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Thune: Responsible Budget Reforms Help Rein in Out-of-Control Democrat Spending

“I want to once again express my gratitude to Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans for ensuring that the debt limit increase we’ll be voting on is matched with real spending reforms.”

May 31, 2023

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the Fiscal Responsibility Act, legislation that would strengthen work requirements in federal programs, limit discretionary spending, end the costly student loan payment moratorium, and temporarily raise the debt ceiling to avoid default – all without raising taxes. The bill would also rescind more unspent federal funds than any bill in the history of Congress by clawing back unspent COVID funds and repealing excess Internal Revenue Service funds, among other priorities. Thune applauded Speaker McCarthy’s leadership in forcing President Biden to the negotiating table and noted that these spending reforms are the first step in a larger campaign to get our nation’s fiscal house in order and ensure a better economic future for the American people.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

Mr. President, we got some good news over the weekend with the announcement that the president and Speaker McCarthy had reached an agreement on debt ceiling legislation.


“The bill they agreed on, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, will increase the debt ceiling and finally – finally – after two years of out-of-control spending, begin to rein in our nation’s budget.


“And I am tremendously grateful to Speaker McCarthy, and to House Republicans, for their tireless work to make sure that any legislation to raise the debt ceiling was paired with meaningful spending reforms.


“The Fiscal Responsibility Act cuts discretionary spending next year and then limits discretionary spending increases to 1 percent each year over the subsequent five years.


“It claws back unspent COVID funds, repeals excess IRS spending, and ends the student loan repayment moratorium, which is currently costing taxpayers $5 billion a month.


“In fact, the bill rescinds more unobligated government money than any bill in American history.


“It also places into statute ‘pay-go’ rules on the executive branch, which would require government agencies to accompany new spending proposals with proposals that would save taxpayer dollars.


“On top of all of this, the Fiscal Responsibility Act makes a down payment on permitting reform to help get energy projects off the ground more quickly, which will help encourage domestic energy production and drive down energy prices for American families.


“It also strengthens work requirements in federal programs to help able-bodied Americans move from welfare to work.


“And while this legislation doesn’t go as far as it should – and as Speaker McCarthy wanted – when it comes to funding for needed military modernization and readiness, the bill does provide an increase in defense funding and avoids a CR while leaving open the possibility of supplemental funding as needed. 


“And it’s worth noting that this is the first time in recent history we have increased defense spending while decreasing nondefense spending.


“Perhaps just as important as what’s in the bill is what’s not in the bill: tax increases.  


“Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans held the line and ensured that the debt ceiling increase was not used as a vehicle to collect more taxpayer money.


“And they also ensured that the bill did not contain any new government programs.


“Now, Mr. President, is this a perfect bill?  Does it have everything Republicans would have liked to include to get our nation’s fiscal house in order?


“No, it doesn’t.


“But perfect bills are rare – and they’re even more rare in divided government.


“This is a good bill – and thanks to the efforts of Speaker McCarthy, a better bill than we might have hoped for.


“Let’s not forget that Democrats wanted to pass a debt ceiling increase without any spending reforms at all.


“This bill may not be perfect, but it makes a real start at getting spending under control.


“Now, Mr. President, our efforts can’t end with this bill.


“Our national debt has already exceeded the size of our economy, and the interest on our debt is going to consume a greater and greater share of the federal budget.


“On our current trajectory, within a few short years we are going to be spending more just meeting the interest on our nation’s debt than we will on national defense.


“By 2044, we will be spending more on interest than on Medicare.


“And by 2050, we will be spending more on interest than on Social Security.


“More on interest than on Social Security.


“Mr. President, Social Security is the largest line item in our nation’s budget and consumes approximately one-fifth of total federal spending each year.


“The fact that our national debt is on track to grow to the point where we are paying more just on interest than on Social Security should be a wakeup call to lawmakers in both parties that spending reform has to be a top priority here in Washington.


“And let’s be very clear, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.


“Tax revenues in 2022 reached a multi-decade high of 19.6 percent of GDP, well above the historical average.


“We are not suffering from a lack of revenue.


“Federal spending, however, has soared to unsustainable levels.


“The federal budget for 2023 is up approximately 40 percent from 2019, the last budget before the pandemic. 


“40 percent.


“That is unsustainable.

“And whatever Democrats may say, we are not going to be able to fund that kind of reckless spending by taxing better-off Americans.


“We have to get spending under control.


“Mr. President, any American who has ever found himself or herself mired in credit card debt knows that serious debt has serious consequences.


“Our national debt is already reducing the economic growth we could otherwise achieve.


“And if our debt continues along its current trajectory, the consequences will be severe.


“Diminished economic opportunities and growth.


“And increasing difficulty meeting our government’s most basic responsibilities, from national defense to Social Security and Medicare.


“The best thing we can do for the future of our country – and for hardworking American families – is to get our nation’s spending under control.


“And so, Mr. President, I want to once again express my gratitude to Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans for ensuring that the debt limit increase we’ll be voting on is matched with real spending reforms.


“They’ve achieved an important victory.


“And I hope that the Fiscal Responsibility Act will be just the first step in a larger campaign to get our nation’s fiscal house in order and ensure a better economic future for the American people.


“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”