Congress has unfinished business

Published 12:01 am Thursday, October 7, 2010

Because there is so much work left to be done, I joined 38 Senators last week in voting against adjourning the Senate and leaving Washington. With one in 10 Americans looking for work, Congress should be less concerned with Election Day and more concerned about helping Americans see a pay day. Congress left town without passing a budget, approving spending levels, preventing the looming tax hikes or authorizing funding for our troops.

This year, Democratic leaders have denied Congress the opportunity to debate a federal budget. For only the fifth time since the 1974 Congressional Budget Act passed, Congress failed to pass a budget. Congress needs a budget to help provide guidelines and spending-control mechanisms. Although the legislative body can tax and spend without an official budget, it is more difficult to enforce fiscal discipline when there no budget or financial plan in place. We need a federal budget to help identify where cuts can be made.

This year, the Senate has not passed a single appropriations act out of the 12 bills required to keep the federal government operating. These bills fund everything from roads, bridges, and water systems to border control and the FBI. It appears the Democratic leadership will now lump all of our spending bills together in a giant package at the end of the year. If Congress is serious about reining in spending and decreasing the deficit, then we should implement spending restrictions and work through these bills one by one. I joined 58 other Senators in supporting a provision that would impose funding caps to help decrease the rate of government spending, but the Senate has failed to pass this important measure.

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The tax relief expiring at the end of 2010 will lead to the largest tax hike in American history. We have known that these tax increases are coming, but Democratic leadership delayed action, leaving millions of Americans and businesses uncertain about the future.

Just last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced that these tax hikes will hurt the economy and slow the recovery. According to the IRS, higher tax rates would apply to half of small business income and would impact 25 percent of the American workforce. Additionally, the National Federation of Independent Business announced that businesses employing 20 to 250 people would be hit the hardest if Congress fails to extend the current tax cuts.

The uncertainty caused by Congress’ inaction is preventing businesses from planning, investing, and hiring. I cosponsored the Tax Hike Prevention Act, which would make the 2001 and 2003 tax rates permanent. With nearly 15 million Americans looking for work, it was irresponsible of this Congress to leave town for November elections without extending tax cuts to all Americans.

Controversial Democratic amendments to the Defense Authorization bill prevented the Senate from passing this critical legislation. This annual bill authorizes funding and resources needed to support our troops. Unfortunately, some in Congress are using this bill as a political football.

Much work remains for Congress when members return after the November elections. We need to provide our troops with critical resources needed to succeed without attaching controversial legislation. We need to cut government waste by implementing spending restrictions on the bills that fund federal agencies. And we need to provide all Americans with tax relief to help turn this economy around.

Sen. Roger Wicker is a Republican representing Mississippi in the U.S. Senate.