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Begich Argues for Focus on Fiscal Discipline

Supports independent debt commission

Failure to control America's growing national debt endangers the nation's economic recovery and the family budgets of average Americans, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said Jan. 26 in a Senate floor speech supporting a national debt commission.

Begich also endorsed President Obama's proposal to freeze some federal spending for three years, which would cut an estimated $250 billion from the national deficit over the next decade.

"As we work to create jobs for Americans and stimulate our economic recovery, we've got to get federal spending under control," Begich said. "In the past, Congresses under control of both parties have been largely unwilling or unable to reduce spending so I support these innovative measures to force spending cuts."

Begich is co-sponsoring the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action Act of 2009, which would establish an 18-member bipartisan commission of members of Congress and administration officials. The task force would propose recommendations for federal budget cuts which would then be considered by Congress.

In his floor speech, Begich noted that the national debt has reached a staggering $12.3 trillion. Failure to address the growing debt means it will skyrocket from 53 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of Fiscal Year 2009, to more than 300 percent of GDP in 2050.

"Since 2001, we have acted as though debts and deficits did not matter," Begich said. "The national debt has nearly doubled since then because of the way we have paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush tax scheme. We dealt with them by not paying for them, and that has made the recession worse. We are on track to double it yet again."

The senator noted that the growing debt is affecting every state, including Alaska, where the unemployment rate has reached a record 8.4 percent. He also noted that thousands of Alaskans are facing foreclosure on their homes.

Begich also pointed out that Republicans, who are now critical of efforts to tackle the debt, have increased it repeatedly in the past during the Bush administration.

"How is it that so many of my Republican colleagues voted seven times to raise the debt limit when they were in the majority - and voted at least that many times for polices and spending that were not paid for - but today stand prepared to vote against America simply 'paying the bills'?." asked Begich, one of 53 senators to support the commission.

The President in his State of the Union speech Wednesday evening is expected to propose freezing non-security discretionary funding, that not including defense, homeland security, veterans and international affairs. Under the proposal, non-security discretionary spending would fall to its lowest share of the economy in more than 50 years by the middle of the decade. Mandatory programs such as Medicare and Social Security would not be affected.

"Many of these programs the President proposes to freeze are worthwhile and ones I support, but we've simply got to get federal spending under control," Begich said. "I look forward to more details in the President's speech and will be debating this proposal in coming months."

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