Sen. Mike Johanns says the budget agreement reached in Washington is, at best, a modest plan to address federal budget concerns.
“It’s clear that we need a plan that responsibly funds the government through the remainder of the fiscal year 2014, but this proposal really is raising red flags for me,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “We’re still studying it. It’s more complicated that it would seem, but I will say there are red flags everywhere.”
Johanns says the deal would raise spending caps approved through the Budget Control Act of 2011, which he says successfully reined in spending. It would return federal spending to the trillion dollar level.
According to Johanns, the Budget Control Act, through so-called sequestration, forced Congress to make hard decisions and provided pressure to deal with what Johanns considers the real issue of spending growth in entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare.
Johanns says he doesn’t object to replacing the sequester cuts with targeted spending cuts. The deal though, according to Johanns, appears to raise fees only to spend more and leaves out structural budget reforms.
Johanns says he knows a two-year budget agreement is welcomed by those seeking stability and an end to Congress lurching from crisis-to-crisis.
“But, I just worry that the Budget Control Act was really doing what it was intended to do and, at the end of the day, if we give that up, the pressure’s off to deal with some really important spending issues and those really involve entitlements,” Johanns says.
The deal maintains the status quo, according to Johanns, who adds the status quo won’t deal with the $17 trillion federal debt. He calls on liberals and conservatives to let go of their pet programs and focus on cutting spending.
“Everybody has their pet area and I’m just saying, I don’t think you can take things off the table.”
Johanns says conservatives must be willing to cut defense spending and liberal must be willing to cut domestic spending.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, a Democrat from the state of Washington, announced the $85 billion deal earlier this week.
The deal would fund the federal government through September of 2015.
It sets spending levels for the next fiscal year at $1.012 trillion and $1.014 trillion the next year; an increase in federal spending of $45 billion the first year, $63 billion over the two years.