House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement at this morning's hearings on sequestration with OMB Director Zients, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter:
"I would like to thank our witnesses for attending this hearing today.
"I think everyone in this room can agree that sequestration must be prevented. Large, indiscriminate, across the board cuts to the federal budget would have serious implications for our national defense and a wide range of other important federal programs.
"I completely agree with the Chairman that sequestration is a problem right now. Those that think sequestration is not a problem now because it will not kick in until January 2013 are wrong. It is also important to remember that sequestration does not just hit the defense budget; it hits the entire discretionary budget and portions of the mandatory budget as well. The uncertainty about whether sequestration will happen, and its potential devastating impacts, are having a profound impact on our entire economy right now. Additionally, the potential expiration of the tax cuts at the end of this year is a huge burden on the economy. Delaying all of this is a major problem and the best thing Congress can do is to find a solution, right now.
"It is also worth noting that sequestration was a bad idea in the first place, which is why I didn't vote for it. The differences in how to deal with our debt and deficit issues are so vast that we could, in fact, go through something as bad as sequestration rather than find a solution. Putting a gun to the head of the economy as a means to find a solution to our debt problems was a bad idea from the beginning and something I hope we never do again. But it is a problem that we must now address.
"The majority has claimed, repeatedly, that the Administration is not concerned about this problem. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Earlier this year, Secretary Panetta said, "It [sequestration] was designed to be a disaster, because the hope was that Congress would respond and do what was right...I'm just here to tell you, yes, it would be a disaster." He has made dozens of comments such as this one, many in front of this very committee.
"Additionally, both of our witnesses here today are members of the Administration and have repeatedly acknowledged the devastating impact of sequestration. In fact, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who is here with us today, recently outlined a plan to avoid sequestration in an editorial last month, a plan the Chairman acknowledged yesterday. The President has also put forth a plan. Clearly, the Administration is taking this issue seriously.
"The Senate is, regrettably, a different story. No one fully controls the Senate. Unfortunately, it takes 60 votes to get anything done. So you would actually need the Democrats and Republicans to agree on something before you can get anything done. The solution is not waiting for the Senate to act. The solution will come from Democrats and Republicans getting together and hashing out our differences.
"We all agree sequestration would be bad. It's time to start discussing our differences and begin working towards a solution. There is too much at stake. We need a long-term plan for curbing our debt and for getting our deficits under control. It is my understanding that the majority believes we can continue to cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget. This cannot be accomplished unless we cut the remainder of the federal budget by 50 percent -- a proposal I think even the majority would find unrealistic. Therefore, their math simply does not add up. That is why I believe that in order to prevent sequestration, we must put revenue on the table.
"Deficit-reduction goals cannot be achieved through spending cuts alone, especially if those cuts are exclusive to non-defense programs. Everything needs to be carefully considered in devising a balanced approach. Revenues need to be increased, mandatory programs need to be brought in line with what we can afford over the long term, and domestic spending should be carefully examined to find real and substantial savings over time. Unfortunately, instead of working seriously to find such a balanced solution, the majority in Congress has refused to consider even the slightest revenue increases and focused instead on measures to kick the threat of sequester slightly down the road. That is just not good enough.
"We have differences, but they are not insurmountable. The solution to this problem is simple. Let's put realistic revenue options on the table and find the $1.2 trillion in savings mandated by the Budget Control Act. I stand ready to work with each of my colleagues in reaching a timely and sensible compromise."