Debt Crisis Agreement Reached, More Work Ahead

By U.S. Representative Steve Austria

On Monday, the House passed the Budget Control Act with a vote of 269 to 161, and the President signed it into law on Tuesday. This is a solution that addresses our debt ceiling without giving the President a blank check and invitation for reckless spending, and reins in future spending by Washington.

While everyone agrees this is not a perfect plan, I want to commend Speaker Boehner for adhering to the principles of cutting current spending, reforming future spending, and moving toward a Balanced Budget Amendment – and doing so without raising taxes on hard-working American families. Additionally, this solution helps bring certainly to our markets, giving small businesses across the country more confidence to invest in their businesses and start creating jobs again. Perhaps most importantly, the past few weeks have proved that we are changing the way business is done in Washington.

I would like to share with you some of the specifics in the bill and how it particularly adheres to the principles for which I was fighting for to cut current spending, cap future spending, and balance the budget. First of all, the bill immediately cuts $917 billion of spending while allowing for an extension of the debt limit for only six months. It then creates a Joint Committee of Congress that must propose additional spending cuts of at least $1.2 trillion by November 23, 2011 before any additional increases to extend the debt limit past February 2012. The proposal will be put before both Chambers of Congress for a vote. If Congress does not pass the recommendations of the Joint Committee, or the President does not sign their recommendations into law, Congress then can either pass a Balance Budget Amendment to the states or can make automatic across-the-board spending cuts, totaling $1.2 trillion, which will be enacted through a procedure called sequestration (please note that civilian and military pay, veterans benefits, Social Security, and Medicaid are exempt from these automatic spending cuts).

All of this is done without raising taxes on small businesses. This was a critical stipulation of the bill because raising taxes on hard working families and our job creators during difficult economic times will do more harm than good.

Over the past few months, the House worked tirelessly passing three separate bills to address our debt crisis: first the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, then the Boehner Plan, and then the Budget Control Act, which served as the framework for the final bill. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass a single bill of their own and the President only offered a speech without a real plan. As was pointed out during the debate, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could not put a price tag on speeches. Throughout this entire process Republicans worked tirelessly to create a solution that embodies the principles of cutting spending, capping future spending, and balancing the budget.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee and with four military installations in my district, I raised serious questions about the impact any defense cuts could have on our military. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stated for months that “our national debt is our biggest national security problem.” Both Chairman Young of the Defense Appropriations Committee and Chairman McKeon of the Armed Services Committee in the House have said that we can live within the means of this budget framework, and voted in favor of the Budget Control Act.

While some cuts to defense and national security programs are predicted, the spending decisions for these programs will come through the Appropriations Committee, and as a member of this committee I will do all that I can to ensure that our men and women serving bravely in the military have the necessary resources to carry out their missions. Furthermore, I will continue to work to reverse the wasteful Washington spending that has plagued families and small businesses in Ohio.

After years of out-of-control federal spending, this bill – although not perfect – is a step in the right direction toward paying down the debt and working to ensure that our children and grandchildren enjoy the same standard of living that we do. We must start by cutting up the credit card that the federal government has been using with reckless abandon.

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