Obama Must Be Willing to Prevent Sequester

Feb 23, 2013

For the past month, President Barack Obama has made numerous appearances from his State of the Union Address to this week’s White House press conference, where he has called on Congress to take immediate action to avert the impending sequester. In his remarks, he demands that the legislative branch find a “balanced” approach. However, he fails to tell the American people who is ultimately responsible for the sequester and what action has been taken to avoid it.

During the summer of 2011, House and Senate leadership began negotiations for a compromise that would increase the debt ceiling to prevent the U.S. Treasury from defaulting on our loans. After weeks of tumultuous talks, the Budget Control Act was hesitantly agreed upon by both Houses of Congress and sent to the president for his signature. The legislation required the formation of a bipartisan House and Senate committee, which was known as the “Super Committee,” to achieve supplementary budget savings. If a plan was not agreed upon, a “sequester” would be imposed of $1.2 trillion dollars in budget cuts to the Department of Defense and other government agencies. Sadly, the super committee failed to reach an agreement. Because I understood the implications sequestration would have on our national security, our military, and our economy, I did not vote in favor of this bill.

Last summer, the American people learned that the very idea for the sequester originated in the White House. The point in recognizing this fact is not to place blame on the president but to show the American people his hypocrisy. Instead of offering leadership, he is now calling on Congress to clean up the very mess he proposed and created without offering any kind of solution.

To make matters worse, over the past year, the House has passed two different bills that replace sequestration with common sense reforms. Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled Senate has refused to consider our proposals or even provide the slightest hint that they are willing to negotiate with us. It seems that if the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were serious about stopping sequestration, they would attempt to put a plan on the table, rather than make generic statements about how we must stop the sequester from destroying our national security and economy.

Beginning April 5 of last year with a bipartisan roundtable at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, my colleagues and I have travelled across our districts and states, bringing awareness to the severe impacts these drastic budget cuts will have on families. In a few short days, the Department of Defense is scheduled to incur nearly $600 billion in budget cuts. The President’s idea to further defund our military is completely irresponsible, as the Department of Defense has already endured three rounds of budget cuts since he took office in 2009. Further cutting our defense, will “hollow out” our military, a warning given by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Obama’s own appointee. In such a volatile global environment, we cannot afford to forget the lessons of September 11, 2001, and jeopardize our military’s readiness to protect our families from suicidal extremists.

Additionally, the impacts that the sequester will have on South Carolina’s economy are of grave concern. Because of its large military presence, the Palmetto State ranks 11th nationally in terms of the economies that will be hit the hardest from the sequester. The Army has predicted the Palmetto State will lose 5,527 jobs as a result of sequestration, with Fort Jackson in Columbia solely experiencing a $75 million budget cut. Not only will this directly impact the base itself, it will also affect hotel owners, restaurateurs, and other tourism industry professionals who will feel the burn because fewer military personnel will need their services. Even more ominous, these totals do not include the statistics from the other branches of our armed forces.

In recent days, the president has suggested that we can avert the sequester by raising taxes, but disguises the idea by calling them “revenues.” Higher taxes destroy jobs, shifting resources from small business job creators to the government. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted that the government will receive more in taxes next year than ever before. The President has already received his tax increases, the notion he campaigned on when he won re-election.

Our nation has a spending problem, and based upon his actions, the president refuses to recognize it. Instead of tackling our debt crisis by eliminating wasteful programs that spend millions by giving away cell phones and paying the elderly to play video games, he suggested placing our national security on the chopping block. The only way that we can come to an agreement and avoid these disastrous cuts is if the President and his leaders in the Senate offer true leadership and work with House Republicans to find a balanced-approach solution by addressing entitlement reform, the single biggest driver of our national debt.

Time is running out. The American people have less than a week until the sequester is implemented. It is my hope that the president will change course and begin practicing what he preaches by presenting a plan that is in fact balanced. The American people are depending on him and deserve it.

Republican Joe Wilson represents South Carolina’s 2nd District in the U.S. House.