McCain Says He Supports Cutting Federal Spending Enough to Counter the $6 Trillion in New Debt CBO Predicts over Next Ten Years

January 27, 2010 - 6:46 PM
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he supports cutting federal spending enough to counter-balance the $6 trillion in new debt the Congressional Budget Office estimates the government would otherwise take on over the next ten years.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he would support cutting federal spending enough to counter-balance the $6 trillion in new debt that a newly released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report indicated would be added to the federal ledgers over the next ten years if current laws govering taxing and spending are maintained.
 
McCain’s comment came in response to a question from CNSNews.com at a news conference he and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) conducted to announce legislation calling for a “fiscal freeze” on congressional spending.
 
CNSNews.com asked: “The CBO reported this morning that under the current budget trend, $6 trillion more dollars would be added to the national debt over the course of the next decade. Is each of you prepared to support that budget, or--excuse me—spending cuts to that extent over the next decade to bring the budget in line over the course of 10 years?”
 
“Yes," said McCain, "and everybody’s going to – the reaction to this is going to be, ‘It’s too hard. We can’t do it. It’s too hard. You can’t do it. You can’t do that.’”
 

 
“Well, look, let’s go back,” the former presidential candidate said, pointing to a chart illustrating the growth of the national debt as a percentage of America’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2001.
 
“Let’s go back to 2001 even,” said McCain. “It wasn’t that long ago. We have seen this, this incredible jump. We looked -- I thought we were pretty well off in 2001.”
 
McCain’s chart showed that the federal debt in 2001 was roughly 57.4 percent of GDP back in 2001, but was projected to balloon to 114.4 percent of GDP by 2019. As a reference point, the highest that ratio ever climbed during World War II was 121.7 percent, just slightly higher than these new projections.
 
“So to say we can’t do it and it’s too hard neglects the realities of the incredible dramatic increase in spending,” McCain said. “Just last year, non-defense discretionary spending increased by 12 percent. It is impossible to keep that up and not destroy our economy.”
 
Senator Bayh, facing the same question, indicated he preferred to wait and see how the economy fares and “make these intelligent decisions as we go forward.”
 
Bayh pointed out that the CBO estimate could change.
 
“Well, I’d just say that, you know, when I was governor of our state (Indiana), we’d have two-year budgets and the forecasts were always wrong for two years—sometimes they were too high, sometimes they were too low,” said Bayh.
 
“So, look, we’ve got to deal with this spending, and let’s be aggressive about it—I think the American people expect that,” he said. “Let’s see how revenue comes in, how the economy grows, and we can make these intelligent decisions as we go forward.”
 
The Congressional Budget Office report, released Tuesday, said the federal government would rack up $6.074 trillion in cumulative deficits over the next decade, thus massively increasing the federal debt and the interest the federal government would need to pay each year to finance the debt.
 
The two senators introduced a bill, the Bayh-McCain Fiscal Freeze Act of 2010, which would impose a spending freeze on Congress to keep non-security discretionary spending held to today’s levels and “allow for no more than inflationary increases until we balance the federal budget,” the senators said.
 
The freeze would be coupled with a stringent “earmark moratorium,” keeping other members of Congress from attaching costly special projects for their states or districts onto legislation, again until the budget is balanced.
 
Bayh said that freezing congressional excess would be a significant victory.
 
“So I agree with John, I think this (bill) is where we’ve got to start and, you know, there’s always a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth about these things, but, you know, I’ve got to believe that we can find economies in the federal government that will help cover stuff like this,” said Bayh.
 
Under McCain and Bayh's proposal, senators would be allowed to challenge unauthorized earmarks that find their way into a bill during the creation of a conference report. Sixty votes (in the Senate) could force the earmark to be stricken from the bill before passage.
 
McCain told reporters that his bill was necessary because the spending freeze that President Barack Obama is expected to announce during his State of the Union speech would be inadequate.
 
“I’m glad the president has ordered a spending freeze,” said McCain, but “I hope that he will look seriously at this package of reforms because that alone--just a three-year spending freeze--frankly won’t do it, although I think it’s good to do.
 
“One of the greatnesses of America has been that we have always given -- given to the next generation of Americans a country that’s better off than the one we inherited,” McCain said.
 
“With this kind of spending, and this kind of debt that we are amassing, with the Chinese owning hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. Treasuries (Treasury bonds), we can’t pass on to the next generation of Americans a better nation, a more prosperous one than the one that we inherited,” he said.
 
McCain and Bayh are expected to introduce their bill later this week.
 
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) follows below:
 
CNSNews.com: “The CBO reported this morning that under the current budget trend, $6 trillion more dollars would be added to the national debt over the course of the next decade. Is each of you prepared to support that budget, or--excuse me--spending cuts to that extent over the next decade to bring the budget in line over the course of 10 years?”
 
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “Yes, and everybody’s going to--the reaction to this is going to be, ‘It’s too hard. We can’t do it. It’s too hard. You can’t do it. You can’t do that.’ Well, look, let’s go back. Let’s go back to 2001 even. It wasn’t that long ago – it wasn’t that long ago. We have seen this, this incredible jump. We looked -- we looked -- I thought we were pretty well off in 2001. Uh, anyway. And so to say we can’t do it and it’s too hard neglects the realities of the incredible dramatic increase in spending. Just last year, non-defense discretionary spending increased by 12 percent. It is impossible to keep that up and not destroy our economy, so—“
 
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.): “Well, I’d just say that, you know, when I was governor of our state we’d have two-year budgets and the forecasts were always wrong for two years --sometimes they were too high, sometimes they were too low. So, look, we’ve got to deal with this spending, and let’s be aggressive about it. I think the American people expect that. Let’s see how revenue comes in, how the economy grows, and we can make these intelligent decisions as we go forward. So I agree with John, I think this is where we’ve got to start and, you know, there’s always a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth about these things, but uh, you know, I’ve got to believe that we can find economies in the federal government that will help cover stuff like this.”