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Great news! Fiscal conservatives chalked up yet another victory in their march to "stop the debt" yesterday, when three "tea party"-aligned U.S. senators unveiled S.CON.RES.39, a comprehensive balanced budget that closely resembles the grassroots-generated "Tea Party Budget."
The bold plan -- unveiled by Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Jim DeMint of South Carolina -- would:
Like The Tea Party Budget report on which it draws, the "tea party" senators' budget would convert massive deficits to healthy surpluses by 2017.
Officially titled "A Platform to Revitalize America," the senators' bill would also privatize the TSA, shrink the EPA by 50 percent, freeze foreign aid at $5 billion a year, sell off excess federal land, and shutter or downsize dozens of unconstitutional or unaffordable programs and agencies.
This is the boldest, most serious budget proposal introduced in Congress in our lifetimes. We at FreedomWorks will be proudly encouraging our 1.5 million grassroots activist members to get behind it.
As far as I'm concerned, this bill provides a "gold standard" by which to judge all other proposals as the budget fight heats up over the next few weeks.
The GOP-led House hopes to pass a budget by April. The Democrat-controlled Senate has not scheduled a budget vote, and indeed has failed to pass a budget for the past three years.
At yesterday's press conference, Senator Paul, who introduced the bill on behalf of the trio, reminded listeners of why serious spending restraint is essential at this critical time:
Already, what was once considered unthinkable has occurred: the creditworthiness and economic outlook of the United States of America have been downgraded. This is more than a national embarrassment, it's an indication that the world is losing confidence in America's ability to pay our bills and of our government to change course.
But, he said,
This budget shows we can stop the debt crisis, improve our economy, expand freedom, and secure the future for our children and grandchildren. . . . This balanced budget makes the commonsense decision that we've got to stop spending more than we're bringing in.
Sen. Paul -- who seems to have inherited fiscal seriousness from his father, presidential candidate Ron Paul -- also noted that the plan is the "only budget" likely to be offered this year "that balances within the Balanced Budget Amendment window," that is, the five-year transition period envisioned in the proposed BBA drafted by his colleage Senator Lee and supported by all 47 Republican Senators.
The new bill comes as yet another vindication for the tea party movement, which, since it began three years ago, has been criticized for "having no plan" for how to cut the national debt.
The Tea Party Debt Commission's report put that perception to rest late last year, but now the movement's view has proved itself politically relevant by being turned into the framework for serious legislation.
FreedomWorks' President and CEO Matt Kibbe said, when announcing the Tea Party Debt Commission project last June, "The only way we will ever reduce the debt and balance the budget is if America beats Washington and tea party activists take over this process."
The Tea Party Budget was submitted to Congress last November by a 12-member citizens panel, the Tea Party Debt Commission. The idea for the panel came out of a meeting at FreedomWorks headquarters with more than 150 tea party activists from across the country. Our organization was proud to facilitate the work of the panel during the summer and fall of 2011, when the Commission criss-crossed the country taking citizen testimony and surveying more than 50,000 Americans online for their budget-cutting preferences.
On November 17th, the panel traveled to Washington to submit its recommendations to Congress. That day, several Members of Congress were on hand to receive the group's tesimony. But things went awry at the outset, when, in a widely reported incident, staff from the Senate Rules Committee (chaired by Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York) swooped into the ornate hearing room to shut down the microphones and evict the audience.
Some of the guests present had traveled across the country to be present for the event, which, the staff declared, must now break up. Why? It was a verboten "simulated hearing," they claimed, though their own boss is notorious for hosting such events. But the effort to kill the story failed when the entire gathering decided to transfer the proceedings two blocks down the street, to a private site owned by Michigan's Hillsdale College.
Among the Senators taking part in the banned "simulated hearing" that day: Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Yesterday, the two men beamed. Still within "a minority of the minority" in an institution still very much addicted to spending and debt, they looked like men confident the future belongs to them, and to their ideas.
For local activists who want to take their country back from the brink of economic collapse -- and who for three years have been jeered at, sneered at, dismissed, and called everything from "astroturf" to "domestic terrorists" -- it was a most satisfying day.
TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Senators to cosponsor S.CON.RES.39, the Tea Party / "Platform" Budget.
Dean Clancy is FreedomWorks' Legislative Counsel and Vice President, Health Care Policy