ST. CLAIRSVILLE - A measure introduced this week by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman stops Congress from raising the nation's debt limit unless "dollar-for-dollar" spending cuts are specified.
The "Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act" was one of three bills entered into legislation Tuesday by Portman, R-Ohio.
He also introduced the "End Government Shutdowns Act" - along with Sen. John Tester, D-Mont. - aimed at preventing last-minute budget deals in Congress and stopping threats to cut off federal government services.
And Portman's "Small Business Health Relief Act" addresses the mandates and provisions of new health care reform laws that adversely affect small businesses.
Portman is a member of the Senate Finance Committee and is involved in the current debate regarding the raising of the federal debt limit.
"As we begin the latest in a string of battles over raising the debt limit, it's time to address the underlying problem - why is Washington's spending so out of control that it has to borrow money to pay our bills?" he asked. " Our economy has not exhibited the robust growth we all hope for, and continuing this pattern of soaring spending will only worsen matters by piling onto our record-high debt and dumping an unconscionable burden on future generations.
"Washington cannot continue to raise the debt limit while kicking the can down the road on deficit reduction. In order to spur job creation and get our economy back on the right track, we must restore fiscal responsibility, and this starts by stopping Washington's reckless pattern of spending money we don't have."
The Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act will make the "dollar-for-dollar" rule a permanent debt-limit policy to ensure that any increase in the debt limit corresponds with spending cuts, he explained. It requires that any presidential request to raise the debt limit be accompanied by a proposal to cut non-interest spending by an equal or greater amount over the next decade, and prohibits the use of timing shifts and expiring emergency spending to reach the spending savings target.
Portman explained his "End Government Shutdowns Act" addresses a number of critical issues, while reducing the need "for haphazard, last-minute budget deals that lawmakers are asked to vote on before they have even read them."
The measure creates an automatic continuing resolution for any regular appropriations bills not completed by Oct. 1. After 120 days, the funding of the appropriation would be reduced by 1 percentage point, and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days, Portman explained.
The "Small Business Health Relief Act," meanwhile, repeals fines on employers with more than 50 full-time employees who do not offer insurance coverage that meets federal requirements.
It also abolishes the annual fees imposed on insurance companies, which the Congressional Budget Office has estimated will likely be passed along to consumers through higher premiums, according to Portman. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that repealing this health insurance industry fee would reduce the premium prices of plans offered by 2.0 to 2.5 percent, and would decrease the average family premium in 2016 by $350 to $400.
The measure also repeals multiple restrictions on health savings accounts and flexible spending arrangements, including the $2,500 limit on annual salary contributions to these accounts and restrictive rules regarding paying for medications from health savings accounts, he said.