By Sen. John Cornyn
Texas U.S. Senator
Texans would have been hit with the biggest tax increase in the history of our country if Congress failed to act on the American Taxpayer Relief Act in the early hours of 2013. The question I faced was, "Would Texans be better off with a massive tax increase?" In good conscience, I could not allow this to take place. I don't believe Washington needs more money; I believe Texans should keep more of their hard-earned dollars, which is why I voted for the act. This bill, while admittedly not perfect, makes tax cuts permanent for nearly all Texans.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the fiscal cliff ordeal was that President Obama engaged in the same type of brinksmanship that has become his hallmark. For the fourth time in two years, he stalled and delayed on critical fiscal policy actions.
In December 2010, it was the two-year extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. In the spring of 2011, a government shutdown was narrowly averted by a midnight vote on Capitol Hill. The following summer brought us to the brink once more when the president walked away from the negotiating table on a deal surrounding the debt ceiling. And, of course, Congress rang in the new year with a last-minute escape from the largest tax increase in American history.
In every instance, the looming deadline for action has been obvious. And in every instance, the White House has purposefully slow-walked the process in a shameless attempt to score cheap political points.
The result has been a series of manufactured crises that have brought the country to the brink of economic catastrophe. This is a terrible, acrimonious way of doing business. It diminishes global confidence in the United States, and it is a disservice to the American people. Simply put, this must change.
Over the next few months, we will reach deadlines related to the debt ceiling, the sequester and the continuing appropriations resolution that has funded federal operations since October. If history is any guide, President Obama won't see fit to engage congressional Republicans until the 11th hour. In fact, he has already signaled an unwillingness to negotiate over the debt ceiling. This is unacceptable. The president should immediately put forward a plan that addresses these deadlines, and he should launch serious, transparent budget negotiations.
The biggest fiscal problem in Washington is excessive spending, not insufficient taxation. Tax cuts didn't cause this problem, so tax increases won't solve it. If we don't reduce spending and reform our three biggest entitlement programs - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - then we will strangle economic growth, destroy jobs and reduce our standard of living. With the national debt above $16 trillion, and with more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities hanging over us, our toughest fiscal decisions cannot be postponed any longer.
Republicans are more determined than ever to implement the spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms that are needed to secure the long-term fiscal integrity of our country.
The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.
Submitted by the office of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).