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Rep. Thornberry Discusses His Plan to Delay Obamacare and Prevent Sequestration

On March 1, automatic, across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, began in many federal programs. There is widespread agreement that the effects on defense will significantly impair the ability of the military to protect our nation’s security. Even some of the domestic cuts will damage programs related to health and safety.

We must cut spending and we must do it in a smart way.

Protecting Defense

In March, the House passed a spending bill to continue government operations until the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2013 (H.R. 933) by a vote of 267-151. I supported its passage. 

The legislation includes a full-year Defense Appropriations bill, as well as a full-year Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.  These two individual bills passed the House last year on a broad bipartisan basis and have been negotiated by both the House and Senate. In addition, the measure denies over $1 billion in funding requested by the Administration for implementation of Obamacare. The bill does not include any new funding for the health care law, the vast majority of which falls under mandatory spending with other entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

The country is facing some serious budget choices, and no government agency should be immune.  We can find ways to save significant money while protecting essential things like our national security.  This bill does just that by giving the Pentagon some flexibility in implementing the steep, automatic sequestration cuts they are facing while keeping overall spending at the lower levels.

Except for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the spending will extend funding for other government agencies at last year’s levels. However, the funding within the bill is subject to sequestration cuts. This means that the funding rate within the legislation is approximately $982 billion – the level required by the President’s sequestration order.

While the President and others in his Administration continue their sky-is-falling campaign to scare Americans about the immediate impact of sequestration, in the House we are focused on using careful, targeted, and responsible cuts to get our fiscal house in order.

My Solution to Sequestration

I have introduced a bill, H.R. 607, to replace the across-the-board spending cuts with savings from delaying further implementation of the Obama health care law. Many of that law’s provisions will take effect next January, yet the federal government will not be ready.

Delaying all further implementation of the health care law for two years would give the federal government time to better prepare for it, and it would save taxpayers approximately $130 billion, which is $45 billion more than what would be saved by sequestration.

In summary, we can stop the destructive consequences of sequestration, and we can reduce the chances of health care disaster at the same time.

There should be no doubt that spending must be cut. The issue of taxes was decided by the new fiscal cliff law. We must concentrate on spending now to get our fiscal house in order.

Under sequestration, half of the reductions will come from defense, although defense spending makes up only 19% of total federal spending. Furthermore, laws already enacted have reduced the defense budget by more than $400 billion over the next ten years.

In the coming weeks, Congress and the President will face the expiration of the government funding resolution, the requirement for both the House and the Senate to pass a budget, and reaching the debt limit. Then we must deal with the real driver of our debt – mandatory spending programs, which comprise two-thirds of federal spending and which are largely exempt from sequestration. Delaying the health care bill and substituting those savings for the across-the-board cuts will give Congress and the President the opportunity to focus on the real problem without devastating defense.

Of course, I have voted a number of times to repeal the health care law entirely. I continue to believe that would be the best course, but it is unlikely to happen with President Obama in the White House. Delaying its implementation by two years, however, would be in everyone’s best interest.

There are other ways to cuts spending and substitute those savings for sequestration. I have also cosponsored a plan to cut spending by reducing the number of federal employees over time. Last year, the House passed bills twice to replace sequestration with targeted cuts in high growth federal programs. I am open to considering other reasonable options as well.

I believe that the first job of the federal government is to defend the country, and the ability of the federal government to do that will be severely damaged by mindless, across-the-board cuts under sequestration. There are better alternatives. Congress and the President should act on them.

Below you will find links to interviews I participated in with Fox News and MSNBC regarding the sequester and my bill.

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