Responding to the $3.8 trillion budget plan released by President Barack Obama earlier this week, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann announced his introduction of legislation that would cap federal discretionary spending for the next nine years.
The four-page bill, called the Freeze Government Spending Act of 2011, would set a limit of $949 billion per year for nonmandatory items in the government's budget until 2021. Fleischmann said the move would save American taxpayers $1.66 trillion compared to Obama's proposal—which has yet to be brought to a vote.
In a phone interview with Nooga.com, Fleischmann said his bill would allow lawmakers to still appropriate funds accordingly within the spending limit, emphasizing that it would not necessarily compromise spending for defense or more locally oriented projects, such as replacing the Chickamauga Lock.
"The bill allows us within the freeze to make certain appropriations based on common sense solutions," Fleischmann said. "Unless we put in a freeze and severe spending restraints, government will never change. It will continue to borrow and spend, which is the ultimate problem. Once we have that discipline in place, we'll have an appropriations process where myself and other representatives can get funds for needed priorities. We'll have a fiscal line."
The bill is the fourth to be introduced by the congressman since he took office in 2011.
Fleischmann's announcement triggered a response from Weston Wamp, one of four Republicans challenging the congressman for the 3rd District seat in the upcoming Aug. 2 primary. Wamp, the son of former 3rd District Rep. Zach Wamp, said Fleischmann was "fitting the status quo and using Washington math."
"Spending is at an all-time high, and our representative wants to freeze it?" Wamp said in an emailed statement. "I think it's time we thaw out the process and drain the swamp before our nation becomes like Greece. With the federal government running $1.5 trillion deficits every year, it is not acceptable to just slow the projected increases in spending. We have to cut spending."
Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party, criticized Fleischmann's bill, calling it a "perfect example" of the differing philosophies in Washington. Puttbrese suggested the proposal would not be able to adequately accommodate future needs, citing projections for population growth in both Tennessee and the nation at large.
"Fleischmann wants to cut off a leg to try and help us lose weight," Puttbrese said. "That's not fiscally responsible. The president's budget focuses on balancing and bringing deficits under control by putting Americans back to work. If we just continue to try and cripple our government services, the only thing we're going to do is leave vulnerable Tennesseans out to dry."
Fleischmann said capping discretionary spending at 2013 levels would be adequate for the foreseeable future.
"It freezes spending at 2013 levels, and there's plenty of money to do that," he said. "There's so much money being spent on both sides of the ball … The key is at some time we have to say enough is enough."
Updated @ 7:11 a.m. on 02/17/12 to fix a grammatical error.