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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

For all of us as taxpayers, unfortunately today was a 1.5 trillion dollar day.

Oct 28, 2015
Blog Post

For all of us as taxpayers, unfortunately today was a 1.5 trillion dollar day. I can’t say that I have had a lot of those days, but where we ended today was not only bad for the taxpayer – it was worse for the way we got there.

I voted no at each step along the way – on the so-called rule and on final passage, and those vote totals were as follows: 392 to 37 for the rule and 266 to 167 on the final passage.

The foundation of today’s vote rested on an increase to the debt ceiling of $1.5 trillion. As you probably well know, it’s currently $18 trillion. To put this in perspective, if you put that amount of dollar bills end-to-end, they would go from the Earth to the Sun more than 18 times. In that regard, every chance we get, we should be chipping away at the problem, making sure that it isn’t passed on to our children and grandchildren. Today did the reverse. It increased debt and did not slow spending as well as adding an additional $14 billion to the deficit. 

The bill that came up in the House today, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 not only did these things, it did a few more that are worth noting.

One, it broke the budget caps. The caps were not ideal, but they were the only piece of legislative financial restraint that existed in Washington, and it broke them both directly and indirectly. It broke and raised them by $80 billion. But even that wasn’t enough. A fund that’s supposed to be used to support our military abroad during war got increased by $147 billion. These contingency funds for war operations don’t count against the caps, and to add insult to injury, that money won’t even go entirely to our military. Instead, it’ll get spread half to domestic operations and half to defense….weird for a fund that is designated as emergency funding for military operations overseas. 

Two, it raised the debt ceiling again to a date certain. This is a problem. This is now only the third time in the history of our Republic that we have raised the debt to a date rather than an amount. Think about it this way, if I gave you my credit card and said “You’ve got it to the $10,000 limit,” you might indeed spend $10,000. If, however, I gave it to you and said, “You’ve got it until March 2017,” who knows where you end up. This is what happened today.

Three, from a process standpoint, it was horrendous. We were given this bill less than two days ago. Is that any way in which you would want a board of directors to make a $1.5 trillion decision?

Four, the bill offered gimmicks to cut spending that, in fact, will not do so. The bill uses a trick called pension smoothing to count $9 billion in cuts – a simple shift forward of money the Treasury was already going to get. It has $5 billion in savings that come from selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the third time this year that a bill’s used this asset to pay for new spending. There is $3.5 billion in cuts counted from selling parts of the airwaves to private companies, which means we are going to take one-time sales proceeds to pay for on-going spending. That works fine for one year…not so well in other years. The bill extends a reduced Medicare spending rate, counting the savings at $14 billion. The problem is the cut comes in about ten years – in the year 2025. Do you believe we will somehow make a cut in 10 years that we won’t make today?

Five, the bill borrows from Peter to pay for Paul. It takes money from the general Social Security trust fund and redirects it to the Social Security Disability fund. Specifically, it took around $153 billion from Social Security retirement and put it towards the Disability Insurance component of that program. Social Security is running shortfalls that will grow with time, does it make sense to borrow from it to shore up another part of social security running even bigger shortfalls? 

I could go on, but I think you get my larger point in not believing this bill would be good for any of us as taxpayers. The Constitution gives only Congress the authority to decide whether or not the country should take on more debt, and it’s a sacred obligation. Less than two days, 42 hours, to contemplate $1.5 trillion in additional debt belittles the serious nature of this responsibility, and so for the reasons outlined – both numerical and process-wise, I believe no was the right vote today. 

I would like to hear your thoughts.