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An Open Letter to the Congress: National Taxpayers Union’s Views on H.R. 2775

October 17, 2013

Dear Members of Congress:

In the limited amount of time Congress afforded itself, the agreement on H.R. 2775 is among the less-objectionable options to temporarily suspend the debt limit and provide funding for the federal government that could also be enacted. Though far from ideal, this bill avoids many of the egregious provisions that could have made it untenable for taxpayers. Upon passage of this legislation, National Taxpayers Union (NTU) on behalf of its 362,000 members urges Congress to subsequently focus its efforts on substantially reducing spending and reforming entitlement programs.

In a letter to Congress on October 7, NTU urged adherence to four basic principles during negotiations over the debt ceiling and continuing resolution: 1. Do not raise taxes, 2. Resist the temptation to include extraneous measures, 3. Preserve the sequester, and 4. Enact meaningful entitlement reform.

H.R. 2775 does not raise taxes or include unrelated, government-expanding legislation. On both of those points, Congressional leaders deserve praise. The legislation also succeeds in preserving the sequester, though in funding the government at a level of $988 billion instead of the $967 billion set forth by the Budget Control Act of 2011, it relies on the sequestration mechanism to trim spending to its legal requirement. This is acceptable, but less than optimal. Additionally, it would have been preferable to include legislative language providing the executive branch with additional flexibility as departments and agencies adjust to the BCA spending caps. However, by keeping the sequester in place, Congress has demonstrated some willingness to address the serious debt problem facing the country.

Unfortunately, besides a provision regarding bicameral budget negotiations, H.R. 2775 achieves little on the critical issue of entitlement reform. Congress should have used the past several months to pursue significant spending reductions via modifications to entitlement programs. These savings then could have been used on a dollar-for-dollar basis to increase the debt ceiling. This should be of the utmost priority for lawmakers between now and February 7, 2014, when the debt limit suspension is scheduled to end.

While in many ways a disappointment, H.R. 2775 avoids potential pitfalls that would have made it an unacceptable deal for taxpayers. Once it has temporarily resolved the government funding and debt ceiling issues, NTU strongly urges Congress to focus its attention on entitlement reform.

Brandon Arnold
Vice President of Government Affairs