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  • The Sequestration Myth

    by Senator James Lankford

    Posted on 2013-02-27

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    LANKFORD. I thank the gentleman from Georgia.

    Mr. Speaker, it's an honor to be able to stand in front of this House today.

    Let me talk about families that all across America right now are struggling with their own finances. They're sitting at a dinner table this evening, because they have run out of paycheck before they have run out of month, and they're struggling through just the basics of how they're going to do life, because they're in debt and they're struggling through day to day.

    They will make decisions to be able to put their house in order and to be able to resolve where they're headed as a family, because they don't want to be a family that's going to live heavily in debt. Because once you're in debt as a family, everything is about money. Every day there's a new battle about money; every day there's a new battle about spending and who's going to spend and what bill are we going to pay and how are we going to handle day-to-day life.

    The hard part is that's where we are as a Nation right now. The House and the Senate and the President, we continue to argue through things about money. And every week it seems like we're fighting a new fight about money. Because, guess what, we're $16.5 trillion in debt.

    For 5 years in a row, we've overspent the budget by $1 trillion a year, and there's no end in sight. We've come to a day that we have to resolve how do we get out of this hole, how do we fix this.

    Let me give a quick history of how we actually got here. In 2011, the House and the Senate and the White House all agreed if we're going to have a large debt plan to get us out--at that point a debt ceiling request of $2.4 trillion--we had to have with that extension of the debt ceiling also a plan of how to reduce spending by that same amount or more so that we didn't just infinitely continue to increase debt.

    So the plan was made to cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years. And then there would be a second tranche of $1.2 trillion again to reduce spending.

    We couldn't come to an agreement on that. So Jack Lew, who was the President's chief of staff, came to Harry Reid and said, here's our suggestion, do a sequestration. Harry Reid rejected it initially. Then Jack Lew came back to him and said, what if we do half of it in defense spending? So an automatic across-the-board cut, if we can't find a way to reduce spending in other ways, we'll just do an across-the-board cut with half of it in defense and the other half of it from other parts of the budget.

    Harry Reid agreed with Jack Lew, the President's chief of staff, and the President's plan then went to the Senate and came to the House where begrudgingly we all agreed, because none of us wanted to see this. I don't believe that the White House wanted to see sequestration as well.

    But this plan that was put in place that the House, the Senate, and the White House all agreed to was to find some way to reduce spending by $1.2 trillion in long-term spending.

    The first option was the select committee, the supercommittee, as it was called. It obviously failed in its task.

    Shortly after that, the House of Representatives said that the select committee has failed in its task, we cannot have sequestration. And so in May of last year, the House of Representatives passed a replacement plan for sequestration so that we would not get to this point. As Americans constantly talk about Congress waiting 'til the last minute, almost 300 days ago the House of Representatives passed a plan to avoid sequestration and to do cuts and waited for the Senate to respond so that we did not have a moment like this. The Senate never answered us back.

    So in December of last year, the House again passed a plan to say here's how we can replace sequestration. And, again, the Senate has never responded to that.

    We're at a point now, hours away from sequestration beginning, at a point none of us wanted to be here, facing the reality that if the Senate never responds to us, we're at a point that we will step into across-the-board cuts. When that occurs, half of those cuts being in defense and a very severe cut after there was already $100 billion cut from defense 4 years ago, then $500 billion cut from defense 2 years ago, now another $500 billion cut in defense. Defense is carrying a very disproportionate number of cuts in this administration.

    We've got to find a way to be able to stabilize all of our programs and to do smarter reductions of spending without having this huge hit. We've got to learn how to be able to plan ahead, both in the House and the Senate.

    Why must this be done in the first place? That's the challenge. We have individuals that look at programs that are some of their favorite programs and say they're going to face an 8 percent reduction in that program this year. And there's going to be a spending cap so they don't have infinite growth over the next 10. And they look at it and say, why does it have to be that way? Well, I can tell you why. Because we are facing a debt crisis that is not just something for the next generation. It's now.

    Two weeks ago, the Congressional Budget Office released its report on the status of America and where we're headed on current law and what happens now. In that report, it detailed that right now we pay $224 billion a year just in interest. CBO 2 weeks ago released a report and said on the current path we will pay in interest $857 billion a year just 10 years from now.

    So where we have said in the past, for our children they're going to have a [[Page H692]] crushing debt, it is now this generation, because debt continues to accelerate; $857 billion, ladies and gentlemen, is larger than what we paid for the entire war in Afghanistan. We will pay that each year just in interest payments just 10 years from now if we don't get a handle on this. That's larger than all defense for a single year, that's larger than all Medicare, that's larger than all Social Security. $857 billion in interest alone is by definition unsustainable for us as a Nation. We cannot afford to do that. We have to deal with our spending.

    So how do we get on top of that? Well, the President's proposal is, let's just raise taxes on a few people. Well, guess what, the President got his tax increase in January.

    As of all the reports that are coming back in now, 2013 will bring in the largest amount of revenue in the history of the country to the Treasury. We will have no year in our history we will bring in more revenue than 2013, and yet the President's proposal is we need to raise taxes again to cover that.

    Well, one of the tax increases that he recommends is to just raise taxes on the energy companies. Just find energy companies and raise taxes on that. His proposal raised another $4 billion a year from energy companies.

    Well, there are a couple of problems with that. One is, that's a great way to raise gas prices again, as this administration has done so many times in some of the regulatory schemes that have happened to watch gas prices continue to trickle up. It is one more shot to do that. And the second part of that is, it's $4 billion. We have over $1 trillion in deficit spending. That does not solve the problem.

    {time} 1710 We are overspending a trillion dollars a year, and we are spending more than a trillion dollars more than what we did just 5 years ago. It is obvious with the highest amount of revenue in the history of our country coming in, we're spending more than a trillion dollars more than we did just 5 years ago, this is a spending-driven crisis.

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