Reps. Peters, Arrington Lead 58 Members in Bipartisan Letter Calling on Congress to Tackle Federal Debt Post COVID Crisis
May 31, 2020
SAN DIEGO – With a toll of 100,000 American deaths, over 1.7 million cases confirmed nationwide, an unemployment rate edging 15 percent and real GDP predicted to contract by 11 percent, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is wreaking terrible human and economic loss on the United States. Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Rep. Jodey Arrington (TX-19) led 58 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to House leadership, underlining the need to confront the economic fallout provoked by the pandemic.
“Containing the virus and addressing immediate economic calamity remain our top priorities,” said Rep. Peters in a statement following the release of the letter.
“In times of crisis, when the economy is struggling and households across the country are losing income, there’s no question the government should borrow money to protect the lives and livelihood of the American people. Then, during periods of growth, we must correct our course to get our budget back on track. After the short-term stimulus has done its job and the economy recovers, then we must tackle medium- and long-term deficit reduction. I thank Rep. Arrington for joining me in garnering support from colleagues to form a bipartisan budget reform agenda that prepares us to address our federal deficit once the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end.”
In the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the 60 lawmakers explained, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt held by the public is likely to exceed 100 percent of GDP in just a few months, and it will hit record levels in a few years. In addition, trust funds for some of our most critical programs will face exhaustion far sooner than we expected as a result of the current crisis. Trust fund insolvency threatens serious hardship for those who depend on the programs.”
The United States budget was on an unsustainable trajectory prior to the pandemic, and the necessary health and economic response taken to combat COVID-19 continue to dramatically increase the existing debt. To adequately shoulder the mounting burden, the policymakers urged for future pandemic legislation to deal with the budget when the economy is strong enough. Lawmakers emphasized transparency, accountability and responsibility as key solutions, highlighting specific provisions like the Fiscal State of the Nation resolution, the Time to Rescue United States Trusts (TRUST) Act and the establishment of comprehensive budget goals to reduce debt-limit brinkmanship as long as the budget remains on a responsible path.
“These reforms should have broad, bipartisan support,” the members requested in their letter. “They should not stand in the way of our making the necessary decisions to deal with the crisis at hand. They should ensure that, in addition to addressing health and economic needs, we lay the foundation for a sustainable fiscal future by building on reforms with established bipartisan support.”
The group, made up of 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans, represent a broad and diverse ideological and geographic spectrum. The signers come from 28 different states and represent each major caucus, including the New Democrat Coalition, Blue Dog Coalition, Tuesday Group, Republican Study Committee, House Freedom Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Problem Solvers Caucus, and Bipartisan Working Group.
“As our country recovers from this unprecedented public health and economic disaster, Congress must commit to reducing our runaway national debt or face an ever bigger crisis with even graver consequences,” said Rep. Arrington. “With mounting deficits before the pandemic and now trillions in recent spending, our nation’s debt has eclipsed the size of the entire US economy. I’m proud to work with Representative Peters and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include provisions in the next COVID legislation that will force Congress to address this looming crisis before it’s too late.“
"We're delighted to see Representatives Peters and Arrington lead this effort to put forward a bipartisan framework for budget reforms," Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said. "Responding to the pandemic is paramount right now, but we'll need to pivot to addressing our unsustainable debt trajectory when the economic and health crises have receded. This framework would be an important step toward ensuring we both take necessary measures to strengthen the economy during this emergency, and then strengthen our fiscal situation once we are on sounder economic footing. Their leadership is appreciated."
In addition to the letter, Reps. Peters and Arrington have also assembled a small bipartisan team of their colleagues to pursue longer-term projects regarding fiscal responsibility. These members have come together to agree on a few provisions, including those listed in the letter, that would address deficit spending and deal with the debt.