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Chairman's View: Washington Must Address America’s Spending Problem

“Whether the President leads, follows or just gets out of the way, Washington needs real budget reform. We can’t continue President Obama’s pattern of untold trillions of dollars in wasteful government spending.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke about how history shows that the debate over the debt limit is an absolutely appropriate time to talk about reforming Washington’s future spending.

Excerpts of his remarks are below:

“Along with the rest of us, you have all watched the difficult negotiations over the fiscal cliff that dominated the last few weeks of the 112th Congress. That debate was an important opportunity to talk to the American people about Washington’s addiction to spending.

“We made clear in that debate that no amount of tax increases, no amount, would come close to wiping out Washington’s debt.

“So, as we begin the 113th Congress, we are faced with fresh opportunities to continue that conversation with the American people. This time, the debate is over whether to raise the nation’s debt limit.

“Last week, the President opened negotiations on this important issue by saying he wouldn’t negotiate.

“He did not announce this by calling Republicans in Congress. He did it instead by calling a press conference.

“In the last days of 2012, President Obama, in my opinion failed to lead in the talks over avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“Now the President plans not to lead on the nation’s debt limit either.

“Whether the President leads, follows or just gets out of the way, Washington needs real budget reform. We can’t continue President Obama’s pattern of untold trillions of dollars in wasteful government spending.

“Over the past four years, President Obama has added so much to our national debt that he has already had to increase our nation’s debt limit four separate times.

“This includes the two largest increases in our history.

“No other President of the United States has needed an increase of over $1 trillion. President Obama has asked for that much twice.

“While he once promised to cut the deficit in half by now, he’s done just the opposite.

“He’s added as much debt in four years as all the previous Presidents racked up in our country’s first 225 years.

“President Obama has maxed out the national credit card, and now he wants a new one.

“In return, he’s isn’t willing to offer any commitment that he’ll try to be more responsible with the next credit card.

“In fact, under his latest budget, the President wanted to add another $6.4 trillion to our debt over the next five years. That’s the wrong direction for our federal budget and for the nation’s future.

“The President could take this opportunity to reassure hardworking American taxpayers, as well as world financial markets that he is finally serious about reining in Washington’s out of control spending.

“Instead, he’s chosen to score political points.

“Now, this isn’t the first time the President has voiced an opinion on the debt limit debate.

“Last December, he spoke on the subject and in my opinion, misrepresented decades of precedent regarding congressional consideration of the debt limit.

“He said that connecting debt ceiling votes and budget negotiations was something that ‘we had never done in our history until we did it last year.’

“Well, that statement is false.

“Frankly, we should be talking about responsible spending reform every time we debate any measure in Congress that involves spending money.

“We should certainly do it when we are debating borrowing more money.

“The debt limit has been used at least 20 times in the past 60 years, specifically tied to debating fiscal reform.

“For example, in 1954 Congress passed a temporary increase specifically as a way to control future finances.

“In 1967, the House actually defeated a debt limit increase so that it could force President Johnson to quit using some of the budget tricks that he had been using.

“In 1970, the debate over the debt limit included amendments to cut defense spending, impose a spending cap, and freeze congressional pay until Congress passed a balanced budget.

“In 1983, Congress actually defeated a debt limit increase bill.

“Senator Russell Long, a Democrat, told his colleagues that if they voted for the increase, ‘you are voting to continue the biggest deficits in the history of this country as far as the eye can see.’

“Incidentally, the debt at that time: $1.3 trillion. That’s about how much has been added to our debt every year since President Obama has been sworn in for the first time.

“Democrats balked at Washington having a debt over $1.3 trillion back then.

“Today the President says Republicans are doing something irresponsible for even wanting to talk about a debt of more than $16.4 trillion.

“I could go on and on with more examples, but you have the idea.

“The President says it’s unprecedented for us to even ask to have this debate. Well the President is not correct.

“It’s not unprecedented, it’s actually very common and absolutely appropriate.

“There is nobody on the Republican side of the aisle here in the Senate who is saying we should not pay our bills.

“There is also nobody on this side of the aisle who thinks we should just keep wasting taxpayer dollars without even trying to act responsibly and slow down Washington’s spending.

“Yes, the debt limit is about paying for past obligations.

“But our history shows that the debate over the debt limit is an absolutely appropriate time to talk about reforming Washington’s future spending.

“Even President Obama agreed to spending cuts the last time he asked for an increase an increase to the debt limit.

“Now the President says that he wants his credit limit increased without any effort to reduce future spending.

“Of course, we all remember that when he was a Senator he spoke out against raising the debt limit.

“He once called the need to increase the debt limit ‘a failure of leadership.’ That was then, this is now.

“The White House has floated gimmicks like issuing a trillion dollar coin or using the 14th Amendment to raise the debt limit without congressional approval.

“Now the President won’t negotiate responsible spending at all.

“His policies, his policies the past four years have buried our children and our grandchildren under a mountain of debt.

“America needs real budget reform, but President Obama insists on playing politics with our country’s credit rating. 

“Hardworking American taxpayers have to balance their budgets.

“They understand what the President does not. 

“The President bragged in his press conference last week that ‘It’s been a busy and productive four years, and I expect the same for the next four years.’

“Well, it looks like he means we can count on four more years of wasteful Washington spending.

“This has to stop.

“It is time for President Obama to finally keep his promise to get America’s finances in order.”