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Congressman says spending needs to be addressed
Nation heads for another ‘fiscal crisis'
Congressman Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday the government’s spending binge has to be stopped in order to cut into the deficit.
McCarthy, R-22nd District and the majority whip in the House of Representatives, was one of a handful of Republicans who voted against the spending bill last week that avoided what many were calling a “fiscal cliff.”
“The pressure was more to vote for it than against it,” conceded the congressman during an interview with The Recorder. He said the government has a $16 trillion deficit and a $15 trillion economy.
“Here is the time to correct the problem. All I saw was more addition to the problem,” he said of the vote that raised taxes, mainly on the wealthier Americans, but did nothing to address spending.
McCarthy pointed out that the tax hike on the rich will generate just $31 billion this year, while a 2 percent jump in revenue has added $30 billion to the government.
While it took lawmakers, including President Obama, until the last minute to reach a deal on the tax hikes after weeks of wrangling, another cliff is approaching, this time action to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans say they will need to see spending cuts before approving increasing the nation’s debt limit above $16.4 trillion. The President has hinted at wanting more tax increases.
McCarthy says spending has got to be brought under control.
The Majority Whip said discretionary spending, such as defense, ag and education, has been held in check, but it is the mandatory spending, such as Social Security and Medicare, that continues to rise.
“All revenue is going to mandatory spending,” he said, explaining it is the discretionary spending that is pushing the deficit. He said in the past fiscal year the government took in $2.4 trillion, but spent $3.5 trillion. “We can’t sustain that,” he said.
He said reforms to Social Security and Medicare are necessary and anything less would be “kicking the can down the road” again.
“There are some things we can do now, they’re not instant savings, but would bring savings down the road.” One of those ideas is to gradually increase the age limit for Medicare. The congressman said that would be substantial savings down the road.
He said so far the president has not shown the leadership needed to deal with the problem. He said Vice President Joe Biden got more accomplished in six hours than the President had accomplished in six weeks, but so far the White House has not come up with a plan to cut spending.
“There is nothing going after the core of the problem,” he said.
McCarthy did agree that it is time to work on the tax code.
On Wednesday, some Democrats said the President should consider invoking a little-known constitutional provision that they say gives him the power to raise the debt ceiling without going through Congress, where Republicans are demanding that a debt ceiling vote be linked to spending cuts.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made a similar remark Sunday in insisting the two issues — raising the debt ceiling and reducing spending — shouldn’t be coupled.
“Right now we have to pay the bills that have been incurred,” Pelosi said. “And if you want to say cut spending for what we do next, fine, but don’t tie it to the debt ceiling.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Sunday Republicans were prepared to see the nation default on its spending obligations.
“It’s a shame we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress to get the president to deal with the biggest problem confronting our future, and that’s our excessive spending,” he said.
McCarthy wonders when the President and his Democratic colleagues will address spending and he feels the American public wants spending addressed.
“I think the next three months is when the public does not just sit back and watch,” he said.
He is also not fearful of missing the deadline, explaining the government can prioritize what bills to pay if the government goes past the time it will run out of money. He said it would have been better to have gone over the fiscal cliff. That would have forced both sides to deal with revenue and spending.
His hope is the House will pass a bill that has spending cuts, then the Senate will pass its bill and the two bills will go to a compromise committee that will hash out the differences.
However, he could not speculate if that will happen since the Senate has not passed a budget in three years.
On another matter, McCarthy said he was confident Congress will approve a five-year Farm Bill this session. Just before New Year’s Congress approved a one-year extension of the existing bill.
McCarthy officially became Porterville’s representative in Congress when the new Congress convened Jan. 3. He spent most of the day Wednesday meeting with local constituents and touring sites such as the new fairgrounds, Young’s Commercial Transfer and the Porterville Women’s Shelter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.