Our nation is now emerging from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, but we aren't out of the woods yet. Many of Colorado's hardworking families continue to struggle with joblessness, slumping housing values, home foreclosures, 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. But we must rein in massive deficits, which threaten to saddle future generations with debt that could trigger disastrous inflation and further cripple our economy. Ensuring the long-term health of the U.S. economy will require us to return to basic fundamentals - principles that Coloradans have lived by for generations. As we emerge from this recession, I'm working with my colleagues in both parties on common-sense solutions that will help position Colorado - and the rest of the country - to win the global economic race.
I believe we need a three-legged stool approach to give our economy a solid foundation - one that's focused on innovation, fiscal discipline and reform from within. Accomplishing any one is a daunting challenge. But we can't simply grow our way out of the economic downturn we've experienced since 2007.
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 support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require Congress to balance the federal budget each year. I also have a long history of advocating 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 reform is long overdue, and I’m continuing to push for a vote on this important fiscal reform.
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. This new congressional committee would require Congress to also look back to ensure that 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 in the Senate, the Congressional Research Service first report on whether it duplicates existing law.
And finally, we need to take up and pass recommendations of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was headed by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, for how to set our nation on a path to long-term fiscal sustainability. While I don't agree with all of its recommendations, the Bowles-Simpson Commission’s report is a serious, bipartisan plan that I believe deserves consideration and an up-or-down vote by Congress.
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. Coloradans can count on me to represent them in this fight.
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.