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Westmoreland: Constitutional amendment needed to rein in runaway federal spending

It was a conversation about debt and spending and what the future holds for the United States. Remarks by Congressman Lynn Westmoreland addressed those and other issues at an Aug. 9 meeting of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce at the old courthouse in Fayetteville.

Westmoreland voted against the recent Budget Control Act of 2011 that raised the debt ceiling by $900 billion, reduced deficits by $917 billion and paved the way for raising the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion in the short term while imposing spending limits of a similar amount over a much longer 10-year period where accountability is much less manageable.

Meantime, Westmoreland said, a balanced budget amendment hangs in the balance and, “We have had no budget from the Senate in over 800 days. All we’ve got is a bunch of speeches and no budget.”

“When these negotiations began in January, I made a promise that I would not vote for any legislation that didn’t include significant spending cuts and absolutely no tax increases. Unfortunately, the final plan did not include significant enough cuts and left open the possibility for tax increases through a bipartisan commission. In addition, it does not require a balanced budget amendment be sent to the states for ratification. Without that constitutional restraint placed on this Congress and future Congresses, we can never guarantee real spending reforms will happen,” Westmoreland said previously and echoing those thoughts to the chamber audience throughout the meeting.

Noting the status of current government fiscal obligations, Westmoreland said 37 percent of the budget accounts for discretionary spending while 63 percent goes for mandatory spending.

Explaining the difference in the two categories, Westmoreland said mandatory spending includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and debt payments. Discretionary spending, he said, accounts for all other federal spending that must finance all other government operations and initiatives.

It is the ramifications of the fiscal situation in near-term future that Westmoreland continued to address throughout the meeting. An example of that pertained to mandatory spending that will reach 72 percent of the budget in only five years.

Westmoreland said he and other Republicans in the House stuck by their leadership in the hopes of keeping the Cut, Cap and Balance proposal alive and negotiating a deal they could support. But unfortunately, said Westmoreland, the Senate Democrats and the White House stalled any attempt at real spending reform. He added that the two additional issues of a balanced budget amendment and the One Percent Spending Reduction Act proposed by Connie Mack (R-FL) need to be adopted.

“Then put (all three) in the Senate’s lap,” Westmoreland said.

Woven through Westmoreland’s remarks Tuesday morning was the reality that America cannot continue on its current rate of spending, especially as pertains to entitlements, that will soon eclipse revenues. Correcting that course will necessarily involve making changes to the entitlements and debt payments that will consume 72 percent of the budget by 2016, he said.

“We have to make some changes and everybody’s going to feel some pain,” Westmoreland said, noting the reality that people’s children and grandchildren will likely not understand why the entitlements expected and received by their elders will no longer be available when they reach retirement age. Westmoreland was clear that everybody will lose unless mandatory expenditures and others that cannot pass muster are leveled out. “We’ve got to make some really tough decisions.”

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