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Portman pushes for prioritizing budget cuts

September 13, 2012

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman

With a continuing resolution and sequestration on the horizon, one U.S. senator from Ohio says both are a mistake and legislators should be prioritizing the country’s spending to rein in the debt and deficit.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says sequestration has been ineffective and has prevented Congress and President Barack Obama from reaching a budget which addresses the federal deficit and federal debt. He noted he continues to work with members of both parties to develop legislation to avoid sequestration from going into effect.

“I believe the best way to handle this is not on a 10-year basis but one year of cuts, which I understand would be about $100 billion,” Portman said. “It seems to me we should be able to find those reductions. I supported a specific proposal which would get us through the next year in light of this sequestration and that would give us time to come with the longer term budget and tax reform plan that I think is required.”

Portman said he believes his short-term cuts would

help in determining long-term cuts while crafting a budget for the future.

While he expects Congress to address a continuing resolution to extend spending at the rates of the current budget,   he said this move is not what the American people have entrusted legislators to do.

“We are not making decisions about priorities when we do a continuing resolution extending the policies and spending rather than looking at what programs are working, what are not working and coming up with what the taxpayers expect us to do which is prioritizing as we try to reduce the size and scope of government to meet our fiscal crisis we are facing,” Portman said.

Last November Democrats and Republicans agreed to sequestration which would make broad and deep cuts, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years, to government spending in defense and other federal social programs, in hopes Congress would find common ground on a budget. Sequestration was a result of the budget super committee not reaching a budget deal in.

In light of the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and a day after four Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens were killed at the hands of radical Islamists, Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says sequestration would have the most detrimental effect on the U.S. military and keeping Americans safe.

“Along those lines (attacks) we have a defense sequester in the works which is an across the board cut in defense spending that could have a pretty big negative impact on our military if it is not stopped,” Portman said Wednesday during a media teleconference. “As you know this is something Defense Secretary (Leon) Panetta has said would devastate the military and he has used the words ‘hollow out the military.’

“One of the reasons I am so concerned about it is it is not being done on the basis of our priorities and needs, it is being done in an across the board way which I think will have a negative impact on our readiness and our national security,” he said. “It also does have an impact on Ohio, of course, because of the strong military presence in Ohio including our largest single-site employer which is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”

Portman concerns are based on the fact defense spending cuts would account for 50 percent of the sequestration cuts, while annual defense spending accounts for 19 percent of the entire federal budget.

Portman also stumped for his Regulatory Accountability Act which would require agencies to provide a cost-benefit analysis with new regulations. It has already passed the House and many parts of the bill has been supported by Obama.

“Given this has bipartisan support, is a common sense approach and is generally supported by President Obama, I am hoping we can get a mark-up and actually get this legislation to the floor and get it passed,” Portman said. “It would basically say that independent agencies would be subject to the same cost-benefit analysis that is required of the executive branch agencies.”

He said the bill has nothing to do with Dodd-Frank or any other specific legislation.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act called for the consolidation of regulatory agencies, elimination of the national thrift charter and new oversight council to evaluate systemic risk. Brown said he believes it is an attack on this law.

“I am concerned because it could be backdoor gutting of Dodd-Frank,” Brown said. “We got into this mess because of what happened during the beginning of the Bush years, more tax cuts for the rich, more deregulation and a greater inability or unwillingness of those regulators across the board — they didn’t do what they needed to do.

“We passed a good strong bill and too many people are trying to weaken those rules and put us back into that situation,” he said. “I look at what has happened in the past 10 years and the architects of that bill should be ashamed of themselves. I haven’t read that bill yet, but that is what I understand it is trying to do.”

Brown also condemned  the acts of violence committed against American diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt including the killing of Stevens and three others at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“The attacks on Americans in Libya and Egypt were senseless and needless acts of violence,” Brown said. “The United States has rightly condemned these hostile acts, for which there is no possible justification.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the four American public servants, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, whose lives were lost as a result of these attacks,” he said. “The United States must move swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Portman, who talked to the surviving family members of Ohioans who died in the Sept. 11 attacks on Tuesday, said the attacks prove the need for a strong defense, noting the United States is still a target of terrorist groups. He also called the actions on Tuesday in the Middle East as deplorable and noted the families of those killed are in his thoughts and should be in all Americans’ prayers.

“We need to remain vigilant and last night (Tuesday) we learned sadly the threat from radical Islam is continuing but took the lives of four Americans in Libya, including the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens,” Portman said. “Of course, we also had attacks in Cairo and I have been in the embassy in Cairo and to be able to breach those walls takes quite an effort. It looks like no one was injured, but we did have the flag torn down and another flag flown over our embassy which is American territory.

“I think it just reminds us that we live in a dangerous world and we need to remain vigilant as those families reminded me yesterday when I made those calls.”

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