GUEST COMMENTARY: Congress must return to budgets, stability

2013-10-27T00:00:00Z 2014-01-04T18:02:33Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Congress must return to budgets, stabilityBy Pete Visclosky nwitimes.com
October 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The last months of institutional turmoil in Congress have included sequestration, a government shutdown and a near default on our debt. My vote, in favor of the bipartisan compromise to re-open the government and to prevent default on our monetary obligations, was necessary to make certain the full faith and credit of the United States was not jeopardized.

The fact remains, however, that Congress has moved away from following normal budgetary procedures and has instead shifted its appropriations authority to the executive branch, which threatens our system of checks and balances. Article 1, Section 9, of the U.S. Constitution explicitly states, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”

Yet Congress has not been able to work together to conduct effective oversight and engage in a deliberative process to enact the 12 appropriations bills necessary to annually fund the government. From fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2013, only nine out of a possible 84 individual appropriations bills have been enacted.

I hope this most recent debacle will encourage my colleagues to return to the regular order of Congress and use the prescribed budget, committee, and legislative processes. Not doing so would continue to inhibit our economy and job growth.

We can accomplish this goal by focusing on several key elements: Our tax code, earned benefit programs and normalizing the appropriations process for discretionary domestic and defense spending.

It is vital to our economic vibrancy to reform the tax code so that it supports the creation and retention of good-paying American jobs and provides adequate revenue to invest in the future of our country.

We need to structurally improve earned benefit programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, which Americans have paid into through payroll deductions. These important programs, including other mandatory programs and net interest on the debt, encompass 65.8 percent of all federal spending. Since Medicare and Social Security are expected to remain solvent only through 2024 and 2033, respectively, we must strengthen them now to ensure their sustainability for future generations.

Finally, a normal appropriations process allows for congressional oversight of federal programs and an effectual check and balance on the executive branch, and both are lacking under continuing resolutions.

I believe our country’s brightest days are before us, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to resolve the current impasse, meet our constitutional responsibilities, and thereby create jobs and grow our economy.

Our children’s future depends on us working together to build upon a foundation of ingenuity and resourcefulness, forged by generations before us.

We must seize an opportunity from the current turmoil to address the structural faults of our national budget and return to normal governance.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., represents the 1st District. The opinions are the writer's.

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