This Congress has its work cut out

Rep. Phil Roe Contributor
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This week, the president delivered his State of the Union address to Congress. The president talked at length about several investments that we must make in our country, and I agree that we should look for common ground where investments are needed. Unfortunately, we did not hear him talk about areas where we can afford to make due with less right now, and that’s where this Congress has its work cut out. We must push the president to create a more fiscally responsible budget.

The health of the American economy is at risk, and we must work together to put America back on the path to prosperity. There are three actions this Congress must take to help strengthen our economy and help provide certainty to families and businesses: dramatically reduce spending, work on shrinking the deficit and focus on balancing the budget. If Congress and the president can work together to get our fiscal house in order, the economy will begin to thrive. This restraint will take discipline and focus, but it is an important step towards recovery.

Earlier Tuesday, the House approved a resolution that will take our spending levels back to Fiscal Year 2008 levels for the remainder of this fiscal year. That will mean cutting a lot out of the federal budget immediately, and that’s a good first step. However, I believe we need to go further and hope we can find at least $100 billion to cut out of the budget. This is the type of spending discipline we are going to need to get our country’s budget under control.

History has taught us that spending more will not deliver us from an unhealthy economy. Over the long run, we are seeing the negative impact and the day-to-day burden it has placed on families all around the country.

Looking ahead, it is critical for this Congress to work together for the betterment of America. I love our country; I believe we can overcome the most difficult circumstances when we set our sights on it; I believe we can solve any problem when we work together as a team.

Another important issue I want to discuss has to do with the health care law. Tucked away in the 2,000-plus pages of the health care law is a provision that would create a harmless-sounding entity called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB is a flawed mandate that must be repealed.

This board’s sole purpose is to control Medicare costs — giving this board the authority to approve and deny funding for care. The IPAB does not have a mandate to improve patient care, but simply to meet a budget. Naturally, my concern is that this board will harm patient care.

In addition, the IPAB will lack full Congressional oversight, compromising its accountability to the American people. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. We have bipartisan agreement around the idea that unelected bureaucrats shouldn’t be able to make unaccountable decisions.

Therefore, I’ve introduced legislation to repeal the provision creating this board, with a number of Republicans joining me as cosponsors. We know the issue will draw bipartisan support, because 50 Democrats — members such as Barney Frank, Henry Waxman and Pete Stark — expressed in a 2009 letter their opposition to creating this board as well. It’s time we repeal this provision before the board makes a decision that can’t be reversed.

Rep. Phil Roe represents Tennessee’s First Congressional District.