Sen. Enzi: 'I Sit Up Nights, Worrying About the Nation's Debt'

By Susan Jones | December 17, 2013 | 12:06pm EST

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

( - The Ryan-Murray budget deal shows the one thing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on -- "and that's putting off hard decisions," Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said Tuesday, after he voted to block consideration of the legislation that will raise discretionary spending.

"I sit up nights worrying about the nation's debt and how it will affect Wyoming's children, how it will affect my children, how it will affect my grandchildren," Enzi said as he outlined some of the ways Congress could address its "spending problem."

Enzi said the Ryan-Murray budget agreement "was an opportunity to apply reasonable constraints to impossibly high future spending. But instead we got more spending, and no real plan to solve the problem."

Enzi was one of 32 Republicans who cast a "nay" vote Tuesday on the bipartisan budget agreement negotiated by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Ryan himself has said the deal is far from perfect, but he also called it "a step in the right direction."

In a floor speech following the vote, Enzi offered various ways Congress could reduce spending without too much pain or fuss.

"We need to have a prioritization process," he said. Under sequestration, which imposes indiscriminate, across-the-board budget reductions, "the agencies will always make it hurt," he said.

"There isn't any business, there isn't any government agency, that doesn't have some waste. And that's what ought to go first," Enzi said. "And then the duplication ought to go. And there's about $900 billion in duplication around here, but we don't even take a look at that."

Enzi said Congress also could pass legislation requiring spending committees to finish work on the individual appropriations bills. "If you don't, then you'll have to cut another one percent off your spending every quarter until you get your work done."

Enzi also likes the "penny plan," which takes a penny off every dollar the federal government spends. It would balance the budget in seven years, he said.

"I think we could do that, and we could do it with so little pain, people would say, 'Please continue that another couple of years and pay down some of the debt.'  Because getting rid of part of the deficit means that we're still overspending. But we ought to at some point start paying down the debt, so we don't have to pay the interest on the debt. And when we pay down a little bit of the debt, so we don't have to pay as much interest, we ought to use that interest that we've saved to pay off the debt some more. That's how you pay off things."

Enzi also called for biennial budgeting. "If we divided those 12 spending bills up into two packages of six and we allowed them to have two years' worth of spending each time, they could plan ahead much better. And we'd do the six toughest bills right after an election -- we'd do the six easy bills just before an election. I bet you we could get through those. And then we could do what my constituents think we're doing, which is looking at every single one of those expenditures, and deciding whether they ought to go up or down."

Enzi concluded: "There are a lot of ideas out there on what we could do, and I sit up nights worrying about the nation's debt and how it will affect Wyoming's children, how it will affect my children, how it will affect my grandchildren.

The spending issue isn't going away, he warned. "The longer we put it off, the worse it will become. That's the reality our country faces."

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