by Senator Dan Coats
During the most recent Republican presidential debate, topics of discussion ranged from the important, like the crisis in Syria, to the unimportant, such as potential Secret Service codenames.
One topic that barely registered during the debate? Our nation’s debt and deficit problems.
During the three hour debate, the word deficit was used just twice, and only one candidate discussed why we need to reduce federal spending.
The lack of emphasis on these issues is not a reflection of what I hear as I travel across Indiana. It is clear from the phone calls, letters, emails and in-person feedback I receive that Hoosiers are tired of business-as-usual in Washington.
They are tired of the national debt clock ticking away as the federal government spends more than it takes in every year and continues to plunge into ever deeper debt. And they are tired of President Obama overreaching his authority and proceeding without congressional backing on issues of major importance.
When I ran for the Senate in 2010, I asked Hoosiers to send me back to Washington to focus on tackling our nation’s debt and deficit problems. To my great regret, these issues have gone largely unaddressed. President Obama has repeatedly walked away from every attempt, including well-supported bipartisan efforts, to enact real reforms. Even proposals that originated from his own White House have been rejected by this president.
Between now and the end of this year, Congress faces a number of challenges, including federal funding for the next fiscal year, hitting our nation’s debt limit and expiring transportation funding. While there are no easy answers to these challenges, maintaining the status quo in Washington is simply unacceptable now that Republicans are in control of the House and Senate.
I believe we must fund the essential functions of government, but we can no longer ignore that our national debt is over $18 trillion. Therefore, I will not support funding bills or debt limit increases unless the Senate takes meaningful action to address our fiscal challenges.
Specific proposals that I would like to see Congress consider include:
A balanced-budget amendment
Passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is a good first step to get our country’s fiscal house in order. A majority of states already operate under a balanced budget requirement in their state constitution.
Responsible spending cuts
Washington does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Current tax revenues are at historic levels, but the federal government’s spending still outpaces its income. Total federal debt has increased from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office to $18.2 trillion today.
The main driver of our national debt is spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These programs provide much-needed benefits for many Hoosiers, and they need to be preserved both for current retirees and future generations. This is not a problem we can continue to ignore, as the Social Security Disability Insurance Program will become insolvent next year. Taking no action will have disastrous consequences for beneficiaries of all these programs.
A civilian BRAC
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is a process by which an independent commission makes recommendations to improve Department of Defense efficiency, and Congress then considers these recommendations as a whole. The BRAC process has worked well for the military and should be applied across the entire federal government. An independent panel of private sector experts should go through all federal agencies to identify ways to cut costs and make federal agencies more efficient, and then these recommendations should be put before Congress for a straight up-or-down vote, without procedural gimmicks or amendments.
Our fiscal problems carry a steep price tag that threatens both our way of life and our nation’s security. Given this reality, I will oppose efforts to simply continue spending without implementing reforms to put our country back on a path to financial health.
It’s time for Senate Republicans to fight as a majority and fulfill the pledges we made to our constituents. We must take every opportunity to lead our country back to financial stability.
Sen. Dan Coats is a Republican from Indiana.