By Deb Fischer
It was an historic week in the United States Congress. For the first time in 92 years, Congress began the budget-making process without first receiving a budget from the president. This effort was a necessary step given that the president's budget has been delayed for over a month, despite legal requirements for a timely submission to Congress.
Like many Nebraskans, I was initially encouraged by news that, after four years, Senate Democrats had finally agreed to work with Republicans to craft a budget. But I was disappointed to learn their plan, which was unveiled by Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), includes $1.5 trillion in new taxes and no plan to balance the budget. I was also troubled to hear the president state balancing the budget is "not a priority."
Let me be clear: balancing the budget is a top priority for me.
Over the past four years, the American people have seen $1.7 trillion in new taxes and $518 billion in new regulations -- all while adding nearly $6 trillion to the national debt. Nebraskans know we must grow the economy, not the debt.
Unfortunately, the budget released by Senator Murray was crafted without any Republican input and actually increases spending. In Nebraska when the Legislature had to cut funding to deal with revenue shortfall, we used the committee process to identify real spending cuts. Conversely, the Senate Budget Committee fashioned a vague, purely political document that fails to make any meaningful reductions.
This is no way to produce a responsible budget, and I believe Nebraskans deserve better.
A responsible budget does not continue out-of-control federal spending; rather, it sets priorities and cuts wasteful spending.
A responsible budget does not let Medicare and Social Security continue to slip toward insolvency; instead, it saves these programs for current retirees and future generations.
A responsible budget does not hit America's job creators with $1 trillion in new taxes; instead, it seeks to replace our antiquated tax code through comprehensive pro-growth tax reform.
I am concerned the Budget Committee will likely attach binding instructions to the budget resolution requiring the Finance Committee to raise "revenue" (which we all know means more "taxes") through the procedural tactic called "reconciliation" -- the same procedure used to push ObamaCare through the Senate.
As I've mentioned before, cherry-picking politically motivated, industry-specific tax credits or loopholes to pay for more government spending undermines our well-intentioned efforts to comprehensively reform the tax code.
The American people deserve a simpler, fairer tax code and I believe there is, for the first time in many years, real momentum to get something done on tax reform this year. The leaders of the tax-writing committees on both sides of the aisle have expressed a desire to move forward on tax reform. That is why I am so concerned about the Senate Democrats' budget and its requirement to raise taxes without the needed tax reform to lower rates and broaden the base -- the winning formula that we know was used for tax reform in 1986.
Finally, I know many Nebraskans continue to express concern about the painful effects of sequestration, or those automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. While I believe we must cut wasteful spending, I also consider sequestration a bad idea. Instead, I support responsible replacement cuts, which make fiscal sense, reduce actual spending, and ensure government can continue to meet its core responsibilities.
This week, I cosponsored an amendment to provide the Administration with the flexibility it claims it currently does not have to ensure "essential" federal employees continue to provide vital services, including meat inspections, control tower operations, defense operation, border security, and other core duties. I hope that this common sense amendment is adopted. I will continue to work with my colleagues -- Republicans and Democrats -- to make smarter, more careful spending cuts.
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process, and I'll visit with you again next week.
United States Senator