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TN Congressional Delegation Responses to Obama Budget Proposal

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama submitted a nearly $4 trillion budget to Congress, calling for an end to the across-the-board cuts in federal spending brought about by the sequestration agreed to by Congress in 2011.

Instead, Obama suggested a 7 percent budget increase over the agreed-upon sequester levels for domestic and defense spending.

“I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security offices Monday.

The U.S. national debt exceeded $18 trillion for the first time in mid-December 2014, just about 14 months after it exceeded $17 trillion in mid-October 2013.

Republican members of Congress have indicated the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Responses from Tennessee’s congressional delegation to the president’s proposed budget follow:

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016:

“We need to address Washington’s spending problem and fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt, and the way to do it is by reducing the growth of out-of-control entitlement spending. I plan to work with our Republican majority – and, I hope, the president – to make tough choices so we can pass a real plan to fix the debt while supporting other priorities like national defense and national labs and medical research.”

Alexander noted that mandatory spending – which includes out-of-control entitlement spending that is driving the growth in the federal debt – makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending each year. Discretionary spending – the part of the budget that is already subject to spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act – makes up about 34 percent of federal spending each year and funds national defense, national labs, national parks and other federal priorities.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statement today regarding President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal.

“Our inability to get our nation’s fiscal house in order continues to be one of the most critical national security threats our country faces. The president’s budget makes little effort to solve that problem and is not a serious proposal,” said Corker. “The spending limits put in place in 2011 have generated the only real fiscal progress our nation has made in decades, yet the president wants to not only break the promise we all made to the American people, but also revert back to the bad habits that created our massive deficits in the first place. I hope Congress will show courage and finally address the largest drivers of our deficits so we can generate economic growth and create more opportunities for Tennesseans.”

Corker, also a member of the Senate Banking Committee, commented on the president’s renewed commitment to work with Congress to pass comprehensive housing finance reform.

“On the other hand, I am pleased the administration has renewed its commitment to working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Corker. “The biggest issue this year for the Senate Banking Committee, and the last major unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis, is finally addressing this tremendous taxpayer liability and ending the failed model of private gains and public losses.”

The president’s budget says bipartisan housing finance legislation passed last year by the Senate Banking Committee was a “meaningful step” in the right direction. The bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014 (S.1217), passed the committee in May 2014 by a vote of 13 to 9 and was first introduced by Corker and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) in June 2013.

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Monday in response to President Obama’s 2016 budget:

This budget would result in a nearly half-trillion dollar deficit next year alone, and our deficits and interest payments on the National debt would continue to go way up every year.

The most wasteful, least efficient way to spend money is to turn it over to the federal government.  The best way to create more good jobs and keep the cost-of-living low is to decrease federal spending and leave more money in the hands of American families.

I strongly support tax cuts for the middle class.  The president claims he is trying to help the middle class, but during his years in office, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown faster than ever, primarily because of big government policies that help only big federal contractors and the federal bureaucracy.

Like all presidential budgets, it will undergo significant changes.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman, R-Tenn. 03; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement in response to President Obama’s proposed budget for FY2016.

“Much like in his State of the Union speech, the President has taken an opportunity to work with Congress and turned it into a partisan game. This budget would increase spending by $2.4 trillion, never balances and simply isn’t a real option. As Tennessee’s sole House Appropriator, I will use my oversight responsibility to comb through the President’s request and ultimately make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and responsibly.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 2, 2015:

Nashville’s federal courthouse is Judiciary’s top priority

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced today that President Barack Obama’s newly released budget for FY 2016 includes funding for construction of a new federal courthouse building in Nashville.

“Nashville is #1 in the nation on the list of priorities for courthouse construction. This announcement is a critical next step in getting the courthouse built, but we’re not done yet,” Cooper said. “We still need Congress to appropriate the funds, and I hope that happens this year.”

Nashville has been waiting for a new courthouse since 1992, when the Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse was first deemed “inadequate.”

In 2002, the federal government selected the downtown property on Church Street as the site of the new building and purchased the parcels making up the site from 2002-2005. Since then, further studies and an economic downturn have delayed construction on any new federal courthouse. Neither the President’s budget nor Congressional appropriations has included funding for courthouses in four of the last five years, with the exception of the Mobile, Ala., courthouse in FY 2014.

Federal courthouse funding is supposed to follow the Judicial Conference’s five-year plan that contains a priority list of proposed courthouses ranked by need. But for many years, the Judicial Conference’s priorities were routinely ignored in favor of political favoritism and earmarks, a process Cooper opposes.

Cooper has pushed for a transparent, fair funding process and has led bipartisan efforts to award projects based on priority, not politics. Cooper was a founding member of the Congressional Courthouse Caucus, which was formed to address the urgent need for functional, secure courthouses around the country. Cooper has written to President Obama and Members of the House Appropriations Committee several times asking them to prioritize courthouse funding. Cooper has also met with the General Services Administration regarding the public safety hazard that sits atop the site designated for Nashville’s new courthouse, urging its immediate demolition.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 2, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), member of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016:

“I had hoped to congratulate President Obama on finally delivering a budget to Congress by the legal deadline for the first time in five years, but this proposal isn’t really a budget at all – it is a messaging piece. This so-called budget ignores both the reality of our already crippling $18 trillion national debt and of a new Republican majority in Washington that will not allow this laughable tax-and-spend proposal to pass.” said Congressman Diane Black.

