Lankford Highlights His Solutions to Long-term Debt, Deficits
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor to highlight government transparency bills moving through the final stages of the legislation process or recently passed that will ultimately help our nation address some of the long-term causes of our debt and deficit issues. Lankford highlighted four of his good-government bills that are successfully moving through the process: the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act, the Providing Accountability through Transparency Act, the Representative Payee Fraud Act, and the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act. Earlier this year, Lankford also responded to the Congressional Budget Office annual Economic Outlook report about the gravity of continuing to deficit spend and its long-term impact on our ever-increasing $23+ trillion debt.
We’re spending a little bit of time in all those things saying we can’t lose track of structural issues in government. To say we can work on those issues that are right now in front of us but we’ve also got to look at the long-term issues to be able to deal with basic government transparency and basic accountability for government. So I want to highlight as several of my colleagues are here as well, highlighting some of the things that are on the floor or moved recently or we think can move on. One of those is the GREAT act. This is a bipartisan Bill that deals with basic transparency for grants. If you go back 20 years ago, the federal government gave away very few grants. Now $600 billion a year are done just for grants. My colleague Joni Ernst of Iowa, just highlighted some of the wasteful grants that are out there that as we go through it, we can try to get them one at a time or we can try to get a system in place where all grants have to go through a centralized data system where we can actually all look at the data and compare it across the government. To basically look for areas of inefficiency. That’s what the GREAT act does. It creates a standard data elements so that we can look at how the money is being spent, Americans’ money so we can actually evaluate it. That has overwhelmingly already passed. We’re grateful to be able to get that done this year.
Another we were able to get this done year that has passed the Senate but not passed the House yet is Providing Accountability through Transparency. It May seem simple but let me begin with the basic principle. No small business owner in America gets up every day and reads the federal register. That just doesn’t happen. If you’re running a small business, you’re running your small business. You’re not getting up every day reading the federal register to see the latest regulation. Even if you did, the pages and pages and pages of regulation, you can’t make sense of it. This basic providing accountability through transparency asks a simple question. Can we force the agencies when they actually do a new regulation to condense it down to a hundred words or less? In plain English? So you can actually figure out what this regulation is trying to do. So when you see a regulation come out, you can actually understand it without having to hire an attorney to be able to go and interpret it for you. That has overwhelmingly already passed the Senate and we’re waiting for that to be able to pass the House as well.
Basic simplification of some of the government entities in trying to be able to help out. We passed and already been signed into law dealing with representative payee fraud. Again this was a simple piece that was just needed in government. We discovered that if someone is a trustee from a federal retiree from their retirement account and as a trustee they stole the money out of that person’s account, we couldn’t actually enforce the law. We could on several other areas, if it was social security or disability but we couldn’t on federal retirees. So we were able to get a bipartisan agreement to be able to pass this, to be able to take care of that. It was a very simple bill but it’s the way we need to be able to react when we see a problem, to actually go to solve that problem rather than to take forever to be able to do it.
In speaking of forever to be able to solve, what I think is the most basic government transparency piece that we can put out there to be able to force real dialogue on budget issues is a simple bill that we have on shutdown prevention. If we can end government shutdowns, we can actually allow us to have more debate on budget issues here in this room where it should occur and take the pressure off of federal workers and federal families facing a shutdown and furloughs. Maggie Hassan and I have a very simple bill. The bill simply says you get to the end of the fiscal year, if we don’t have all the issues resolved on our budget, we continue debating those things here. We remain in session seven days a week until it’s actually resolved, but in the meantime federal workers and their families are unaffected because the budget automatically continues into last year’s budget level until we get things resolved here. But in the meantime, we can’t go home until we actually solve that problem. It’s a straightforward solution to say we’re not going to have government shutdowns. We’re not going to have the chaos across the whole country.
We had 21 government shutdowns in 40 years. We’ve got to stop that chaos. So it stops that chaos and it puts the pressure where the pressure needs to be, on us. When we finish our work, then we can move to the next thing. But if the budget work is not done, the most basic element of those appropriation bills, if they’re not finished we remain in session seven days a week until they are finished. We need to find ways to be more efficient as a government. Government shutdowns waste money by the billions. Rob Portman and his team did a remarkable study to be able to look and see how much money was wasted in the last shutdown. And it was in the billions of dollars and not even every agency turned in all their information to Rob Portman and his team. We can’t keep losing money that way. We can’t keep that chaos going for all the federal workers and their families. We should have the arguments about the budget. We have big ones that need to be resolved. But we should keep it here.
So on this week as we pause for just a moment and all the other big issues that are pressing on us right now, I’m grateful that we’re also pausing for a moment to say what are the big issues that we should look long term on and how do we solve some of those issues for the future as well dealing with making government more efficient and trying to make government more transparent.