Congressman Benishek Offers Personal Statement on Federal Spending

WASHINGTON, DC:  Congressman Dan Benishek (MI-01) today made the following statement* in anticipation of upcoming votes on the federal budget:

“It is my strong belief that the pre-eminent reason a majority of Northern Michigan’s citizens selected me to be their representative in Washington was to do everything possible to rein in out-of-control federal spending.   My focus has been to support such efforts while working to ensure that policies coming out of the Nation’s Capital— tax, monetary, and regulatory—serve to encourage private enterprise so Northern Michigan has the chance to experience economic growth. 

My first 44 days in office have taught me a great deal about the budget process and the “spending ways of Washington.” Each day we have been in session I have typically had 5-10 meetings with organizations, companies and Washington reps all seeking to keep their programs free of any spending cuts.  No one in Washington has asked me to spend less.  In fact, it seems in every  Washington meeting while there occasionally is a recognition of the doom America faces if the current spending continues, each meeting usually closes with an expected refrain “…yes we need to spend less but not our program.”    

By contrast, during my first visit home, just about everyone in the First District asked me to make sure the federal government spends less.  In Northern Michigan there seems to be a strong consensus that federal budget red ink can no longer continue at record pace.

Here are my guiding ‘spend less’ principles in this 112th Congress: 

> Shared Responsibility: 

Before there is any comprehensive entitlement reform effort, every federal department should be prepared to live with less money in 2012 than it received in 2011.

> Sunlight and Transparency: 

All spending decisions should be made in a fully transparent legislative process.  No backdoor earmarks, no special interest amendments. If a program has merit its supporters should defend the program in public floor debate. 

> Tighten the Revenue Spigot: 

Simply sending more money to Washington is not going to solve the problem of unchecked spending; every year the US Treasury receives more money; every year the federal government spends more than it takes in. Consequently, increasing taxes is not the answer. 

>If not now, when?

I have publicly promised to limit my career in Congress to just three terms.   America’s future is more important than any one of us in Congress, certainly more important than any political job.  I’d rather do what I think is right than simply keep this position. I trust the voters. 

In my view, the debt is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue.  It is an American issue.

The failure of previous Congresses to act means America now faces a $14 trillion debt. For every dollar Congress allocates the US Treasury has to borrow up to $.40 to pay for it.  That means indebting ourselves to countries like China and mortgaging our children’s future.

Let me be clear, this will not be easy.  To stem the tide, many tough decisions will need to be made.  Northern Michigan—like the entire country—has a backlog of worthy projects and its people have benefited from admirable public programs.  The reductions in H.R. 1 affect every community in the nation.  These are hard decisions for Congress to make, and not everyone will be happy with everything that has been proposed.  This is understandable, but I believe these reductions are necessary to show that Congress is serious about returning our country to a sustainable financial path. 

The Continuing Resolution to be considered in the House Floor this week is just the first step. Fortunately, the President’s budget proposal is merely a suggestion that Congress can improve upon.  In my view, Congress needs to offer a more fiscally sound budget for FY 2012.

Additionally, it is my view that Congress will need to consider reforming entitlements programs.  Social Security and Medicare are important programs that millions of Americans depend on.  Without reform, both of these programs face bankruptcy.  In my opinion, Congress needs to consider solutions to avoid this crisis that ensures benefits under Social Security and Medicare are not reduced for those Americans currently receiving benefits.

And I think most of my colleagues agree this is not a time to play politics. The inflamed rhetoric and scare attacks on cutting grandma’s benefits has no place here. This week’s vote will not take away benefits for anyone receiving benefits.  Instead, Congress will have completed the first step and as the Constitution dictates, the Senate and the President will have their say.

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*This statement has been submitted in the Congressional record.