Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the greatest threat facing our nation is our debt. To get out of this crisis we will need a serious, responsible budget that cuts back on bloated federal spending, which now controls nearly 25% of our entire economy.

Two months ago, the president submitted his formal budget to Congress as required by law. It was a plan that would raise taxes $1.7 trillion while doubling our nation's gross debt in 10 years and producing annual deficits that never once fall below $748 billion. It is the most irresponsible spending plan any president has ever put forward.

On Wednesday, the president delivered a speech in which we were told he was going to lay out a new vision for deficit reduction. After weeks of touting his own budget, it was an apparent acknowledgment that his plan was inadequate.

But given another opportunity to step forward and lead, the president failed. He offered no concrete details of any kind, just soft targets and vague promises. He made no commitment to present a new budget to Congress that can be reviewed, scored and analyzed. Once again, he did not rise to the moment and fulfill his duty as our nation's leader.

By contrast, House Republicans have presented the most serious effort to curb our debt that I have seen during my career. It is a specific, detailed plan that spends a remarkable $6.2 trillion less than the president's budget. Instead of raising taxes, it reduces them by $1.8 trillion.

During his speech, the president said he believes that this approach lacks "balance," and that any effort to curb our debt should include substantial tax hikes. But there is nothing balanced about raising taxes. Real balance means shifting the balance of power from Washington back to the people. Rather than trying to drain every cent from the American taxpayers, we should try to drain every cent of waste from the federal budget.

At its core, the debate over our nation's deficit is a debate over our nation's identity. America's greatness lies not in the size of our government but in the scope of our freedoms. We need a budget that recognizes that essential truth.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

This op-ed originally appeared in USA Today.