By Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger, Adam Smith and Norm Dicks
This week, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan introduced next year's House Republican budget proposal. His plan includes a tax cut for a small percentage of the population at the expense of our seniors and critical investments in infrastructure, education and job creation. Additionally, his partisan approach to the looming threat of sequestration will only further polarize Congress. His budget pushes us further from compromise as the possibility of deep, dangerous defense cuts draws near.
As the three House Democrats with primary oversight of our nation's defense policy, military spending and intelligence programs, we understand just how devastating wholesale defense cuts would be. And while they must be avoided, we agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that simply passing legislation to exempt national security from sequestration is the wrong approach. If we're going to address the root of our country's mounting financial problems and ensure our long-term economic growth, we need a budget plan that negotiates revenue and spending in a strategic, comprehensive and, most important, bipartisan way.
Previous bipartisan commissions that have looked at our deficit challenge, including Bowles-Simpson and Rivlin-Domenici, concluded that we cannot place America on a fiscally sustainable path without a balanced package that includes new revenue. The supercommittee failed to reach a compromise, in part, because Republican members wouldn't even agree to restructuring our broken Tax Code as a way of raising new revenue.
So it is up to Congress to pick up where the supercommittee left off and prevent sequestration from happening by reaching a big, balanced deficit-reduction agreement that neither imperils our nation's security nor places unfair burdens on already stressed federal programs critical to our economic security.
That's why we're disappointed in the Ryan budget proposal. It's a shortsighted and imprudent approach that fails to appreciate the size and scope of our dilemma. It also fails to recognize the capability that exists in Congress to develop and agree on a more responsible course of action. If we continue to duck the issue, our fiscal problems eventually will become just as significant and immediate a threat to our national security as sequestration is today.
The reality is that there are no easy solutions here, but the task is not insurmountable, and if we forgo the partisan politics of last summer, we can avoid what we believe would be a devastating impact on our ability to meet current and future challenges to our national security.
So what we are proposing is a serious re-engagement by the leaders of both parties, with the active participation of the administration, to reach the kind of big and balanced deficit-reduction solution our challenges require of us. We believe a comprehensive and far-reaching deal -- one that addresses entitlements and restructures our broken Tax Code -- is possible, and that it would be far better for our country in the long run, ensuring national security and fostering economic growth.
Americans are fed up with the brinkmanship that surrounded the debt-limit episode last year and with repeated threats to shut down the federal government. We have an opportunity, even during this election year, to restore confidence in our ability to make the tough decisions people expect from their leaders. The way forward must be a comprehensive and far-reaching deal -- not kicking the can down the road by selectively negating the effects of sequestration and leaving the underlying budget problems unaddressed.
With our national security at stake, we should seize the opportunity to adopt a balanced, responsible and comprehensive deficit-reduction plan that leaves us better able to address the needs of our people here at home as well as the threats we face from abroad.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) is ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee and Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) is ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.