With record deficits producing a level of debt nearly equal to our nation's entire economy, Republicans have sparked a renewed effort to change the way Washington does business and end the spending binge. Predictably, a number of our colleagues have launched the same, tired political attacks that have always made spending cuts and budget reforms a tough sell. For his part, President Obama has focused his time at town hall events and well-publicized speeches to offer proposals to minimally trim spending and significantly increase taxes. These well-known differences – Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem – make any sort of agreement seem incredibly difficult.
Yet, there is a way to drag both Congress and the Obama Administration toward a positive solution to save taxpayers billions of dollars immediately, and it is one that has already received the support of 81 Senators, including 34 Democrats.
Enter the Decrease Spending Now Act – legislation we recently introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Our bill requires the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House to rescind $45 billion in unspent, unobligated funding from government agencies and report to Congress and the Secretary of the Treasury as to where those cuts have occurred. This is funding Congress voted for and appropriated but which the bureaucracy has not spent – some of it for years. These rescissions would not include funding for the nation's defense, our veterans, or Social Security.
A recent OMB report found that the amount of unobligated taxpayer dollars gathering dust in agencies across the government may top an astounding $700 billion. Certainly, it comes as a shock to no one that the government suffers from a remarkable level of waste and mismanagement. This behavior has meant that Congress has voted to fund the government to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars the bureaucracy has yet to spend – the clearest sign that the federal government can do with less.
That such an extraordinary amount of taxpayer dollars sits idle puts to rest this notion that substantial spending cuts will starve the government of the resources it needs. At the very least, the bureaucracy can do without $45 billion of those unspent funds – the amount we call for in our package.
We are committed to changing the way Washington does business by making cuts and reforms that end the days of deficit spending. By putting our nation on a path to fiscal security, we will ensure economic prosperity and stronger job creation in America. That effort will require far more spending reductions in the months and years ahead as well as reforms to our health and retirement programs and comprehensive tax reform. The $45 billion rescissions package we have introduced takes us a step closer to putting America back on sound fiscal footing. It also makes common sense to not leave money the government has yet to spend lying around and at the whims of Washington bureaucrats.
Requiring the president's OMB director to take part in this process ensures the White House embraces its responsibility to address our nation's spending-driven debt crisis. The debate over the fiscal future cannot move forward so long as one side or the other has the incentive to stand on the sidelines. Our legislation provides an opening for meaningful, bipartisan cuts by bringing our Democrat colleagues into the conversation with a proposal many of them have already gone on the record to support.
With the debate over larger and more fundamental reform continuing, we should not miss this opportunity to take immediate action and save taxpayers $45 billion. That would send a positive signal to the American people and to investors in our economy that Democrats and Republicans can come together to take the first steps toward restoring fiscal sanity.
Senator Marco Rubio represents the State of Florida. Congressman Tom Price represents Georgia's Sixth Congressional District.
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