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Weekly Column - Priorities are Key to Spending Reductions

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Last week, automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration took effect, which will trim $85 billion from federal accounts over the next seven months, and about $1.2 trillion over the next decade. These cuts, originally proposed by the White House, total the same amount the federal government borrows every 28 days to help feed its $3.5 trillion annual spending appetite. That's less than three percent from a budget that has grown nearly 20 percent since 2008.

The White House continues to concoct scare tactics, warning the demise of vital government services if these spending reductions continue. But the reality is, in the bigger scheme of our federal spending habits, our debt and our deficits, these cuts don't have to spell devastation for the critical government programs.

This debate is about more than cutting spending or raising taxes. It's about the legacy we create as a nation for generations to come. And this involves how we manage our government's resources. The federal government certainly provides essential services that we must continue to support for the good of our nation, but we must also live within our means to ensure the sustainability of these programs in the future. This means reevaluating programs and setting priorities.

Consider this: The federal government spends $33 million on a railroad for tourists in Alaska, the same amount the Administration threatens sequestration may cut from U.S. border security infrastructure. This is one of many examples of where discretion is the difference between a bloated, unsustainable government and a lean and efficient one. When faced with these decisions, there is absolutely no reason to attack education or law enforcement before targeting programs to fund NASA video games and robotic squirrels.

Managing our spending reductions will require making decisions that elected officials were sent here to make. That's why I voted last week for an effort to provide the Administration with even greater latitude to decide how best to meet sequestration spending restraints. Unfortunately, the White House opposed giving themselves the needed flexibility, and almost all Senate Democrats fell in line. As a result, where the cuts occur in the coming weeks will show us all just where the Administration's priorities lie.

Even with sequestration, our federal debt and deficit are far from under control. The White House and Congressional Democrats seem unwilling to find a way to responsibly shave about three cents on every dollar we spend. That's why we need to adopt a new, pro-growth budget to ensure sensible management of the other 97 cents--something Senate leadership have ignored for more than 1400 days.

A budget is the first real step to controlling future spending levels and ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Democrats have signaled they are finally prepared to act. I hope they stay true to their word and work to present a good-faith budget proposal this month. As I have in the past, I am ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help make a fiscally responsible federal budget a reality this year.


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