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Rep. Rick Berg, Published April 16 2012

Senate must get on board

In North Dakota, we understand the importance of living within our means. That’s what families and small businesses do. Our Legislature balances the budget every two years as well.

Unfortunately in Washington, leaders from both parties have balanced our nation’s budget with a credit card. Today, our nation is

$15.5 trillion in debt, yet Washington continues to borrow $4 billion every day, placing this overwhelming debt burden on our children and grandchildren. Right now, each one of our children owes $49,000 toward our national debt – a debt that is owed to countries like China. Meanwhile, President Obama’s budget proposal would lead to a trillion-dollar deficit for the fourth year in a row.

I have a 12-year-old son, Jack, and this isn’t the future I want to pass on to the next generation. This isn’t the North Dakota way of doing things. To get our nation back on track, we must pass a budget that works to lower the debt and provides a clear path out of our nation’s fiscal crisis.

To balance our budget, we need to do what we did here in North Dakota a decade ago – take an honest look at our financial situation and make tough choices about what is most important for our state. That’s how we’ve balanced the budget in North Dakota. Part of fixing Washington is a Balanced Budget Amendment. North Dakota has a requirement for a balanced budget, and Washington needs one. Last year, I fought to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment. President Obama rallied his allies to block it. I will continue to pursue one at every opportunity.

This budget also recognizes that President Obama’s health care overhaul weakens the Medicare program and cuts health care services and access for seniors. On top of $500 billion in Medicare cuts, the president’s overhaul empowers an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats to achieve “cost savings” through cutting reimbursement rates for Medicare services – without congressional oversight or input. That will affect seniors’ access to care. And even with these cuts, the president’s own advisers still project Medicare will go bankrupt by 2024 – just 12 years from now.

We owe it to seniors, and the next generation, to save Medicare, rather than sitting by idly and watching Obamacare destroy it. But it will take bipartisan ideas to come to workable agreement, which is why this plan includes a bipartisan model from Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Paul Ryan to save Medicare. This plan ensures that there are no cuts or changes in benefits for anyone 55 or older – something Obamacare fails to do. In addition, this proposal also preserves traditional Medicare as an option for all future seniors.

There is still work to be done, and there are tough decisions to be made. But the only way to make these decisions is by bringing forward ideas for consideration. Our nation is on an unsustainable path, and it is time for leaders in Washington to engage in an honest dialogue to lower the national debt and end Washington’s culture of reckless spending, while ensuring that priorities are supported, like keeping the promises made to seniors and saving Medicare. That’s what the House has done, and it’s time that the Senate joins the conversation so that we can work together to turn around the course that our nation is on.


Berg represents North Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the Republican-endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate.