As nation pays $400 billion in interest on debt a year, Rep. Blake Moore says it’s time to cut ‘partisan ploys’

Congressman Blake Moore, who represents Utah’s 1st District, speaks at the American Conservation Coalition summit at the Marriott City Center in Salt Lake City on June 16, 2023.
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Utah’s Rep. Blake Moore, a steering member of the newly launched Bipartisan Fiscal Forum, said some Democrats and Republicans are delaying solutions to the country’s debt crisis for partisan purposes.

As the U.S. national debt approaches $33 trillion and interest payments on the debt are estimated at just under $400 billion a year, Moore says the formation of the Bipartisan Fiscal Forum, led by five Democrats and five Republicans, will communicate to the White House, and to the country, that Congress is serious about passing legislation to put the nation on a fiscally sustainable path before reaching a crisis point.

But, according to Moore, who represents the 1st Congressional District, recent rhetoric coming from both sides of the aisle has revealed little interest in taking the country’s financial problems seriously.

“From what I’m seeing right now from the Democrat minority, they’re just using the words ‘Social Security’ and ‘Medicare’ as partisan ploys, and same with President Trump,” Moore said in a phone call with the Deseret News. “He’s using it as a partisan ploy to get elderly folks to vote for him. And the Democrats are going to do the same thing in swing districts.”

In a viral moment from the most recent State of the Union address, President Joe Biden accused Republicans of wanting to gut entitlement programs, eliciting defiant yells from House GOP members. The outrage was quickly replaced by a standing ovation as Biden said, “We will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”

Earlier this year, former President Donald Trump said, “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” and he has repeatedly attacked fellow 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis for votes he took as a member of Congress to reform Social Security benefits.

Bipartisan efforts to cut wasteful spending and to reform entitlement programs have become increasingly rare because “there’s too much to gain from hyper-partisan messaging,” Moore said. “These issues become wedge issues and then they’re used for political gain. That’s why we can’t work together.”

While some see working with the opposing party as unprincipled, Moore says that teamwork between Democrats and Republicans should be viewed as the responsible and patriotic route to a sustainable future.

“Our Founding Fathers found compromise on things that were important,” Moore said. “They set up a government that would allow us to dialogue and find common ground.”

What is the Bipartisan Fiscal Forum?

Started in 2020, the Bipartisan Fiscal Forum wants to help sound the alarm about the nation’s “unsustainable debt trajectory.” The group wants to encourage conversations and legislation to take “control of our fiscal future.” While there is no public list of membership, more than 70 current members of Congress have been involved in the forum’s meetings.

Moore has been a member of the forum since he entered office in January 2021, and says that it, and a closely aligned nonprofit organization, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, are some of the few D.C. groups that he finds to be “credible” and “sincere” in their efforts to advance common sense fiscal policy.

“Washington can no longer accept business as usual when it comes to our federal spending habits. I am grateful to serve as a steering member for the Bipartisan Fiscal Forum and work with my colleagues to create productive solutions to this looming crisis,” Moore said in a statement announcing the official launch of the forum.

Concern over the nation’s simmering debt crisis is part of the forum’s guiding principles. Over the next decade, the U.S. is expected to borrow nearly $20 trillion with net interest payments totaling more than $10 trillion during that same time period, slowing the economy and weakening the country’s ability to respond to emergencies, according to the forum’s website.

The group’s manifesto says that “Achieving a sustainable budget and improving the budget process durably requires bipartisanship and an open mind” and that its members “should focus on putting forward solutions and not tearing each other down.”

What should Congress do to address the nation’s debt?

Though it will not be easy, Moore says the path forward is clear. First, the forum must “communicate, to leadership, to whoever’s in the White House, our Congress’s sincere intent to find long term sustainable solutions to our debt.”

Second, in a process already begun during the debt ceiling negotiations, the forum must assist in identifying and eliminating wasteful discretionary spending. They will have many opportunities to do this as Congress formulates and votes on 12 appropriations bills over the next few months, Moore said.

Third, the forum will need to look at the mandatory spending budget, which includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food assistance programs, and sponsor “reforms that could actually push back the date of insolvency and put it on a trajectory that is more fiscally sound.”

Finally, as a member of the House Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee, Moore said there needs to be reforms to the budget process so that there is more accountability between all of the different congressional committees that are involved.

In an effort to accomplish the first step, the Bipartisan Fiscal Forum sent a letter last week to Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, calling on them to build on the spending cuts in the debt ceiling deal and form “a new fiscal commission to find additional deficit reduction” and recommend practical solutions “to address our debt burden.”

But unlike the debt ceiling negotiation, which he supported, Moore said this process should not be postponed till the last possible moment — when Medicaid and Social Security are on the verge of insolvency, which would lead to an even greater surge in the national debt.

Moore says that too often D.C. waits until a crisis is just around the corner to work together. “I haven’t been here that long, but I’m already sick of that whole mentality,” Moore said.

In this case, Moore said Congress should proactively address the problem before it’s too late, instead of wasting energy on partisan proposals that lack the substance and bipartisan buy-in to become law.

“I’m back here to solve big problems and not here for just messaging purposes,” Moore said.