In weekly address, GOP eyes spending cuts

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) indicated in the Republican Party's weekly address that the GOP hopes to maintain full spending for military programs while pursuing cuts to entitlements during the debt-ceiling debate coming up this spring.

"The president will soon ask Congress to raise the nation’s debt limit — again. I believe we cannot agree to increase the borrowing limit without addressing our out-of-control spending," she said in the address.

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Fischer took the opportunity to outline the Republican path forward in advance of the negotiations in the next two months to raise the debt ceiling, in order to avoid a government shutdown. Congress will also have to address the automatic budget cuts due to take effect at the end of March due to sequestration.

Republicans frustrated at the deal reached to avoid the series of tax increases and budget cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" have called in recent weeks for the party to take a hard line on spending and taxes during the next round of negotiations.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) indicated a willingness to shut down the economy "to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country."

Fischer, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted in her address that sequestration will slash "nearly a trillion dollars in critical national security funding" from the budget, which she called "dangerous."

"As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m 100 percent committed to both reducing spending and meeting my constitutional obligation to defend this nation. It is equally important to uphold America’s promises to active duty service members and veterans, those who have risked life-and-limb in defense of our nation. Keeping faith with these brave Americans is more than our responsibility; it is our honor to do so," she said.

Republicans hope to replace cuts to the military budget with cuts to other budget areas, most notably entitlement programs.

Fischer said that cuts to those programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — are necessary, calling them "the primary drivers of our national debt."

"We must [cut entitlements] in a way that keeps our promises to America’s seniors, retirees, and those nearing retirement age. That is not a point for debate. But in order to save these popular programs, we must reform them. If not, they will no longer exist for future generations and will bankrupt us in the meantime," she said.

But she went on to note that no lawmaker has yet suggested a plan for entitlement reform, and issued a challenge for her "colleagues to step off the sidelines and offer substantive ideas for real reform."

Entitlement reform could be a sticking point in the upcoming debt-ceiling negotiations, and Fischer seemed to echo previous Republican statements in arguing for taking a hard line on raising the debt limit.

"I believe we cannot agree to increase the borrowing limit without addressing our out-of-control spending," she said.

Fischer added that "the debate over taxes and revenues is done," echoing comments from congressional Republican leadership frustrated that the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff included an uneven spending-cuts-to-revenue-raised ratio.

"The problem is not that the American people are taxed too little; it’s that the federal government spends too much," she said.