Congress has a moral imperative to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and honestly, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said Wednesday, and it can start by passing a balanced budget.
“It’s integrity. It’s morality. It’s the right thing to do,” Sessions said at a Coolidge Foundation budget conference. “And it’s good for the economy that we have a budget, that we follow it, and that can create confidence that we have the nation not on an unsustainable path, but on a sustainable path.”
Senate Democrats finally passed a budget and short-term deficits are down, but government debt and spending remain on what the Congressional Budget Office calls an unsustainable path.
By 2024, the CBO estimates interest payments alone will reach $799 billion — more than the current defense budget, which is about $520 billion. And by 2028 federal debt will exceed 100 percent of gross domestic product, in large part because of skyrocketing Medicare and Social Security spending.
“A Republican Congress must produce a budget,” Sessions continued. “Failure is not an option.”
Sessions will have huge influence on the budget in the next Congress, since he will likely chair the Senate Budget Committee. He acknowledged it will be hard, but said it’s possible to balance the budget without taking away promised Social Security and Medicare benefits.
“We have to,” he said of honoring the commitments, “and bring this budget under control at the same time.”
It’s a lofty goal, and would require a willingness to make hard decisions and the ability to explain those decisions to voters. But if they understand the dangers of a debt crisis and the problems with the current financial path, and believe Congress is working in their best interest by fixing those problems, the American people will respect those choices, Sessions said.
“It won’t be easy, but it can be done,” he said.
He mentioned getting rid of unnecessary and costly regulations, streamlining government agencies and requiring better management of taxpayer dollars as steps in the right direction, but it will require humility and an acknowledgment of the limits of Congress.
“We’re not able to do everything,” he said. “We’re not geniuses. We spend a little here cut a little here, do a regulation here, a tax there. We think that’s going to change this massive economy — I think not.”
He scoffed at the idea that one or two economists or financial experts can work with the government to properly read and direct the economy. “This government should simply dedicate itself to establishing sound policies — the same commonsense policies discussed around the kitchen table.”
In addition to balancing the budget, Sessions called on Congress to pass tax reform, control illegal immigration to protect American jobs, repeal Obamacare and focus on energy reform.
“A new Senate majority must represent middle America,” he said. “The social and economic center of American life is not Washington, D.C. or Wall St. or Martha’s Vineyard. The social and economic center of American life must be the everyday working people.”
“This is a moral pact, a bond we have with the American people,” he added.
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