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Unfinished Business


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Rep. Adrian Smith

The beginning of a new Congress is typically a time of great excitement and an opportunity for lawmakers to refocus their priorities as we look ahead to the next two years. I remain optimistic about what can be accomplished in the 113th Congress, which began on January 3rd, however much of our business from the previous Congress remains unfinished. Before we can move forward, Congress must pass a responsible, long-term Farm Bill; agree to real spending reductions and reforms to stop the out-of-control growth of government and debt; and enact comprehensive tax reform to simplify the code for everyone and grow our economy.

My top priority for the coming year is passage of a Farm Bill to provide certainty for Nebraska's producers. The recent fiscal cliff legislation did include an extension of certain provisions of the Farm Bill; however, this stopgap measure cannot substitute for a long-term bill. The bill did not provide disaster assistance for drought-stricken livestock producers, nor did it include reforms to direct payments and the nutrition title.

I am deeply disappointed we did not come to an agreement on farm policy last year, and I am hopeful the new Congress presents an opportunity to let the process work. The American people expect a Farm Bill, but they also expect reasonable reforms to control spending. The House of Representatives needs to pass a responsible measure, and get it to a conference committee where compromise with the Senate rightfully takes place.

Another top priority for 2013 is to find agreement on spending reductions and reforms to begin reining-in our deficit and debt. Congress and the President could not come to an agreement to replace arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts as part of the fiscal cliff agreement, so the cuts were effectively punted until March. We cannot afford further delay.

Congress must make the difficult decisions necessary to responsibly reduce spending. Replacing the arbitrary defense spending cuts, continuing to fund the government, and debating a debt ceiling increase will provide ample opportunity to enact meaningful spending reductions in coming weeks. Last year the House passed legislation which would have offset arbitrary cuts and further reduced the deficit by more than $200 billion. The spending reforms included in this bill could be a starting point this year.

In addition to cutting spending, the best way to reduce the deficit is through economic growth, which could be encouraged through tax reform. A report released this week by the National Taxpayer Advocate found it takes more than 6.1 billion hours and $168 billion for U.S. taxpayers to complete their tax filings every year. Comprehensive reform to simplify the code would reduce the burden on taxpayers, leaving families more money to spend, and businesses more flexibility to invest, grow, and hire.

Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, of which I am a member, has been clear we intend to pass comprehensive tax reform this year. With the debate over certain tax rates behind us, we can now turn our full attention to making the tax code flatter and fairer for all Americans.

The work of Congress is never complete, but wrapping up unfinished business should be our highest priority. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 113th Congress to address these and other critical issues. Together, I am optimistic we will accomplish great things for the American people and put our nation on a better, more sustainable path.

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