There is no question that the past few years have been challenging for many Americans. Americans have weathered 45 straight months of unemployment ranging from 7 to 10 percent. After four years of running trillion-dollar deficits, our national debt currently stands at $16.2 trillion. These figures are so large that it is sometimes easy to forget that they have real consequences, but our debt level means each American owes nearly $52,000.
Last year, Congress and the President reached a compromise to put a $2.4 trillion down payment on our debt. While a portion of the cuts were spelled out in the law, the rest were to be decided by Congress. If an agreement is not reached by the end of the year, across-the-board-cuts, also known as sequestration, will occur in January. This means cuts to our national defense, Hanford cleanup, and Impact Aid, while completely ignoring entitlement programs that make up 60 percent of the federal budget and continue to grow year after year without Congressional oversight.
In January, Americans also face a looming tax increase as current tax rates are scheduled to expire - resulting in a $2,200 tax increase on the average family of four and the potential loss of 700,000 jobs.
The combination of these looming across-the-board cuts and tax increases are a very real threat to our fragile economy as it is still struggling to recover.
Back in March, I supported a budget blueprint that passed the House of Representatives, which included a plan to replace sequestration with responsible reforms, and to streamline our tax code by eliminating loopholes and using the savings to lower tax rates - giving certainty to families and businesses.
I don’t expect the Senate or President Obama to agree with everything in our proposal. However, neither the Senate, which hasn’t produced a budget in more than three years, nor the President have provided any plan for how to avert sequestration and looming tax increases. This has made it very difficult to negotiate a solution.
This month’s election results make it clear that the American people expect Congress and the President to work together to solve the serious challenges facing our nation, so that we ultimately leave a better world for our children and grandchildren.
I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Congress and President Obama to find solutions to avoid across-the-board spending cuts and looming tax increases, while addressing our national debt and giving our job creators the certainty they need to get our economy back on track.