Jul 17 2012
“Chairman Conrad, to his credit, does not dispute… [that] the outlay total he filed is $14 billion higher… He simply asserts that it is within his discretion to unilaterally set a higher total… Remember, outlays are the spending figure which directly registers on the debt. $14 billion in higher outlays in 2013 means $14 billion more added to the debt in 2013. It’s just that simple…
This is a matter that ought to be considered by the full Senate and so I plan to pursue a vote on the inflated spending levels. Each Senator will therefore have to examine their own conscience and their duty to their constituents and the nation. Plainly, this action violates the spirit and the terms of the BCA, which was agreed to just last August—just 11 months ago… The test will be, in this first year since the passage of the debt deal, will we adhere to its modest restraints? Or will we blink?”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor today about the controversial decision of the Senate majority leadership to file outlay levels that exceed the Budget Control Act’s allowable limits by $14 billion. Sessions announced that he would attempt to find an opportunity to raise a point of order, allowing each Senator to cast a vote on whether or not to break the spending limits.
Video of Sessions’ remarks may be viewed here, and the text as prepared follows:
“Mr. President, I call attention today to another serious—scandalous, really—development in the way the Senate Democrat leadership is systematically dismantling the statutorily required budget process. It’s a tale of how it is that we’re going broke.
Let me begin with a brief review of the situation. Last summer, Congress and the President—facing a serious crisis as a result of the fact that surging government spending had driven our debt to the maximum allowable level—struck a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans prevailed in their insistence that spending should be reduced over 10 years by an amount equal to the amount the debt ceiling was raised that day. The legislation this deal produced, the Budget Control Act, set forth these spending limits in the continued absence of a budget resolution. These spending limits come into effect when the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Senator Conrad, files the allocations into the Congressional Record telling every Senate committee its allowed spending levels. The Budget Control Act, or BCA, plainly dictates that the 2013 spending limits be derived from the CBO baseline. This is crucial because the CBO baseline contains the $2.1 trillion, 10-year spending cut that the debt deal was supposed to implement in exchange for an immediate $2.1 trillion increase in federal borrowing authority.
And herein lies the scandal. Although it was buried in his spending allocation, my staff on the Senate Budget Committee discovered that Senator Conrad did not file an outlay limit based on the CBO baseline. Instead, the outlay total he filed is $14 billion higher, curiously matching exactly the higher spending levels that President Obama requested in his budget.
Although this discovery was not readily apparent, Chairman Conrad, to his credit, does not dispute this. He simply asserts that it is within his discretion to unilaterally set a higher total. Again, because the CBO baseline reflects the spending cut passed by Congress and signed into law, an increase above the baseline, as this allocation does, is an abrogation of the debt deal agreement. As reported by CQ, “Conrad did not counter Sessions’ claim that the elevated outlay limit would allow higher spending in fiscal [year] 2013.”
But, this is not just the fault of Senator Conrad. This large violation of the Budget Control Act is without doubt the decision of Senator Reid, his leadership team, and the members of the Senate Democratic caucus who support it.
Remember, outlays are the spending figure which directly registers on the debt. $14 billion in higher outlays in 2013 means $14 billion more added to the debt in 2013. It’s just that simple.
In fact, the higher debt that will accrue next year as a result of this higher spending level means that interest payments on the debt will be greater and will also exceed the CBO baseline. As a result, the Chairman had to boost the spending authority for the Finance Committee by $79 million to compensate for the higher interest payment. This shows that the debt deal legislation has been violated not only in spirit but in letter. Why? Because if you increase discretionary outlays you increase the debt and therefore increase the interest needed to service the debt. It is crystal clear that the legislation provides no flexibility whatsoever to inflate the spending authority for interest payments. It is in direct violation of the Budget Control Act.
I have previously sent two letters to Chairman Conrad urging him to correct and re-file the proper numbers. But it is evident the Chairman does not intend to do so and so I must seek an alternate recourse. This is a matter that ought to be considered by the full Senate and so I plan to pursue a vote on the inflated spending levels. Each Senator will therefore have to examine their own conscience and their duty to their constituents and the nation. Plainly, this action violates the spirit and the terms of the BCA, which was agreed to just last August—just 11 months ago. At that time Congress declared to the world that we would exercise some spending restraint. The test will be, in this first year since the passage of the debt deal, will we adhere to its modest restraints? Or will we blink?
We have Members of Congress that seem to take it as a personal challenge to see how they can spend more money than they’re allocated. It happens every year. This is how a country goes broke. The consequences of the annual manipulations and gimmicks, cumulatively, have great impact. Think about it: if we spend $14 billion extra this year, build it into the baseline, and then gimmick another extra $14 billion into the baseline next year, we’ve spent an extra $42 billion in two years—and that’s not counting the interest on the debt. If this scheme continued for ten years it would add up to around $900 billion in extra spending.
Meanwhile, the President continues his call for higher taxes, saying that taxing more will reduce the deficit. But his plan is for the new taxes to fund more spending, more gimmicks, more fraud. The new taxes are not to pay down the debt. His own budget proposal makes this clear: he increases spending by $1.6 trillion and increases taxes by a similar amount. The $1.8 trillion in tax increases are not used to reduce our huge annual deficits, but to pay for the new spending he proposes beyond the Budget Control Act. President Obama’s plan is for a tax, spend, and borrow economy, the kind of economic plan that expert after expert tells us is unsustainable.
And for three years—three consecutive years—the Senate Democrat majority has refused to bring forth a budget plan as required by common sense and plain law. They refuse to even write a budget and bring it to the floor for consideration. They have no financial plan for the future of America. Senator Reid, what’s your plan? He blocked Senator Conrad, who was willing and prepared to lay out a budget plan for the Democrats.
They have no financial plan—just spend more, waste more, tax more, borrow more. They treat any effort to rein in waste and abuse as evidencing a hatred for those suffering and truly in need. We want to help people in need, but anybody who examines these programs knows there is waste, fraud, and abuse. We can clean them up and save money without hurting those truly in need.
From IRS checks sent to illegal aliens, lavish GSA parties in Las Vegas, reckless abuse in the food stamp program, and now this surreptitious $14 billion debt increase, there is no financial accountability in Washington. I will be working to erase this $14 billion spending increase, and I urge my colleagues to join me so that our actions will be consistent with our promises to the American people last August.
It’s always a gimmick and a danger to spend today and promise to pay for it in the future. But that is what is happening here, just in the first year after the debt limit agreement.
The best avenue may be to raise a point of order when an opportunity presents itself, so we will see how we can bring this matter before the Senate. I really truly believe it’s a defining moment for us: if we can’t adhere one full year to the agreement we reached last August, which we told the American people we would abide by, then I think the distrust and lack of confidence already felt in Congress by the American people will continue to further erode.”