The Corner

Coburn to Boehner and Reid: Be Responsible, Maintain The Sequester Cuts

Senator Tom Coburn is sending the letter below to Representative John Boehner and Senator Harry Reid, which urges them to oppose any government-funding bill (“CR”) that exceeds the spending limits agreed to as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and opposing any additional debt-limit increases if Congress does not abide by the deficit-reduction commitments made by the Budget Control Act. 

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid,

Americans are fed up with Congress’ inability to keep its promises and control spending.  Just two years ago, we committed to the taxpayers and each other to begin an era of fiscal restraint with passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, and already efforts are underway to unravel that agreement. 

As the only major bipartisan deficit reduction bargain in the last fifteen years, the Budget Control Act provided a ten year blue print to restrain federal spending, accepted in exchange for a $2 trillion increase in the national debt limit.  The balanced compromise reduced both defense and non-defense spending, but for only two years.  Under the bipartisan agreement, total discretionary spending in FY 2014 is capped at $967 billion.  Most of this spending would still be financed with borrowed money as the deficit for the year is still projected to be $560 billion.              

As you know, fiscal year 2014 is the last year discretionary spending will actually be reduced as a result of the Budget Control Act.  After next year, the law allows discretionary spending to once again increase annually.  Removing the spending restrains for 2014 would, therefore, make a mockery of the agreement to restrain spending because spending would have only be reduced for one year. 

This is an all too familiar Washington narrative that explains why our national debt is nearly $17 trillion.  Just today, the Congressional Budget Office revealed the initial House CR would exceed the current spending limits by $19 billion.  Congress cannot break its commitment to restrain spending while expecting another debt limit increase to pay for its broken promises with even more borrowed money. 

We reject the temptation of any short term political victory that paves the way for bigger debt, bigger borrowing, and bigger government.  Therefore, we absolutely oppose any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that would increase spending above the levels provided under the Budget Control Act.  Furthermore, if Congress cannot keep its word to control spending as agreed to in the bipartisan Budget Control Act, we will not agree to additional increases in the debt limit. We do not need another bipartisan agreement to increase spending and borrowing. 


Tom Coburn, M.D.

Three cheers to Senator Coburn. Maintaining the sequester cuts, not matter how small they are, is an important step toward a little fiscal responsibility in Washington. If Congress can’t stick to the deal they made and implement minor reductions in spending in FY 2013 and FY 2014, then they can never be trusted to cut spending in the future or do the actual hard work of reforming entitlements (not that I am holding my breath about that happening, either).

There are, however, some signs that the cuts may be maintained. For instance, the CR that the House released earlier this week keeps defense spending at the post-sequester budget levels. As Russell Rumbaugh, the director of the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program, explained at InsideDefense, even though that number is not quite the capped FY 14 levels, it’s way below what the House passed in its own bills:

“It’s a huge deal,” said Russell Rumbaugh, the director of the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program. “For the first time, House Republicans are openly voting to cut defense to post-sequester funding levels. The CR explicitly says the sequester order is in effect, and it does not rebalance between defense and non-defense.”

“The Republican majority is acknowledging it is no longer the defender of defense spending,” said Rumbaugh, formerly a defense analyst on the Senate Budget committee and a military legislative assistant for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN).  House Republicans “may argue it’s temporary, but passing this bill would be an on-the-record endorsement of base defense spending at less than $500 billion,” he added.

Nothing in the bill suggests DOD would get any extra flexibility compared to previous continuing resolutions, Rumbaugh said. “In fact, it’s got all the standard boilerplate language: no new starts and no multiyears.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


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