Charge: Replacing pending defense cuts is not necessary. Defense budgets have steadily increased and our military could easily endure a 10 percent cut in 2013.
Response: If we do not replace the scheduled across-the-board cuts to our nation’s defense, the consequences will be real and our nation will ultimately become significantly less safe. Sequestration would require massive force reductions of more than 200,000, leaving the smallest ground forces since 1940 and a remaining force more vulnerable to emerging threats. It likely would entail breaking compensation, health care, and other support commitments to generations of service members, families, and survivors who already have spent decades sacrificing their personal interests in service to their country. If we fail to replace these arbitrary cuts, the consequences will include:
Even the president’s own defense officials agree that these indiscriminate cuts would be devastating to our National defense.
Charge: Republicans rhetoric on defense cuts is a scare tactic. Automatic cuts would not pose a serious threat to our defense capabilities.
Response: While the president defends massive, arbitrary cuts to defense, high-ranking Administration officials have articulated the dangers if these cuts are allowed to take effect. According to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, “I will tell you that I am prepared to say that sequestration would pose unacceptable risk.” Going even further, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said of the arbitrary defense cuts, “We’d be shooting ourselves in the head.” The people of this country should not be in greater peril because their leaders in Washington failed to act. Thirty one military service and veterans organizations urged Congress this week save America’s Armed Forces from the “catastrophic impact that sequestration would have on the defense budget and future national security.” Organizations like the Military Officers Association of America, the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, the National Military Family Association, National Guard Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars to name a few, joined together to demand action to prevent sequestration. These military and veterans associations represent more than 5.5 million members plus their families and survivors.
Charge: Instead of cutting important funding for programs like food stamps, Republicans should focus on making cuts to wasteful defense spending and upholding the commitment they made in the Budget Control Act.
Response: Rather than allowing pending defense cuts that President Obama’s own Defense Department has called “unacceptable,” this proposal makes common-sense reforms which target waste and abuse in federal programs that are fraught with both. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Food Stamp program has long been victimized abused and mismanaged which keeps resources from getting to those who need them. According to a 2010 GAO study, “the amount of SNAP benefits paid in error is substantial, totaling about $2.2 billion in 2009.” The recent Government Services Administration scandal (GSA)—where the agency spent $823,000 on a lavish Las Vegas-area conference, including $75,000 for a “Team-Building” exercise, a $31,200 “Networking” reception, and mind reader—reiterates that just because the government spends more money doesn’t mean we’re getting better results. Examples of waste, fraud, and abuse include:
The House Republican proposal would seek to eliminate waste and abuse in the Food Stamp program in order to ensure that benefits actually go to those who really need them. Rather than making dangerous and indiscriminate cuts, this process targets waste and abuse while assuring that those really in need are still served by this important program.
Charge: This process unfairly replaces cuts in defense spending with massive reductions in funding for the nation’s most vulnerable, namely food stamp recipients.
Response: The proposal achieves these savings by making common sense reforms in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. Over the last 10 years, the cost of the SNAP program has grown 270 percent. Since 2008 alone, the program has grown by 100 percent, in part because of the failed economic policies of this Administration, and in part because of rampant abuse in the program. This legislation would close loopholes, reduce waste and abuse, and increase the integrity of the program to ensure SNAP serves only those households who qualify for the program. Compared to current spending levels, our proposal would cut costs by 4 percent. The heated rhetoric surrounding these actions is simply misinformed. Here are the facts on what we’ve proposed:
Charge: These proposals unfairly cut benefits for needy families.
Response: Families that qualify for SNAP benefits under the program law will continue to receive benefits. These proposals close loopholes and attempt to eliminate waste and abuse in SNAP administration. These reforms actually help target SNAP benefits to those in need.
Charge: SNAP costs are temporarily high because of unemployment but will drop soon, so these reforms are not necessary.
Response: Over the past 10 years, SNAP costs have increased almost three-fold. In February 2009 – the President’s first full month in office – unemployment stood at 8.3 percent. As of January 2012, the unemployment rate was back at 8.3 percent, where it was when the President took office. However, over the same time period, the monthly cost of SNAP has increased by 66 percent, from $3.7 billion in February 2009 to $6.2 billion in January 2012. SNAP program costs are soaring well beyond historical participation and spending patterns.
