WASHINGTON – The contenders for Texas new 19th Congressional District seat had decidedly different stances on the budget resolution that passed the House by a vote of 216-213 on Wednesday night.
Veteran Congressman Charles Stenholm, who currently represents the 17th District, voted against the budget resolution because “it would increase our national debt by $690 billion and fails to impose budget enforcement rules to stop Congress and the President from passing legislation that puts the nation deeper into debt.”
But Congressman Randy Neugebauer, who represents the current 19th District, said he voted in favor of the measure because “it prevents tax relief from expiring for Texas families and makes no changes in farm payment limitations or farm program payments.”
Neugebauer and Stenholm are vying for the new 19th District position after the Texas Legislature eliminated Stenholm’s 17th when it redrew the congressional boundaries in 2003.
"The budget approved by the House this evening will put the nation on a course of large deficits and a rapidly growing national debt,” said Stenholm. “I strongly oppose continuing down this path of fiscal irresponsibility This budget borrows from our children and grandchildren's future to pay for political needs today.
“For that reason, I had no choice but to vote against it."
Passage of the budget resolution increased the limit on the national debt to $8.1 trillion, Stenholm said. The national debt has increased $1.5 trillion over the last three years. At the end of March, foreign investors held $1.7 trillion of our debt.”
Neugebauer defended the House leadership’s resolution and focused his comments on an amendment to the Senate-passed Budget Resolution that would have reduced payment limit levels in the 2002 farm bill.
"This budget is responsible in controlling spending and maintaining the tax relief that is helping grow our economy," said Neugebauer. "I am especially pleased House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle agreed with me and removed Senator Grassley's amendment to change payment limits.
“That amendment would have allowed Senator Grassley another avenue to push the payment limits change that goes against the commitment made to producers in the 2002 farm bill."
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who like Nussle hails from Iowa, has been attempting to pass stricter rules for limiting farm program payments since Congress began debating the latest farm bill in 2000.
The final budget resolution, which guides Congress' tax and spending decisions for the year.
The agreement holds non-defense and non-homeland security spending level with last year's spending totals, said Neugebauer. It also allows for the increased child tax credit, accelerated marriage penalty reduction and the expansion of the 10 percent tax brackets, all of which would expire in 2005, to be extended so families are not faced with a tax increase.
"I've maintained that the federal government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem," said Neugebauer. "West Texans don't need a tax increase so the government can spend more."
Stenholm said the resolution widens the gap between federal tax revenues and spending so that the federal deficit will now rise to unprecedented levels. The nation has gone from a budget surplus to a massive deficit in less than four years, he noted.
"American families must re-evaluate their budgets if they have too much debt. The fact that we need to increase the nation's debt limit for the third time in three years should remind Congress and the President to re-evaluate our budget policies as well," Stenholm said.
"Unless the rules enforcing budget discipline are reinstated, Congress and the President will continue to enact more legislation that puts the budget into an even deeper hole."
Stenholm said the budget resolution failed to contain a meaningful "pay-as-you-go" rule which received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this spring. Pay-as-you-go rules would prevent Congress from approving any additional legislation that would result in an increased deficit, he said.
"I worked closely with Republicans to pass pay-go rules in the early 1990s, and those rules helped balance the budget back then," Stenholm said. "Unfortunately, the Republican Leaders of today are doing everything they can to defeat this common-sense rule, even though they used to support it and it has a proven track record.
"I want to be clear that I support the spending restraints of the Republican budget, which essentially adopts the spending levels we had in our Blue Dog budget. I support tax cuts, but I object to providing tax cuts for the current generation when they are financed with borrowed money. Every dime of tax cuts in today's resolution will come from borrowed money that ultimately will be paid for through increased taxes on our children and grandchildren."
Neugebauer said he wanted to correct any misconceptions that the budget resolution would impact farm programs.
"I want to dispel any myths that this budget or our House budget somehow reduced farm programs or reopened the farm bill because that simply is not the case and has never been the case," said Neugebauer. "This final budget doesn't have the spending instructions to committees that the House bill did.
“However, that means the Senate missed a great opportunity by not agreeing to find and reduce wasteful spending,” he said. “We identified plenty of waste and abuse in food stamps that would have easily met the proposed reduction for the Agriculture Committee. It's a shame that others are content to turn a blind eye to wasteful spending that we know is out there and defer these budget savings for another year."
Neugebauer said he went to the House floor during debate over the budget to have those facts verified by Chairman Nussle.
"While the House-passed budget resolution included $371 million over five years in reconciliation instructions for the Agriculture Committee, these instructions, which were never intended to reduce critical farm commodity support programs, are not included in the conference agreement," Nussle stated.
Neugebauer also addressed the need for better enforcement of the budget.
“The growth of government must be slowed and that can only be done by controlling spending,” he said. “We need better budget enforcement tools, and the House is planning to take up a separate budget enforcement legislation that puts bigger and better teeth in this process. We need to extend spending caps and a pay-as-you-go requirement for new spending.
“However, applying PAYGO to tax relief will only cause large tax increases at a time when that would harm our economic recovery. There are a variety of budget enforcement tools out there, not one silver bullet that will fix everything. I support a budget enforcement package that gives Congress access to all the tools needed to enforce spending disciplines and recognizes their strengths and limitations.”