Letter from Chairman Murray
Over the past few years, Congress has spent far too much time lurching from one budget crisis to the next, even while families and the economy have struggled to recover from the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. Instead of working with those of us who wanted to focus on creating jobs and boosting the economy, a minority of members pushed us into debate after debate over keeping the government open and over whether the federal government should default on its debts. The same group blocked a bipartisan budget conference after the House and Senate passed our budgets and manufactured yet another crisis over the debt limit and keeping the government open last October.
I am very proud that five months ago Democrats and Republicans finally came together, put partisanship aside, and made some tough compromises to reach a budget deal. We passed a two-year budget that put an end to fiscal brinksmanship, rolled back some of the devastating cuts from sequestration, prevented another government shutdown this year, and restored much-needed certainty to the budget process. This was a strong step in the right direction, and continues to provide a foundation for future bipartisan work.
With damaging and counterproductive brinksmanship hopefully behind us, Congress now has the opportunity to focus its attention on the fundamental fiscal and economic challenges facing the country, and to work together to meet those challenges.
Over the past several years, the outlook for the federal budget has improved dramatically. Since 2009, the deficit has been cut by more than two thirds, down to 2.8 percent of the economy. Congress has put into place $3.3 trillion in further deficit reduction over the next ten years, and health care cost growth has slowed to historically low levels. And while we still have serious long-term deficit and debt challenges to tackle, it is clear that we now have some fiscal breathing room to craft smart, responsible strategies that will put the budget on a sustainable footing, while simultaneously addressing the many other economic challenges we face.
The Senate Budget we passed last year put forward just such a vision for tackling our budget deficit and debt fairly and responsibly over the next ten years. Drawing on these blueprints, the Senate Budget Committee has prepared an online resource that lays out principles for building on the deficit reduction we have done so far to tackle our long-term challenges fairly and responsibly.
Critically, deficit reduction must be done in a balanced way that includes a mix of responsible spending cuts as well as revenue raised by closing wasteful loopholes and reducing tax breaks used by the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations. We should cut wasteful spending in the tax code just like we should cut wasteful spending in the budget, because it would be irresponsible and wrong to ask seniors, middle class families, and the most vulnerable to bear the burden of deficit reduction alone.
As we look for ways to bring down our long-term deficits and debt, we cannot ignore the many other deficits that burden our families, our workers, and our nation, while demanding our attention as much as the budget deficit does. The United States faces deficits, for example, when it comes to good middle class jobs, education and training, innovation, and 21st century infrastructure. And these are all connected to the critical and dangerous deficit of opportunities for children, families, and workers to climb the economic ladder and achieve their goals.
In addition to highlighting these deficits, this page lays out some principles for how Congress can work together to address them, and offers some illustrative examples of policies we can implement right away to begin tackling these deficits and helping families and workers. It will be updated regularly with more information, so make sure to check back in the coming weeks and months.
Now that Congress has finally stepped away from the constant budget crises with the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act, we should take advantage of the budget certainty over the next year to work together to enact policies that create jobs and expand broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all families and workers.
Over the coming months, members of the Senate will be rolling out and discussing bills that would make progress toward these crucial goals, and I am hopeful that Republicans come back to the table and join us in helping working families and creating broad-based economic growth.
Chairman, Senate Budget Committee