Charge: These proposals take nutrition assistance from vulnerable households so Republicans can protect the wealthy.
Response: By closing loopholes, these reforms will actually prevent wealthy individuals from taking advantage of SNAP benefits. By reforming automatic food stamp eligibility, we will ensure that lottery winners do not slip through the cracks because states do not administer asset tests. By preventing states from exploiting the interaction between the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and SNAP, we will ensure that token $1 checks are no longer given to inflate SNAP benefits by hundreds of dollars. One reform included in these proposals originated from the previous majority in the last Congress. They agreed to terminate an artificial increase in SNAP benefits from the American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to find savings for other priorities, such as a teachers’ union bailout. Republicans will use the nearly $6 billion in savings for deficit reduction.
Charge: The spending reductions in this proposal are draconian and would result in an unacceptably low amount of government spending for vital programs.
Response: Even with the common-sense reforms contained in this proposal, government spending would still increase rapidly. Over ten years, this proposal would reduce spending by $261 billion, or about one half of one percent of the $46.1 trillion that CBO projects the federal government to spend in the next ten years under the president’s budget. And contrary to Democrats’ disingenuous claims, important social safety-net programs would not be decimated. Food stamp funding, for instance, over the next 10 years would be 4 percent less than CBO projects under reconciliation.
Charge: Democrats have proposed to achieve greater deficit reduction from targeted, balanced policy choices, rather than the approach of deep cuts in spending taken by the Republican reconciliation proposals.
Response: There is a clear choice to be made: arbitrary defense cuts that would make our country less safe; or common sense reforms that address waste, fraud, and abuse and ensure taxpayer dollars are more effectively spent.Democrats have yet to offer a credible solution to replace these dangerous defense cuts. Instead, Democrats have talked vaguely about tax increases on our nation’s small business owners and job creators at the worst imaginable time. While both Republicans and Democrats have warned of the consequences from both immediate sequestration cuts and the looming debt crisis, the Administration and leading Senate Democrats refuse to advance credible solutions. The Administration insists on taking more money from hardworking families and small businesses, and the Senate Democrats have failed to pass a budget in more than 1,000 days. How can Democrats purpose to have any solutions when they haven’t even passed a budget?
Charge: This plan eliminates the Social Services Block Grant program, which gives federal funding to states and cities to assist 23 million low-income children, seniors and disabled Americans by providing money for Meals on Wheels, abuse prevention programs, child care centers and job training programs.
Response: The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is a source of Federal funds that states use for a wide variety of social services. Begun in 1956 as a way to match State spending on services to help families leave welfare, the SSBG is now a 100 percent Federal funding stream that can be used to provide almost any service to anyone regardless of their income. Many of the services funded by SSBG are duplicative of other federal programs including the Community Services Block Grant, Head Start, Foster Care and Adoption Assistance, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Child Welfare Services, Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, among many others.
Democrats say that ending the SSBG will end critical services for millions. So what exactly is the most common “critical service” supported by SSBG funds today? It’s called “information and referral services,” which were provided to 4.9 million recipients in FY 2009. “Information and referral services” are defined as providing “information about services provided by public and private service providers.”In other words, the single most common “service” supported by SSBG funds is not child care, or meals on wheels or whatever else Democrats’ overheated rhetoric suggests. It’s to cover state administrative costs of providing people with information about and referrals to other government programs and services. Our common-sense proposal would eliminate the SSBG program saving taxpayers almost $17 billion over 10 years, according to CBO.
Charge: This plan would cut $5.4 billion by eliminating direct spending for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, making it the only banking regulator subject to the annual appropriations process.
Response: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a large and powerful Federal agency that is—by Democrat design—accountable to neither the executive branch nor Congress. Its Director has the unprecedented and sole authority to decide which financial products Americans can and cannot use. In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the CFPB to fund itself by drawing money directly from the Federal Reserve to whatever extent the CFPB Director deems “necessary” up to $548 million in FY 2012, $598 million in FY 2013 and 12 percent of the Fed’s operating expenses each fiscal year thereafter. Not Congress, not the President, not even the Federal Reserve which provides its funding can oversee how the CFPB Director spends these hundreds of millions of dollars. To correct this glaring lack of accountability, this bill proposes to make the CFPB subject to the ordinary congressional appropriations process and authorize the appropriation of $200 million to the agency for FY 2012 and FY 2013. This will ensure proper oversight and accountability, and according to CBO achieve savings of $5.4 billion over ten years.
