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From disorder to regular order

April 11, 2016
In The News

 

In the years following the recession of 2007, families across our country have had to tighten up their budgets to make ends meet. And while today's economic forecast may be brighter for some, many hardworking taxpayers continue to deal with the challenging reality that jobs and opportunity are not returning.

The sad irony of the past 10 years is that while American families have been forced to cut back on expenses to pay their bills, the federal government has grown at an alarming rate, with seemingly no end in sight. In the past seven years alone, under President Obama's leadership, our national debt has doubled to nearly $20 trillion.

We need to return fiscal sanity to the process the federal government uses to spend taxpayer dollars. The federal government must be held to the same standard as American families and businesses.

Balancing our nation's runaway debt is a top priority of mine as a member of the Congressional House Budget Committee. Article one, section 9 of the United States Constitution delegates the power to appropriate, or spend, taxpayer dollars to Congress; this is known as the "power of the purse." The great responsibility of identifying our nation's spending priorities, and setting the proper levels of spending, begins with Congress.

It is the duty of Congress to pass 12 individual appropriations bills through both the House and the Senate. These measures fund the key functions of our government while putting our deficit and debt on a positive track.

Passing a budget resolution, and then all 12 of the appropriations bills as they did in 1997, is called "regular order" in the halls of Congress.

Unfortunately, 1997 is the only recent example of our nation's leaders fully using regular order to control our nation's spending. This failure to abide by regular order has led to several federal government shutdowns, hasty and secretive budget negotiations, economic uncertainty and disruptions in services for many hardworking troops and taxpayers.

We must get back to regular order if we hope to solve our nation's debt and deficit crisis.

The first important step in establishing regular order is passing a budget resolution that sets the overall spending limits for discretionary spending of your tax dollars. This includes the spending that Congress controls through the appropriations process, but not mandatory spending on programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Congress instituted the yearly budget resolution process through passage of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. The budget resolution also serves as an important tool for advocating for conservative ideas on spending, taxation and our rising debt.

Even when we disagree about individual proposals or spending levels in the budget, we can all agree that members of Congress need to come together to pass reforms that will grow our economy, create jobs and decrease our national debt.

The House Budget Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution on March 16. While more needs to be done to control spending, it is critical that Congress funds our spending priorities while balancing the budget. The American people are done a disservice when Congress fails to pass each of 12 appropriations bills on the floor of the House.

Last year, the House passed six of the 12 appropriations bills, but quit when the minority party offered an amendment to ban the Confederate flag. The Senate appropriations committee passed all 12 bills, nine of which had bipartisan support, but they were all stopped by Harry Reid and the minority party's use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

So instead of passing all 12 individual appropriations bills to reduce our deficit and debt last December, under threat of a government shutdown, the House passed H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, also known as the Omnibus Spending Bill.

This legislation spends $1.1 trillion and passed with very little transparency.

Like many of my colleagues, I was frustrated that regular order was not followed. Our nation deserves better. My constituents deserve better.

Speaker Paul Ryan and many members of Congress are working hard to return to our constitutional process of regular order. We need to get this done.

We are a nation in fiscal crisis, and we have a blueprint to fix it. We simply need to exercise the power of the purse, which the founders of our country set up for us, and get back to regular order.