With the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, the House of Representatives has proved that bipartisan compromise in Washington is not dead. In fact, the leadership exhibited by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan throughout the budget conference has restored certainty and confidence to the political process – concepts that had gone missing the past few years.
I’m an average American woman who’s been involved in covering politics for a long time. I’m 54 years old. As an idea person, I’m Tea Party friendly in the true sense of the word, I’m taxed enough already. I don’t want to give one inch. But as part of a family whose 401K has taken two big hits in the last 20 years and we are just recovering from the last one but 5 years older, I want to be sure our legislators are moving the ball forward. This proposal does that.
Just a few months ago, in the midst of a harmful government shutdown and amid the threat of a disastrous federal default, the outlook was grim. Neither party seemed willing or capable of speaking to one another, much less tackling thorny fiscal issues in a bipartisan manner. But thankfully, Chairman Murray and Chairman Ryan came through when it mattered most, forging the first budget conference agreement since 1986. It was a remarkable feat given today’s political climate, and it is critical their progress does not go for naught.
This deal is by no means perfect, but it does what was necessary by returning Congress to regular order. It establishes spending levels for the next two years, eliminating the need for continuing resolutions that fund the government in a piecemeal fashion and heighten the risk of partisan bickering over funding levels. This agreement also offers some relief from sequestration – the damaging, across-the-board spending cuts that were already having an adverse effect on investments in education as well as research and development. Furthermore, this agreement lowers the deficit by $23 billion over the next decade and actually avoids a $20 billion cut in defense spending.
These are all important steps to ensure that the country’s economy gets moving in the right direction once again. But more must be done to see that the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook is sound. Regrettably, this deal fails to adequately confront our unsustainable national debt, which is the largest it has been in over six decades. It also does not address the areas of the budget fueling our debt problem – our outdated and inefficient tax code and our increasingly costly entitlement programs. Our long-term fiscal problems will persist until lawmakers are able to tackle these problems in an effective and bipartisan manner.
But make no mistake – this budget deal is a sign of significant progress and certainly a step in the right direction. Chairman Murray and Chairman Ryan grappled with complex issues without compromising their principles and actually came out on the other end on amicable terms. I don’t expect lawmakers to resolve all of their differences overnight, but I would hope they take notice of what is possible by looking at this most recent accomplishment.
I urge Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. Saxby Chambliss to follow the lead of Murray and Ryan and vote “yes” on this bill. If the House of Representatives can pass this bill in a bipartisan fashion, I would expect the Senate to be able to do the same. I realize this agreement doesn’t have everything everyone would want or even expect to put the country on a more responsible fiscal course, it certainly doesn’t have everything I would want in a budget deal. However, it lays the groundwork for Congress to go much further on these important fiscal issues at a later date. Given where we were just a few months ago, this is tremendous progress – progress that must not be squandered.
As the Georgia co-chair of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, I understand that this deal is a small part of a much broader process that will give the country what it needs to get back on the right economic track, and I am hopeful that Sens. Isakson and Chambliss see it that way also.
Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I call upon Sens. Isakson and Chambliss to do the right thing and pass this bill so we can get to work building a stronger American economy.