Charge: This plan would cut $11.9 billion by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, an account used to pay for cancer prevention and public-health programs.
Response: The Democrats’ government takeover of health care created a “Prevention and Public Health Fund” controlled by the Secretary of HHS. This slush fund was designed to supplement spending on public health programs (all programs within the Public Health Service Act are eligible for funding). The law created an advanced appropriation of $16 billion for the first ten years of the program and a permanent $2 billion annual appropriation for the fund in perpetuity. Our proposal would repeal the fund. An identical proposal introduced by Rep. Pitts passed the House 236-183. While some of the funds were used as an offset for the physician payment fix earlier this Congress, CBO estimates that this proposal will save approximately $11.9 billion over ten years.
Charge: This plan would cut $83 billion in spending by requiring federal and postal employees to pay more towards retirement benefits.
Response: Federal employees, including Members of Congress, receive significantly higher compensation than the average private-sector worker. Federal employees benefit from one of the most generous pension programs in the country. In addition to having generous contribution and defined benefit plans, federal employees pay a relatively modest amount towards their defined benefit retirement. While in the private sector the cost of retirement benefits are split relatively evenly between the employer and the employee, under the defined benefit portion of the Federal Employee Retirement System, federal employees receive a lopsided 15-to-1 match for their pension. In other words, for every $1 that a federal employee contributes towards the cost of their defined benefit pension, the taxpayer is on the hook for $15. The proposal would increase pension contributions by 5 percent of salary over five years for current federal employees. Members of Congress will pay an additional 8.5 percent of salary. These increases bring the employee contribution to approximately 50 percent of the normal pension cost and according to CBO will save taxpayers approximately $80 billion. At a time when working Americans are suffering in the worst unemployment crisis since the great depression, shouldn’t federal employees and Members of Congress at least contribute the same amount to their retirement as their private sector counterparts?
Charge: This unbalanced approach to deficit reduction – focused only on cutting investments rather than also closing tax loopholes – is the wrong choice for America
Response: House Republicans have already passed a budget that would end tax loopholes and corporate carve-outs in a way that would lower overall rates and spur innovation, investment, and economic growth. This plan is in line with those reforms and replaces dangerous defense cuts without adding to our crippling debt. This Administration’s policies of tax increases, subsidies for Solyndra, and record debt are failing the poor, as poverty rates have grown to record highs. Democrat budget proposals would result a debt-fueled economic crisis and the unraveling of our social safety net. They would couple this disaster with the largest tax increase on small businesses in American history, which would no doubt make the unemployment crisis worse. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for 39 consecutive months as Democrats promise more borrowing and higher taxes on small businesses. Democrat prescriptions have made the economy worse. More debt and higher taxes on job creators are not the answer to our economic problems—they are the cause of them. This Republican proposal would stop needless and dangerous defense cuts and make common-sense reforms to ensure that federal programs served their intended purpose. And it would do so without crushing tax increases that would further stifle our struggling economy.
Charge: The Sequester Replacement Act alters the spending targets agreed to in the House-passed FY2013 budget.
Response: Under current law the statutory cap on discretionary spending is $1,047 billion ($546 billion for defense and $501 billion for non-defense) until January 2, 2013 when it becomes $949 billion. Under the Sequester Replacement Act, the statutory discretionary cap is $1,047 billion until January 2, 2013 when it becomes $1,028 billion the discretionary level set in the House-passed budget resolution. The timing of the change in the discretionary cap is exactly the same as in current law. Consideration of appropriations bills is governed by the budget resolution’s 302(a) allocation. This allocation remains at $1,028 billion. Any appropriations bill that would cause discretionary spending to exceed that level is subject to a point of order under the rules of the House. The Sequester Replacement Act does not change that fact.