Reid Op-Ed: Avoiding the Next Budget Crisis

“Republican control of Congress means constant crisis… Congress has just begun its August recess, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use this time productively and open budget negotiations. I say to my Republican colleagues, let’s get started — there is no good reason to wait until the last minute.”

“Democrats have two simple principles. First, these must-pass appropriations bills must not be hijacked for ideological or special-interest riders… Second, any funding increase for the Pentagon must be matched with at least a dollar-for-dollar increase on the side of domestic priorities, including domestic antiterror programs.”

“Our tax code gives billionaires like Mr. Trump ways to dodge paying their fair share and shift the burden to the middle class. Democrats believe that hard-working, middle-class Americans should pay less tax than the Donald Trump class, not the other way around.”

 

Las Vegas, N.V. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid published the following op-ed in the New York Times today highlighting the need to reach a bipartisan budget agreement to spare the American people from another unnecessary government shutdown. You can read it here.

Over the past five years, Washington has lurched from one crisis to another — the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, the 2012 “fiscal cliff,” the 2013 government shutdown — spooking markets and rattling Americans’ faith in our nation’s democratic institutions.

The situation started when Republicans took over the House in 2011, but it has picked up rapidly since they took control of the Senate earlier this year. The conclusion is unavoidable: Republican control of Congress means constant crisis.

In the seven months that Republicans have controlled the Senate, we’ve suffered from the expiration of critical national security tools, come within hours of partially shutting down the Department of Homeland Security and witnessed a complete shutdown of the Export-Import Bank, a previously uncontroversial agency that supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Routine business like confirming nominees is ignored.

While Republicans have kept virtually none of their promises about how they would run Congress, one promise they have kept is their vow to use essential appropriations bills to manufacture even more crises. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican Senate leader, laid out this strategy last year, saying that President Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process.”

True to those words, Republicans now are abusing the funding process to manufacture one of the biggest crises of the past few years, with conservatives demanding that ideological and special-interest riders be added to must-pass funding bills.

We’ve known for months that government funding runs out on Oct. 1. Senate Democrats have been calling on Republicans for months — both publicly and privately — to sit down with us and work out a bipartisan path so that we can avoid another shutdown. So far, we’ve been met with nothing but silence.

Congress has just begun its August recess, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use this time productively and open budget negotiations. I say to my Republican colleagues, let’s get started — there is no good reason to wait until the last minute.

Democrats have two simple principles.

First, these must-pass appropriations bills must not be hijacked for ideological or special-interest riders.

The far right wants riders aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood, among other things. Republicans have already tried repealing or undermining the health care law 60 times since 2011 and failed every time. The Supreme Court has upheld it twice. It’s time to move on. The same goes for efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which would limit women’s access to contraceptives, breast cancer screenings, wellness visits and other critical services.

Republicans control both chambers of Congress and can bring these types of partisan, ideological proposals to the floor separately whenever they choose. Holding the government hostage to riders like these is not just wrong — it’s an admission that these proposals are outside the mainstream and lack the support to pass on their own merits.

Second, any funding increase for the Pentagon must be matched with at least a dollar-for-dollar increase on the side of domestic priorities, including domestic antiterror programs.

Discretionary federal spending is split about evenly between the Pentagon and virtually everything else. Splitting one dollar among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and every other domestic program — like jobs, education and cancer research — in return for every dollar consumed by the Pentagon alone is more than fair.

The good news is that there is bipartisan support for ending the cuts known as the sequester, the arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts that were enacted after the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011. In June, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, urged congressional leaders “to come together and repeal sequestration.” Representative John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House, once compared the sequester to “taking a meat ax to our government.” I agree.

In their budget, Republicans proposed ending the sequester and borrowing $38 billion for the Pentagon, but provided not a single extra penny to meet our domestic needs.

We are open to Republicans’ ideas on how to pay for the additional funding, but middle-class Americans should not have to pay a dime more. Our tax code remains skewed to benefit multimillionaires and big corporations, so there are ample savings available to restore cuts to both the Pentagon and domestic budgets if we simply close loopholes and ask the superrich to pay their fair share.

When Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, was asked how much he pays in taxes, he boasted, “I fight like hell to pay as little as possible.” That illustrates one of the major reasons the rich keep getting richer while the middle class struggles: Our tax code gives billionaires like Mr. Trump ways to dodge paying their fair share and shift the burden to the middle class. Democrats believe that hard-working, middle-class Americans should pay less tax than the Donald Trump class, not the other way around.

These are Democrats’ principles. Most Americans agree with them. It is time for Republicans to come to the table, forge a fair budget deal and spare the American people yet another unnecessary, manufactured crisis.