Andy Barr: Vote was against raising debt limit without reform

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.

I ran for Congress to stop the Washington spending spree and put our nation's fiscal house in order. Unfortunately, I could not support the legislation that raised the debt limit because it did not accomplish what the people of the 6th Congressional District elected me to do: reform government, reduce spending and hold Washington accountable to the American people.

Let me be clear: I opposed the government shutdown and remain committed to avoiding a default on our debt. In fact, I voted 26 times to fund the government or otherwise prevent a shutdown. I have also voted to raise the debt ceiling with my vote for the No Budget No Pay Act, which forced members of Congress to do their job and pass a budget.

But it is unfair to my two daughters and to future generations to simply raise the debt ceiling yet again without reforming government or getting spending under control.

President Barack Obama says we need to pay our bills. I agree. But raising our debt limit without reform is not paying our bills. It is asking China, bond holders and other creditors to pay our bills.

The president says we need to avert a default. I agree. But raising our debt limit without any reform is not averting default. It is merely postponing default. Instead of simply opening up a new credit card in our childrens' name because we've maxed out all of our own, we must take responsibility and stop business as usual in Washington. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to end the spending spree and start making the tough choices that will finally force the government to live within its means.

At current spending levels, the government is adding approximately $20 billion every week in new debt. On top of that, the Affordable Care Act is a massive increase in federal spending.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will cost American taxpayers $48 billion in 2014 and nearly $2 trillion over the next decade. And the true cost will only continue to grow because its funding mechanisms — cuts to Medicare, reductions in payments to our rural hospitals, punitive taxes on medical innovation and other sources of revenue — are not sustainable and will be repealed.

So any suggestion that Congress should leave the health care law out of discussions about how to fund the government is both highly cynical and wholly inconsistent with Congress' constitutional responsibility to constantly scrutinize federal spending.

It is also disappointing that the legislation to raise the debt limit and end the shutdown didn't include the very basic reform I have been fighting for which would simply force the political elite in Washington to live by the laws they write.

Whether the Herald-Leader editorial board admits it or not, Obamacare provides special treatment to members of Congress and those who wrote this flawed law.

Thanks to regulations written by the Obama administration, members of Congress and their staffs will continue to receive the same 72 percent to 75 percent subsidy they now receive under the federal employees health benefit plan for the purchase of a health insurance policy on the exchange.

However, while members of Congress who make $174,000 a year receive these pre-tax employer-contribution subsidies, a single individual who earns over $47,000 will receive no assistance toward the purchase of an insurance policy and be forced to pay the full price on the exchange with their after-tax dollars.

I believe it is a matter of fairness that members of Congress, the president, members of the cabinet and their staffs should live under the law they wrote and be treated the same as every other American.

My constituents are understandably angry about the political conflict in Washington. But we will never get beyond this frustrating gridlock unless and until Congress and the president can come together in a bipartisan way and finally confront in earnest the enormous challenge in front of us and save the next generation from national bankruptcy.

At issue: Oct. 17 McClatchy Newspapers article, "Default averted; House Republicans back down, agree to Senate bill to reopen government, raise debt ceiling"