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Congressman Tom Cole's Weekly Column - House Acts to Revise Sequester, Prevent Government Shutdown

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Much like the Mayan Apocalypse, the dreaded beginning of sequestration came and went without much fanfare. After the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts went into effect on March 1, President Obama's doomsday prophecies were exposed as politically motivated exaggerations and, in some cases, outright fallacies. Claims from the Obama administration that teachers are beginning to receive "pink slips" and Capitol Hill janitors are facing pay cuts were both awarded "Four Pinocchios" -- the highest score on the Washington Post fact checkers' dishonesty scale. Despite President Obama's campaign of misinformation and fear-mongering, it turns out that it is possible to cut 2.4 percent of federal spending -- that's just 2 cents out of every dollar -- without wreaking economic disaster. In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record high just days after sequester began.

Seeking justification to raise taxes to fund his agenda, President Obama has every incentive to ensure the spending cuts are as visible as possible and significantly more painful than necessary. Unfortunately, there are truly damaging cuts coming, and they are entirely preventable. Rather than focusing on minor or nonexistent cutbacks, the president should be working with Congress to avoid counterproductive spending reductions, like the disproportionate share falling on the military. Civilian contractors who are subject to upcoming furloughs conduct maintenance and modernization work that is vital to our military readiness. Out of a $3.5 trillion annual federal budget, it is certainly possible to find $85 billion in spending cuts that do not adversely affect our military capability and the hardworking men and women responsible for sustaining it.

On March 6, House Republicans acted for the third time in the past year to redistribute the sequester spending cuts in a more responsible way. The legislation maintains the sequester spending levels but provides greater flexibility to the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs so that critical defense priorities are maintained and our current and former service members have the resources they need and deserve.

These sensible revisions to the sequester are part of a broader bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The temporary funding measure under which the government is currently operating expires on March 27. By acting now, House Republicans have provided ample time to reach agreement with the Democratic Senate and avoid the threat of a government shutdown.

The appropriations bill cuts overall spending while maintaining funding for essential programs. This does not include Obamacare. The legislation contains no new funding for the president's health care bill and limits related funding to pre-Obamacare levels, thereby severely restricting the Obama administration's ability to fully implement its misguided, unpopular health care policies.

The American people deserve better than a government that lurches from one crisis to the next, only taking action at the last minute. House Republicans have acted to cut spending, prevent a government shutdown, and revise the sequester to protect our military capability It is now up to the Democratic Senate to take up the legislation in a timely manner or delay action again and risk another fiscal crisis.


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