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U.S. National Debt:

Curbing Overspending

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Senate procedure can be too cumbersome and detailed to adequately discuss concisely.  However, given the recent use of a Senate budget point of order in the consideration of the Sportmen's Act, it is a good time to take a look at budget enforcement measures and the need to strengthen them.  Tougher budget enforcement measures are one of the tools needed to reduce federal overspending. 

Our national debt has risen to more than $16 trillion, and $1.1 trillion in deficit spending has been added to this burden this year alone.  No matter what near-term agreement hopefully gets achieved to avoid the fiscal cliff and reduce federal spending, responsibility commands that we continue to reduce deficit spending and the debt in order to get our nation on a sound economic course. 

Currently, the Senate has a number of budget points of orderthat Senators can use to keep federal spending in check.  For example, Senators can raise points of order against attempts to pass legislation that would exceed established spending limits and increase Social Security deficits.  Senators can also use points of order to enforce prohibition of enacting spending legislation if a budget plan has not been enacted.  A point of order can also be raised against designating a provision as an emergency in order to get around spending limits. 

If a budget point of order is successful, it forces Senators to work together to address any overspending if the legislation is to be passed.  Supporting a budget point of order raised against a particular piece of legislation does not necessarily mean that a Senator is opposed to the underlying legislation.  Rather, it reflects a commitment to reducing the deficit and debt.  We must continually be focused on the taxpayer cost of each measure considered and not let up in reducing federal debt.  Unchecked federal spending cripples our economy and cannot continue.

However, none of the points of order currently available require more than 60 Senate votes to override the spending prohibition.  Some may believe that this is already a high bar.  However, given the extreme federal spending despite these checks, the bar needs to be raised higher.  The Congressional Budget Office reported that Fiscal Year 2012 marks the fourth consecutive year with a deficit above $1 trillion.  Much stronger budget enforcement measures, beyond the current 60-vote threshold, are needed to make it harder for the federal government to spend beyond its means. 

I have been working with senators from both sides of the aisle to advance responsible solutions to address our growing debt crisis and support plans that would make it more difficult for Congress to enable irresponsible spending.  I have been pressing for a higher vote threshold of 67 votes for proposals to exceed budget caps on spending bills, because it should be more difficult to overspend.  We also must enact provisions to reduce the abuse of so-called emergency spending by limiting Congress' ability to avoid fiscal constraints through emergency spending designations.      

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee and through my work with the bipartisan group known as the Gang of Eight and other efforts, I will continue to press for stronger budget controls.  We cannot continue to spend beyond our means to have a strong and exceptional nation.  The ability of Congress to exceed spending limits must be curbed.  Strengthening budget enforcement measures is essential to this effort.      

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