Last month, my colleagues gave me the great honor of being named Chairman of the House Budget Committee for the 115th Congress. It isn't a role I originally aspired to, but one that I have been unknowingly preparing for over many years.
Prior to coming to Washington, I served in the Tennessee state legislature, where we actually balanced our budget every year, and spent decades on the frontlines of our healthcare system as an emergency room nurse.
With Obamacare and our looming budget deficits among the committee's top challenges this year, I am ready to take the lessons I've learned in the past and apply them to the problems we face today.
Some of my colleagues have also been quick to point out that I am the first woman to chair the House Budget Committee. To that I say "it was about time" – but when all is said and done, I hope it's not what I'm remembered for.
I did not offer my name as Budget Committee Chair because I needed a new title, I did it to get things done – and our unified Republican government has provided a once in a generation opportunity to do exactly that. That is why, this year, our committee will work to tackle three major tasks:
Repealing and Replacing Obamacare
First, we will honor our promise to the American people to repeal Obamacare and put patients back in charge of their healthcare decisions. The House Budget Committee will play an important role in this fight, and I am not flinching from this commitment for a moment.
With another insurer announcing just last month that it would opt to leave the Obamacare exchanges, the forecast for President Obama's healthcare law has grown even dimmer. Entire regions of my state are now left without a single coverage option on the Obamacare exchange, compounding difficulties for a marketplace that our state insurance commissioner had already described as "very near collapse."
Tennessee's struggles under Obamacare are not unique. Nationwide, 4.7 million Americans were kicked off the insurance plans they liked and were told they could keep, while nearly 20 million Americans have opted out of Obamacare altogether – choosing to either pay the fine for lacking coverage, or seek an exemption.
House Republicans are working on a repeal and replace plan that starts with eliminating Obamacare's onerous individual and employer mandates, empowering states to develop ideas to best help their unique populations, and enhancing health savings accounts so families can spend their healthcare dollars the way they want and need.
Our plan additionally provides portable, monthly tax credits – so Americans without employer-sponsored coverage or access to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid can enjoy the freedom and flexibility to buy a plan of their choice.
Importantly, our proposal also guarantees access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and allows young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans, just as they have been able to do under the current law.
Offering a Real-World Budget
Next, the Budget Committee will carry out the primary task given to us in law by offering a serious, timely, and fiscally responsible budget resolution that tackles the drivers of our debt and deficits.
Already, I have ruffled a few feathers in Washington by stating that we will work towards a balanced budget as we have in past years. In my view, the daunting fiscal challenges we face today aren't an excuse to move the goalposts, they are exactly why responsible budgeting is so important.
On our current trajectory, the Congressional Budget Office estimates Washington will rack up nearly $10 trillion in deficits over the next ten years. Our budget for Fiscal Year 2018 will rein in spending, reform broken government programs, and tackle our debt and deficits.
Overhauling Our Broken Tax Code
Former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said it best when he proclaimed that our broken tax code is "Ten times the size of the Bible, but with none of the good news."
Each year that I have served on the House Budget Committee, our budget proposals advocated for pro-growth tax reform; streamlining the tax code, cutting out the confusion, and lowering rates for many families and workers. But in divided government, those proposals didn't get far.
In 2017, all of that can change. After we unveil our budget in the spring, there will be an opportunity to complete another reconciliation bill – a unique piece of legislation that is protected from the threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
If our plan is made law, it would open the door for a tax code that is among the most competitive in the world and that allows families to complete their taxes on a postcard-sized form like this. That means more businesses that choose to stay here in America, rather than moving offshore, and less hassle for families who are forced to spend too much time and money just figuring out how much they owe.
We on the House Budget Committee know that we cannot squander this historic opportunity by playing it safe. Together, we are ready to meet big problems with bold solutions. We have drawn up an ambitious game plan, and now we're ready to score a victory for the American people.
House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black represents Tennessee's 6th congressional district.
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