In less than three weeks, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration are set to go into effect. But these cuts are not a new development. We have known since November 2011 that the country was threatened by these cuts. While House Republicans have worked to replace the arbitrary cuts in sequestration with commonsense spending reductions in other areas, the President and Senate Democrats have ignored the issue completely for more than one year.
Until late last year, the President continued to claim sequestration would "not happen." Even today, the President continues to claim sequestration was the idea of Congress, despite the fact that it was the President's current chief of staff Jack Lew and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors who pitched the idea of sequestration to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on behalf of the President.
Last week, after nearly fifteen months of delaying, the President finally unveiled his "plan" to avert the looming budget sequester set to go into effect on March 1. While it is good news the President has finally realized the seriousness of sequestration, his blueprint to avoid sequestration would seek to avert the automatic spending cuts with $500 billion in new taxes. We cannot solve our spending problem by taxing hard working Americans more, and, once again, the President has failed to comprehend this important point.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have failed to even offer a plan. Just last week, the Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski, called the Senate's sequestration plan "a work in progress," and Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Senator Kent Conrad, told reporters he was unsure of who would lead the Senate effort and that the American people would have to "wait and see what is introduced."
The lack of urgency from the Administration and Senate Democrats is astounding, considering the potential impact of sequestration on our economy and national security. According to the Congressional Budget Office, sequestration is estimated to reduce economic growth by 0.7 percent this year, and the Bipartisan Policy Center predicts it will cost our economy one million jobs.
Of course, the impact of sequestration will have a significant impact on communities with a large military presence, like Northwest Florida. Sequestration will levy $492 billion in defense spending cuts over the next ten years, on top of the $487 billion in cuts that are already being implemented. They would result in job losses of approximately 350,000 from active duty and Department of Defense civilian work forces, and they would also have an impact on other activities, such as the potential cancellation of some of the Blue Angels flight demonstrations.
The Administration's sequestration threatens to reduce our military's readiness and throw our nation into another recession. House Republicans fully understand the seriousness of both sequestration and our larger fiscal problems and we have acted to address these issues. In contrast to the Administration and Senate Democrats, we have passed multiple measures to replace the scheduled sequestration cuts with commonsense measures that would not threaten our national security or economic prosperity.
In May 2012, the House passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012. This bill would have replaced sequestration with measured cuts in other areas of our budget. For example, our sequester replacement bill would have saved billions by requiring Social Security numbers to claim the refundable child tax credit, making sure that individuals who aren't eligible to receive assistance from safety-net programs like food stamps do not receive these benefits, eliminated automatic funding set to be given to states to set up exchanges from Obamacare, and eliminated the bailout fund so that unelected bureaucrats cannot use tax payer funds to bail out the creditors of "too big to fail" institutions.
Just last week, Republicans unveiled legislation, which I also strongly support, known as the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2013 to avert sequestration. This commonsense bill would replace the first year of sequestration by shrinking the Federal civilian workforce ten percent through normal attrition. If acted upon by the Senate Democrats and enacted by the President, this legislation would remove this year's devastating effects of sequestration while the Congress works to achieve a permanent solution.
House Republicans do not want sequestration to go into effect, but we understand that we must rein in government spending now before it spirals even further out of control. The American people know that spending is the problem and that we cannot solve a spending problem by simply raising taxes. We should replace the President's sequester with responsible reforms to help balance our budget within the next ten years, and House Republicans stand ready to work across the aisle to avert sequestration. In order to get this country back on the right track, we can no longer afford to do the things we would like to do, only the things we have to do. It is time for the President and Senate Democrats to put aside their insistence on more tax increases and join us to institute the responsible fiscal policies that our nation and the American people require.