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Statement of Principles: H.J. Res. 59, the Continuing Resolution
September 27, 2013
By Nan Swift
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to express our views and principles surrounding H.J. Res. 59, the Continuing Resolution. Normally, NTU would issue a Vote Alert in advance of such a vital matter, providing guidance on how heavily we intend to weight various roll call votes pertaining to the legislation for purposes of our annual Rating of Congress. Unfortunately, owing to a combination of ever-shifting parliamentary and political strategies, the current process driving the Continuing Resolution does not afford us the opportunity to analyze potential votes in relation to each other. Until Congress commits to a more structured, conventional debate, whereby we can provide specific evaluations, we urge you to bear in mind the following essential precepts that should inform your deliberations.
Votes to fund the government over and above the spending caps prescribed in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 would represent a worsening of the budgetary and tax situation for future generations – a situation that is already painful in light of a federal budget deficit that will exceed $600 billion even with BCA’s caps in place. This in turn begets a second principle: opting to raise taxes on the current generation of individuals and businesses would be equally unwise. Congress already agreed to considerable tax increases on January 1; taxes associated with the 2010 health care law are only worsening the problem. A further boost to these burdens could shatter our fragile economic recovery.
Policy battles over many issues have punctuated the latest “fiscal cliff” debate, none more so than “Obamacare.” To be clear, NTU supports full repeal and replacement of the law with pro-taxpayer, pro-free market alternatives that emphasize competition and individual choice in health care. In the current policy environment, lawmakers ought to at least be able to achieve bipartisan consensus on delaying the individual coverage mandate, just as the White House ordered a one-year hiatus in the business mandate. In any event, the focus of H.J. Res. 59 is still about how much the government should be spending. And on that question the law is quite clear. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the spending caps put in place by the BCA for Fiscal Year 2014 total $967.5 billion: $498.1 billion for defense and $469.4 billion for nondefense budget authority. Any attempts by Congress to peg spending above this level would result in the Office of Management and Budget issuing a sequester order within 15 days of the end of the current session. Rather than seeking gimmicks to avoid sequestration and boost expenditures, Congress must commit to thoughtfully setting priorities within BCA’s boundaries.
The BCA was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in an attempt to stop the persistent “can-kicking” in Washington. While there are still serious fiscal time bombs looming on the horizon in the form of mandatory spending (including Obamacare’s liabilities), achieving discipline in the discretionary portion of the budget is a success that must be vigorously protected.
As the Senate and House move forward in their deliberations over H.J. Res. 59, NTU urges legislators to be mindful that taxpayers expect them to keep their promises by maintaining the BCA’s $967.5 billion cap. Although many aspects of the CR and associated floor activity remain indeterminate, we can provide the following guidance with certainty: any votes to exceed this cap without making dollar-for-dollar spending reductions in other parts of the budget will be heavily weighted in NTU’s annual Rating of Congress and a “No” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.
Federal Affairs Manager