Lankford defends debt debate vote

In defense of his support of the Budget Control Act of 2011, Oklahoma Representative James Lankford offered this message to supporters this morning:

While this was not a perfect bill and certainly does not solve all of our nation’s fiscal problems, I supported it because I believe it makes a solid first step in setting our nation on a path to fiscal responsibility.   

Anyone who assumes that a single vote on a single day will solve all of our debt problems underestimates the size and scope of the issue. 

Nobody – Republican or Democrat – thinks this is the perfect deal.  There are no simple solutions to our debt crisis.  At this point, our mountain of debt is simply too insurmountable to solve with one legislative fix.

It has been seven months since I was sworn into the House of Representatives, and during that time, Oklahomans have continually expressed their sincere concern and dire skepticism about our nation’s fiscal responsibility.  We have accumulated $14.3 trillion in debt over many years and through both parties.  I wish I could share all of the information I have learned about our debt, but I do not want to take up all of the space in your inbox; however, let me take a few moments to fill you in on what I know.

The federal government has been on a reckless spending spree with the nation’s credit card for years.  This is not a Democrat or Republican issue – this is a debt issue.  Never before have we faced a mountain of debt this high, which now amounts to 100% of our GDP.  Although a nation so far in the fiscal hole does not have many chances to be optimistic, this unprecedented situation has provided an opportunity to make some real changes to our current predicament.  

Our surging debt continues to threaten the nation’s long-term economic sustainability; however, I am happy to report that the tides are turning in Washington on the unrestricted spending spree.   The Budget Control Act begins to institute long-term fiscal reforms through a number of mechanisms.  

First and foremost, it cuts spending.  The bill cuts $21 billion in spending in Fiscal Year 2012, and freezes it for the next two years.  For the eight years that follow, discretionary spending grows at less than two percent a year, a number smaller than inflation. While this amount of spending cuts is too low, it is the first time discretionary spending has reduced two years in a row.  This is the first step.

Second, it caps our nation’s spending levels for the next decade.  These binding budget caps will control our medium-term spending at a rate much less than the original baseline.  

Third, and most importantly, Congress will be required to vote on a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to our Constitution by the end of this year.  A BBA is the ultimate solution to our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.  If approved by Congress, the BBA would be sent to the fifty states for ratification.  Should three-quarters of the states approve ratification, our constitution would be amended to force Congress to live within its means, once and for all.  All but one of the states employ some type of a BBA, and nearly 80 percent of the American public supports a balanced budget amendment.  It is unconscionable to think that this same form of budgetary restraint used in our states could not be implemented at the federal level.  It has been more than 15 years since Congress has considered a BBA, and ensuring a vote is a major step forward.

In addition, this plan will create a bipartisan, bicameral committee comprised of three House Republicans, three House Democrats, three Senate Republicans, and three Senate Democrats. This joint-committee will be tasked with identifying additional spending cuts and other budgetary reforms on which Congress must vote for the debt ceiling to be raised again. It is important to remember that this joint-committee will still be accountable to Congress and will not be able to enact any legislation without a vote of approval from both the House and Senate. The Joint Committee is important to the Senate because they have been unable to move any legislation for more than two years.

In conclusion, I want to express my cautious optimism for our nation’s future.  Although this vote is the first in a series of necessary fundamental fiscal changes, it is an acceptable first step.  We cut spending, we capped spending, and we furthered the cause of a balanced budget amendment – the ultimate solution for fiscal responsibility in Washington.  With more than $14 trillion in debt, Americans understand that we cannot quickly solve the problem that has built over a generation.  We must get started, and today we took the first step on a long journey back to fiscal responsibility.