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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

We Can Function in Divided Government

December 16, 2013
Weekly Columns

The state of our nation’s economy is easily the issue that should concern our leaders, lawmakers and citizens most. Not only does it impact who we are and how we’re perceived today, but it also determines what kind of country our children and grandchildren will get to enjoy in the days and years ahead.

Our debt is climbing at an alarming rate. With more than $17.2 trillion in national debt, the outcry for solutions and real reforms couldn’t be louder. Over the last few years, however, the greatest challenge for lawmakers has been refusal to reach across the aisle and find areas of agreement. Instead, we’ve too often focused on our differences. Since 2009, due to the inability or unwillingness to negotiate (particularly with the budget), the federal government has depended on short-term funding agreements. What we’ve needed is a long-term budget plan, not a temporary Band-Aid that does nothing to heal our economy.

Hardworking American families desperately want their government to stop budgeting by short-term, continuing resolutions or refusing to talk at all. As we remember, the last continuing resolution (passed 17 days into government shutdown) extended government funding to January 13 and appointed a 29-person joint budget conference committee to negotiate a long-term budget. This conference was led by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray.

Last week, after weeks of discussion with each other and with the input of other conferees, Chairmen Ryan and Murray announced a two-year budget deal that would set overall discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion, including $63 billion in sequester relief and $85 billion in other savings like mandatory savings and non-tax revenue. It also included a short-term “doc-fix” that prevents most cuts to Medicare reimbursements.

When I remember the pain caused by the recent shutdown, I am encouraged that this conference was able to reach a deal that finds real savings, eases sequester and brings down the deficit. I am even more encouraged that the House came together on Thursday evening and passed the proposal with strong bipartisan support.

While this deal doesn’t address everything or solve all our spending problems, it is a starting point that represents true compromise and brings hope for future reform. By working together and engaging in real negotiations, Chairmen Ryan and Murray found targeted, smarter cuts that retain more than the savings resulting from sequester. But most importantly, passage of this legislation in both chambers restores regular order to the budget and appropriations process.

Through the leadership of Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray, we are reminded that, even in divided government, we can work together, talk to each other and find common ground.

We must continue finding common sense reforms that improve our economic outlook, bring down the deficit and provide a better future for our children and grandchildren. This budget deal is proof that is still possible.