By Alan Nunnelee
In 2013, the sharply divergent views our parties have for the future of America led to frequent clashes between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The result was stalemate, frustration, and a lack of long term solutions to our nation's spending-driven debt crisis.
The year ended with passage of the Murray-Ryan budget deal that left both parties unsatisfied, but was a tiny step in the right direction because it made small structural changes that will save taxpayers billions in the years to come. I would have preferred the tweaks to the cost of living increases for younger military retirees not be included in the deal. However, failing to pass the Murray-Ryan budget would have triggered massive cuts to our active duty military, effective Jan. 1. Allowing those cuts to go into effect would have meant sending our young men and women into combat ill equipped and underprepared, something I was not willing to do.
Furthermore, we must put an end to the notion that "mandatory spending" programs can never be adjusted. If we want Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and programs like military pensions to be around for future generations, some changes must be made or we will go bankrupt.
While it is usually more difficult to get major reforms passed in a heated election year, the Murray-Ryan budget agreement opens a small window of opportunity to find some common ground on some of the major issues facing our country.
* Tax reform: Governments across the world are reforming their tax codes in order to make their nations more attractive places to do business. If we fail to do the same, we risk falling behind in the global competition for jobs and economic growth. The Chairmen of the committees in charge of tax issues have been working on a package that could be the starting point for negotiations.
We know the broad outlines of reform must include cleaning out loopholes and exemptions in exchange for lower rates. This is a politically difficult task, as many powerful interest groups will fight tooth and nail to preserve their tax break. However, America's economy will continue to underperform and far too many people will struggle to find jobs if we fail to reform our tax code. The president has expressed interest in at least bringing down our business tax rates, which are currently the highest in the industrialized world. If the President is serious about addressing problem, he will find willing partners in the House.
* Health care: The sheer incompetence with which the Obama administration has handled the launch of the Affordable Care Act has been breathtaking. The website is a fiasco, and is just the tip of the iceberg. Currently, it appears the Administration is making it up as it goes along.
President Obama sold his health care reform to the American public on three promises: if you like your plan, you can keep it, if you like your doctor, you can keep him, and costs would go down by $2,500 per family. All three of these promises have turned out not to be true.
The latest news is that the Administration is exempting some, but not all, from paying the individual mandate tax. We should take this decision to its logical conclusion and pass legislation exempting all Americans from the individual mandate.
* Cutting spending: Thanks to stiff resistance by congressional Republicans to the president's calls for more spending, the deficit has fallen and government spending has been reduced for two consecutive years for the first time since the end of World War II. An incredible amount of work remains. Democrat demands for massive tax hikes as the price for major spending cuts rules out the possibility of a big deal for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, both parties should work together to eliminate as much government waste as possible.
As always, there is much work to be done in defense of religious liberty, the rights of the unborn, and our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. These traditional American values are too important to be ignored, which is why I have fought to ban taxpayer funding of abortions in the Obamacare exchanges and resisted every effort to curtail the rights of law abiding gun owners.
These are trying times for our country, and I am frustrated that we have failed to enact the types of tax, spending, and entitlement reforms necessary to lift the burden of debt from future generations and ensure their shot at the American dream. Divided government means we will not get everything we want right now. Nevertheless, we must continue working to find common ground on tax reform, health care, and cutting spending.