Battle on federal spending ongoing

Published 9:28am Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When Speaker John Boehner took the gavel from Nancy Pelosi in January, he threw down the gauntlet; issuing a direct challenge to Congress’ unsustainable deficit spending addiction. Joined by a new conservative House majority sent to Washington with orders to reform government and reduce federal spending, he has kept his word to push spending cuts to the forefront of Washington’s agenda.

No one said reversing course on decades of free spending by both parties would be easy. Just the opposite. The battle that has ensued has further divided Congress and set up a showdown with the White House. In the background is the continuing drumbeat of a looming federal government shutdown. The pressure is high and so are the stakes.

Taken in the context of the overall $1.6 trillion federal budget deficit, Speaker Boehner’s plan to cut current federal spending by $61 billion compared to 2010 levels, and by over $100 billion compared to President Obama’s 2011 budget request, is a modest first step. Yet, judging from the outcry of Congressional democrats and the White House, making fiscally responsible decisions doesn’t seem to matter. They don’t want any substantial cuts at all.

On February 19, the House – making good on our “Pledge to America” promise – passed HR 1, a measure to effectively reduce federal spending this year by $100 billion overall, including $61 billion in direct cuts. Last Thursday, the liberal-controlled Senate rejected it as too extreme. President Obama also threatened to veto HR 1 if it reached his desk.

To illustrate the philosophical gulf that separates Congress, last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, railed against the House Republican spending cuts, lamenting that they would even target funding for his state’s annual cowboy poetry festival. With a $14 trillion national debt threatening our country’s financial solvency, I suspect any Nevada cowboy worth his salt would be willing to forego federal support for a poetry festival to save the herd.

Back in Washington, we have simultaneous budget battles being waged. The push to pass the $100 billion in reduced spending this year is getting the most attention, while a secondary front has formed as conservatives push a series of temporary government funding bills that cut spending incrementally. Two weeks ago, we passed a stop-gap spending bill to keep the federal government operating through March 18 while also cutting $4 billion. This week, we are prepared to pass another multi-week spending bill which chops another $6 billion.

Speaker Boehner has made clear we will continue to fight for $100 billion in lower spending this year – whether it comes all at once, as in the case of HR 1, or done week-to week by stop-gap measures. The bottom line is the same.

The president and his followers in Congress would have us believe the national debt – now equal to $127,500 for each American taxpayer – is a necessary evil that can simply be ignored. It cannot. It serves as a tremendous weight on our already fragile economy, threatening jobs and our future quality of life. Our economy will not recover if government keeps spending our country into a hole.

My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office tool free at 1-800-288-8721, or visit my web site at http://bonner.house.gov.

Congressman Jo Bonner is a guest columnist.

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