Christopher Hildebrand contributed to this post.
In Washington, there are traditional “lines in the sand” beyond which politicians in each party dare not cross. For Republicans, defense spending has long been protected by that line. Likewise, spending on major entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) historically has been sheltered by Democrats. When it comes to the budget deficit, however, these lines must be dismissed in light of the seriousness of the problem.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) recognized this fact, and boldly proposed a package of spending cuts that included nearly $70 billion in specific cuts to defense over a five-year period. The cuts were part of a larger, $153 billion proposal entitled the “CUTS Act of 2011.” His proposal to cut defense spending signals that some Members of Congress are willing to make the tough decisions necessary to protect America’s future.
Regardless of the bill’s outcome in the House, Rep. Brady should be applauded for his willingness to begin a serious deficit debate that includes those areas of spending that have traditionally been considered off-limits by many in his party. Whether or not one agrees with every cut on the list, unlike many other proposals to “reduce spending,” Brady actually has enumerated his cuts. Congressman Brady has said that while there were things in his proposed bill that “frankly…even I don’t like,” he acknowledged that with these “dangerous deficits…there can be no sacred cows.”
Brady’s courage may have had some effect on the rest of his caucus: House Republicans announced on Monday that they would propose more modest cuts to domestic discretionary spending than had been advocated by many in the party in a bid to avoid being rebuffed by Senate Democrats and the White House. This moderation and search for compromise is a good start, and building off of President Obama’s State of the Union proposal for a five-year non-security freeze, we hope that the two parties will reach a deal on domestic spending caps. Ultimately, however, the true test of courage will be whether congressional leaders, along with the president, can pass legislation that also includes cuts to defense, addresses the major entitlement programs, and raises new revenue. The challenge is clear, the problem is understood, and the time for action is now.