Last night at 3 AM, the Senate passed a budget deal that was not just a horrible piece of legislation undeserving of the support of a self-respecting Congress. It also represented the last gasping breath of a disgraced bipartisan beltway establishment on the verge of collapse.
The bill was the product of an unfair, dysfunctional, and undemocratic process – a process that is virtually indistinguishable from what we promised the American people a G.O.P.-controlled Congress would bring to an end.
The bill suspended the debt limit for 17 months and increased government spending beyond its already unsustainable levels. And it did so while also failing to make any reforms that would put us on a path toward fiscal sustainability.
According to the Social Security Trustees, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is scheduled to run out of money in 2016. Which means that, without serious reform, disability benefits will be slashed, across the board, by nearly 20 percent.
Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, the bankruptcy deadline of SSDI has been pushed off for an additional 6 years, until 2022.
But here’s the kicker: it does so by raiding the Social Security Trust Fund, to the tune of $150 billion.
That’s right: our grand, bipartisan solution to the impending insolvency of our nation’s largest disability insurance program amounts to stealing $150 billion from our nation’s largest retirement insurance program.
Only in Washington, D.C. could something so deceptive and ineffectual – something so unfair to America’s seniors and future generations – be considered a “reform.”
Many of my colleagues – including Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Dan Coats (R-IN) – have their own innovative, structural entitlement-reform ideas, but none of them were even allowed to offer an amendment last night. Instead, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was forced upon us as a take-it-or-leave-it choice.
This isn’t how Congress is supposed to operate.
This isn’t how we promised the country we would conduct the American people’s business if given control of the House and Senate.
"Only in Washington, D.C. could something so deceptive and ineffectual – something so unfair to America’s seniors and future generations – be considered a 'reform.'"
We should be the party of ideas. But we won’t be, so long as we continue to tolerate a legislative process that stifles our most innovative proposals from getting a fair hearing.
We should be the party of reform. But we won’t be, so long as individual senators are blocked from offering amendments to legislation.
We should be the party of fiscal sanity and responsible governance. But we won’t be, so long as we continue to govern by crisis and cliff, delaying the inevitable, while working only three days a week.
We should be the party that looks out for the most vulnerable among us. But we won’t be, so long as we lack the courage to enact the structural reforms that our retirement and disability insurance programs need to survive for generations to come.
We can be all of these things. I know we can. But it’s going to take hard work; a fair, open, and inclusive legislative process; and all the policy innovation we can muster.