Senate Votes For More Budget Discipline Carper Amendment Would Restrict Additional Spending Increase

WASHINGTON, DC (March 10, 2004) – In a significant victory for more fiscal discipline in Washington and a sign that lawmakers are increasingly worried about the nation’s growing debt, the Senate last night approved an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., that would make it more difficult to approve new spending increases or tax cuts. The amendment would restore what’s known as “pay-as-you-go” rules, meaning that any new spending or tax cuts would have to be “paid for” — or it would require a supermajority (more than 60 votes) in the Senate to pass. Such rules would make it significantly more difficult to pass the president’s tax cuts unless the president and Congress find other parts of the budget to cut in order to pay for them. The amendment passed on a 51-48 vote, with four Republicans crossing party lines to support the measure, which was actively opposed by the White House. “This will be our first line of defense against anyone who wants to continue busting the budget and driving us deeper into deficit,” said Carper. “I’ve always said that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth paying for, and that’s what this amendment is all about. If you want to spend more money than we’ve got planned for this year, then you have to pay for it. If you want to cut taxes, you’re going to have to pay for that as well. At a time when our country is racking up huge deficits, this amendment is just common sense.” The pay-go rules were instrumental in helping Congress and then-President Clinton reduce budget deficits in the 1990s and usher in what was supposed to be a long period of budget surpluses. But the rules have since lapsed under the Bush administration, which has ignored budget discipline in its pursuit of tax cuts and record federal spending. The result: a federal budget deficit projected to reach nearly $500 billion this year, the largest ever. “We’re now spending almost one million dollars per minute more than we take in. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we can’t sustain this over the long-term if we want to keep our economy healthy and interest rates low,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “This amendment will help us get real about our budget situation and try to restore some discipline to the budget process.” The Senate is still debating the fiscal 2005 budget resolution on the Senate floor today. Final passage is expected late tonight or tomorrow. Carper last year was named one of the “top five” most fiscally responsible senators by the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan budget watchdog group.