Rejecting Senate Democrats' efforts to replace the President's sequestration with higher taxes, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today filed a Motion to Commit S. 388, the Democrats' Sequester replacement bill, back to the Finance Committee to strike the bill's tax increases and replace that revenue with spending cuts. Hatch pointed to a series of reasonable spending reductions totaling $142.2 billion drawn from U.S. Senator Tom Coburn's report, Back in Black: A Deficit Reduction Plan, July 2011 that could be used to replace the sequester for more than a year. If Congress does not act, the President's across-the-board sequester spending cuts will take place on Friday.
"No one likes how the sequester is structured, but let's get real here: what we're talking about is cutting 2 to 3 percent of our federal budget at a time when we're $16.6 trillion in debt," said Hatch. "Washington Democrats want the American people to pay more taxes and, once again, bail them out of their own lack of responsibility. But, there is a better way to solve this crisis and that's through smart, concrete spending cuts. The choice is clear. We can either reduce spending in a common-sense, responsible way with these spending reductions, or we can do what Senate Democrats want and force the American people to give the taxman more of their hard-earned money."
Hatch's Motion to Commit would send the Democrats' tax increase bill back to the Finance Committee where those tax increases would be replaced with unspecified spending reductions. Hatch believes that the following spending reductions should replace the tax increases in the Democrats' proposal (estimates for savings come from Dr. Coburn's Back in Black report):
1. Freeze Federal Locality Pay for Five Years: The Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 created locality pay to align salaries for federal employees with private sector pay scales in their geographic area. Estimated savings: $71 billion over ten years.
2. Reduce Civilian Agencies' Travel Budgets by 75 Percent: Estimated savings: $43.3 billion over ten years.
3. Reduce Agency Advertising Budgets by 50 Percent: Estimated savings: $5.6 billion over ten years.
4. Combine National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities into One Agency and Reduce Funding by 75 Percent: Estimated savings: $2.8 billion over ten years.
5. Consolidate Various Funding Programs into a New Office Dedicated to Weather Research with the National Science Foundation and Reduce Overall Expenditures for This Research: Estimated savings: $11.6 billion over ten years.
6. Eliminate Federal Funding for Public Media (National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service): Estimated savings: $5.6 billion over ten years.
7. Reduce Administrative Expenses for the Treasury Department: This would include eliminating printing and mailing of certain forms, publications and inserts. Estimated savings: $2.2 billion over ten years.
8. Reduce the Number of Limousines Owned by Federal Agencies: Estimated savings: $115.5 million over ten years.