Congressman Black added, “The President promised in his State of the Union address to present ‘a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.’ Sadly, he has done just the opposite. This budget is not practical, it is political. By adding nearly $8.5 trillion to our debt over the budget window, the President’s plan prioritizes the next election over the next generation – which would be forced to foot the bill for his costly agenda. This budget does nothing to address the strain of our mandatory spending programs and never achieves balance. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on the House Budget Committee to craft a responsible, timely budget that offers a substantive alternative to the President’s reckless proposal.”

Additional information:

  • The President’s budget calls for $2.1 trillion in new tax increases, on top of $1.7 trillion in tax hikes already imposed by the AdministrationThis budget would grow total federal spending by $259 billion next year alone
  • Under this plan, interest on our debt would rise to $785 billion by 2025
  • The President’s budget increases annually-appropriated spending for next year by $74 billion over current law
  • Under the President’s budget, gross debt would climb to $26.3 trillion in 2025

(Source: House Budget Committee)

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.07; February 2, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who is a member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

“President Obama has declared that the time for ‘mindless austerity’ is over, but there is nothing ‘mindless’ about creating a responsible budget and spending within one’s means. The President’s $4 trillion budget proposal will increase taxes and add to our $18 trillion national debt. At a time when our economy is still trying to get back on track, it isn’t prudent to raise taxes and stifle small business as a way of paying for wasteful government spending.

“The President’s budget is simply out of sync with the concerns of the American people – even 55% of Democrats believe that reducing the federal deficit is a ‘top priority.’ While I appreciate the President’s efforts to propose a budget on time, it would be more productive if he took our unprecedented level of national debt seriously. We need to stop spending money on failed policies from the past and instead craft a budget that will improve our country’s fiscal health and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 2, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal:

“President Obama’s budget is a positive vision for our nation’s future that will put us on a sustainable fiscal path. It will spur further economic growth by making critical investments to improve our roads and bridges—creating jobs in Memphis and around the country—and boost take-home pay for the middle-class while closing tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest one percent to avoid paying their fair share.”

“The President’s budget also gives middle-class families better access to higher education by making college more affordable and helps young adults climb out from under a mountain of student debt by capping monthly payments. And it will also help them find jobs by doing more to develop the high-paying, private-sector jobs that will keep our country competitive in the 21st century.”

“And by reversing mindless sequestration cuts, this budget proposal will reinvest in the National Institutes of Health, which is another U.S. department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses—because Americans are far more likely to be stricken by Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, or Parkinson’s than by a terrorist attack. President Obama’s budget will help make our economy work for all Americans instead of just the wealthiest among us, and it is a step in the right direction.”

Alexander Calls for 2-year Federal Budget

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander; R-Tenn.; January 13, 2015:

Cosponsors Legislation to Change Current Annual Congressional Budget Cycle to a Two-Year Cycle

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced he is a cosponsor of legislation that would change the current annual Congressional budgeting cycle to a two-year (biennial) cycle, which would give Congress more time to review budget priorities and an additional year to conduct oversight to end unnecessary programs.

“A two-year budget process would enable Congress to pass a two-year budget the first year, and spend the second year fixing broken programs and eliminating unnecessary spending,” said Alexander. “At a time when we are in the midst of a budget crisis, we need to pass a budget and spend more time reviewing spending and eliminating wasteful programs.”

The Biennial Budget and Appropriations Act, introduced by Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would change the current annual budget cycle to a two-year budget cycle, requiring the president to submit a biennial budget proposal in February and Congress to complete a concurrent budget resolution by May 15 and appropriations bills by October 1 in the first year. It would then require Congress to spend the second year reviewing programs and conducting oversight to eliminate wasteful spending.

As part of his focus on reining in federal spending, in February 2013, Alexander introduced the Fiscal Sustainability Act with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to reduce the growth of entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) by nearly $1 trillion in the next decade in order to improve the programs’ solvency.

Alexander is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Grants Subject to ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Make Up 7.7% of TN State Revenue: Report

Because of Tennessee’s reliance on federal grants, the state is among those that would be most severely affected if Congress takes no action to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, according to a recent study.

The study by the Pew Center on the States gauged the effect of the planned cuts to federal spending, which, paired with tax increases set for January, have come to be known as the fiscal cliff because of its possible economic impact.

Pew looked at the federal grants subject to the cuts as a percentage of state revenue, based on fiscal year 2010 numbers. In Tennessee, such grants made up about 7.7 percent of revenue, putting the state in the top five in terms of impact, behind South Dakota, Illinois, Georgia and Texas.

The study also broke down federal spending by area: defense versus that spent on all other programs.

In the breakdown by nondefense spending, Tennessee ranked in the top 10.

Nondefense spending via the feds made up 3.1 percent of Tennessee’s gross domestic product in 2010, a measure used to measure economic output, the study says. The national average is 1.8 percent.

By the broader measure of federal spending on defense and other areas as a percentage of GDP, the state appears to be more independent of action or inaction in D.C. That figure is 4.9 percent, coming in below the national average of 5.3 percent.

Tennesseans are shielded from the tax increases that may come into play for residents of states that link income taxes to federal tax provisions. However, the Tennessee’s estate tax is linked to changes at the federal level, the study notes.

A primer on the tax implications of the fiscal cliff is available at the Tax Foundation website.