Full Text Political Headlines February 26, 2013: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Remarks on the Senate Floor on the Sequester — Smarter Cuts, Not Tax Hikes





Smarter Cuts, Not Tax Hikes

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 2-26-13

“I’d like to say a word about the sequester.

“The President’s top aides proposed the sequester as a way of helping the White House avoid a debt-limit debate during last-year’s campaign.

“In essence, the deal we struck was that, in exchange for avoiding a second vote before the election, the debt limit would be paired with spending cuts only, and would not involve a tax increase.

“The President had more than a year and a half to revisit his proposal and work with us to prevent it. He obviously thought his time and energies would be better spent elsewhere.

“In fact, I note that today he’s off campaigning again in Virginia instead of working with us to resolve the issue.

“So here we are.

“The President’s been running around acting like the world’s going to end because Congress might actually follow through on an idea he proposed and signed into law – all the while pretending he’s somehow powerless to stop it.

“Well, it’s time to put the record straight. And as someone who was personally involved in the 2011 budget talks, I think I’m uniquely qualified to do it.

“On the question of who came up with the idea in the first place, it originated, as I just noted, in the White House. I was less than 100 yards from this very spot when Vice President Biden called me at my desk to lay it out. He explained the sequester in exquisite detail, and then, as has been reported, the administration stubbornly stuck by those details throughout the negotiations, refusing any effort by Republicans to adjust its design in any way.

“More important than who came up with the idea of the sequester, however, is the fact that the bipartisan agreement that included it and that brought us to this point envisioned $2.1 trillion in spending cuts. Let me say that again: Democrats and Republicans agreed to $2.1 trillion in cuts as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“So we can all go back and talk about what might have been, or what the President wanted or now wants. But let’s be clear about the facts.

“Those cuts were to come in two steps.

“First, through an immediate $900 billion spending reduction in the form of budget caps, and then by an additional $1.2 trillion in cut to be achieved one of two ways: either by the so-called Supercommittee or, if that failed, through the President’s sequester proposal – meaning automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense programs.

“And while the President tried repeatedly to make tax hikes a part of the backup plan, he ultimately gave up on that in exchange for avoiding a second vote on the debt limit before the election. The President made a deliberate decision, in other words, to give up on getting any tax hikes – or revenue enhancements, or whatever the White House wants to call it – as part of the negotiations over the sequester mechanism.

“He made the calculation that avoiding a second vote on the debt limit before the election was more important. So any effort to bring taxes into the picture now is just a ploy to move the goal posts, as the primary chronicler of this whole episode, Bob Woodward, has noted.

“Of course, the White House has tried to refute these historical facts, but it hasn’t gotten anywhere.

“As the Chairman of the Finance Committee helpfully reminded us last week, ‘The President is part of the sequester’ because ‘the White House recommended it … and so now we’re feeling the effects of it.’

“So it’s time for the administration to at least accept reality so we can all move forward and focus on what the White House is actually doing right now. It’s asking the American people for permission to break its own word on spending.

“We reached an agreement to cut $2.1 trillion in government spending over 10 years, and we intend to keep our word.

“Should these cuts be implemented in a smarter way? Absolutely. But the President and his cabinet secretaries had a year and a half to think about that. They can’t just show up now at the last minute and expect the American people to bail them out of their own lack of responsibility.

“We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the President’s way with across-the board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to.

“It was my hope that the Supercommittee would have succeeded. The Senators I appointed took that assignment very seriously. They put real skin in the game, because they wanted it to work. They didn’t like the sequester idea. And had the President engaged in a serious and supportive way at that time, the Supercommittee may very well have succeeded. He chose to campaign, and I’d argue, undermine the process instead.

“But even after the Supercommittee failed, Republicans continued to work to find another way to achieve these cuts. We repeatedly called for replacing the sequester with smarter cuts, rather than tax hikes, according to the original pact. House Republicans passed two bills to do just that. But again, instead of engaging with us, the President just set up more roadblocks.

“For more than a year, he resisted and dismissed every Republican attempt at a compromise. He refused to offer any kind of reasonable alternative, and he even threatened to veto other proposals aimed at averting the sequester. And now, here we are, with the President presenting the country with two options: Armageddon or a tax hike.

“Well, it’s a false choice, and he knows it. But then, the President’s a master at creating the impression of chaos as an excuse for government action. Do nothing. Fan the flames of catastrophe. Then claim the only way out is more government, in the form of higher taxes.

“Look: the choice we face isn’t between the sequester and tax hikes. Remember, we’re only talking about cutting 2 to 3 percent of the budget. Any business owner or middle-class parent will tell you it’s completely ridiculous to think Washington can’t find a better way to cut 2 to 3 percent of the federal budget at a time when we’re $16 trillion in debt.

“Every single working American had to figure out how to make ends meet with 2 percent less in their paychecks last month when the payroll tax holiday expired. Are you telling me Washington can’t do the same? It’s absurd.

“There’s no reason in the world these cuts need to fall on essential services or emergency responders. After all, even with the sequester, Washington will be spending more than when President Obama got here. We’re only talking about cutting a tenth of what the President spent on the stimulus bill.


“Step one in this process of getting to a serious solution is to end the White House’s denial of historical reality. We’re starting to get there, slowly but surely.

“More important, though, is the next step: that’s when the President and his Democrat allies actually come to the table and negotiate in a serious way, without gimmicks and without games on how best to reduce Washington spending. So let’s please shelve the tax hikes and the endless campaigning.

“Finally, I think there’s an even larger point to be made here. The President’s been going around warning of utter chaos if the sequester takes effect. And while I agree that those cuts could be made in a smarter way, and don’t like the fact that they fall disproportionately on defense, what does it say about the size of government that we can’t cut it by 2 to 3 percent without inviting disaster? Doesn’t that make our point? Hasn’t government gotten too big if just cutting the overall budget by a couple percentage points could have that kind of impact?

“Personally, I don’t believe the world will end if the President’s sequester takes effect. But our country would be much better served if the Democrats who run Washington would get off the campaign trail and work with us to trim the budget in a more rational way.

“Americans are tired of the manufactured crises. I know my constituents in Kentucky are. They’re just tired of it. They want us to work together, and Republicans are ready to do just that.”

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