Senator Cornyn

Cornyn Op-Ed: Time to Get America’s Fiscal House in Order: Here are the First Steps

January 30, 2023

WASHINGTON – Amid discussions on the debt ceiling, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) authored the following op-ed on on steps Congress and the Biden administration should take to get America’s fiscal house in order.


Time to Get America’s Fiscal House in Order: Here are the First Steps

Senator John Cornyn

January 30, 2023


The national debt is $31.5 trillion and counting. If it were divided among all income taxpayers, each person would be on the hook for nearly $250,000.

Will we ever be in a situation where the average taxpayer receives a quarter-million-dollar bill from the U.S. government? Not a chance. But it’s startling to see how much debt the United States has taken on, and even more jarring to realize there’s no plan to address it.

Making matters worse, we’re quickly approaching an alarming deadline. Unless action is taken soon, the U.S. will default on its debts in the coming months, sending our wobbly economy into a full-blown spiral.

This looming crisis didn’t pop up out of nowhere. The U.S. narrowly avoided a debt crisis in 2021, but we’ve been moving toward this unavoidable reality for years. Out-of-control spending habits have driven the national debt from $3.2 trillion in 1980, to $9.7 trillion in 2000, to $31.5 trillion today.

Washington can’t continue to borrow and spend like there’s no tomorrow. It’s time to address the root causes that brought us here.

First, Congress needs to return to regular order in funding the government each fiscal year. It must abandon the habit of stopgap funding bills and last-minute omnibuses and pass regular, on-time appropriations bills.

The Senate and House Appropriations Committees are charged with writing 12 separate bills to fund different components of the federal government prior to Sept. 30, the end of the government’s fiscal year. That didn’t happen in 2022 or 2021. The Democrat-led Senate did not pass a single regular appropriations bill and instead used stopgap funding measures to keep the wheels of government turning while they compiled a massive spending bill. All of this happened in a rushed fashion, completely out of the public’s view.

This is a maddening way to fund the government, and it’s time for change. Public hearings, debates, and votes on individual appropriations bills are the only path forward. Temporary funding legislation and 4,000-page appropriation bills are not the picture of responsible governing.

Next, we need to reform spending. There’s bipartisan agreement that entitlements, which account for nearly two-thirds of the federal budget, are unsustainable in their current form. Projections show Social Security recipients will see a reduction of almost 25% in their benefits if we do nothing – an unacceptable outcome. It’s time for tough conversations and significant reforms to protect the longevity of these programs for the people who need them most. Sen. Mitt Romney’s, R-Utah, TRUST Act, which seeks to rescue the Social Security Trust Fund, is a great starting point for these conversations.

Finally, Congress should pass a balanced budget amendment – similar to ones I’ve authored and voted for previously – to make clear that the government can’t spend more than it takes in. There’s real-world evidence that balanced budget requirements work. Virtually every state in the nation has one, including Texas, which just started its legislative session with a $33 billion surplus. States, families, and businesses across the country have no choice but to operate on a balanced budget. The federal government should do the same.

There are a range of other measures Congress can take to address the financial fire that’s raging. 

Congress should ban earmarks to ensure critical funding bills are not a playground for quid pro quo. I’ve opposed the use of earmarks and voted to strip them out of the most recent omnibus bill.

Senate Republicans have offered a laundry list of bills to restore order and accountability in federal spending.

Sen. Mike Braun’s, R-Ind., No Budget, No Pay Act would suspend pay for members of the House and Senate if Congress fails to pass a budget or spending bills on time.

Sen. Mike Lee’s, R-Utah, CBO Show Your Work Act would require the Congressional Budget Office to publish the data and models it uses analyze the cost of legislation.

If government funding is not enacted on time, Sen. James Lankford’s, R-Okla., Prevent Government Shutdowns Act would force Congress to stay in session until funding agreements are reached, and ensure the government stays open until that happens.

These are just a few of the countless proposals Senate Republicans have put forward that deserve serious consideration.

President Biden needs to ditch his head-in-the-sand approach to this crisis and work with Republicans to get our financial house in order. He was in the room when Congress negotiated the 2011 Budget Control Act, which was the last meaningful attempt to restrain Washington spending. If the president wants to lead, this is his chance.

The national debt will haunt every generation until enough leaders show the courage to make tough choices and fix this mess. There’s never been a more important time for action. I encourage my colleagues to join me in this process.