Republican Colorado Rep. Ken Buck supports a congressional commission to address mounting debt, he told the Daily Caller in an exclusive interview.
The commission would address both discretionary and mandatory spending, Buck explained, while also seeking to root out waste, fraud and abuse. The national debt crossed $32 trillion on June 16, and debt as a percentage of gross domestic product reached a record-high of 127.7 percent in 2022 as a result of COVID-19 stimulus spending.
“They’re just kicking the can down the road. There will be no meaningful reforms if you don’t have a commission that comes back in two months. We know what the answers are, you and I,” Buck said. “The commission needs to act quickly, thoughtfully, develop a report. Then we need to have a bill on the floor that has a straight up or down vote based on the commission’s recommendations.”
Congress has failed to enact changes recommended by previous commissions and committees studying the debt. The Simpson-Bowles Commission, established by President Barack Obama in 2010, recommended a combination of budget and entitlement cuts and tax increases to pare down the debt. Legislation based on the commission’s recommendations that would have raised $2 trillion in tax revenue, cut military spending by $800 billion, and raised the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare failed in the House in 2012, 38-382.
Six of the 18 members of the Simpson-Bowles Commission were appointed by Obama, while the other 12 were members of Congress. Buck’s commission would be different, he explained, since all participants would be members of Congress.
“We’ll listen to expert testimony, and that is very valuable. But you don’t put non-members on a committee to vote on what [level of spending] members should write to. You put members who are of the view that we need to cut spending and we need to reduce debt, and we need to find ways to do it. In other words, action-oriented members,” he said.
Economists are broadly in agreement that the caps instituted by the 2011 Budget Control Act were successful at limiting spending in the short term. Buck praised the caps, noting that they could serve as a model for future budget and debt agreements.
“The sequester worked. It kept discretionary spending low. Then what we need to do is, once we put the sequester in place, we need to start debating the entitlement spending,” Buck said. “We have to address the revenue side. I believe there is a sweet spot where you can lower taxes and increase revenue. But we have to have that debate and see where that sweet spot is, both on individual and corporate returns.”
Buck outlined a slew of proposals to make Congress more aware of how it spends taxpayer dollars.
“Every committee in Congress should have a subcommittee that is dedicated to reviewing unauthorized programs and wasteful programs. The Judiciary Committee would have one, and the Education and Labor Committee would have a subcommittee,” he offered. “They would have program staff, people who are used to going into programs, working with the inspector general, working with others and finding ways to reduce the cost of these programs.”
“When inspector generals [sic] issue reports, there should be some sort of formal presentation to a committee,” Buck continued. “The same with the Government Accounting Office. We pay them to do these audits and they issue a report and nobody reads the report. There should be some sort of formal presentation so members are on notice.”