December 10, 2010
Dear Ms. harmon,
Thank you for contacting me regarding taxes and government spending. I appreciate hearing from you about these very important matters.
The recent economic crisis combined with fiscally irresponsible policies that took us from a budget surplus in 2000 to dramatic budget deficits by 2008 has created an untenable fiscal situation for our nation. We must continue to work to put or fiscal house back in order. Failing to do so could have damaging long-term consequences for our economy.
Throughout my years of public service, I have maintained a commitment to fiscal discipline. As a Representative and Senator, I have fought to establish a pay-as-you-go, or "pay-go" policy to combat unchecked federal spending. Pay-go policy requires that any legislation that increases direct spending or reduces revenues must include equivalent amounts of direct spending cuts, revenue increases, or a combination of the two. President Obama signed H.J.Res 45 into law on February 12, 2010 reinstating pay-go rules for federal budgets. Reinstating pay-go rules is a good first step toward making tough choices instead of passing the bill on to future generations.
Recently, President Obama called for a three year spending freeze on discretionary non-defense spending and a federal pay freeze. The president also created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on February 18, 2010, a bipartisan commission charged with balancing the budget by 2015.
The commission, composed of 18 members selected by the president, the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, and the House Majority and Minority Leaders, released a report on December 1, 2010, outlining recommendations for balancing the budget. The recommendations include reductions in defense spending, Social Security reform, and expiration of the Bush tax cuts. As you may know, by a vote of 11-7, on December 3, 2011, the proposal failed to achieve the 14 commission-member votes necessary to proceed to consideration by Congress.
Prior to the president creating the panel, Senators Kent Conrad (ND) and Judd Gregg (NH) offered an amendment to establish a similar bipartisan budget commission to provide recommendations for addressing the growing budget deficit of the federal government. Under the amendment, both houses of Congress would have been required to vote on the recommendations without any chance for changes. The Conrad-Gregg Commission was offered as an amendment on January 21, 2010, to H.J.Res. 45, a resolution to increase the statutory limit on the public debt. The amendment required 60 votes in favor to proceed to debate, but it failed by a vote of 53-46.
Although this proposal seems like a sound idea, I voted against it for several reasons. First, I believe it is Congress' responsibility to make the difficult revenue and spending decisions for our nation's budget. It is one of the reasons our constituents elect us to Congress, and passing that responsibility to an unelected commission is shirking that duty. Congress already has the mechanism in place to make these difficult decisions, but it has not shown the political will to do so. We can use a simple majority vote through the Reconciliation process to reduce spending or increase revenues - that is what Reconciliation was intended to do.
Finally, I am very concerned that such a commission might harm New Mexico. As intended, I would not be able to amend the recommendations on the Senate floor, and this could be problematic for our state, which is very dependent on the federal government. From our outstanding national labs and military bases, to other pressing infrastructure needs, all of these could be targets for deficit reduction.
Please be assured that I am committed to fiscal responsibility and protecting middle class taxpayers from an unfair or unsustainable tax burden. As we address these issues in Congress, I will keep your thoughts in mind.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. Please feel free to contact me with your concerns regarding any federal issue by visiting my website at www.tomudall.senate.gov. For more information, you may also visit my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Senator-Tom-Udall/106433512869 and receive up to the minute updates through my Twitter page at http://twitter.com/senatortomudall.
Very truly yours,
United States Senator
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