CBO’s Long-Term Budget Outlook
On Tuesday, CBO released its annual Long-Term Budget Outlook that gives Americans an idea of what to expect if our federal government does not rein in its out of control spending. This year’s report underscored that the policies being put forth by the Administration are hurting, not helping, our economy and will leave our nation in a very dangerous place for future generations if we fail to make the tough choices now to put our economy back on the right track. Specifically, the report indicates that spending on health care will increase 93% over the next 25 years and will account for 10.4% of GDP in 2037, despite the fact that the President and Democrats in Congress promised that their health care law would drive down health care spending. This is yet another wake-up call by that we must put our nation’s health care programs on a sustainable course if we are going to avoid an even bigger crisis than we currently face.
VA Pension Protection Bill
On Wednesday, Senator Ron Wyden and I introduced a bill to strengthen the VA pension program so it can fulfill its purpose of offering economic security to veterans who truly rely on the program to avoid poverty. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation exposed the fact that some organizations are making a profit at the expense of veterans by exploiting loopholes in the pension program. These groups are reported not only to try to convince wealthy veterans who do not need financial assistance to manipulate their assets in order to become eligible for VA pension, but also to prey on elderly and disabled veterans by charging them exorbitant fees and selling them financial products that may prevent them from having adequate resources in a time of need.
Our bill would protect the program and veterans from abuses by creating a three year “look-back” period, authorizing VA to examine whether assets were repositioned in the three years prior to an individual’s application for VA pension. By strengthening the pension program and implementing protections to discourage abuses, we can ensure that its benefits will be there for wartime veterans who genuinely need them now and in the future and help discourage companies from preying on elderly veterans.
Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act
Annual, temporary fixes to issues revolving around student loans have been the norm in recent years, but they fail to address the issue for the long-term. This week, Senator Tom Coburn and I introduced the Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act, a bill that will not only bring loan payments down for students, but by indexing student loan rates to a market rate, it will provide a long-term solution to this issue. This bill would change the structure for all new federal student loans first disbursed after July 1, 2012, to become a fixed-variable rate. It requires the applicable rate of interest for student loans to be equal to the bond equivalent rate of 10-year Treasury bills auctioned at final auction prior to June 1st plus 3 percent, and it directs any remaining savings left over to be sent to the Treasury for the purpose of debt reduction. To read more about this, click here.
Senate Intelligence Committee Trip to the Middle East
With the Senate was in recess last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel, Egypt and Djibouti along with Senators Udall (D-CO), Mikulski (D-MD), and Warner (D-VA), fellow member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. We visited with foreign officials to discuss regional security and stability.
The Middle East region has tremendous potential, and I am encouraged by what by all accounts appears to be a free and fair presidential election in Egypt and the establishment of a coalition government in Israel. Despite these positive signs, I am very troubled by the growing Iranian nuclear threat to the region and concerned by continued violence in the Sinai.
While in Israel, I had the opportunity to reassure the Prime Minister and other officials of our support for their nation and their goal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and I stand ready to work with them in furtherance of their efforts.
You can read more about the trip in this press release.
As a member of the Senate Select Committee, I am privy to sensitive information about our national security. Recent leaks regarding our national security underscore the grave importance of keeping that information classified. Reckless disclosures of top-secret information compromise national security operations, undermine the hard work of our intelligence officers and overseas partners, and risk innocent lives. Congress’s intelligence oversight committees will not tolerate it, nor should the American people. In case you missed it, be sure to read “National-security leaks must be plugged,” the op-ed I wrote along with Senators Coats (R-IN) and Rubio (R-FL).