Roby Column - April 19, 2011
In Washington, the Big Spenders Are on the Retreat
Last week, House Republicans passed the largest reduction in federal spending in our nation’s history. The Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution approved by Congress reduces spending by nearly $40 billion. Importantly, it funds our troops at home and abroad, and it keeps the U.S. government open through the remainder of the year. Approved by a wide margin, the bill’s passage marks the opening shot in the larger battle to cut borrowing and spending in Washington.
In truth, many of us wish that the cuts went even deeper. Although Republicans represent a majority in the House, we remain a minority in Washington. House Republicans cannot impose our will on Senate Democrats, who represent the biggest barrier between the American people and a government of less spending and less debt. So long as Democrats run the Senate, we will have to fight for every dollar of spending cuts.
Even so, passage of $40 billion in cuts is good news for taxpayers. That is why the bill was supported by every member of Alabama’s House delegation, more than 70 percent of the House’s fiscally-minded freshmen class, and nearly three-fourths of all Tea Party-endorsed House members.
One issue about the bill deserves clarification.
Some have expressed concerns over news reports that suggest the Continuing Resolution may cut only $350 million, not $38 billion. I, too, was startled when these articles surfaced last week. One Associated Press report stated that, [A] “Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that the spending bill due for a House vote today would cut just $352 million from the deficit through Sept. 30.”
To better understand the situation before I voted, I took part in a briefing with a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and I spoke at length with our own Senator Jeff Sessions, now the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. After learning more about the intricacies of government accounting, I came away confident that the legislation will cut spending by nearly $40 billion.
The difference between “budget authority” and “budget outlays” caused confusion.
To understand the difference, consider this: Suppose each Monday a father gives his son a week’s allowance of $25. The son plans to spend a little of the money each day over the course of the week.
In this example, the $25 represents “budget authority,” while the various amounts used each day in the future represents “budget outlays.” If you cut the budget authority, as House Republicans did in the Continuing Resolution, the dad saves money—regardless of when the son would have used it. Once the budget authority is cut, the son does not have any allowance to spend at all.
Recognizing this, the conservative “Weekly Standard” declared the blowup over the relatively small $350 million FY2011 budget outlay—which is equivalent to what the son might have spent immediately—as “much ado about little.”
At the end of the day, House members were presented with a clear choice: vote “yes” to cut $40 billion in spending or “no” to keep the status quo. I voted to cut the spending.
Since January, Republicans have been cleaning up last year’s mess left by Democrats who failed to approve any of the required FY2011 appropriations bills. In some ways, the cuts included in the Continuing Resolution are a bonus: we never expected to have the opportunity to reach back into last year’s spending to block spending. But the complexities of this process demonstrate how difficult it is to cut spending in Washington, and how important it is that we start talking in terms of trillions—not billions—in cuts.
Once on the offensive, House Republicans passed our 2012 budget, a historic proposal to cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade. This transformational plan also calls for lower taxes and much-needed repairs to ensure that Medicare is available for future generations of Americans. These are the sort of big picture issues that conservatives have been waiting to tackle. If fully enacted, the Republican budget would move our country away from the liberals’ vision of a powerful central government and back towards the limited government, free market economy that helped make America strong and prosperous.
Passing the 2012 budget represents a monumental shift in the debate over the size and power of government. The principles behind it—less borrowing, lower taxes, less spending—are driving the debate in Washington. We have much work to do, but the tide has shifted. The big spenders are on the retreat.
Legislation to Defund Planned Parenthood
The first piece of legislation I offered as your Representative was a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Under H.Con.Res.36, Planned Parenthood would be defunded in the Continuing Resolution. A fundamental provision struck in the bicameral agreement on the Continuing Resolution was that both chambers agreed to an up or down vote to defund Planned Parenthood.
In a speech on the House floor last week, I explained that about one of every four U.S. abortions is performed at a Planned Parenthood location or at one of their affiliates. The legislation I introduced would prevent any federal funds in the recently passed Continuing Resolution to go to Planned Parenthood. American taxpayers should not be compelled to support activities that they consider offensive and immoral.
The more taxpayer dollars that are awarded to Planned Parenthood, the more abortions the group will perform. By taking away federal funds from Planned Parenthood, they will have to spend more of their private money on basic services and overhead cost rather than diverting those funds towards abortions. From 2000 to 2009, Planned Parenthood saw an 80 percent increase in taxpayer funding that resulted in a 69 percent increase in the number of abortions and a 61 percent decrease in the number of adoption referrals.
While this legislation successfully passed the House, those in the Senate failed to pass it out of their chamber. I am proud that this legislation provided every member in the House and the Senate an opportunity to vote against funding for Planned Parenthood. I am unapologetically pro-life, and I believe we must always fight for the lives of those who do not have a voice – the unborn.
In the Office
A large part of my role as your representative is to meet with scores of individuals and groups in Alabama that are working to improve our local communities and making the state of Alabama a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share your thoughts and concerns. I value your time and your interest to speak to me about the issues that are important to Alabama.
While working in Washington, D.C., I recently met with members of the Alabama Optometric Association. Thanks to Amanda Buttenshaw, Dr. Bill Sullins, Dr. Keshia Elder, Dr. Kim Ocampo and Dr. Duane Mohon for meeting with me. I also recently talked with students from Goshen public school on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during their trip to Washington, D.C.
Thanks to Alabama Fire Chiefs and Firefighters for speaking with me during their visit to Capitol Hill. I was also happy to meet with Colonel Brian Killough, Commander, 42nd Air Base Wing, Maxwell-Gunter AFB, and several Air Force airmen in my Washington, D.C., office. Also, thank you to Charles Marvin, Joan Erickson and Dick Erickson with the Military Officers Association of America for meeting with me.
Also thank you to the Stringer Family - from Montgomery - for their visit with me after their tour of the U.S. Capitol.