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Making Congress personally accountable

Published 7:55pm Monday, January 28, 2013

By Rep. J. Randy Forbes

One of a Congress’ most basic responsibilities is to pass a budget. Families and businesses all across America regularly make budgets, yet the U.S. Senate has failed to legislate one in more than three and a half years.

In fact, as many have pointed out, the last time the U.S. Senate passed a budget, we had never even heard of the iPad. General Motors had never declared bankruptcy, no one had heard of swine flu and the national debt was $4 trillion smaller than it is today.

Today, our national debt stands above $16 trillion, and we have racked up more than a trillion dollars in deficits in each of the last four years. We can no longer continue on this path.

As public servants, we have a lot of work to do to bring down our national debt and rein in deficit spending. It will not be easy. It will take hard work. It will not happen overnight. In the meantime, however, Congress can make some important fiscal steps to show that we are committed to returning America to a firm fiscal footing.

Just like families and businesses across America, members of Congress need to be held responsible for their fiscal decisions. To add personal accountability to the process, I introduced the Congressional Accountability Pay Act, H.R. 284, to break Congress’ addiction to spending by tying members’ salaries directly to spending.

The premise of the bill is simple — the more members of Congress spend, the less they make in salary. So if Congress increases spending by 7 percent, members’ salaries would be cut by 7 percent.

Last week, the House passed the No Budget, No Pay Act, H.R. 325, requiring members of the House and Senate to pass a budget, or have their pay withheld. I was pleased that this bill incorporates personal accountability of members of Congress, in a similar fashion as the CAP Act. I am optimistic that this is a first step toward getting spending under control.

In January 1995, a constitutional amendment that mandated a balanced budget passed the U.S House of Representatives. Two months later, the balanced budget amendment was brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate, where it failed by one vote.

Since then, federal debt has more than tripled, from $5.1 trillion to $16.4 trillion. I continue to support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, but in the meantime, we must fix our broken budget process and prioritize spending.

Passing a budget, as called for under the No Budget, No Pay Act, is only the first step toward putting our nation back on a path of fiscal prosperity, but it would go a long way in holding members of Congress personally accountable for spending decisions in Washington.

The status quo is no longer acceptable — members of Congress cannot remain immune from the economic challenges facing our nation.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at www.forbes.house.gov.

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  • terp29

    Rep. Forbes, Congress doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you. You should really considering not running for reelection after your current term is up. You focus more on silly bills that get nice attention from the Fox News crowd. You’re really worried about the debt? Want don’t you draft a plan on how to fix it, rather than silly bills that won’t go anywhere. When you originally ran for Congress you wanted to privatize Social Security and have people invest in the market. Do you still support that? And you want to replace Medicare with a voucher program? I’d like to be in the retirement home where you explain how the voucher program is better than a program that guarantees care. Please just figure out what tax code needs to be to support Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and stop with the silliness. And seriously, considering retiring in 2 years.

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