Jun 20 2018
Over the next ten years, our national debt is set to balloon from $21.16 trillion today to more than $33.9 trillion in 2028.
American taxpayers are currently responsible for 77% of that national debt. And the percentage is projected to rise to almost 100% in that same period of time.
On top of that, with interest rates set to increase, the payments on the debt will also likely double over the next 10 years as a percentage of total economic output.
And that’s only if interest rates stay below historic averages. If interest rates were to return just to historical norms, taxpayers will soon be drowning in trillion-dollar annual payments… just for the interest on our debt.
This is why it was such welcome news that on May 8th, President Trump sent Congress a request to rescind $15.4 billion worth of extraneous spending.
This is something Congresses used to do all the time. It was a bipartisan matter of course. Returning unused taxpayer money isn’t just good government; in a democracy, it’s good manners.
In 1981, President Reagan and a divided Congress rescinded more than $15 billion in federal spending; and another $16 billion in 1985 and 1986.
Even President Clinton made three rescission requests in 2000 totaling $128 million.
Now we have the chance to take up the mantle again.
President Trump’s specific proposals draw back unused funds from expired programs, obsolete programs, and accounts the Congressional Budget Office says are wildly overfunded.
In fact, according to CBO, none of the funds in the requested rescissions will alter current federal programs in any way.
For instance, CBO has certified that the $7 billion CHIP rescission would not affect either outlays or the number of Americans with health insurance.
And I should note that Congress has rescinded CHIP funding in every enacted Labor-HHS appropriations bill since 2011 – more than $50 billion in total.
The spending targeted for rescission is either expired or rendered unattainable by current eligibility requirements.
The $15 billion is just sitting, unused, in agency bank accounts.
So how does it help to cut spending if this money is just sitting there? This is the real sticking point, Mr./Madam President.
For Congress has a cute little habit of “paying for” new spending by raiding these unused funds.
This money may not be used this year. But it can be recycled into budget gimmicks in future years.
Rescinding it now takes the $15 billion out of circulation for those kinds of shenanigans. And of course, that’s the real reason it won’t pass unanimously.
To their credit, the House of Representatives has stepped up. On June 7th, they passed their own $14.8 billion rescissions package.
Now is our chance.
This is the Senate’s opportunity to show the American people that we still retain some modicum of seriousness when it comes to fiscal restraint.
Cutting spending that isn’t actually going to be spent may not be a profile in courage, but it is at least a sign of a pulse.
And in Washington, that’s something.
It is a step toward fiscal responsibility, and away from the cynicism and waste that has turned this city into, “The Swamp.”
In Congress we face a lot of difficult decisions. But this isn’t one of them.
President Trump’s request is as reasonable as can be imagined.
Fifteen billion may be a drop in the bucket compared to $15 trillion. But that’s a reason to support this legislation, not oppose it. Congress need to retrain our atrophied muscles, in preparation for the far larger tasks ahead.
If we do not find the will to reduce federal spending ourselves now, before long the laws of economics will force us to do so in a much more painful manner later.
Every day that passes without action is another ton of debt we throw on our children’s backs… another line item on the fiscal indictment we are writing against ourselves.
We have to change course. This bill is a chance to take one small step for fiscal sanity.
I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the motion to discharge.
I yield the floor.