Standing ground on spending cuts

Published 9:37am Wednesday, March 23, 2011

For an American public impatient with the snail’s pace of Congress, the last few weeks’ slow advance of federal spending cuts has been especially grueling. An obstinate Senate and an effectively absent president have bottlenecked House Republican efforts to quickly restrain excessive federal spending. But that doesn’t mean steady progress isn’t being made.

Over the last three weeks, conservatives have successfully chopped $10 billion from current year spending, and we don’t intend to retreat. As you recall, on February 19, the House passed a spending plan that would cut $61 billion this year, effectively lowering 2011 spending by $100 billion below the president’s budget request. Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled Senate chose not to consider our spending cuts, forcing us to take a different path toward the same goal.

Last Tuesday, the House passed a short-term spending bill, funding the federal government through April 8 while cutting $6 billion. This follows a previous two-week stopgap funding measure passed on March 1 that cuts spending by $4 billion. Conservatives have agreed to keep the government operating for about a month, cutting spending as we go, to allow enough time for the House, Senate and the White House to reach a final spending agreement for this year.

We remain committed to our pledge to reduce this year’s overall spending by $100 billion, taking us back to the 2008 level before the administration began its deficit spending binge.

The Senate and the president should not read our willingness to briefly extend the deadline for an agreement as a lack of resolve, however. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, are opposed to future extensions. If the president and his supporters in Congress refuse to come to the table to reach an agreement to end government’s overspending, they will be held accountable for what may result.

And, this is just the beginning. Some $14 trillion in federal red ink is not going to be erased in one year. It will require years of serious spending reductions, reforms to mandatory programs, and strong economic growth to bring down our massive debt. It’s going to take a new mindset that government can no longer spend money we don’t have. Approximately 40 cents of every dollar Washington spends is borrowed.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of programs that have relied on tax dollars to survive will have to make do without Uncle Sam’s support. One such example is the House’s votes on February 19 and March 17 to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and National Public Radio (NPR). Admittedly, many Americans enjoy the quality news and educational programming carried by both the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and NPR. However, in an age when television and radio programming has gained greatly in both variety and quality, the PBS and NPR brands are strong and capable of flourishing without government subsidies.

These cuts are but the start of the enormous task that lies ahead for our nation. Just as families across the country are making the hard choices of cutting their budgets so they can pay utility and food bills, government must adopt the same approach. Lowering our debt will strengthen our economy and generate badly-needed job growth.

My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll 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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