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Reps. Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin Address Sequester as Deadline Approaches

by Chris Casteel Published: February 25, 2013

As the March 1 deadline approaches for automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, to kick in, Reps. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, addressed the issue _ Cole in a column and Mullin in a prepared statement.

Here is Cole’s column:

Sequestration Should be Modified, Not Canceled

By: Congressman Tom Cole

It’s not hard to find examples of wasteful government spending. The IRS has its own television studio that costs taxpayers $4 million per year to operate. The National Science Foundation paid seniors $1.2 million to play video games for a study. Just last year, the government shelled out an estimated $115 billion in payments to ineligible individuals. Not to mention the 90 different green energy programs across 11 different federal agencies that are eating up government resources, according to the Washington Post.

Sequestration does not target any of these outrageous abuses of taxpayer dollars. Although it makes necessary spending cuts, sequestration targets nothing at all. It’s the equivalent of a family deciding to save $1000 this year by making equal cuts to not only their cable subscription but their heating and grocery bills.

Without legislative intervention, the first installment of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration” will go into effect starting on March 1. The $85 billion in spending reductions this year will grow to $1.2 trillion over the next decade and apply to all government agencies from the National Park Service to airport security to education. The sequestration process singles out military spending for extra reductions. Despite representing only one-fifth of federal spending, defense will bear a disproportionate 40 percent of the cuts, leading to real reductions in capability and real hardship to the talented civilian workers who conduct vital maintenance and modernization at places like Tinker Air Force Base. As reported in The Oklahoman, Air Force officials say that 16,000 members of Oklahoma’s Air Force civilian workforce could be furloughed, losing nearly $125 million in pay over six months.

No serious person can deny that government spending is out of control and must be reined in. However, sequestration accomplishes a necessary objective in an unnecessarily blunt manner, jeopardizing the worthwhile alongside the wasteful. There is near universal agreement in Washington that sequestration should be modified. House Republicans strongly support maintaining the full $1.2 trillion in cuts but propose redistributing the reductions in a more purposeful, targeted manner that preserves essential programs and protects the military from dangerous capability cutbacks. In fact, we passed detailed legislation in May and December 2012 to distribute the cuts more fairly across the entire budget.

Once again, President Obama has no specific proposal beyond his all-purpose, two-part plan: Blame Republicans and raise taxes. Senate Democrats, who have ignored the issue for almost two years, dutifully introduced a last-minute bill to raise taxes on high earners that is unlikely even to pass in their own chamber.

Solving the sequester by raising taxes is a non-starter for two reasons. First, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Focusing on revenues just kicks the can down the road without addressing the real drivers of our debt. Secondly, the president just got $600 billion in new tax revenue when a portion of the Bush tax cuts expired in January. Now it’s time to tackle the other side of the equation by confronting the 60 percent of the budget consumed by entitlement spending.

For the first time in a long time, Congress is not operating on default settings that favor spenders. Under current law, sequestration is going to happen. Conservatives will work with President Obama to modify the cuts but not to prevent them.

Here is Mullin’s statement:

“Dysfunction in the federal government and the “us vs. them” mentality has brought us close to the sequestration deadline. Resorting to these types of cuts is government at its worst.

Implemented in 2011 under the Budget Control Act, as what was to be a last resort if all else failed, sequestration is an across the board cut to federal spending. Exempt from cuts are the safety net programs like Social Security, Medicaid, military and civilian retirement, food stamps, most low-income and veteran’s programs.

Anyone with a dysfunctional family can tell you that Thanksgiving dinners can quickly melt down into shouting matches between family members blaming one another for bad things that have happened. I can tell you politics on Capitol Hill are a lot like eating Thanksgiving dinner with a dysfunctional family every single day.

Nobody has had the backbone to closely examine which programs are working and which are wasteful so we can responsibly cut spending. Instead, those in Washington are unwilling to make tough decisions so their answer is to cut everyone in an effort to seem fair. That is not good government.

In the real world that Oklahomans live in, particularly those of us in business, we look for what is working and we keep it. If we see things that are not working, we cut them because we cannot afford to keep things around that waste money. A store owner will not continue to stock something that doesn’t sell. The real world does not work that way.

Few in government are willing to look at any part of government for waste or inefficiency. They’re afraid of upsetting any group that may be important to their next election.

It is time politicians quit looking toward their next election and stopped the dysfunction. We would not be facing sequestration if there was true leadership on both sides of the aisle in Washington. All else hasn’t failed – leadership has failed to stop the shouting and start trying.

Reigning in federal spending and balancing our budget isn’t about Republicans or Democrats – it’s about America.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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