to craft a bipartisan and balanced comprehensive debt reduction plan that will avoid the fiscal cliff and set our budget on a sustainable path. We must pursue balanced, comprehensive and bipartisan solutions to our deficits and debt if we want to restore our nation's fiscal health and compete in the emerging global economic race.
Since my days in the U.S. House of Representatives, I have consistently sought creative and common-sense fiscal policies to cut excessive government spending, because I believe controlling deficit spending is one of the greatest national security threats facing our country. With this in mind, I was pleased to join Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Tom Carper(D-DE) and Dan Coats (R-IN) in introducing the bipartisan Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act (S.102), which would give the president line-item veto authority to reduce wasteful spending. A presidential line-item veto is a practical mechanism to reduce our growing deficit, get our nation’s fiscal house back in order and put an end to wasteful spending. With the recent passage of similar legislation in the House of Representatives, we are fighting to bring this proposal to a vote on the Senate floor.
As a member of the U.S. Senate, I take very seriously my role in conducting oversight to ensure that the federal government is more accountable and efficient. But I know that Congress must take a look at itself as well. Congressional committees often focus too much on creating new problems and regulations, while slighting an equally important role of the legislative branch: overseeing and reforming laws that already exist. With this in mind, I was proud to join Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) in introducing an amendment to require that the Congressional Research Services report on any duplication created by proposed legislation before the Senate votes on it. Where duplication exists, the committee would be required to justify for members of the Senate why the duplication is necessary.
During the 112th Congress, I was also proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with my colleague, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), to establish a Committee to Reduce Government Waste (S.Res.93), which would be charged with identifying and targeting wasteful and underperforming federal government programs for elimination.
I urged Senate leadership to quickly confirm Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so that the agency can begin the important work of protecting consumers against deceptive, misleading and unfair business practices. During debate of the Wall Street Reform legislation in 2010, I successfully fought to give millions of Americans free access to their credit scores, but until the Senate confirms a director for the CFPB, the new consumer watchdog will be powerless to further protect against companies that market and sell their often faulty credit score-related products, including those on misleading websites like www.freescore.com and www.freecreditscore.com. In these tough economic times, we need to ensure the CFPB is doing all it can to shield consumers against financial traps and deceptive advertisements that can lock Americans into pricey subscriptions and other credit score-related services unknowingly.
Most government programs are created with good intentions, but in too many cases, Congress creates new programs that are redundant and sometimes wasteful rather than strategically targeting resources where they are needed. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report outlining billions of dollars that could be saved by eliminating duplicative government programs. For instance, the GAO found the federal government has 80 economic-development programs, 44 employment and training programs and five agencies within the Department of Transportation that operate 100 surface-transportation programs. There has to be a better way of doing business, and I believe Congress has a responsibility to look back and do away with old, inefficient programs. In fact, I believe we need to resurrect the "un-authorizing" committee that was created to address our deficits and debt after World War II, and begin to streamline the government, pare down our national budget, save taxpayers' dollars, and strengthen the private economy by making sure the government is as lean as ever.
I was proud to introduce legislation, along with my colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), to establish such a committee (S.Res.93). Our proposed Committee to Reduce Government Waste would be charged with identifying and targeting wasteful and underperforming federal government programs for elimination. The bipartisan committee would have 12 members, four from each of the Senate Finance, Appropriations and Budget committees. It would submit a report to the Senate at least once a year that identified underperforming and wasteful government programs in need of cuts or elimination, and its recommendations would receive expedited consideration in the Senate.
The World War II-era Committee saved more than $38 billion in present dollars over just three years just by reducing wasteful spending. It is time to reconstitute this common-sense idea to bring more fiscal accountability to Washington and much-needed relief to taxpayers.
On August 2, 2011, I was proud to introduce a constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment, S.J.Res.24. We need a common-sense policy that will help pay down the nation's debt and restore fiscal responsibility in Washington. The Balanced Budget Amendment would be one part of that larger policy. The legislation would enact a constitutional amendment directing Congress to balance the federal budget each year. It states that federal spending cannot exceed revenue except in special cases, such as when the nation is in a war declared by Congress. And it could be suspended only if three-fifths of the members of the House and Senate agree. My Balanced Budget Amendment would also create a Social Security “lockbox” to ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund is not raided in order to balance the budget and it would prevent any additional tax cuts for the richest Americans when there is a budget deficit.
Coloradans are tired of the earmark spending done by members of Congress - with good reason. While I've worked for many years to reform the process, I concluded last year that more definitive action was needed. On November 15, 2010, I announced that not only would I no longer request earmarks, I would work to end the practice so that Congress could focus on what Americans want most - a secure economic future. For that reason I was thrilled when the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations agreed with me and announced a two year ban on earmarks on February 1, 2011.