America Deserves a Better Deal

This past Monday, the House of Representatives held a vote on the so-called debt ceiling deal. I strongly opposed this legislation.

While default was not an option, I would have preferred a bill that raised taxes on corporations that earn billions of dollars a year and have not paid one dollar in taxes. I would have preferred a bill that included an extension of unemployment benefits for those hit hardest by the recession. I would have even preferred a clean bill that simply raised the debt ceiling and allowed Congress to hold a serious debate on debt reduction without it being held hostage to a manufactured "crisis" that brought our country to the brink of financial ruin.

Instead we got the Budget Control Act of 2011, a bill that invests too much power in the hands of a special congressional committee that consists of only 12 members of Congress. The Joint Select Commission on Deficit Reduction can consider cuts of any kind, including cuts to three of our country's most vital safety net programs -- Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That means that only 12 members of Congress get to decide the proposals concerning these critical programs while every other member must settle for an up or down vote at the end of the process.

Thus under a bill that excludes revenue raising measures and that does not close legal loopholes exploited by tax-evading corporations, the poor and working families who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security may once again find their benefits on the chopping block. And most members, who represent the vast majority of the people who might be impacted, will have little input on the final plan.

The irony of this of course is that large majorities of the American people oppose cuts to these programs. But in an attempt to shield this new commission from the political forces that roiled this past debate over the debt ceiling, the process set up by the Budget Control Act reduces the voice of the American people to a whisper.

That is why I along with 16 of my colleagues introduced a resolution, H. Con. Res. 72, expressing the sense of Congress that any legislative language approved by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not reduce benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients. At a moment when the economy is reeling, we should heed the voice of the American people and focus on protecting these sources of financial stability and security.

Congress needs to go on the record and state its intent to preserve America's safety net programs. My colleagues and I believe this resolution is needed to renew Congress' longstanding commitment to provide assistance to the most vulnerable members of society. And the American people need to send a message to the members of the deficit reduction commission, whoever they may end up being, that they need to prioritize the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and to focus on finding a means of balancing the budget that does not do so on the backs of working families.