Politico Op-Ed - "Restoring Fiscal Sanity" by Ranking Member Lewis

Apr 12, 2011
Press Release

 The following opinion-editorial, "Restoring Fiscal Sanity" by Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis, appeared today on Politico.com:

Restoring spending sanity
By: Rep. Jerry Lewis

The message being sent by Americans across the nation this election is crystal clear: They want a change in “business as usual” Washington politics.

They want Congress to cut spending. They want less government intrusion in their daily lives. They want leaders who will work for a stable and prosperous economic future for our country.

Regardless of the outcome on Nov. 2, Republicans are ready to show that we have heard these messages loud and clear. We are ready to immediately address these challenges with decisive – yet thoughtful – actions to rein in the government expansion and reverse the nation’s spiraling path to bankruptcy and long-term joblessness.

Many critics have questioned how House Republicans can meet their vow to change the course of Congress’s free-spending ways and bring down our record-breaking $1.3 trillion federal deficit.

To these critics, I say that reducing spending and putting the country back on a sustainable budget path can be done, it will be done and it has been done before.

Over the last four years, my Republican colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee and I have been at the forefront of this fight to return fiscal sanity to Congress. We know our top priorities must be to cut spending, reduce the size and scope of government and give U.S. business and the American people the chance to reenergize our economy.

In fact, we put forward a series of proposals to accomplish these goals. This year alone, Republicans on the appropriations committee offered dozens of amendments — all defeated by Democrats on party-line votes – to reduce spending by nearly $100 billion, essentially returning non-security federal spending to fiscal year 2008 totals.

Throughout four years of Democratic control, we have battled relentlessly for lower spending and less government intrusion. We have offered amendments for lower budget allocations; targeted cuts at unnecessary and wasteful federal programs, and fought against harmful government regulations that would kill jobs and place burdensome red tape on U.S. businesses large and small.

That’s not all. Our experience and successful track record – including a package of major spending rescissions when the GOP gained control of the House roughly 15 years ago – proves that Republicans are capable of achieving challenging spending cuts during difficult times.

Many may not remember that when Americans gave Republicans the majority in Congress in 1994, we on the Appropriations Committee took a stand against the outrageous spending levels approved over decades of Democratic control.

As a subcommittee chairman, I urged my staff to review every budget from the bottom up — taking a hard look at every single agency for possible cuts. Results were astonishing: In the first two months, we found $9.4 billion that could be cut with virtually no loss in important services.
Ultimately, the Appropriations Committee cut tens of billions more that year. We launched an extensive oversight review, which cut or eliminated a multitude of inefficient and unnecessary programs.

But we didn’t stop there. During my two years as appropriations chairman in the 109th Congress, we cut funding for 150 agencies and programs, and held non-security discretionary spending below inflation – for the first time since the Reagan administration. We stopped efforts to add extraneous spending to war-funding bills, and continued our strong oversight efforts to reduce the size of government.

Congress, however, is likely to face even bigger budget challenges next year. Democratic control has resulted in some of the largest spending increases in history. The passage of the “stimulus” bill, the health care bill, multiple government bailouts and huge funding increases for agency budgets across the government has led to an increase of more than 90 percent in non-security discretionary spending in just four years. Yet another trillion dollar-plus omnibus spending package could be on the horizon in the lame duck session.

To address these great budget challenges, we must not be distracted by a damaging and divisive internal debate on earmarks. Regardless of individual positions on this, the fact remains that they have become a symbol of Washington spending. Our efforts simply must not be focused on the fraction of a percent of the federal budget represented by these projects -- but on the tremendous task of cutting discretionary spending.

To this end, I believe it is necessary to take the issue off the table. I spoke vigorously in support of the existing moratorium. It is my intention to continue to support the Republican leadership and the conference in decisions to leave the current moratorium in placemoving forward. .

Republicans on the appropriations committee know that we must be at the forefront of the fight for our nation’s economic future. With fresh energy and additional fiscally responsible voices on our panel and in the House in the 112th Congress, we can rein in out-of-control spending, curtail burdensome and unnecessary government regulations and earn the trust of the American people.

We are ready, willing, and able to fight these battles, and are resolved to bringing our nation back to fiscal sanity.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) is ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

112th Congress