Opinion

A new way forward

Rep. Hal Rogers Contributor

Last week the American people sent a clear message to Washington — business as usual must end. For years politicians and bureaucrats have spent the taxpayers’ monies as if they had a blank check, going on spending sprees while Main Street suffered. Whether it was the government bailing out Wall Street or big businesses, somehow small businesses and hard-working, middle-class families were always left behind. Distrust in the federal government is at a record high because of the disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country.

My Republican colleagues and I have been given a unique opportunity to change the direction our nation is headed. There is no room for failure. Our debt is over $13 trillion and threatens to rob our future generations and effectively bring an end to the American dream. Reforms must take place immediately and hard decisions must be made in order to restore financial health and vitality to our country. That is why I am running for Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. At this point in time, this critically important committee needs a seasoned veteran who knows how to rein in spending, hold the administration’s feet to the fire with aggressive oversight, and restore regular procedure, open to the world to see. I believe I am that person.

First and foremost we need to cut spending. Since President Obama took office, non-defense discretionary spending has increased 84 percent. At a time when families have to decide between paying the mortgage and buying groceries, it is shameful that Congress has refused to make tough decisions and live within our means. We need to end the record-setting, trillion-dollar budget deficit by first cutting spending to FY2008 levels. We also need to cancel unused TARP funds, return unspent stimulus funds, get rid of duplicative government programs and make sure any new spending bill is in line to help balance the budget.

We also must extend the earmark moratorium. We are facing a fiscal crisis in our nation. We cannot ignore the message the American people sent us last week. Under my leadership, the Committee on Appropriations will demonstrate every day of the new Congress that we are serious about cutting spending and eliminating earmarks. I will gladly be the enforcer of this policy.

In addition to spending, we must get tough on oversight. For the past two years under President Obama, Congress has had almost zero control over the costly programs and job-killing regulations this administration has enacted. Government bureaucrats are not elected by the people and they should not be allowed to unilaterally implement costly regulations without serious congressional scrutiny.

Take for example the EPA. In my own district, communities are on the brink of bankruptcy because the EPA has taken it upon itself, without any congressional authority, to selectively withhold mining permits. This doesn’t just affect the mines and those who work there, this impacts small businesses and families all throughout the region. That is why the Appropriations Committee will lead the charge to defund Obamacare, stop the White House czars, and restore the balance of power between the White House and the people’s House.

Finally, we need to fix the broken appropriations process. Not one of the twelve FY2011 appropriations bills was brought to the House floor under regular order. Amendments were stifled, meetings took place behind closed doors and members of the Appropriations Committee were handed bills written by Speaker Pelosi that included sweetheart deals for her members. Under my leadership, this will end.

It is time we restore trust to the appropriations process by ensuring transparency at every step of the process. Ushering in a new era of collaboration and cooperation, the Appropriations Committee will work hand in hand with the Budget Committee and all the authorizing committees to achieve savings and real results for the taxpayers. Under my watch, the Appropriations Committee will be an instrument of change for the House leadership and the Congress in enforcing the will of the American people.

The task before the Appropriations Committee is not easy. The American people deserve immediate action and they deserve to know that we are listening to their demand for real, substantive reform. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” The American people have spoken and they have given us this opportunity to rein in Washington before it is too late.

Congressman Hal Rogers represents Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District and currently serves as the Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.