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Instead of 'sequester,' take a scalpel to spending

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, take effect on Friday. These cuts, proposed by President Obama as part of his 2011 deal to increase the debt limit, are indiscriminate and fail the first step of good budgeting: prioritization.

Our national debt and chronic trillion-dollar deficits are unacceptable. They damage economic growth and threaten future prosperity.

We need to control spending so that we do not run out of money for critical items such as seniors' and veterans' health care, infrastructure projects and a robust military capable of deterring aggressors. This is not the way to do it.

Instead of these arbitrary, across-the-board cuts, which will impact selected domestic and military programs, Mr. Obama and the Senate should work with the House to take a scalpel to spending.

The House has twice passed alternatives to the sequester, but the Senate has not voted on those solutions or any of their own.

Our federal government will spend more than $3.7 trillion this year. Replacing the sequester requires finding $84 billion in smart cuts to that budget. Here are a few things we could eliminate to begin replacing the sequester:

• $2.2 billion by ending the federal government's cellphone giveaway

• $100 million in Environmental Protection Agency grants to foreign countries

• $7.7 billion by implementing recommendations of the inspector general of the Social Security Administration to reduce improper payments

• $1.8 billion by eliminating President Obama's “renewable energy” fund

• $10 billion by eliminating President Obama's public health slush fund

• $26 billion by enforcing the eligibility standards for food stamps.

Instead of looking for ways to curtail the spending binge he started, Obama wants a third tax hike on hardworking Americans in less than three months. No one in Washington should be talking about raising taxes when the federal government is wasting billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Instead, we should prioritize the spending that is important and cut the spending that is not. Western Pennsylvania families and businesses do that every single day and expect the federal government to do the same.

On behalf of my constituents in Western Pennsylvania, I call on President Obama to bring forward a credible plan that does not raise taxes and replaces his indiscriminate cuts by taking a scalpel to wasteful government spending.

Keith Rothfus, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

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