MY VIEW: David Walker February 2013
Former U.S. comptroller general and CRFB board member David Walker writes in a Poltico op-ed about the need for lawmakers to focus on reaching a compromise on a bipartisian deficit reduction plan. He draws inspiration from the "No Budget, No Pay" provision in the debt ceiling bill, which withholds Members' salaries until their respective chamber passes a budget resolution.
Walker wants to further put pressure on Congress to reach an agreement by requiring the members to stay in Washington and not recess until a comprehensive agreement is reached. Noting the many fiscal issues Congress must address in the coming months, he writes:
We need a fiscal grand bargain in 2013, and we have several critical deadlines facing us over the next several months that must be addressed: automatic spending cuts (sequestration) that kick in March 1; an expiration of the funding for fiscal 2013 and possible government shutdown on March 27 (if continuing resolutions aren’t passed); budgets that must be approved by April 15; and the deferred debt ceiling confronting us again on May 19. Elected officials should use these upcoming deadlines as an incentive to move toward that ultimate grand bargain, and this deal must effectively address the huge structural deficits that pose a serious threat to our collective future.
Clearly our elected officials have very little time to achieve a lot of things. They have even less time than you’d think for a reason you may find hard to believe: Congress plans to be adjourned and outside of Washington for a full month during this critical period!
Yes, you heard right. Starting with last week, the week of Jan. 28, the House of Representatives has breaks scheduled that include Feb. 18-22, March 25-April 5 and April 29-May 3, and the Senate plans to take several weeks off as well. And this is not unusual. For example, according to the House calendar, it only plans to be in session during 2013 for 49.5 percent of weekdays. Compare that with a person who typically gets 20 days off a year (10 vacation days and 10 holidays) — they work 92.3 percent of weekdays.
It’s outrageous that at a time when our nation’s finances are in such disarray, and the clock is ticking on our potential debt bomb, our elected officials are taking “spring breaks” and a week off for every federal holiday instead of focusing full time on the task at hand. For this reason, my organization along with other groups is launching a new campaign we are calling No Deal, No Break. The premise is simple: Stay in Washington, do your job and strike a meaningful fiscal deal that can restore fiscal sanity. And until that happens, don’t recess.
It's important that members of Congress interact with their continuents so that they can best represent the voters in Washington, but it is also important that the members have enough time to sit down and work out an agreement on the pressing issue of debt and deficits. We cannot wait any longer.
Click here to read the full op-ed.
"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.