Friday, May 1, 2015

Bringing Accountability Back to Washington’s Budget

Congress has the duty to wisely steward taxpayer dollars. However, for many years, Congress procrastinated instead of taking a stand against growing government debt and deficits. Our nation’s finances were mismanaged and ruled by out-of-control spending for far too long.

Thankfully, we have successfully shifted the conversation in Washington from how much to spend to how much to cut. These decisions are not easy, but a national debt exceeding $18 trillion makes them necessary. The House of Representatives is tasked with using the appropriations process to determine how government revenue will be spent.

The House and Senate have now come to an agreement and passed a joint budget to cut more than $5 trillion in spending and balance the books in less than 10 years without raising taxes. It is the first joint 10-year balanced budget resolution since 2001. Because we reached a budget agreement, the House was also able to begin the annual appropriations process this week.

The passage of this joint budget and the earliest start of the appropriations process since 1974 signal a welcome return to regular order in Congress. It is important for us to utilize the legislative process to make responsible funding decisions and find savings. Instead of governing by short-term fixes, we can now make long-term, sound policy decisions to tackle our national debt and help grow our economy.

Through the appropriations process, Congress can also fulfill its constitutional duty of serving as a check on the executive branch. For example, the Fiscal Year 2016 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act passed by the House this week contains language to block the proposed expansion of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulations. This Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule would expand federal jurisdiction to include anything from ditches to prairie potholes, and would place a massive regulatory burden on our nation’s farmers.

By refusing to fund the administration’s power grabs, Congress can halt their implementation. We will likely have more opportunities throughout the appropriations process to push back on executive overreach while President Obama continues his refusal to engage with the legislative branch.

Additionally, Congress can enforce needed reforms for federal agencies through appropriations legislation. The Fiscal Year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act passed by the House this week requires the VA to accelerate claims processing and improve the compatibility of VA and Department of Defense records. Too many veterans are still struggling with lengthy wait times for appointments and an archaic medical record system. By tying the VA’s funding to demonstrated results, we can ensure better care for our heroes.

With this year’s early start to the appropriations process, we have more time to make productive funding decisions in the best interest of our country. A total of 12 appropriations bills are required to fund the government, and I am hopeful we can address them under regular order in the coming weeks. It is time for Congress to use the legislative process the way it was intended to cut waste and bring accountability back to Washington’s budget.

About the Author:

Congressman Adrian Smith from Nebraska serves on the Committee on Ways and Means. Congressional Rural Caucus (Chair), Congressional Rural Veterans Caucus (Chair), Modern Agriculture Caucus (Chair), Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Congressional Western Caucus and Congressional General Aviation Caucus.

Smith has been noted for his consistent voting against tax increases, massive government bailouts, and in his opposition of the affordable healthcare act (aka ObamaCare) which is creating massive uncertainty for our nation's job creators. Smith, a co-sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment and a supporter of a Congressional earmark moratorium, has earned a reputation as a solid conservative through his votes to protect the rights of gun owners, efforts to limit the scope of government, and his strong pro-life voting record.

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