The Edmond Sun

November 6, 2013

Let’s start where we can agree

Rep. Tom Cole
Special to The Sun

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Political opinions aside, it is clear that our economy is broken and that our debt is growing at an alarming rate. In fact, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office recently called our situation “unsustainable indefinitely.” The entire nation was reminded and awakened to this grave reality during the past several weeks — first with the lapse in appropriated funds that caused shutdown and second with the debt ceiling deadline that, without action, would have resulted in default.

While both sides eventually agreed on a short-term funding measure to reopen the government and protect the full faith and credit of the United States, it wasn’t the long-term solution that our country hoped for or still needs. The American people long for leaders in Washington to set the example of working together. Instead, we have grown accustomed to living crisis to crisis, relying on short-term fixes that allow our debt to keep rising with no end in sight. In fact, this bad habit of not passing an actual budget through both chambers has been going on since 2009.

Fortunately, along with the funding agreement, lawmakers approved the formation of a budget conference committee to reconcile the two very different budgets of the House and Senate. As one of the House Republican conferees, I am encouraged by the opportunity to negotiate real reforms and hope we can work together to find common ground.

Now the challenges we face on this committee are significant. The task ahead will not be easy and cannot be taken lightly. But as I’ve said before, if we have any chance at a solution, we need to start where we agree. We also need to realize that negotiations don’t and shouldn’t end in this committee. Rather, the discussion should be the starting point that encourages lawmakers and the president to acknowledge and address our fiscal challenges.

The president and House Republicans agree that we need to reform entitlements. And both agree that there are pro-growth policies that would yield additional revenue to the federal government without raising tax rates. Working together, we can find common ground that will enable us to reduce or even eliminate the impact of the sequester and continue to lower the deficit.

I’ve been quoted saying that “revenue should be on the table,” and I believe that it should but not in the way some have suggested. More revenue doesn’t and shouldn’t mean higher taxes. I think tax rates are already extraordinarily high for hardworking American families, but there are alternative ways to generate revenue and grow our economy. Policies could include repatriation of corporate profits from overseas, expanded oil and gas exploration both offshore and on federal land, and the sale of federal assets — just to name a few.

Beyond reforms that grow the economy, the committee should set forth a path that allows for expedited consideration of a tax reform package. It has been more than 25 years since we have taken a comprehensive look at our tax code. In that time, the fundamental nature of our economy has changed. It makes sense for our tax code to now reflect the priorities of the century in which we now live.

While Republicans maintained their majority in the House in the last election, Democrats retained control of the Senate and White House. Sadly, “compromise” has become a dirty word in Washington, and it has prevented lawmakers from performing the basic functions of the jobs to which they were elected. Whether we like it or not, compromise is necessary in divided government. Otherwise, the American people are the ones who lose.

It’s time to end the common place habit of relying solely on short-term funding agreements and actually pass a budget.



U.S. REP. TOM COLE, R-Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.