If Congress can pass the two-week measure now proposed by House Speaker John Boehner, the federal government will not shut down when current funding runs out on March 4. The time will allow bicameral negotiations for a longer-term funding resolution to proceed, but not if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, continues to block the kind of deep spending cuts that the American people voted for last November.
Responding to the American voters – 65 percent of whom think spending cuts should be our top national priority, according to a recent Rasmussen poll – the House passed legislation shortly before dawn on Feb. 19 that tightened the federal belt by eliminating much wasteful spending and many nonessential programs.
In the end, the House cut $60 billion in government spending for the remainder of this fiscal year. Everything from the second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to subsidies for public broadcasting felt the pinch. Republican and Democratic pet projects alike took cuts, from the Pentagon to the Environmental Protection Agency. No department or agency of the federal government was shielded from scrutiny and protected from the open-amendment process.
Regrettably, Mr. Reid has thus far denied the Senate an opportunity to vote on a long-term funding resolution. Providing cover for Mr. Reid is President Obama, who vowed to veto the bill if it ever got to his desk. Never mind that the original House bill would ensure that seniors receive their Social Security checks, our nation’s border security and law enforcement personnel would be paid, and our troops serving in two wars around the globe would get the support and resources they need to defend the United States and our allies.
Health centers would get shipments of lifesaving vaccines. Federal emergency workers would continue the clean-up and restoration of areas hit hard by recent severe snowstorms and flooding. Highway construction and repair projects would proceed uninterrupted. Tourists would be able to visit any of the more than 390 national parks and other protected areas and historic sites. Passports would still be issued; air-traffic controllers would still ensure the safety of domestic air travel; and Arlington National Cemetery would still hold memorial services for our nation’s fallen heroes.
But it seems that Mr. Reid and Mr. Obama would rather shut down all these vital government programs and services to protect the government takeover of health care and the administration’s job-killing regulatory scheme for carbon emissions, among other wildly unpopular initiatives. Of course, neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Reid will admit that a government shutdown is their goal, but everything they have said and done inches the country ever closer to that terrible – and completely avoidable – scenario.
By refusing to take up the House measure, Mr. Reid has been attempting to pin a government shutdown on House Republicans. In promising to veto the measure, Mr. Obama has been hoping public support will swing his way to carry him through the next presidential election cycle, much as it did President Clinton before him.
But this is not 1996. This is a different Congress and a different time. America is facing the largest budget deficit in history, and our national debt is threatening to eclipse the gross domestic product. We are facing a fiscal crisis in the states that threatens government services in red states and blue states alike. Unemployment has been above 9 percent for more than 21 consecutive months. In this economy, the only responsible thing for the government to do is to cut spending.
When Mr. Obama took office, he pledged that he wouldn’t be “running up the [nation’s] credit card anymore.” He promised to use a “scalpel” on the budget and to “root out the waste, fraud, and abuse” in fraud-prone government programs. For two years, however, the president and the Democratic-controlled Congress have been on a reckless spending spree with no jobs and no economic growth to show for it. In November, Americans voted for a new strategy.
The House of Representatives has presented the president with a funding resolution that makes good on his earlier promises to cut spending and we will continue to do so. The American people should understand the truth. When Republicans promised spending cuts, we delivered a modest 6 percent cut from 2010 levels. Meanwhile, the president was sending Congress a record $3.7 trillion budget request for next year that would add $7.2 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. Somehow, in the upside-down world of the White House, spending increases mean cuts.
The only thing blocking a leaner federal budget to meet these leanest of economic times is an obstructionist Senate and a president who seems willing to gamble our nation’s future on the hopes that electoral lightning will strike twice.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This is an updated version of an opinion article posted Friday.