Friday, November 21, 2014 · 1:58 p.m.

Tennessee lawmakers respond to failure of debt supercommittee

Federal budget to be cut by $1.2 trillion

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After news spread that the bipartisan, 12-member supercommittee had failed to reach an agreement on how to cut $1.2 trillion from federal spending, Tennessee lawmakers responded. 

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an outspoken critic of the supercommittee, said the nation deserved better. 

"I opposed this committee from the very beginning," Fleischmann said. "I voted against the final deal to implement this committee and the ramifications that failure would bring. I did not believe in ceding the power of 535 elected representatives of the American people into the hands of 12."

Fleischmann also lamented imminent cuts to the Department of Defense, triggered by the panel's inability to come to an agreement. At least $600 billion is expected to be slashed from the Pentagon's budget, beginning in 2013.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who joined Fleischmann in August voting against the Budget Control Act of 2011 that raised the national debt ceiling and created the supercommittee—echoed his neighboring representative's disappointment. 

"The people sent me to Washington to make difficult spending decisions," DesJarlais said. "The creation of this committee effectively took this ability away. Spending cuts need to be debated in the light of the House floor—not by a select group of individuals behind closed doors."

Sen. Bob Corker called the supercommittee's inability to agree on a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction "an absolute national disgrace and failure of leadership."

"In our republican democracy, our citizens elect us to make tough but necessary decisions, and our refusal to make them will have dire consequences for the country," Corker said. "Getting our country's finances and debt under control is the struggle of this decade, and those of us who care deeply about this issue must do everything in our power to deal with it or we will endure the fate playing out all across Europe."

Sen. Lamar Alexander suggested the supercommittee should have aimed higher and that it overlooked previous examples of how the federal budget could be trimmed. Alexander cited the Simpson-Bowles Commission, the Domenici-Rivlin plan, and the Gang of Six proposal as examples of how to do so.

"This is a failure of governing, not of money—the debt will be cut by another $1.2 trillion, but it will be done the wrong way, without reforming the mandatory entitlement spending that is 55 percent of the federal budget, growing at three times inflation and bankrupting our country," Alexander said. "The president and congress should now work together on a pro-growth tax plan to cut the debt by $4 trillion."

Following an announcement of failure by representatives of the supercommittee, President Barack Obama stated his intent to veto any proposal that sought to avoid any of the $1.2 trillion in cuts now mandated. 

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