Congress took the first step to cut federal spending last week when it finalized the 2011 budget, cutting $40 billion. It is unfortunate that partisanship took us to the brink of a government shutdown, which would have been bad for our fragile economy, bad for our national security and bad for the American people.
Debate will continue throughout this year about how best to get the nation's financial house in order. Nebraskans have known for more than 20 years that I'm a fiscal hawk but just so there will be no mistake about the budget battles that loom ahead, please let me reassure you that I'm for substantial cuts in government spending but they must be made wisely.
It is no secret that Medicare and Medicaid contribute to the deficit. Reducing healthcare costs is critical to the long-term sustainability of these programs and I will continue working with my colleagues on ways to address these challenges without simply shifting the cost of the program from the government to seniors.
Cutting the budget should be comprehensive and built on shared sacrifice. It should be fair and not place a disproportionate share of the burden on seniors and those who are vulnerable.
And spending cuts should be smart. Spending cuts should protect investments that are proven to create jobs and grow the private-sector economy.
Congress has to address the deficit -- everyone knows that. My opinion is that the first thing we have to do is reduce federal spending. Everything has to be on the table and this work must be done thoughtfully so that we do not undermine our economic recovery.
There are many options to address the deficit and the Senate will debate them throughout this year. My priority will be implementing budget cuts and reforms which are fair and effective and do not require any one group of people to shoulder the burden.
If we can get spending under control, we will have economic growth, businesses will create jobs, and we will have fewer revenue challenges.
This is an issue that matters to Nebraskans. We want Washington to cut spending and bring down the cloud of debt that hangs over our economic future. We don't understand how the government can keep borrowing money just so it can keep spending.
Nebraskans know that we can't continue on a path that has led to a $1.5 trillion deficit this year and a $14 trillion national debt. That's a road to economic nowhere.