First, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the victims of the recent tragic events in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. My heart breaks for the families and friends of the victims of these recent shootings. I join President Trump and all political leaders in denouncing the hateful ideology of white supremacy, which the El Paso shooter used as his justification.
It has no place in our society. I am troubled that instead of seeking to find common ground to stop future incidences of violence, too many are trying to cast blame instead. We do need to address the glorification of violence and extreme isolation in our culture that has led to some of these horrific events. We can and should do more to better address mental health challenges in our communities.
I also believe we should continue to improve compliance with the laws we already have on the books designed to prevent criminals and the mentally unstable from purchasing firearms. That is why I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 1339, the Mass Violence Prevention (MVP) Act to establish a fusion center at the FBI between local, state and federal law enforcement coordination efforts to identify potential threats and respond promptly.
I believe with the right to keep and bear arms comes a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, children and the mentally ill, which is why the current system of background checks makes sense. This issue cannot be dealt with overnight, so it’s important that we listen to our constituents over the course of this month and come back ready to address these serious challenges.
Two weeks ago, the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. Although the legislation gave our military the funding it needs, I could not support this legislation given our current fiscal situation. I believe it went too far in reversing reforms designed to bring spending under control that we put in place earlier this decade.
We have a booming economy, much thanks to President Trump’s leadership, and that is why I think we should have done more to keep our nation’s spending under control. While there are positives in this bill – like the $738 billion in defense funding to keep our military’s readiness strong – it allows non-defense discretionary spending to grow by over 4 percent next year. Congress continues to refuse to make the hard decisions and sequestration would have forced a real agreement to bring our out-of-control spending down.
Almost two years ago, I was proud to support the previous budget agreement, which reversed years of underfunding for our nation’s military under the Obama administration. This year, however, I believe we had a preferable alternative if we had simply extended existing spending levels with a continuing resolution.
The current national debt is over $22.5 trillion. This is unsustainable and Congress should be working on getting our fiscal house in order. If this out-of-control spending is left unchecked, we will leave our children and grandchildren to foot the bill. Some claim the tax cuts have caused this deficit, but that could not be further from the truth.
After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, the U.S. government took in $3.3 trillion in revenue in 2018 and is projected to bring in over $3.5 trillion in revenue for 2019, the most in our nation’s history. That’s right – after we cut taxes, revenue went UP.
So why do we have a budget deficit that’s over $800 billion per year? It’s pretty simple – annual mandatory spending increased by $547.3 billion from 2011 to 2018, far outpacing any increases in discretionary spending. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on autopilot, and all three programs are currently on track to eventually go bankrupt.
We need to find smart ways to decrease our federal spending, including passing a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution and enacting serious reforms to our mandatory programs. I am a strong supporter of a federal balanced budget amendment. Tennessee has a balanced budget – along with 48 other states – and families across this nation have to balance their checkbooks. Washington should be required to do the same. This Congress, I am once again a cosponsor of this amendment because we need to get our fiscal house in order.
I hope we start working to find solutions to our mandatory programs so that we can protect our children and grandchildren’s future.