The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 24, 2013

Bill Shuster | Beware the Ides of March

JOHNSTOWN — President Obama’s alarmist tone on the coming perils from sequestration brings to mind the prophetic warning of Shakespeare’s soothsayer to Julius Caesar before his death. This political scare tactic has been played up by an administration that not only failed to offer an alternative, but also failed to give the American people a plan ahead of time to deal with the looming cuts.

Sequestration is a result of lengthy, unsuccessful negotiations to address our nation’s debt and deficit issues. While sequestration is not the best way to reduce spending, it was a backstop in the event that an alternate plan was not worked out. Due to the inability of the Senate or president to come up with an alternative or accept the two proposals put forth by the House, we find ourselves facing a myriad of threats across the board for reduced services and cuts to our nation’s military.

The administration has taken little time to make the most of the fiscal uncertainty the president’s sequester has caused, alarming Americans with threats of economic collapse, reduced security at airports and disappearing supplies and layoffs for public schoolteachers.

Last week, officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement testified before the Judiciary Committee that they released over 2,000 illegal immigrants charged with DUIs and other crimes solely for “budgetary constraints.” This comes at the same time the federal government is advertising a $24/hour internship in Iowa and a NASA internship for $83,000 a year.

The administration is playing politics with our economy, and their scare tactics are unacceptable.

As chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have repeatedly questioned whether the administration and the Federal Aviation Administration explored all cost-saving options to comply with the sequester before taking dramatic steps to furlough workers and close air traffic control towers. It is hard to believe that the FAA can’t find 2 percent savings without putting our nation’s security at risk by laying off air traffic controllers.

Restoring fiscal balance doesn’t require jeopardizing our infrastructure or security. It requires smart planning and tight budgeting. We have to prioritize spending and cut waste. House Republicans have a plan that would balance the budget in 10 years. The Ryan budget cuts spending by $5 trillion over 10 years and makes needed reforms to entitlement programs in order to preserve them for future generations. This budget creates jobs, gets our economy moving again and puts more people back to work and fulfills the promises House Republicans made to the American people to cut spending and end business-as-usual in Washington.

While House Republicans have put forth a plan, we can’t fix Washington’s spending problem alone. We need the Senate and the president to come to the table to work with us. The Senate is expected to pass a budget for the first time in four years thanks to a recently passed law that requires Congress to pass a budget resolution each year.

Unfortunately, the proposed budget from Senate Demo-crats increases government spending by $265 billion and increases taxes by at least $923 billion. While I disagree with the Senate plan, I am pleased to see them at least take a position on the budget and put it out there for the American people to see and judge.

I look forward to working in Congress this year to prioritize and cut spending and put our nation back on track to economic prosperity. I hope the president will take time out from playing to the left on sequestration and work with us to balance the budget and fix our national debt.

Congressman Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cambria, Somerset, Bedford and Indiana counties.

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