October 30, 2013

Crapo: Budget Conference Committee Must Result in Strong Budget Enforcement Process

Conference has potential to lay foundation for real fiscal reform

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Budget Committee and a conferee to the Senate-House Budget Conference Committee, delivered an opening statement at the first public meeting of the committee charged with reconciling differences between the two chambers' budgets.

Acknowledging the short time frame for the committee to reach a large-scale agreement, Crapo focused on the need to lay the foundation for processes that would result in strong fiscal reforms moving forward.  

"…one of the first objectives we should have in this conference is to protect and assure the reality of the fiscal reforms that we already have in place.  Not just focusing on the numbers in the budget and spending, but focusing on implementing some of those processes…Budget enforcement processes that will help us assure that Congress sticks to the agreements that it does make on the budget.  We don't have time to put together a large deal that would involve tax reform, entitlement reform, fiscal reform and the budget enforcement reform that all of us know needs to be done.   But, we can set up some processes to help us assure that the tax reform does move forward promptly.

"Processes that assure that Congress will not break its budget, as it has almost a perfect record of doing so.  Processes that will help us deal with future lapses in spending and potential government shutdown.  Processes to help us deal with the debt ceiling, and hopefully help us reduce the stress we put on our economy in the political battles that we have here [in Congress].   I believe that we have a remarkable opportunity to focus on fixing some of the rules, some of the processes by which we function in this Congress, in a way that will help us increase our ability to protect the savings that we now have, and to achieve further and greater savings as we move forward," Crapo concluded.

(Click here to view the video on YouTube)

Below is the text of Crapo's full opening statement:

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman and Chairman Murray.

I've listened very carefully to the comments that have been made today and I am heartened by the fact that everyone recognizes that we need to come together to find the consensus and common ground between us as we move forward.

Senator Wyden mentioned that we should turn the current crisis into consensus and we have that opportunity.  I think it's important that we recognize some of the facts that we have to deal with as we achieve that.  I have recently started to hear talk, not among us here, but I have started to hear talk recently that we don't really have a debt crisis anymore.  Talk that Congress has been responsible in the past few years, saying that we've  passed $2.5 trillion of the $4 trillion that we needed to achieve and that we are well on our way now to climbing out of the problem that we face.  The reality is that we do still have a debt crisis.

The $2.5 trillion that is talked about is essentially made up of about $500-$600 billion of tax increases, and a Budget Control Act that was passed in the face of the last fiscal crisis of 2011 that requires Congress to stick to that budget for ten years.   Anyone who has watched Congress and the budget process knows that the record Congress has in sticking to its budget is deplorable.  One of the things I think we ought to focus on is making sure that this $2.5 trillion that we all talk about is maintained.  We have actually, and I think remarkably, stayed to that budget for the last couple of years-to the Budget Control Act.  As a result of that, at least with regard to discretionary spending, we are now starting to bend the curve down.  As I understand it, if we stay on this course, we are actually going to be spending less in real dollars-not inflation adjusted dollars-but less in real dollars in this fiscal year than we have in just a few years past.  A remarkable achievement, but one that must be maintained.

I think as we talk about how to move forward, one of the first objectives we should have here in this conference is to protect and assure the reality of the fiscal reforms that we already have in place.  What am I talking about?  I am talking about focusing not just on some of the numbers in the budget and spending, but focusing on implementing some processes.  I think one of the best things this committee could do is to establish some processes to help us move forward to assure and protect the existing achievements that have been made.  Budget enforcement processes that will help us assure that Congress sticks to the agreements that it does make on the budget.  And then, set forward some processes to help us move into the larger objectives --what has been called "grand bargains."   I know that we don't have the time in this committee to put together  the kind of large deal that would involve tax reform, entitlement reform, fiscal reform and the budget enforcement reform that all of us know needs to be done.  But, we can set up some processes to help us assure that the tax reform, that we all talk about and are working on, does move forward and moves forward promptly. 

Processes that assure that Congress will not break its budget, as it has almost a perfect record of doing so.  Processes that will help us deal with future lapses in spending and potential government shutdown-in the way that Sen. Portman's (R-Ohio) bill and others have proposed.  Processes to help us get a functioning and smoother way to deal with these crisis points that we seem to lurch between.  Processes to help us deal with the debt ceiling and hopefully help us reduce the stress we put on our economy in the political battles that we have here.  I believe that we have a remarkable opportunity to focus on fixing some of the rules, some of the processes by which we function in this Congress, in a way that will help us increase our ability to protect the savings that we now have, and to achieve further and greater savings as we move forward.  I would just encourage everyone, as we work on all the others parts of the budget, and all the other parts of the fiscal reforms that are necessary, that we focus on laying the foundation for much greater and more effective results as we move forward beyond the activities of this committee.

Thank you.