MY VIEW: Judd Gregg September 2013

Congress returned to Washington today and lawmakers will find their to-do list packed. But in today's The Hill, former Governor and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), co-chair of the Fix the Debt Campaign, writes that only one domestic issue must be resolved by the end of this month: the budget and the debt.

With the expiration of the continuing resolution at the end of September and a deadline on the debt ceiling as soon as mid-October, the budget will demand attention in the next month. With this prime opportunity to resolve our fiscal troubles, lawmakers should resist any suggestion that the budget can be put on the back burner. Gregg writes:

It is true the deficit has dropped a great deal in the last six months. It is also true that the sequester, if allowed to continue to operate, will cut that deficit even further. But no great solace should be taken from either fact, even though certainly on their faces they represent positive movement.

The fact that the deficit is down by over half from its high point is like saying that a person who has fallen off a tall building is doing "OK" when they are only halfway down.

When CBO's long-term projections are released later this month, we will likely see confirmation that the steps taken so far, while admirable, have still left us with a long way to go to solve our debt problem. According to our CRFB Realistic Baseline, debt will exceed the size of the economy by 2037 and explode in the decades that follow. Lawmakers have resisted repealing sequestration without a replacement so far, showing they are committed to at least maintaining it until they find agreeable replacements, but the sequester does not contain long-term savings. Gregg notes:

The sequester does save money and it does cut spending, but it does it in the wrong places, in the wrong way and at the wrong time.

The issue has never been discretionary spending. This is especially true after the almost trillion dollars in cuts put in place with the agreement reached in the summer of 2011.

The issue has always been entitlement spending and how to change the major entitlement programs so that they can be put on a glide path to sustainability, even as they still serve as a necessary safety net for seniors.

The problem and solutions are well-known in Washington, but that does not mean action will be taken. For Gregg, there are no excuses: it is time to find agreement.

The folks are back in Washington. One presumes they came back to do something. Or is that too optimistic?

Click here to read the full op-ed.

"My Views" are works published by people affiliated with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.