Mike Needham
Over thirty years ago, in 1978, the United States government ran an annual deficit of $59 billion. In that year, a fiscally conservative legislative strategy might have been to cut $2 billion a week for the last seven months of the year. These “multiple bites at the apple” would have eventually, by year end, eliminated the deficit and actually resulted in a small surplus.

Much as the presidency of Barack Obama resembles that of Jimmy Carter, we are not in 1978. Our nation is at a tipping point and our fiscal situation is bleak. Today, we have a projected $1.65 trillion deficit. $61 billion is a mere drop in the bucket of red ink our nation is piling up literally by the minute.

Today, multiple $2 billion bites at the apple are woefully insufficient for the times we live in. Yet, according to Politico, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “are considering pushing forward a series of short-term continuing resolutions with targeted spending cuts that would be difficult for Democrats to oppose.”

Getting the $61 billion in cuts is an important trust-building measure between the American people and Washington – and the tea party activists and the Republican Party – since neither Washington nor Republicans have any credibility after the last ten years on the issue of spending. It is not, however, the only policy battle we must win this year.

Shortly, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will release the Republican budget for fiscal year 2012. It is vital this is a bold budget and conservatives must fight for boldness in the appropriations battles that will follow.

Sometime this spring, there will be a fight over whether to raise the debt limit. Conservatives must fight to have transformational policies attached to any legislation which raises the debt limit. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. We cannot have another clean increase of the debt limit this year, which would be the sixth such increase in the last four years.

A series of short-term continuing resolutions with targeted spending cuts risks sweeping away all of these subsequent fights. What possible reason is there to believe Republican leadership will stand firm on demanding transformational changes to spending are attached to a debt limit increase if Senate Democrats are claiming this position will simultaneously lead to a government shut down and default on America’s debt?

If Republicans blink now, why would a tea party activist who worked so hard in 2010 to give them another chance to be relevant in Washington not believe they will fold again and again down the road?

A strategy of short-term extensions from now until the end of the fiscal year makes no sense. It is the Washington establishment equivalent of a baseball team, down 17-1, deciding to stand at the plate and foul off pitches for the rest of the day.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate needed more time to consider H.R. 1 – the House spending bill which would cut $61 billion – since it was sent to the Senate on a Saturday. The question of time to consider H.R. 1 is a funny one considering the Senate’s first move after the House passed that legislation was to take a one-week vacation.

Last week, Senator Reid released an alternative that offered only a token $6 billion in cuts. It appears Senator Reid doesn’t have a real plan to cut spending. Enter Joe Biden. As you may recall, President Obama claims “Nobody messes with Joe.” Vice President Biden was tapped by President Obama to broker a deal between the House and Senate on the budget. With two weeks left on the clock until the next budget showdown, what does Joe do? He leaves for a five-day trip to Europe. I guess it’s tough to mess with him there.

There seems to be a pattern developing. In Wisconsin, when Democrats want to stall what Governor Walker is trying to do, they flee. Two weeks ago, faced with a continuing resolution passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate went on vacation. Today, Vice President Biden, tapped with brokering a compromise, leaves for Europe.

The House of Representatives has passed a modest $61 billion in spending cuts. These cuts pale in comparison to $474 billion in spending increases just since 2008. Now is not the time to be fouling off pitches. America demands and deserves bold leadership in Washington.


Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.