By Congressman Adam Smith (D-District 9)
It is critical that Congress pass a bill that allows the United States government to operate.
The consequences of a long-term government shutdown are dramatic and unacceptable. Twice, the Senate has passed a clean funding measure to avoid this shutdown, but House Republican leadership refuses to give House members an opportunity to vote on it.
The government is not shutting down because of a disagreement on federal spending levels. Legislation agreed to by the Senate includes spending levels that Republicans demanded under sequestration. We are shutting down because House Republicans are refusing to fund the government unless their hyper-partisan policy demands are agreed to.
This is akin to Democrats saying we refuse to fund the government unless gun safety measures are passed. Holding the funding of our government hostage to force their partisan agenda is irresponsible and shameful.
The debate we should be having is about our larger spending and budget issues. We have a budget that is out of whack and a deficit that we need to get under control. We need to return to regular order and pass thoughtful long-term appropriations bills that aim to reduce our deficit by raising revenues and cutting spending. But the American public and, in turn, their representatives continue to demand balancing the budget in the short-term while opposing attempts to significantly raise taxes or cut spending. As long as Congress and the American people demand 10 dollars worth of services for every 7 dollars of taxes, we will be unable to work on forward-thinking, fiscally responsible policies.
I am not advocating that we balance the budget in 10 years. The combination of deep spending cuts and higher taxes in the short-term could hurt our recovering economy. We must be mindful of not cutting too much too quickly. We need a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to begin to get the deficit under control. I support rolling back many of the tax cuts passed in the last 12 years because I am determined to raise the revenue necessary to protect critical programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, transportation, and our national defense.
With that said, mandatory spending is nearly 60 percent of our budget, and savings must be found in this part of the budget even to achieve the modest goal of deficit reduction.
I hope we can end the gamesmanship in the House, open the government, and pass a long-term budget that raises taxes and finds savings in all parts of spending. Until the American people and members of Congress are honest about the choices we face, we cannot have a serious conversation about reducing the deficit and balancing the budget in the long-term.
Adam Smith (D) represents Congressional District 9, which includes Federal Way.