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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

New President, New Budget

January 23, 2017
Weekly Columns
As President Trump begins his first 100 days into his presidency, Congress is busy working hand-in-hand with the new administration. Traditionally, the President presents the outlined budget for the next fiscal year in February. This begins the appropriations process to determine how each of our agencies and the entirety of our government are funded. A fiscal year expires on October 1st, so it is imperative that these appropriations are passed before that deadline.
 
Unfortunately, in the past few years, Congress has failed to find consensus on funding goals, and have not passed a budget since 2015. With each year, Congress has kicked the can down the road, and provided extensions for funding levels from previous years. A ‘continuing resolution’ does not meet the complex and changing needs of our federal agencies and the American taxpayer. A new budget will provide the conformity in respect to our federal spending.
 
President Trump knows he is faced with several complex, often competing, objectives. Federal spending, taxes, regulatory functions, rebuilding our military, reforming entitlements, replacing Obamacare and improving the job market are all on the agenda. 
 
One of the greatest distinctions that we must make in federal spending is discretionary and mandatory spending. They must find a balance in order for the budget to work. Defense allocations are discretionary, but programs like Social Security and Medicare are mandatory. And in order to balance the budget, we have to take more from one or the other, or generate more revenue by either raising taxes or spurring faster economic growth.
 
I’ve have long advocated entitlement reform in the context of balancing our budget. Unfortunately, that reform has faced many road blocks and scare tactics by politicians and interest groups who would rather have a political issue with which to frighten older Americans. In the past two Congresses, my colleague from Maryland, John Delaney and I have introduced a bill to be the very first step in carving the path to entitlement reform. 
 
Our legislation would create a national, bi-partisan commission composed of 13 members from both the Executive and Legislative branches. Appointed by leaders in both parties, any recommendation by the commission would need to gain the support of at least 9 of the 13 commissioners. And those recommendations must be voted on by Congress. It’s a substantive solution that will hopefully result in saving Social Security for future generations of retirees.
 
Without immediate efforts to modernize Social Security, the program will not be able to pay the benefits that workers rely on in the years to come. I hope this warning resonates with our new President and my colleagues. Balancing the budget is a delicate process. The most rational path to becoming a reliable source of support for our military, federal agencies and government programs is to look at the many different parts of funding and make pragmatic decisions on reform and change. I look forward to President Trump’s budget, and am confident it will create a path to prosperity for America.