U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., is vocally unhappy with House Republican leaders for not holding the line on spending during ongoing budget negotiations. The second-term congresswoman from Cheyenne also said she opposes attempts to extend the payroll tax cut, saying it's necessary for the federal government to avoid going deeper in debt. House and Senate appropriators are currently working to hammer out an agreement to pass an omnibus spending bill by Dec. 16, when a temporary spending bill expires.
Discretionary spending in the new budget is expected to be capped at $1.050 trillion, according to The Hill newspaper. While that's about $40 billion lower than last year's discretionary spending levels, Lummis said, it would exceed the $1.043 trillion spending cap set in the August debt deal, as an additional $7 billion would go toward federal disaster aid. That would violate the House Republicans' Pledge To America signed last year, said Lummis and 27 other conservative Republican House members in a letter to House GOP leaders last month. "Doing so will further erode the trust that was placed in us by the people we represent and who are counting on us to save our country from the fiscally ruinous decisions of this Administration and past Congresses," the letter stated.
Lummis has been a vocal supporter of the House GOP's "cut, cap and balance" proposal, voted down this summer, that would have lowered discretionary spending to 2008 levels and slashed mandatory federal spending by about $50 billion. Last month, she also joined dozens of lawmakers in pressing Congress' special debt reduction supercommittee to consider all options, including higher revenues, and shoot for $4 trillion in savings.
She's certainly not alone in her dissatisfaction. In September, at least 50 GOP members vowed not to vote for any appropriations package that didn't slash spending below the August spending cap. Lummis is quick to lay much of the blame with the Democratic- controlled Senate, which she said has refused to pass a budget. As a result, she said, House Speaker
John Boehner, R-Ohio, has had to "negotiate with himself." "I do think our leadership's heart is in the right place," she said. "But I'm encouraging them to pick up the pace." Senate Democrats have balked on a number of controversial riders in the House's version of the omnibus budget, including a proposal by Lummis that would ban legal challenges to a pending federal- state agreement that would remove Wyoming wolves from the endangered species list.
And if the 50 or so House Republicans make good on their threat to oppose the budget, House GOP leaders may have to seek House Democratic support to pass it, according to several media reports. Lummis is also balking at supporting any proposal to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut, another contentious issue that has divided House Republicans and
Senate Democrats. If the tax cut isn't extended by Dec. 31, workers will see their paychecks reduced by 2 percent. But Lummis said that with the national debt exceeding $15 trillion, the payroll cut should be taken off the table completely for the time being. "I don't know anyone working who wants to see us borrow money from China to pay for their own Medicare and Social Security,"
Lummis said. "People in Wyoming know that you can't get something for nothing." One area where Lummis doesn't want to see cuts is in America's nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. The Obama administration already plans to reduce the nation's 450 land-based ICBMs, which are spread evenly between Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne oversees ICBM missiles stationed in Wyoming, Nebraska and northern Colorado.
In addition, with the debt supercommittee failing to reach a deal last month, unless Congress acts, automatic cuts will kick in starting in 2013, including a $500 billion to $600 billion reduction in Defense Department funding. That could mean the elimination of the nation's entire force of 450 ICBMs, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote last month in a letter to U.S. Sens. John McCain, RAriz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Last week, Lummis and House members from Montana and North Dakota wrote Panetta urging him to preserve America's current ICBM force of 450 missiles. Lummis said it's unclear right now exactly how the ICBM cuts would affect F.E. Warren. But she said it costs about $3 million for each land-based ICBM warhead -- more than three times cheaper than a warhead delivered by via a bomber or a submarine. "It's going to be important to us to try to remind folks of that during these negotiations," she said.