Printed on: December 27, 2012

Protecting us from ourselves

Mike Crapo
Guest columnist

New rules are needed to make it more difficult for Congress to continue the overspending, writes Sen. Mike Crapo.

Given the recent use of a Senate budget point of order in the consideration of the Sportsmen Act, it is a good time to look at budget enforcement measures and the need to strengthen them. Tougher budget enforcement measures are among the tools needed to reduce federal overspending.

Our national debt has risen to more than $16 trillion. No matter what near-term agreement hopefully gets achieved to avoid the fiscal cliff and reduce federal spending, responsibility commands that we continue to reduce deficit spending and the debt to get our nation on a sound economic course.

The Senate has a number of budget points of order available to check federal spending. For example, senators can raise points of order against attempts to pass legislation that would exceed established spending limits and increase Social Security deficits. Senators can also use points of order to enforce prohibition of enacting spending legislation if a budget plan has not been enacted.

Successful points of order force senators to work together to address any overspending to advance the legislation. Supporting a budget point of order does not necessarily mean that a senator is opposed to the underlying legislation. Rather, it reflects a commitment to reducing the deficit and debt. We must maintain focus on the taxpayer cost of each measure and not let up in reducing federal debt. Unchecked federal spending cripples our economy and cannot continue.

However, none of the current points of order require more than 60 Senate votes to override spending prohibitions. Some may believe that the bar is already high. However, given the extreme federal spending despite these checks, the bar needs to be raised higher. The Congressional Budget Office reported that Fiscal Year 2012 marks the fourth consecutive year with a deficit above $1 trillion. Much stronger budget enforcement measures, beyond the current 60-vote threshold, are needed to make it harder for the federal government to overspend.

I have been working with senators from both sides of the aisle to advance solutions to our growing debt crisis and support plans that would make it more difficult for Congress to enable irresponsible spending. I have been pressing for a higher vote threshold of 67 votes for proposals to exceed budget caps on spending bills, because it should be more difficult to overspend. We also must enact provisions to reduce the abuse of so-called emergency spending by limiting Congress' ability to avoid fiscal constraints through emergency spending designations. I will continue to press for stronger budget controls. We cannot continue to spend beyond our means to have a strong and exceptional nation. The ability of Congress to exceed spending limits must be curbed. Strengthening budget enforcement measures is essential to this effort.

Crapo, an attorney from Idaho Falls, is serving his third term in the United States Senate.