Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by former Senator Pete V. Domenici and Dr. Alice Rivlin, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, on the recent sequester negotiations:
“During our four decades in Washington, D.C., we have negotiated several major fiscal agreements. These negotiations were difficult. Reconciling strongly held views is never easy. Our history tells us, however, that reconciling differences has been and can be done again today.
“The failure of the parties to negotiate an alternative to the sequester profoundly disappoints us and the American public. The challenge of developing an alternative seems eminently doable, compared to previous fiscal challenges that we negotiated successfully. The sequester is bad policy. The economic recovery remains extremely fragile, and immediate spending cuts will act as a further fiscal drag while doing nothing to address the drivers of our future debt burden.
“Three things must happen if the federal government is to stop lurching from fiscal ‘crisis’ to fiscal ‘crisis.’
“First, the president should call the senior representatives of the parties together to Camp David – or any place with a table, chairs, and no TV cameras – for serious negotiations on replacing the sequester with firm, enforceable beginnings of a comprehensive long-term debt stabilization agreement.
“Second, when the alternative to the sequester emerges from such negotiations, and it must emerge, the leadership of Congress and the president must make passage of the agreement their foremost legislative priority. Both sides must be willing to spend political capital to get this problem solved.
“Finally, participants in such an agreement must be willing to tell those on the polar extremes of their parties that a central majority consensus will govern.
“It’s called leadership.
“This failure of leadership has led us to the current impasse. Instead of addressing the real drivers of future federal spending –the rising cost of many more retirees eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in the decades ahead – our politicians choose to risk our national security and cripple investments for the nation’s future in education and training, infrastructure, research, and science. Instead of raising sufficient revenue to pay for needed government programs by simplifying and modernizing the federal tax code for the 21st century, politicians choose to retain outdated, economically distorting tax subsidies of the 20th century. All sides in the current fiscal follies share blame.
“We reject the argument that the ‘process is dysfunctional.’ Past leaders have negotiated compromises that moved the country forward. Now is the time for our current elected leaders to do the same.”