The Senate recently passed the Bipartisan Budget Agreement that was negotiated by President Trump and Congressional Leadership. I supported this legislation because it prioritizes spending for the military and for our veterans while simultaneously avoiding a default on our debt, taking steps to avoid an unnecessary and costly shutdown and ending the threat of sequestration for two years. The negotiators agreed that no “poison-pill” policy riders—partisan amendments offered by legislators that could kill the bill—could be attached to this agreement. Additionally, the agreement protects the Hyde Amendment which makes sure no taxpayer dollars go toward paying for abortions. At a time of divided government, no side gets everything it wants. While it’s not perfect, I believe both sides of the negotiating table recognized it is the best deal we could get.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’ve repeatedly said that our budget must prioritize defense. When our founders drafted the Constitution, they made it clear that the only mandatory function of the federal government is national defense. The Constitution gives Congress certain authorities to take care of other matters, but Article Four, Section Four says the “United States shall guarantee to every State a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.”
If we can’t afford to defend ourselves, nothing else matters. The Budget Control Act of 2011 codified into law dramatic, arbitrary budget caps to our discretionary spending, which includes defense and federal agencies such as the Departments of Transportation, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture. The budget caps and threat of sequestration primarily impacted spending on our national defense. Since then, years of underfunding and budgetary uncertainty have resulted in our military falling behind our competitors in readiness and key capabilities. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis called sequestration more harmful to our readiness capabilities than what any enemy could do to us.
When we put our young men and women in harm’s way, we must make certain it is never a fair fight. We must make certain they have the best technology, tools and resources available to defeat our enemies and return home safely. The Bipartisan Budget Agreement helps accomplish that important goal.
I fully support measures to reduce our spending, such as a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, reducing unnecessary regulations, repealing costly legislation like Obamacare which took $700 billion out of Medicare and eliminating duplicative or unnecessary federal programs like the Department of Education. But until we begin actively managing the biggest drivers of our debt—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on our debt—we will never be able to successfully drive spending down. These mandatory payments account for 70 percent of all federal spending in Fiscal Year 2019.
The Bipartisan Budget Agreement is the best possible deal we could get in a divided government and while working within our broken budget system. I’ll stand by my vote to support our military and veterans. I’ll also continue working on ways to limit federal spending that don’t prevent our armed forces from being able to do their job—defending our country.