It comes as no surprise to anybody that Congress is struggling to do its job these days. “Kicking the can down the road” has become an all-too common saying inside the beltway.
That is exactly where Congress stands right now with the looming sequester cuts: massive spending “cuts” in defense and non-discretionary spending. I use quotes because, in reality, the sequester is a reduction in the rate of spending and not an actual spending cut.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern over these drastic cuts, ranging from House Speaker John Boehner all the way up to President Obama.
The fact that Washington could not come up with a plan to stave off these cuts is, in my opinion, inexcusable.
You see, these automatic cuts were part of a budget plan that Congress passed in 2011. That’s right, Congress had more than a year to prepare for these cuts.
To put this into better perspective, we knew about these automatic cuts that would be going into effect at the end of 2012, nearly five months before Danny Coale was robbed of his game-winning catch in the Sugar Bowl.
Americans too often forget that our representatives in Congress work for us. Members of Congress knew this was coming down the pipe, and yet we still spent most of last December wondering if Congress would come up with a plan at all.
They managed to postpone the cuts for only two months, and yet some people on Capitol Hill thought this was cause for a pat on the back. It is becoming more and more inevitable now that these cuts will go into place on March 1.
So why is this such a problem? Why am I, a fiscal conservative and proud Republican, actually in disagreement with these spending cuts?
The first reason is that these cuts will be extremely costly to Virginia. Many Virginians don’t realize that some estimates suggest the sequester cuts could result in Virginia losing over 200,000 jobs.
Virginia weathered the recession fairly well compared to other states. I largely credit this with the fiscally conservative leadership of Governor McDonnell. (Side note: If McDonnell could get a Republican House and a Democratic State Senate to pass a budget, there is no reason why Obama cannot do the same in Washington.)
Nearly half of the sequestrations cuts will come in the form of defense cuts. Virginia is home to the Pentagon, the CIA, the world’s largest Naval base, the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Langley Air Force Base and more.
While Virginia faired better than the country as a whole over the past few years, our good fortune could be changing soon. Even more frustrating is the fact that, while the House has put forth budget plans to fix this mess, the Senate has not. Where are Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on this issue? Why are they not speaking up and trying to protect Virginia jobs?
The other reason I am worried about these cuts is the simple fact that Congress could not avoid them. Congress had 16 months to avoid these cuts and come up with a real plan to cut spending responsibly, and it failed to do so.
The fault lies on both sides of the aisle. Because Congress cannot seem to get its act together and do the job it was sent to Washington to do, the American people, and Virginians, are going to suffer.