The new Republican majority that will take over the U.S. House of Representatives in January is already sowing the seeds of an overreach. According to The Washington Post, "the first major bill to be considered when the new Congress convenes in January will be one that would cut federal agency spending by $100 billion." After that, the incoming House majority leader has vowed to have a vote every week on legislation to cut federal spending, but won't elaborate on what is on the chopping block.
Tea party candidates who campaigned on extreme agendas are certain to oppose raising the debt ceiling, which could result in another disastrous federal government shutdown and a default on our obligations that could cause another global financial crisis.
It would be a mistake if the only lesson Democrats take away from the 2010 midterm elections is that they should defend the status quo. We lost a historic number of seats on a wave of anger over the struggling economy. But it would be a bigger mistake to drastically roll back federal initiatives that Americans are relying on during these tough economic times.
Republicans have already said they will oppose extending unemployment benefits unless Democrats agree to $6 billion a month in spending cuts -- abandoning more than 2 million Americans who will struggle to survive if critical jobless benefits aren't extended. These Americans are the Purple Hearts of the recession and should be one of our priorities, along with those who need Medicaid assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or insurance coverage under COBRA. Respected economists agree that helping such Americans with timely, targeted, temporary assistance will stimulate the economy and provide a social safety net to those most in need.
The federal debt, as well as current economic challenges, demands that both parties come together to form a long-term plan to improve our nation's financial well-being. We should temporarily extend the Bush tax cuts to the 98 percent of Americans who represent the middle class and who generate the spending upon which our economy depends. We should renew the estate tax at its present level and rate -- a move that won't grow the deficit. Many newly elected tea party members are already proposing to eliminate the estate tax altogether and extend the Bush tax cuts to millionaires, a terrible idea that will greatly increase the deficit.
President Barack Obama has appointed a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel to make recommendations on how to improve our nation's fiscal position. Doing so is vital to our long-term economic health and will ensure that Social Security and Medicare survive for future generations.
I'm convinced we can get the country back on the right fiscal path if we work together, and we can start by supporting programs that work and cutting those that do not. We must keep teachers in the classroom, police officers on the beat, and firefighters on the ready. These essential jobs were preserved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and continue to need federal support.
According to the Center for American Progress, we could eliminate all nondefense, nonentitlement spending and still have a $1 trillion deficit. That means that we must join together to restore our fiscal health in a way in which everyone contributes.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is incorrect in stating that the federal budget can be balanced by cutting discretionary spending while excluding the Department of Defense and other sacred cows from any cuts. The numbers just don't add up. Approximately $1.1 trillion of the $2 trillion federal budget is discretionary spending. More than half the discretionary budget is made up of nearly $700 billion in defense spending.
When looking to balance a budget and reduce deficits, one must look at all discretionary spending -- including defense. While we all want to ensure that our country has a strong military, there is unquestionable waste in the defense budget and weapons programs that exist solely for the benefit of contractors -- not the country or our national security.
It is a certainty that the new majority in the 112th Congress will be tested on their ability to stabilize and improve the economy. I have a good working relationship with Republicans in Washington and see us working well together on the Surface Transportation Authorization Act, the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, and my Aerotropolis Act for the benefit of Memphis. As a minority member, I will do everything in my power to fight for a strong budget that is good for the 9th District and our nation.