Congresswoman Niki Tsongas released the following statement today in support of the compromise reached by President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner to fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year.
"The compromise I supported today helped us avoid a government shutdown that I believe would have been extraordinarily disruptive and had the potential to be very damaging to individual Americans and to our economy. And, as we all witnessed, this compromise was not easily achieved. Both sides had strongly held views and the negotiations were difficult, but a bipartisan agreement was finally reached in the final hour.
"I have repeatedly stated that we needed to pass a budget that would carry us through the remaining half of this fiscal year. We've been operating on short-term, frequently changing budgets for the past six months, and I have heard from economists, my constituents, and even Defense Secretary Gates that this way of funding the government is disruptive, unpredictable, it wastes taxpayer money, and it causes significant uncertainty for the private sector which leads to job loss and slows our economy.
"This bill will keep the government functioning without additional disruption through the end of this fiscal year, which was critically important. However, I find it extremely regrettable that this bill included deep cuts to programs that have demonstrated an ability to grow our economy and create jobs as well as those that help some of our most vulnerable citizens. On top of that, despite the claims made by my Republican colleagues, the true drivers of our deficit are not touched by this bill, which only reduces our annual deficit by a fraction ($1.65 trillion - $1.61 trillion).
"Instead of taking a balanced approach, this bill asks families who receive home heating assistance to take a $400 million cut, while still providing billions in tax breaks for oil companies. Five million fewer patients will be able to access community health centers like the Lowell Community Health Center or the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center -- relied on by more than 100,000 Fifth District residents. Lawrence Community Works, Coalition for a Better Acre, and the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership had program funds eliminated which have allowed them to help hundreds of homeowners stay in their homes.
"I know that these cuts will have a real impact on our communities and on the people who rely on the safety net that the government provides, particularly during an economic recession and recovery, and I don't like them.
"But, I also don't like the impact that our nation's unsustainable debt and deficit has on our ability to grow and compete and we must enact reforms -- including a reduction in government spending -- to put our nation back on a path to more responsibly managing our national finances. To begin to seriously debate this problem, we needed to pass this extension.
"Yesterday afternoon, the President very clearly outlined the choices that we must make in order to enact these necessary reforms. I have long stated what the President reiterated yesterday: a "serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table.' We cannot simply rely on cuts to a small portion of our budget to balance the budget. Doing so balances the budget on the backs of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
"I believe we need to build on reforms that lower costs while strengthening the promise of Medicare and Medicaid, we need to address defense spending, and we need to close tax loopholes that allow some of the wealthiest citizens and corporations to pay the smallest tax burden.
"As we begin to dig ourselves out of debt, I will be working to enact wise and responsible reforms like these that allow us to bring down the deficit while creating jobs and protecting investments that will strengthen our economy. The passage of this bipartisan budget compromise keeps the government open and allows us to get back to work addressing these and many other pressing issues before us."