By Congressman Adrian Smith
One of the most basic functions of government is to pass a budget – to decide how to use tax dollars based on the needs of the nation. The House of Representatives has passed a budget every year since Republicans won a majority, but the House cannot act alone. The Senate, which has not passed a budget in nearly four years, must also act to address our long-term deficit and debt.
The budget serves as a policy outline establishing guidelines for appropriations and other spending and revenue bills through the rest of the year. Federal law requires both chambers of Congress to pass a 10-year budget every year. Without an annual budget, Congress has been forced to pass a series of short-term bills to keep the government running. House Republicans have insisted on spending reductions in each of these temporary measures, but without a normal budget process, Congress has not been forced to address long-term deficits.
Since 2009, more than $5 trillion has been added to the national debt, which now exceeds $16 trillion. Without action, out-of-control federal spending will bankrupt America. Uncertainty about how our government will pay this enormous debt continues to hurt our economy. With the national unemployment rate unacceptably high and an economy still struggling to grow, we cannot afford further delay.
The House of Representatives has repeatedly acted to address the spending problem and remove government barriers to private sector growth. Our budgets have been honest with the American people about the difficult decisions which must be made to bring down the deficit, balance the budget, and ultimately pay down the national debt. However, to move forward we need serious partners in both chambers of Congress and in the White House.
Republicans in the House must use what tools we have to engage in a conversation about spending. This week we used a short-term extension of the debt limit to pass legislation which would force the House and the Senate to pass a budget resolution, or Members of Congress will have their pay withheld. Simply put: no budget, no pay.
It appears this bill is already having a positive impact. Senate leaders have announced they will pass the House bill, and the President has said he will sign it when it comes to his desk. The Senate also now plans to pass a budget resolution this year.
In the past, Members of both the House and Senate avoided votes on budgets, fearing any changes to address spending in the future would be controversial or politically unpopular. This must end because the stakes for not addressing the deficit and debt are too high for Congress not to do its job.
There will likely be major differences between the resolutions passed by the House and the Senate, but each chamber has a responsibility to put a plan forward. This bill does not solve our budget crisis, but it was needed to jumpstart the debate over spending. I am hopeful the Senate will now join us in making the hard but necessary choices to put our nation on a more sustainable and prosperous path.