By Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made another appearance on Capitol Hill to warn Congress about what will happen if we fail to take action to stimulate our sluggish economy. The impending "fiscal cliff" -- a term he famously coined just months ago -- is perilous, and it is looming. In fact, Bernanke warned us that failure to address it by the end of the year would have such grave economic effects that even the Fed couldn't offset them. In an effort to implore Congress to act, he equivocally told us: "I'm not in charge here, Congress is." So it's about time we start acting like it.
When I came to Congress seven years ago, as a freshman from Stevens County, I was eager to bring economic reforms from one Washington to another. To get our fiscal house in order. Re- duce exorbitant govern- ment spending. Fight for tax reform. Balance the budget. Years later, I've discovered that most of these battles are wrought with partisan discord. And the "fiscal cliff" is no exception. Even United States Senator, Patty Murray, threatened to take this country off the fiscal cliff if Repub- licans didn't relent to Democrats' demands and let the current tax rates expire.
She made her position clear this summer when she said: "I'm not for going off the cliff, but I think as a negotiating tactic it makes a lot of sense." Unfortunately, for the millions of people in this country who struggle every day to find a job, nothing about this tactic makes sense.
What does make sense, however, is to address an economic decline that is both imminent and inevitable. In the next few months, we face a unique confluence of events: the pending expiration of current tax rates, the implementation of $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cuts -- also known as "sequestra- tion" -- and the very real possibility of raising the federal debt limit. All of these would be disas- trous for our economy and equally catastrophic for the global financial markets.
In fact, the Congres- sional Budget Office estimates that if these policies go into effect at the beginning of 2013, gross domestic product (GDP) would be cut by nearly four percentage points, we'd lose an additional two million jobs, and the economy would fall into a double-dip recession. At a time when families in Eastern Washington -- and those all across America -- are struggling to fill their gas tanks, find new jobs, expand their businesses, and provide for their needs -- this is a path we cannot afford to take.
The challenge of bipartisan compromise is great. But the cost of inaction is far greater.
As we stand on the precipice of this "fiscal cliff" -- an unprecedented economic calamity our country will face if we do not take action -- I am unwavering in my commitment to solve this problem before it is too late. We cannot kick the can down the road anymore. We've come to the end of the road -- and it's time for the President and Senate Democrats to join House Republicans in taking action. We've already passed over 40 jobs bills that are just sitting, untouched, in the Senate. We voted to stop the tax hikes, replace sequestration, and repeal ObamaCare. And yet the United States Senate hasn't passed a budget in four years. To say this is unacceptable -- especially in the face of such grave economic uncer- tainty -- is most certainly an understatement.
We're elected to Congress to make tough de- cisions, negotiate bipar- tisan solutions, and improve the lives of those who elected us. We're elected to Congress to act like leaders. And by delaying action on solving the impending "fiscal cliff," Congress is doing exactly the opposite.
The enormity of this situation demands real bipartisan action and sound long-term solutions -- not political ultimatums.
The lives of the American people -- their jobs, their families, their eco- nomic mobility, and their ability to live and achieve the American Dream -- are not partisan games. They are real. And it is our job to prevent this looming crisis and protect them.