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The 113th Congress Will Decide Nation’s Fiscal Future, Not the President

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Mitt Romney certainly wasn’t the first choice to be the Republican presidential nominee for most limited government activists. Some have reluctantly warmed to Romney in recent months because they find him preferable to Obama. Other liberty lovers, particularly those within the Ron Paul-inspired Liberty Movement, refuse to throw their support behind Romney or Obama.

Regardless of whether a liberty-minded president is an option on the big ticket, the outcomes of the congressional races are far more important, as Congress will truly determine the fiscal policies coming out of Washington.

If we really want to put an end to reckless spending, it is necessary to remove the root cause of our fiscal problems. Even though Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have dramatically expanded executive power, Congress still wields an enormous amount of power.

Congress, not the president, writes the laws and controls the purse strings in the federal government. No matter how much the president wants to spend, he or she cannot spend a penny that the Congress has not first appropriated.

The Clinton Administration serves as a reminder that Congress controls the fiscal agenda on Capitol Hill. At the recent 2012 Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton had the nerve to take credit for policy that he had virtually no part of whatsoever.

“Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row,” Clinton said. “What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: Arithmetic.”

Clinton wants voters to believe that he balanced the federal budget in his second term, but the GOP-controlled Congress deserves the highest recognition. When Republicans controlled the House and Senate from 1995 to 2001, they stopped Clinton from spending the outrageous amount that he wanted to spend.

In 1995, when the GOP took control of Congress, Clinton’s budget projected continued federal deficits of $200 billion or more indefinitely into the future.

The Republican Congress acted immediately to cut taxes and reduce spending—the recipe for balancing the budget. The capital gains tax was cut from 28 percent to 20 percent and federal discretionary spending was slashed by 17.5 percent, as a percent of GDP, over the next 4 years.

Clinton began his presidency with a $255 billion deficit, and eight years later left behind a $128 billion surplus. That would have never happened if Congress approved Clinton’s fiscally irresponsible budget.

Besides the president’s powers to veto, make nominations that can be overridden by Congress, and use the bully pulpit to potentially influence legislation, the president is mostly just along for the ride in terms of fiscal policy. In other words, Clinton gets all the glory in the mainstream media for the budget surpluses, but Congress really did all of the hard work.

Many limited-government activists have rightfully set their focuses on Senate and House races across the country where they can have a huge impact this year. Unlike presidential races, congressional elections typically come down to thousands or even hundreds of votes. Of course, the real work begins on November 7 when voters start to hold elected officials accountable for their campaign promises.

Taxpayers cannot afford for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to continue to block good legislation coming out of the House, including bills to stop harmful EPA regulations, repeal ObamaCare, prohibit net neutrality regulations, and audit the Federal Reserve.

While it is imperative to kick Harry Reid out of his leadership position, it is not enough that the GOP wins a Senate majority. We must gain a fiscally conservative majority in the Senate to ensure that the GOP majority is serious about cutting spending and reducing taxes.

Republicans need to retain control of the House but we need to replace phony conservatives with real fiscal stewards. We need more conservatives in Congress who will help prevent a spending spree, regardless of whether Obama or Romney is in the Oval Office.

All too often, Republicans pay lip service to debt reduction while simultaneously spending like drunken sailors.

The GOP-controlled Congresses during the first six years of the George W. Bush Administration are a case in point. Although the biggest spending increases occurred while Democrats controlled Congress during Bush’s last two years, the Republican-controlled Congresses still increased spending by 2.75 percent annually.

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be about cutting spending? The GOP-controlled Congresses gave us Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, and Sarbanes-Oxley. There’s nothing fiscally conservative about these costly government mandates and regulations.

That’s why we need to elect principled candidates who won’t be afraid to go against House and Senate Republican leadership if they are pushing big spending legislation.

The president is not the end all be all when it comes to fiscal policy. A liberty-minded president cannot implement his or her conservative platform with a fiscally irresponsible Congress. However, a fiscally conservative Congress can stop a president from achieving his or her big government agenda.

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