Senators Chambliss and Coburn Bid Farewell, Talk Fiscal Issues

The end of the 113th Congress saw the retirement of two Senators who actively fought for controlling and limiting the U.S. federal debt. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK) gave farewell speeches in the final days of the Congress that addressed the fiscal position of the U.S.

Senator Saxby Chambliss has been a strong voice for the need for bipartisan action to address the debt. Along with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), he was one of the cofounders of the bipartisan "Gang of Six", who attempted to assemble a bipartisan agreement on the deficit and debt in 2011. In his final speech on the U.S. Senate floor, he spoke briefly on the debt problem facing the country.

Second, it is imperative that the issue of the debt of this country be addressed. Just last week, our total debt surpassed $18 trillion. We cannot leave the astronomical debt our polices have generated up to our children and grandchildren to fix. It is not rocket science as to what must be done. Cutting spending alone, i.e. sequestration, is not the solution. Raising taxes is not the solution.

His farewell speech also covered the need for future budget agreements to bridge the gap between the two parties.

As Simpson-Bowles, Domenici-Rivlin, and Gang of Six agreed, it will take a combination of spending reduction, entitlement reform, and tax reform to stimulate more revenue. Hard and tough votes will have to be taken but that is why we get elected to the United States Senate. The world is waiting for America to lead on this issue and if we do, the U.S. economy will respond in a very robust way. The Gang of Six laid the foundation for this problem to be solved, and it is my hope we do not leave the solution for the next generation.

Dr. Coburn has been one of the most vocal Senators about the need to get the national debt under control. In his time in the Senate, he went beyond the usual platitudes about the need to control both spending and tax loopholes, detailing his ideas in a $9 trillion deficit reduction plan "Back in Black". For the last five years, his office published an annual Wastebook with detailed examples of "wasteful government spending" (read about the latest edition here). His lists of targeted savings not only included government spending but also wasteful tax expenditures. Even in the last week of the Congress he put forth a plan to address the looming Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund shortfall.

Coburn served on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (the Fiscal Commission), whose co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Senator Al Simpson recommended changes to place debt on a downward path as a share of the economy. Coburn was one of 11 members of the Commission who voted in favor of the plan. After those recommendations failed to get a vote in Congress, he joined the "Gang of Six," a bipartisan group of Senators that in 2011 tried to update the recommendations and get a vote in the Senate.

In his farewell speech, he reiterated his passion for shrinking the federal debt.

Effective oversight is an effective tool to expose government overreach and wasteful spending, but it also markedly exposes where we lose our liberty and our essential freedoms.

I have had some fun through the years, taken some criticism for the waste book-- and it is opinion, I agree. Everybody who has seen the waste book has a great defense of why it is there. But the real question is will we become efficient at how we spend the money of the American people? This is a big enterprise. There is no other enterprise anywhere close to it in size in the world. It is not manageable unless we all try to agree to manage it and have the knowledge of it.

We hope there will be more lawmakers in the next Congress that share support of bipartisan attempts to fix our long-term debt problem. We thank Senator Chambliss and Dr. Coburn for their thoughtful words and wish them well in their future endeavors.