Press Releases

The Truth about the Omnibus

The Truth about the Omnibus

By Congressman Mike Simpson

Washington, D.C. – “You may have seen an article authored by a DC lobbyist recently that criticized my vote on the FY18 Omnibus bill. I’d like to respond to Mr. Riggs’ claims.

“First, the FY18 Omnibus bill was good for Idaho.  It will directly benefit Idahoans through reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools, full funding for PILT, reining in the EPA, and funding for the A-10 Thunderbolt II based at Gowen Field. It included my fix to fire funding, which will allow us to decrease the cost and severity of future wildfires. Strong support for the INL to sustain its world-class research and development, including their work on cybersecurity grid protection will help keep Americans safe.

“Most critically, the omnibus starts rebuilding America’s Armed Forces by making the largest investment in our defense in 15 years. I was shocked to learn recently that we currently have the smallest Army since before World War II, the smallest Navy since before World War I, and the smallest and oldest Air Force that we have ever had.  Our Army has only 5 of 58 Brigade Combat Teams that are “Ready to Fight Tonight.”  Less than half of the Navy’s aircraft can fly due to maintenance and spare parts issues.  Only 50% of the Air Force’s combat forces are sufficiently ready for a fight against a peer adversary.  The FY18 Omnibus bill gives warfighters the resources they need to fight, win, and return home safety.  I am proud of my vote for this legislation. 

“It’s ironic that Mr. Riggs lamented the lack of progress on mandatory entitlement reform, because on that point we completely agree.  My constituents know well that I have advocated a “go big” approach to deficit reduction that would find at least $4 trillion in savings with a package of cuts to discretionary spending, tax reform, and most importantly, an overhaul of mandatory spending programs. 

“Mr. Riggs admitted that Congress successfully tackled reforming our tax code.  On discretionary spending, he failed to acknowledge that Congress has cut more than a trillion dollars in the last several years, and that despite the increase to rebuild our military, discretionary spending in FY18 was LOWER than it was in FY10.  Last week, the House voted to cut another $15 billion from discretionary funding that was expired or unnecessary.

“The growth of mandatory programs is the main driver of our debt.  It’s the final challenge that Congress will need to tackle to address our fiscal health.  Cutting discretionary spending only has a small impact on the growth of government, since mandatory programs make up 2/3 of the federal budget.  In FY16, mandatory spending was 69% of our total budget while all other spending that Congress controls (the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Justice, Energy, Interior, Transportation, State, and others) totaled 31%.  Left unchecked, by 2040, those numbers will grow to 81% mandatory and 19% discretionary.  In 1965, those numbers were 34% mandatory and 66% discretionary.

“Americans have spent their working lifetimes paying into these programs, and this growth is unsustainable.  The fundamentals are simply not working anymore, as only 2.9 workers pay into Social Security for every one beneficiary (versus 159 workers per beneficiary in 1940), meaning the trust fund will be insolvent by 2034.  Every proposal that I have ever supported to reform these programs would preserve benefits for current beneficiaries and save it for future generations. 

“Mr. Riggs’ column highlights a fundamental issue with our country. If we engage in thoughtful conversation, we usually find there is a lot more we agree on than not.  Let’s develop and pursue actual solutions to the most serious challenge our nation faces.  Americans deserve it.”