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U.S. National Debt:

Still Needed: Responsible Budgeting

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) annual Budget and Economic Outlook report shows that, absent action, the United States continues to remain on an unsustainable fiscal path with the national debt expected to grow by $9 trillion over the course of the next ten years.  According to CBO, the cost of the interest payments alone on the debt are expected to rise by 5.6 trillion, which would account for roughly 13.5 percent of total annual federal spending.  Our nation's fiscal picture is clearly not back on track, which demands truly responsible budgeting.

As a nation, we recently surpassed $18 trillion in debt.  Despite record revenues coming into the U.S. Treasury, we went almost half a trillion dollars deeper in debt during 2014.  When President Obama took office, we were $10 trillion in debt; with now-record revenues coming in, that debt figure has nearly doubled and shows the problem is spending, not taxes.  Now, in the budget proposal President Obama recently sent to Congress, he is proposing to spend $74 billion more in the next year alone than is allowed under the budget cap that he agreed to and signed into law just a couple of years ago.

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I had the opportunity to question the Director of the CBO at a recent Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine CBO's annual Budget and Economic Outlook report.  CBO Director Doug Elmendorf confirmed that our nation's$18 trillion national debt remains a drag on the economy and job growth, and continued increased federal spending used as a short-term strategy to boost the economy will have serious negative long-term effects on the country's economic future.

I recently co-sponsored several bills that call for balancing the federal budget and controlling spending by moving to a biennial federal budget process.  The new balanced budget legislation I co-sponsored would provide directives that should already be, but inexcusably are not, common practice.  The legislation would mandate that the President submit a balanced budget to Congress; require that 2/3s of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would be needed to approve certain tax increases and new deficit spending; and stop court rulings that would impose tax increases that would bypass Congress.

I also co-sponsored the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act, which would extend the fiscal year budgeting process from one to two years.  Such a process will hold down yearly budget increase requests and sharpen congressional oversight of budget requests.  Additionally, the Accurate Budgeting Act, reintroduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), which I also co-sponsored, would require the Joint Committee on Taxation to release a more detailed score of revenue and economic effects for most tax-related bills introduced into the Congress.

Balanced budgeting seems like it should be a basic, fundamental function of the Administration and Congress.  Appallingly, it seems to have been pushed by the wayside in recent years.  This cannot continue.  We simply cannot continue to spend money we do not have.  There is no more important task before this Congress and this Administration than getting our nation on better economic footing.  It is immediately essential and essential for our future.  Responsible, balanced budgeting is a requirement of this effort.

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