Lessons from the debt ceiling debate

For the past two weeks, the country’s attention was riveted on a single issue. Would Congress raise the debt ceiling ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline? When this column was written on the morning of Aug. 1, Congress was still wrestling with a last-minute agreement negotiated between House and Senate leaders and the White House. Regardless how the debt ceiling issue turned out, it revealed some painful lessons.

From New Hampshire to New Mexico and everywhere in between, Americans are upset. And with good reason. People are angered by secret negotiations without public input on such an important bill. We saw a president who lectured and scolded at times, without ever putting forth a plan of his own. We saw a repeat of something that has happened too often recently, a major bill submitted at the eleventh hour and rammed through Congress with little time for discussion and review. And once again, we saw Congress acting at the eleventh hour when the clock was about to run out.

Many Granite Staters are furious as a result. I know, because I’m upset, too. We expect our government to perform better than this. We expect our president, senators and congressmen to tend to the people’s business in a timely, orderly manner.

But there is also good news to report. We’ve changed the debate in Washington. The budget request President Barack Obama submitted to Congress in February called for more spending. Now he’s talking about spending cuts. That’s a major change in six months, and it happened because you let Washington know you’ve had enough of runaway spending. We’ve come a long way in a short time, but we have a longer way to go.

The debt ceiling debate reinforced what we already knew: Washington is broken, and sweeping changes must be made. We in the new House of Representatives recognize this, and we’re making as many changes as we can. For example, we passed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, which I co-sponsored. It was the best vehicle for putting our country’s finances in order by cutting existing spending, capping future spending and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to make sure government lives within its means. That bill passed with bipartisan support, only to have the Senate leadership swiftly table it. We then passed the Budgetary Control Act of 2011, which followed the spirit of cut, cap and balance. Guess what happened – Senate leadership tabled it, too. Consider the budget, which we passed in April. Not only has the Senate not acted on it yet, but more than 800 days and counting have passed since the Senate last passed a budget. Talk about broken government! Remember, things don’t have to continue this way. I’m still fighting for real change and meaningful reform on Capitol Hill. We mustn’t surrender to pessimism. We can improve things, and it starts with you, your neighbors and friends demanding that Washington turn in a new direction. We need you, the good people of the Granite State, to turn up the heat and apply pressure. We need you to demand that Washington start adopting common-sense solutions, like passing a Balanced Budget Amendment.

This isn’t about changing political labels; it’s changing the thinking among the men and women you send to Washington. I was sent here to get spending under control, put our fiscal house back in order and make government work better. We need our partners in the other branches of government to finally close the old playbook that produced blank-check spending, which led to the failed stimulus plan and our deepening debt, and join us in producing real solutions.

I want you to know that I hear your frustration and share your desire for real, meaningful change. I remain willing to work alongside anyone on either side of the aisle, or on either end of Capitol Hill, to make it happen.

I look forward to reporting back to you in two weeks on the latest developments in Washington. In the meantime, if I can be of service to you, or if you want to share your thoughts, suggestions or concerns with me. Until next time, please know that I am always on your side and am actively fighting for New Hampshire’s interests in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta represents New Hampshire District 1 in Washington D.C. His column, “Frankly Speaking” can be read in the Merrimack Journal and Bedford Journal twice a month. He can be contacted in Washington at 1223 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515 or by phone at 1-202-225-5456. His New Hampshire office is at 33 Lowell St., Manchester, NH 03101 or 641-9536. Guinta can also be reached via e-mail by visiting https://guinta.house.gov/contact-me. You can also follow what he’s doing 24/7 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repfrankguinta and on Twitter at @RepFrankGuinta.