Cutting Wasteful Spending
Claire views the national debt as a danger to America's future and the opportunities that will be afforded to our kids and grandkids, and has bucked her own party to rein in federal spending. If annual budget deficits are left unchecked, she believes they will weaken the economy and lead to undue influence by foreign creditors. Understanding that the best way to rein in deficits is to foster stronger economic activity, Claire has used her skills as Missouri's former State Auditor to uncover and eliminate wasteful federal spending, establish a ban on Congressional earmarks, and support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution - while supporting policies to boost private sector job creation, and protect vital safety net programs for Missouri families.
Unlike many in her own party, Claire supports capping federal spending in order to force discipline in federal budgeting.
Claire teamed up with Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama introducing bipartisan legislation in 2010 that would impose five-year binding caps on total defense and non-defense discretionary spending. That legislation came within one vote of Senate passage. Later, spending caps similar to those proposed by Claire and Senator Sessions became law as part of the Budget Control Act, which Claire supported.
Balancing the Budget
As someone who worked her way through school as a waitress, Claire appreciates the value of a dollar and believes Congress needs to return to the commonsense budgeting principles Missouri families follow. She supports a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and joined with colleagues to introduce legislation in December 2011 that would require the federal government to balance its budget each year. Claire's amendment would balance the budget while protecting Social Security and prohibit new tax cuts for individuals making more than $1 million if the government is projected to run a deficit at any point in the future.
Shortly after joining the Senate, Claire also introduced a bill that would write Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) rules into law. PAYGO rules would require Congress to pay for new spending initiatives and trigger automatic, across-the-board spending cuts if Congress increases direct spending or cuts taxes without offsetting the cost. Similar rules were in place during the 1990s, when Americans saw our first balanced budgets in decades, but were abandoned in 2002 to make way for tax cuts for the richest Americans. New PAYGO rules have since been passed into law, largely modeled on those introduced earlier by Claire.
For years, the earmarking process was notorious for its secrecy and lack of oversight or accountability, with funding for politicians' pet projects often awarded based on political influence instead of on merit. Claire has argued that Missourians deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely on initiatives serving the common good, not on lawmakers' or lobbyists' pet projects. As the leading Democratic voice against earmarks, Claire is proud to be one of only a few Senators who has never requested any earmarks, and has led the fight to permanently ban earmarks from the legislative process.
After working with her colleagues to establish a temporary ban on earmarks, Claire and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania introduced the Earmark Elimination Act, which would expand the ongoing temporary moratorium on earmarks to a permanent ban.
Specifically, the legislation would ban all earmarks, and define earmarks as any congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit. Claire also sponsored legislation to establish a powerful "line-item veto" tool for the President to cut wasteful spending like earmarks. The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act would give the President the authority to identify wasteful spending in large appropriations bills, and would then require expedited consideration in Congress of the proposed cuts to those programs.
And in 2012, Claire joined with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to introduce legislation to simplify trade processes for America's manufacturers and guard against the return of Congressional earmarks. Current rules allow companies that require products from overseas to obtain tariff relief. In order to secure a tariff reduction, however, companies must first find a member of Congress to sponsor the provision. Only when a provision has been introduced as a stand-alone bill can it be sent to the International Trade Commission. Claire and Senator Portman's legislation would streamline the process for duty suspensions by allowing companies to submit their proposals directly to the International Trade Commission. These changes would bolster accountability by lessening the chance for backdoor earmarks and would reduce barriers for job-creators, who would no longer be forced to spend time and resources on hiring lobbyists to secure Congressional support at the start of the process.
Claire has used her skills as a former auditor to identify federal programs she believes are ripe for reform or elimination, and has worked to strengthen the roles of independent Inspectors General in our federal agencies - whom she describes as "the eyes and ears of taxpayers" in the federal government.
Claire waged a successful six-year effort to rein in wasteful wartime contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan - modeled on Harry Truman's famous battle against war profiteering. And leading the Senate panel on Financial & Contracting Oversight, Claire has led dozens of investigations into wasteful federal contracts. These include investigating questionable contracts to combat bio-terrorism threats, food service contracts, State Department rules regarding grants and cooperative agreements, ongoing problems with Alaska Native contracting, and systemic contract mismanagement problems at the Department of Energy.
In the wake of several scandals involving senior federal employees, Claire led the effort to stop questionable bonuses awarded to federal Senior Executive Service employees, and bonuses awarded to employees at the General Services Administration - eventually introducing the bipartisan Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses and Conferences Act.
And Claire has led the effort to reform or eliminate the Lifeline government phone subsidy program - a program Claire has labeled as "riddled" with fraud, and which is funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF), with resources from a fee telephone users pay on their phone bills. Claire has sought to have phone companies accused of fraud investigated criminally, demanded that the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the USF, aggressively pursue its own enforcement actions, and called on the FCC to shift Lifeline funds into the "ConnectED" initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of America's students to the Internet through high-speed broadband in schools and libraries over the next five years.
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