Solution to U.S. Budget Woes Will Come from Senate, Says Congressman

By Valerie Insinna
Deadlines to counter sequestration, raise the debt ceiling and approve a continuing resolution are looming over Congress, but a Democrat said he was skeptical the House of Representatives will be able to devise a grand bargain in two months.
"As attractive as it is intellectually, I don't frankly think the system is capable of digesting that,” Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Jan. 16 at the Surface Navy National Symposium in Arlington, Va. “Hopefully we are going to get something with a decent horizon long enough [away].”
In the past year, the major Congressional legislation and compromises — including the Budget Control Act, the payroll tax cut extension and the continuing resolution — have been brokered by Senate leadership before being approved by the House.
If history repeats itself, any action preventing sequestration will likely come out of the Senate, Courtney said. “I frankly say this as a House member who is somewhat disappointed that we're not … generating or originating more of the measures that can then help this country get through these challenges.”
Sequestration would slash the Pentagon budget by an additional 9 percent unless Congress and the Obama administration reach a compromise by March 1 on spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Congress could also decide to kick the can down the road in order to give the defense industrial complex a little more time. In the fiscal cliff negotiations, Vice President Joe Biden advocated delaying sequestration for two years, a measure Courtney said he would have supported.
“Unfortunately the votes were not just going to be there at that point at the end of December to turn off sequestration for two years,” he said. “We only have, obviously, a two month turn off, which is not much solace for people who are trying to do any kind of planning."
As for the House accomplishing anything, “There are hopefully some signs that we see an emerging working group that is getting things done. It’s not easy to break out of the traditional caucus process to get measures passed, but the fact is, we've done it now four or five times” in the past year, he added.
Failure to pass another continuing resolution would cause a government shutdown, but operating under an extension is still not an optimal situation for the Defense Department, officials have said. Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus has visited the Hill to testify on why it would hurt Navy programs and operations to continue funding the fiscal year 2013 budget at 2012’s levels.
“Frankly, I don't think a lot of members really grasp that,” Courtney said. “It's so easy to say, 'let's just do an extension, and then we don't have to really ... do a lot in terms of trying to make adjustments for anomalies in the spending level of 2012.'"
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget

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