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To Save America From Washington, Congress Needs Spending Reforms

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe

Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ). 

The federal government’s destructive addiction to recklessly spending your money has gone untreated for far too long. We think it’s time for behavior change in the Capitol. Washington’s spending problem and the inflation and skyrocketing interest rates that come with it are killing opportunity for American families. If we are going to save America from Washington, it’s time for real spending reforms. And yes, the debt ceiling is the right time to get that done.


In December, without flinching and with no clear signs of remorse, every Democrat in Congress, and some Senate Republicans, gave the green light to a massive $1.7 trillion spending bill without even taking the time to read it. While this will sound shocking to most, and it should, it’s standard operating procedure in Washington. It should make every sane American sick.

For years, politicians in Washington have been too cowardly to do the right but hard task of properly managing America’s finances, choosing instead to look the other way while our country got $31 trillion in debt. The cost to you of their failure to do the most basic part of the job they were elected to? Massive inflation and wages not keeping up with it, growing interest rates, and an economy that works less for real, hardworking Americans than it does for the Washington establishment and Wall Street.

As insane as this sounds, Congress actively chooses not to follow its own rules, and the law, all the time. There are many rules or tools, like the Balanced Budget Act, sequestration, internal controls such as budget points of order, and spending caps that sound great. Some have even worked and made a difference in the short-term, but they all have been waived or ignored over time so Congress can keep spending.


The best example of this is the routine waiving of the “Pay-As-You-Go” or PAYGO law, which is designed to offset the cost of new legislation with across-the-board cuts to existing programs so that Congress can’t simply build up giant deficits, or spend without consequences. Sounds like accountability, but it doesn’t work.

Both parties are guilty of waiving PAYGO when it suits them. Republicans and Democrats have both done it and the taxpayers are left with the bill. Democrats waived PAYGO after passing their reckless $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” and Republicans in the Senate gave them the votes to do it when the bill came due. If something is worth doing, Congress should do it the right way, adhere to the law, and do so without sacrificing the benefits of Social Security and Medicare. We don’t think that’s too much to ask and we know the American people agree with us.

Solving this problem and stopping the bleeding requires real behavior change in Washington. Not the “sounds nice, does nothing” variety of reforms that Congress is best at, but actual accountability measures that Congress can’t simply waive away when it doesn’t want to follow the rules. Think about it, you don’t get to pick and choose when to follow the law, and neither should Congress.


It’s also time to start actually scrutinizing how the federal government spends your money. Not only do members of Congress rarely have the opportunity to review the massive spending bills we are then asked to vote on, we never go back and look at whether that spending provided a real return to the American taxpayer.

No person outside of D.C. thinks this is an acceptable way to do business, and we’d hope that most of our colleagues in both parties agree. Ignoring the way that Congress spends money has led to hundreds of billions of your taxpayer dollars being spent every year on unauthorized “zombie programs.” These are things that Congress hasn’t deemed important enough to reauthorize. Here’s what that means: in 2021, the federal government recklessly wasted $432 billion of your tax money on more than 400 expired federal programs. That’s 6 percent of the federal budget, which is insane. It’s time to make sure we read the bills and analyze the spending. If something doesn’t work the way it was supposed to, it doesn’t continue.

By forcing Washington to live within its means, Americans will never have to worry about the debt ceiling again. Now is the time to act. There are hundreds of billions of dollars being wastefully spent. We should claw those dollars back, preserve programs like Social Security and Medicare, maintain our commitment to a strong and lethal military, and then keep Congress in check so we don’t find ourselves in this position again.


If President Biden wants to talk about America’s finances, we’d love to have that discussion. If he thinks he can keep the status quo or agree to spending reforms, which can be easily waived by Congress so it can bury our country deeper in debt, he’s got another thing coming.

Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. He is the former Governor of Florida. Republican Andy Biggs represents Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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