Senator Kirk discusses New Congress, outlines importance of upcoming vote on the federal debt limit

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Vote on the Debt Limit is a Key Opportunity for Fiscal Conservatives

Potential for Bipartisan Cooperation on Many Key Issues


Chicago, IL –  Illinois’s newest Senator, Mark Kirk, previewed the key issues before the new Congress which begins tomorrow.  Senator Kirk highlighted the importance of the upcoming vote on the federal debt limit as a “key opportunity for fiscal conservatives” to enact anti-spending reforms to lower deficits and taxes.

Senator Kirk took office November 29th as a result of a special election to fulfill the remaining month of former Senator Obama’s original six-year term.  Kirk will be sworn in again tomorrow for his own six-year term as the junior Senator for Illinois.

The outgoing Congress formally increased the federal allowable debt four times, from $11.3 to $14.3 trillion.   As of December 2, federal debt totaled $13.8 trillion.  The federal government is expected to reach the current limit on its debt at the end of the first quarter of 2011. If a slow economy yields poor tax receipts and current federal spending continues, the federal government will attempt to borrow another $3 trillion by 2013.

Senator Kirk outlined 15 anti-spending reforms that should be attached to any legislation regarding the debt of the United States.  “The most important reform will be to provide only short-term extensions of debt, giving economic conservatives many opportunities during the next Congress to cut back on spending and debt.  In addition, the remaining reforms will help end the practice of increasing the federal debt, returning the government to a pay-as-you-go, sustainable operation.”

The anti-spending reforms include:  

       Set An Example.  Reduce Congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent.

       Realign Public to Private Pay.  Freeze federal civilian pay and benefits.

       Stop Expanding Public Employment. Freeze federal civilian hiring. 

       Live With Last Year’s Budget. Cap discretionary spending.

       Empower the President to Cut Pork. Enact a reformed presidential line-item veto.

       Prevent One Generation from Burdening Another. Enact a balanced budget amendment to the constitution (similar to Senator Simon’s S. J. Res. 41).

       Create Bipartisan Consensus with Power.  Establish a new bipartisan “Grace Commission II” to propose anti-spending reforms, linked to authorities to submit reforms for up or down congressional votes.

       Rationalize Wasteful Federal Holdings Not Being Used.  Establish a Federal Real Estate Disposition Commission to identify properties that can be sold, with proceeds used to reduce federal debt.

       Eliminate Unused Buildings/Property.  Require the Government Services Administration (GSA) to lease or sell underutilized buildings (GAO reported 22,000 excess and surplus properties in 2007).

       Align Spending to National Income. Set an annual spending ceiling at 21 percent of GDP and require major asset sales to fund expenditures above that level – real estate, spectrum, direct federal loans or operating assets like the Tennessee Valley Authority.

       Lower Health Care Costs. Enact medical malpractice reform and reduce the cost of health care.

       Cut Losses of Big Losers.  By reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taxpayers may mitigate losses of at least $150 billion and climbing. 

       Create Pentagon Incentives to Rationalize Holdings. The Defense Department should be encouraged to sell outdated inventory and vacated properties, applying half the proceeds to military modernization and half to reduce federal debt.

       Reduce Spending in the Private Economy.  Eliminate half of the 53 corporate welfare programs listed by the CATO institute.

Senator Kirk also outlined at least six key issues where there was potential for bipartisan progress, including:

       Opening New Markets for American Exports: President Obama supports free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that will open key markets for Illinois exports

       High-Speed Rail for Illinois: Following Wisconsin’s decision to reject high-speed rail funding, Senators Durbin and Kirk support high-speed rail for Illinois.

       Banning Sewage Dumping in the Great Lakes. Senators Durbin and Kirk are working on legislation to ban all sewage dumping in the Great Lakes.

       End to Earmarks: President Obama supports ending the congressional practice of pork-barrel earmarking of federal appropriations.

       Line-item veto: There are indications that President Obama may put forward a line-item veto to cut federal spending.

       Law Enforcement Assistance to Mexico: There is strong bipartisan support to helping the Mexican government win its battle with drug cartels that dominate its border.


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