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COLUMN: Federal Budget Deal Shows Misplaced Priorities

November 2, 2015
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

Our nation’s fourth president and the architect of our Constitution, James Madison, once made the striking statement that, “I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse, and in a Republican Government a greater than in any other.” The wisdom of this Founding Father’s words still rings true today, which is why last week, after careful consideration, I made the decision to vote in opposition to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

I could not vote for this budget because it fails on multiple counts: it fails to tackle our national debt or rein in federal spending on behalf of taxpayers. Not only does the budget authorize billions in additional government spending beyond limits set by the Budget Control Act, but it also harms farmers and rural communities.

While fiscal responsibility certainly demands paying the bills our nation incurs and adequately funding our national defense in a timely manner, increasing domestic spending and raising the federal debt limit without sufficient debate defies sound planning. Waiting until the last minute threat of a potential debt default to present a strategy for paying our debts is no way to determine the nation’s financial course.

Any federal budget should take into account the current eye-popping national deficit, estimated to reach more than $19 trillion by the end of fiscal 2016. That is almost $60,000 for every man, woman, and child living in the U.S. The two-year budget deal allows spending caps currently in place to be raised by $80 billion. The budget deal’s process and priorities are clearly misplaced.

One of the misplaced priorities is the provision regarding crop insurance. As a farmer myself, I understand how crop insurance is a critical, last-resort tool that provides stability and reassurance for farmers. This budget reduces reimbursement to insurers who provide crop insurance. This would likely destroy the private crop insurance market and pave the way for reinstating government-run crop insurance – leading insurance providers to flee the market in droves. For farmers and rural producers, access to credit for their operations is often linked to having crop insurance. Unless this provision is revised, it means that many farmers and producers will be unable to get credit. This provision is unacceptable. I will be working with the House Agriculture Committee Chairman and my colleagues to reverse this cut to crop insurance.

Another misplaced priority is the budget deal’s provision reducing reimbursement for certain physicians and medical providers. The new reimbursement rate fails to account for the costs associated with running a hospital, such as an emergency department, and it results in reimbursement cuts that will harm many hospitals in small rural communities.

On the topic of personal debt, Benjamin Franklin wrote to admonish readers to “think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.” As we move forward under new congressional leadership, my hope is that a clean slate and improved process will ensure that we protect our liberty by tackling our national debt.