Sen. Franken Introduces Legislation Requiring Congress to Pay for Wars, Not Add to the Deficit
Resolution Endorsed by Center for American Progress Action Fund, Bipartisan Policy Center, Former Comptroller General; Foreign Policy Experts at Brookings Institute, Cato Institute; Other Fiscal Hawks
Moved to act by widespread concerns about the cost of another war, today, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) is introducing the Pay for War Resolution, which would require Congress to ensure that future wars are paid for and don't add to the deficit. Sen. Franken introduced the resolution to help ensure that war spending is done in a fiscally responsible way after spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan topped $1 trillion, adding to the nation's debt through borrowing and emergency spending bills.
In a speech he delivered on the Senate floor, Sen. Franken said, "We have to ensure that Iraq and Afghanistan remain anomalies in American history. And that's what my resolution seeks to do. It will ensure that future wars don't make our deficit and debt problem worse. It will ensure that Congress and American citizens must face the financial sacrifice of going to war. And it will force us to decide whether a war is worth that sacrifice."
You can read the full text of Sen. Franken's floor speech as prepared for delivery here.
The resolution allows the war spending to be offset over ten years, and it is up to Congress to determine whether to pay for wars using spending cuts, revenue increases, or some combination of both. The resolution allows the Senate to override the offset requirement and provides flexibility for military responses to genuine emergencies or dire economic conditions. Senator Franken indicated that he intends to make this part of the ongoing budget discussion and hopes to include it in any long-term budget legislation the Senate takes up.
A diverse range of groups and individuals have already lent their support to the resolution. In a letter for endorsement from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb said the resolution would "help restore fiscal discipline to our defense budget process," while the Cato Institute's William A. Niskanen, Chairman Emeritus and Distinguished Senior Economist, and Benjamin Friedman, Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Studies, noted that "deficit financing sends war bills to future taxpayers," the effect of which "is to make war feel cheaper" than it really is.
Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy and defense budget expert at the Brookings Institution, called the resolution "serious and smart," while Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which endorsed the legislation, called it "a sensible approach to ensuring that we budget for war." David M. Walker, Former Comptroller General of the United States, said "the Pay For War Resolution makes sense." The Bipartisan Policy Center, which also endorsed the legislation, said "Congress and the president should adhere to the principles of pay-as-you-go throughout the budget-war funding should not be exempt."
American University International Relations Professor Dr. Gordon Adams said, "This proposed resolution could help open an important discussion about how we can restore some of the fiscal discipline we lost over the defense budget." And Dean Baker, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research, said, "If we think that a situation requires the men and women in our military to risk their own lives, then the rest of us should at least be willing to pay for the cost of this adventure with our tax dollars." You can read the full list of individuals and organizations supporting the legislation here.