Weekly Column

Sequester Should Have Been Avoided

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Washington, March 1, 2013 | Justin Gibbs (202.225.4076) | comments
This week President Obama and leaders in the House and the Senate failed to strike a compromise that would avert automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. Like many of you, I grow more frustrated with each passing day at Washington’s inability to work together for the common good. If our national leaders would start working with one another instead of holding press conferences attacking the other side’s point of view, we might just get some meaningful work done.
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This week President Obama and leaders in the House and the Senate failed to strike a compromise that would avert automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. Like many of you, I grow more frustrated with each passing day at Washington’s inability to work together for the common good. If our national leaders would start working with one another instead of holding press conferences attacking the other side’s point of view, we might just get some meaningful work done.

To understand how we got to this point, it’s important to know how the sequester came about. President Obama originally proposed the sequester in 2011 as a way to encourage the Super Committee to produce a deficit reduction plan. At the time no one thought the sequester cuts would ever happen. Unfortunately, a deal to shrink the deficit did not materialize and the across the board spending cuts of the sequester have now gone into effect. In the last year, the House of Representatives has passed two bills that would replace across the board spending cuts with responsible efforts to save taxpayer dollars. The Senate has not voted on either of the bills passed by the House of Representatives and they have not passed their own bill to avoid the sequester.

Instead of making arbitrary across the board spending cuts, I would rather follow the cost-saving plan voted on in the House that closely examines federal programs to find savings. For example, on the House Agriculture Committee I worked in a bipartisan fashion to write a Farm Bill that reforms the food stamp program, eliminates duplicative programs and closes loopholes to save $35 billion over the next ten years. These savings alone would not replace the sequester, but other House committees found similar savings that could be combined to avoid the sequester’s arbitrary $85 billion cut. If anyone in Washington tells you they cannot find $85 billion in common-sense cost savings measures, they are not working hard enough.

In January, I voted against the fiscal cliff deal because it did not include any kind of permanent spending controls. For me, it does not make sense to talk about raising taxes unless some form of permanent spending control is passed. Raising taxes as a primary economic policy simply does not deal with the enormous debt we have as a nation.

Over the last few weeks blame-game politics have been at an all time high. The American people are tired of the games and they expect Members of Congress to solve these problems as partners in the process, not as political adversaries. The sequester, $85 billion in across the board spending cuts, could have been avoided. Twice, the House of Representatives passed common-sense cost savings plans that would have avoided these arbitrary cuts. Unfortunately, politics got in the way of sound policy.

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