The year 2005 will be remembered as one of good intentions, bad disasters and promises kept. This spring, Congress adopted the toughest budget since the Reagan years and, under the leadership of Chairman Jerry Lewis, the Appropriations Committee reported one bill after another on time and on budget.
Then came the heartbreak that was Hurricane Katrina — 90,000 square miles of the gulf coast destroyed. Congress responded by speeding relief and recovery funds totaling $60 billion in six days to rebuild the families and communities destroyed by this storm.
After the storm, many in Washington thought that fiscal discipline was the last thing Congress should be thinking about — preferring raising taxes or the national debt to making tough choices. But not this majority.
Seeing that a catastrophe of nature could become a catastrophe of debt, dozens of House conservatives challenged the Congress to offset the cost of Hurricane Katrina with budget cuts. And I will always believe that their effort, known as ‘Operation Offset,’ sparked a national debate that propelled us to this moment.
The American people wanted Washington to pay for Katrina with budget cuts, and Washington got the message.
In direct response to President George W. Bush’s call for offsets, Speaker Dennis Hastert unveiled the bold plan: to find budget cuts from every area of the federal government. The Hastert plan, with an across-the-board cut and more than $40 billion in entitlement savings, is now reality.
For Americans troubled by a rising tide of red ink in Washington, Christmas will come early this year as this Congress demonstrates the ability to make tough choices in tough times to put our fiscal house in order.
But with a national debt of $8 trillion, nearly $26,000 for every American, completing the task of putting our fiscal house in order will take time.
In 1994, the American people said yes to a vision of fiscal discipline, limited government and reform. Some called it the ‘Republican Revolution.’ With the passage of this Deficit Reduction Act, including an across-the-board cut in federal spending, the ‘Republican Revolution’ is back.
The Congress has begun to renew our commitment to the principles of fiscal discipline and limited government that minted this majority and, in so doing, begin the task of ensuring the continued prosperity of our nation for our children and grandchildren.