Tonight, I voted against what I believe was a one-sided deal on deficit reduction and a dangerous precedent for future discussions on our nation’s debt ceiling. It was certainly not a balanced approach to securing our nation’s future.
I did not arrive at this decision easily. I recognize that raising the debt ceiling is the only way our country could continue to meet its obligations. That’s why I voted to raise the debt ceiling in June to ensure that the U.S. Government pays its bills on time and in full. I was concerned at the time that delaying action would lead to a prolonged standoff with risky consequences. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed and the result was the proposal on the floor today, which will lead to significant cuts to programs that benefit the most vulnerable Americans while preserving tax loopholes for oil companies and other special interests.
One of my principal concerns is that the structure of this deal will hamstring our ability to ensure an economic recovery. I believe the bill passed by the House tonight will box us into a set of dangerous triggers and spending cuts that could have a dramatically negative impact on ordinary citizens and on those commitments needed to make our country strong. It puts our budgetary decisions on auto-pilot because we did not have the foresight to meet this challenge in a more thoughtful way before we reached crisis stage.
At the beginning of this debate I said I would be prepared to make a tough decision, and that I could support a package if it was a balanced approach to deficit reduction that cuts spending, does not impede economic growth, and maintains important investments in our future. I do not believe this deal meets those criteria, nor does it represent shared sacrifice by asking the wealthiest among us – those who have done very well even in this economy – to step up and contribute their fair share.
The deal that was brokered will cut $1.2 trillion in spending over the next ten years and will establish a joint, bipartisan committee made up of 12 members of the House and Senate to develop legislation that will reduce the deficit by an additional $1.5 trillion. However, if the legislation proposed by this committee does not become law, all of those additional savings will come in the form of automatic spending cuts that will go into effect for fiscal years 2013-2021. Although entitlement programs have largely been exempted, if the automatic cuts are triggered, Medicare providers could see reduced payments and many other programs we have fought to preserve will be back on the chopping block.
It is expected that this legislation will soon pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President. Now that we have put this debt ceiling crisis behind us, we should return our focus to other pressing challenges facing our nation. Our long-term economic security will come from advancing strategies that invest in our infrastructure, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector, and increase our exports to world markets. I remain concerned that this deal sets us back on that front but I will redouble my efforts to enact policies that create jobs now, and help us rebuild our country.
John P. Sarbanes