Congressman Jerry Lewis Wednesday urged House colleagues to work toward reducing federal spending by the largest possible amount this year while approving a Fiscal Year 2011 budget that allows the federal government to continue operating.
Lewis, the Chairman Emeritus of the House Appropriations Committee, said every effort should be made to avoid a federal government shutdown. But he also warned that Americans will hold Congress accountable to cut back on spending levels that have caused $1.6 trillion dollar annual deficits.
He joined several other members who were in the House during the 1995 and 1996 federal government shutdowns in a "Dear Colleague" letter to all other House members. The group pledged support for the efforts of Speaker John Boehner to seek the largest possible spending reductions while still keeping the government open and operating.
In addition to Lewis, the Dear Colleague was signed by Congressman Bill Young of Florida, Congressman Don Young of Alaska, Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana, Congressman John Duncan of Tennessee, and fellow California members Elton Gallegly, Wally Herger, Dana Rohrabacher, Howard "Buck" McKeon and Ken Calvert.
"We hate the idea of a shutdown -- we really don't want to go through that again," the group wrote to their colleagues. "But even more, we hate the idea of leaving trillions and trillions of dollars in debt to our children and grandchildren. We cannot continue a course that will allow government to eat away our economy."
Lewis said he has been extremely frustrated by the actions of the Senate and Majority Leader Reid during the negotiations over current year spending. Although the new fiscal year began on October 1, the Senate has not approved a single year-long appropriations bill to fund the government, Lewis said.
"The House voted out a spending bill in February that would begin to gain control over the spending that has led to these terrible deficits, but the Senate has not approved a single piece of legislation to provide full funding of the government," Lewis said. "All we hear from the Senate majority is partisan political rhetoric."
Lewis noted that Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the third-ranking member of the Senate leadership, was inadvertently overheard by reporters on a conference call urging Democratic senators to label as "extreme" all House efforts to reduce spending.
"We say to Sen. Reid and Sen. Schumer: Cutting spending is not a "Tea Party' thing. It is not a "hard-core conservative freshman' thing," Lewis and the other members wrote. "It is the kind of responsible action that all Americans elected us to do in Congress."