Idaho’s U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson is telling his colleagues and the Obama administration that bickering over which party is responsible for a record national debt must end.
Simpson, a Republican member of the House Budget Committee, engaged with White House Budget Director Peter Orszag during a hearing Tuesday on President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget. Simpson is an original cosponsor of House Joint Resolution 1, a constitutional amendment requiring balanced annual federal budgets.
After an exchange between Democrats and Republicans over which party is to blame for the debt, Simpson told Orzag:
“If anybody wants to understand what the problem is in Washington, D.C., all they need to do is listen to the debate that’s gone on here, pointing fingers and trying to decide who’s to blame. The reality is the American people don’t care who’s to blame, they just want the problem solved.”
Added Simpson: “This budget is not fiscally responsible over the long term, and what the American people are saying is we need to quit spending money, it’s that simple.”
On Wednesday, after word of his sharp critique spread, Simpson spoke with the Idaho Statesman and explained that he hadn't planned the public scolding.
Simpson's turn to speak came about an hour into the hearing and by then, he said, he'd grown weary of rhetoric on both sides.
"Republicans were throwing up slides showing the deficit when we were in charge and when the Democrats were in charge and the Democrats were countering with, 'It's your fault, it's your fault, the Bush tax cuts.' I just got sick listening to it. And I think the American people have heard enough of it."
Simpson is the only Idahoan on either of the Appropriations committees and is the top Republican on the House Appropriations Interior and Related Agencies subcommittee. He defended his annual effort to deliver hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Idaho, including cash for the Idaho National Laboratory, the state’s universities and Boise's geothermal system.
Simpson said earmarks, which represent about 2 percent of discretionary spending, do not increase overall spending. Spending caps are set by budget resolution and earmarks fall under those limits. Earmarks allow Congress to designate spending to specific programs rather than cede all authority to the agencies, he said.
"It does not add to spending," Simpson said. "I'm tired of people who just look at earmarks and assume it's wasteful spending. It's not. It's vetted."
Earmarks and their sponsors are published for all to see, he added, a reform that came after scandals connecting earmarks to favors done for members of Congress. "Earmarks are much more transparent," he said.
Simpson has taken heat for securing preservation funds for historic theaters in Rupert and Rexburg as part of the Save America's Treasures program. He defended that spending Wednesday.
"These were requested by the communities," Simpson said. "As long as the program's there, why not help Idaho with its historical buildings just like the rest of the country?"
The FY 2011 budget is the largest in American history. It spends $3.8 trillion and produces a deficit of $1.6 trillion, borrowing 42 cents for each dollar spent, Simpson said.
“The President’s proposal, though it is only a budget blueprint, illustrates why I believe we need a federal balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” Simpson said in a news release. “If Congress and the President, like any family, are forced to pay for every dollar spent in their budget, a new sense of fiscal responsibility would emerge. These record deficits would stop building on each other, and Congress could actually start reducing our debt, which has ballooned to nearly unsustainable levels.”
The House Budget Committee will soon debate and mark-up the FY2011 federal budget.
To watch Congressman Simpson question Orszag, visit his YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/CongMikeSimpson#p/a/u/0/roZ8DONp0zE.
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