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Ryan answers questions on the proposed payroll tax extension, the Senate’s failure to budget, and fixing Washington’s broken budget process

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December 12, 2011 | comments

Last week, Congressman Paul Ryan spoke with 1st District residents during a telephone town hall meeting. Excerpts of Rep. Ryan’s responses follow:

Passing a Budget on Time & Fixing the Broken Budget Process:
The Path to Prosperity, which I helped write, did pass the House. Now, that generally should be followed by the Senate passing their budget. The way the law – and by that I mean, the 1974 Budget Act - is written: the House passes a budget and the Senate passes a budget by April 15th, and then you come together to negotiate a compromise between the two, and pass that same unified budget. It’s called a reconciled budget, negotiated by both chambers, and you assemble the budget one step at a time and fix it.

We passed ours by April 15th in the House. The problem is the Senate chose not to pass a budget at all and unfortunately this is the 951st day since they last bothered trying to pass a budget. They didn’t pass a budget last year, they didn’t pass a budget this year, and they’re now telling us that they’re not going to do one next year. And so our government has gone without a budget since 2009. It will be three years if they fail to pass one next year.

We are somewhat helpless because all the House can do is pass its budget, but if the process stops at any one of these points- the House, the Senate, or the two together- then the whole thing breaks down. So tomorrow, I am rolling out ten different reforms through the House Budget Committee that are detailed ways to fix the Budget Act itself to make sure this kind of mismanagement and dysfunction doesn’t happen again. They are bills designed to clean up the budget process, to bring in more accountability and more transparency, and make Congress actually budget.

We have a fiscal crisis on our doorstep and right now, the Senate can just choose not to pass a budget and then the whole system stops. That’s where we are right now. So what I’m now trying to do is pass a budget, which I did and I will again next year, and trying to fix the process that allowed this dysfunction to creep into our system.

The Bipartisan Expedited Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act:
I’m trying to make this a bipartisan effort because we need both parties to get involved. I rolled out one of these ten reforms with the head Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen, called the Expedited Line Item Veto and Rescissions Act. It’s a way of going after pork barrel spending in a Constitutional way. I did a similar bill with Russ Feingold in past years. I’m going to pass this bill out of the Budget Committee next week and I’m going to bring it to the floor after New Years. I’m trying to make these bipartisan reforms because that gives me a greater chance of getting them through the Senate so we’ll see how much we can get through next year.

Preserving Social Security & Eliminating Unnecessary Government Spending:
I like the idea of people keeping more money in their paycheck, but you cannot short change Social Security. There’s plenty of waste in government. There’s lots of money that has been overspent. In the President’s first two years in office, they increased spending on domestic government agencies by 84%, and so, to me, there’s plenty that can be cut to pay for this and supplement Social Security to make sure it’s not drained. We cannot treat this as permanent policy because if we do we’re either accelerating the bankruptcy of Social Security or we’re converting it into sort of a cash welfare program and not a social insurance program, which is based on your wages and your payroll taxes.

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