Debt limit vote must include spending cuts

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just like every American who faces a credit card limit, the federal government has a maximum amount of debt that it can acquire -- or a "debt ceiling." According to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Washington is very close to "maxing out" that massive $14.3 trillion federal borrowing limit next month on May 16.

In light of that looming deadline, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently called for Congress to approve a so-called "clean" vote to increase the limit that the federal government is allowed to borrow -- meaning a vote without any spending cuts or fundamental changes to the way we're doing business in Washington. This comes at a time when America is suffering from almost 9 percent unemployment and job creators are facing greater uncertainty as the current administration threatens to raise taxes on small businesses.

Clearly, business as usual isn't working. So if President Obama and Senator Reid want to pass a debt-limit increase without substantial and long-term spending reforms, they better hope that they have enough Democrats in the Senate to accomplish that goal. Because they will have to do it without me.

Right now in our country, we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that is spent by the federal government. This fiscal year, we are on a path to spend $3.7 trillion while only collecting $2.2 trillion. That means for every dollar spent on non-entitlement programs, America is borrowing from other countries like China, where we already owe more than $1 trillion. Our current debt -- which amounts to 94 percent of our nation's gross domestic product -- is costing America one million jobs. And on average, we're adding $4 billion more each day in new debt, which will be paid for by our children and grandchildren.

Washington can't continue spending money we do not have, and suggesting that we raise the debt ceiling without implementing substantial policies to cut spending and rein in our skyrocketing debt is simply reckless. That's why I will not support any vote to increase our debt limit unless the President and Senate Democrat leaders agree to significant changes to reform our spending habits and put our financial future on firm footing.

One option is to pass a balanced-budget amendment, such as the one that I have cosponsored with all of my Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate. This proposal would force Congress to pass a balanced budget every year, limits federal spending to 18 percent of the GDP, and requires 66 Senators to approve any tax increases that Congress hopes to impose on American families and job creators. Voters sent a clear message to Washington last fall, and a balanced-budget amendment sends a strong message to those Americans who are looking for leadership. This proposal would help ensure that the federal government lives within its means just like every family, senior, farmer and private job creator is forced to do on a daily basis in Missouri and nationwide.

I believe we're facing a historic crossroads in our nation's long-term financial health. Now is the time when we will decide whether we're going to remain a competitive global leader, or whether we're going to become just like the rest of the world.

Americans are ready for real change, and they expect their representatives in Washington to make the tough choices to rein in our out-of-control spending. That's why I will not support any plan that will increase our nation's borrowing limit without implementing substantial cuts and economic reforms. It's our job to ensure future generations of Americans are not stuck footing the bill for Washington's waste today.

Roy Blunt represents Missouri in the U.S. Senate.

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