- Keeping government accessible (8/19/16)
- Fighting for reliable rural flights (9/18/15)
- The status of our economy (7/11/14)
- Holding Japan accountable in trade negotiations (5/30/14)
- Solutions for our budget and the economuy (4/18/14)
- Religious freedom must be protected (3/28/14)
- Protecting American interests through trade (1/24/14)
Replacing the sequester with responsible cuts
The so-called "sequester" is the latest showdown to grip the attention of Washington and the nation. The House of Representatives voted twice to replace these arbitrary cuts before the March 1 deadline with commonsense reductions and reforms. However, these cuts are now in effect because the President and the Senate have yet to propose and pass a viable alternative.
The sequester was passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised the debt limit in exchange for $900 billion in spending reductions. The bill also created a bipartisan committee to propose $1.2 trillion in further spending reductions over ten years.
Absent a proposal from the committee, the Budget Control Act put into motion $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts which came to be known as sequestration. I was hopeful members of the committee would produce a bipartisan bill which could pass the House and Senate, but they were unable to reach a consensus.
While everyone agrees there are better ways to cut spending than the sequester, Congress decided on $1.2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years as a condition of raising the debt ceiling and we need to keep this commitment. Our national debt is quickly approaching $17 trillion. We cannot afford further inaction or delay in addressing out-of-control spending.
The President and some Democrats in Congress have called for tax increases to offset the sequester cuts, but not only is this counter to the agreement made in 2011, it would deepen our dependence on federal spending. We cannot tax our way out of debt, we have to address spending which is the true driver of our deficit.
The President and his Administration have spent the past month outlining a litany of painful cuts. They intend to cut essential services such as meat inspection and air traffic control under the sequester to maximize pressure on Congress to raise taxes. Given the President's discretion on how to administer the sequester cuts, I hope he will order executive branch agencies to prioritize spending and implement cuts in the least disruptive way possible. Federal spending has increased dramatically in the last several years; there is no reason a small percentage cut should cause the catastrophic problems the President has predicted. The sequester requires a cut of $85 billion in a budget of more than $3.6 trillion -- or about 2.3%. To get our fiscal house in order, all agencies and programs should be expected to continue doing their jobs with fewer tax dollars.
It is always difficult to reduce spending, but the longer we wait to address this problem, the less flexibility we will have in making the cuts and the more painful they will be. We must start to make these decisions and I am optimistic Congress and the President will come to an agreement soon to replace the arbitrary cuts with more responsible and less disruptive reductions. The sequester is not the optimal scenario, but we need to be more concerned and focused on the future of our country.