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How to Avoid Future Debt Ceiling Debacles

When you look for reasons why our economy continues to lag, Washington’s spending problem has to be given a critical look. Our debt has increased twice as much as the economy has grown over the last two years. It is unsustainable, irresponsible, and it is holding our economic growth back.

Over the past four years, the out-of-control spending has increased our deficit spending and forced us to increase the debt ceiling—the cap set by Congress on the amount of debt we can legally borrow—seven times. This means Washington has added $43,000 in debt for every American household.

According to the Treasury Department, Congress is facing an October 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling or face a default on the bills our country owes. 61 percent of Americans believe that it’s “right to require spending cuts when the debt ceiling is raised.” I wholeheartedly agree with them.

Impassioned debates around major decisions like raising the debt ceiling in the past have resulted in positive policy changes. In fact, half of the 53 times Congress has agreed to raise to the debt ceiling since 1978, they have attached conditions to it.

The Graham-Rudman Act is a perfect example. We talk a lot about the need to cap spending in Washington. Graham-Rudman actually did that. And it led to a balanced budget.

Even the Budget Control Act, which gave us sequestration, was born out of this type of constraint. Sequestration is the first time in a long time that we have managed to curb the growth in Washington’s spending.

The government has a responsibility to pay its financial obligations, but continuing to unconditionally raise the debt limit is not an approach that puts our country on the path to fiscal responsibility. We need a mechanism that prevents us from overspending and forces the government to budget within its means. The only way to get a handle on the out-of-control spending is to reform how we allocate federal dollars. That’s why I’m supportive of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

Just think how differently our financial outlook would be had Congress passed the Balanced Budget Amendment in 1995. The House approved the amendment but it failed in the Senate by one vote.

Washington needs to follow in the footsteps of Arkansas where state leaders are required to balance the budget. If Arkansas can do it, Washington can too.

Our current mess has been brought on in part by our inability to follow regular order here in Washington. During my time in the Senate, we have passed one individual appropriations bill prior to the end of the previous fiscal year. We didn’t consider a single appropriations bill on the Senate floor last year.

We have to make difficult spending decisions. That begins with passing a budget and approving the 12 appropriations bills. Following proper procedure allows for proper oversight to help eliminate waste, fraud and abuse with taxpayer dollars.

Hardworking Arkansas families are forced to spend within their means and Washington needs to do same. We need a long-term plan to put our country on the road to fiscal responsibility and that begins by reining in spending.

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