In addition to leaving our military stuck in a plan that was passed two years ago, the political games destroy morale in the federal workforce. Each week federal workers plan for a government shut down while hoping that they do not face a furlough the next week. Their families and their plans are on hold. Even as many Democrats ran to the microphones to fear monger about Republicans supposedly trying to shut down the government, Republicans were working long hours with Democrats in the House to get a 2011 budget completed. Then, the House completed a two week Continuing Resolution (cutting $4 billion in two weeks) when the Senate failed to act. Democrats felt they could gain political advantage with the ‘shut down’ accusation, and the federal workforce has paid the price for their gamesmanship. 

Make no mistake; this is a moment for action. On January 5, 2011 when I was sworn into the House of Representatives, America faced a $1.4 trillion deficit for 2011. By the day after the State of the Union, that number had been upgraded to $1.5 trillion. Now, just over a month later, the figure stands at $1.65 trillion. In the last two months, the 2011 budget deficit has increased $250 billion while we argue over cutting $61 billion. It is as if the Senate is unaware of the news each day and remains aloof to the reality of the real budget deficit. We must start bending the deficit curve down or the debt tiger we have by the tail, will suddenly turn and devour our nation.

It is time to stop saying ‘next year,’ on budget cuts. ‘Next year’ has arrived. This prolonged budget instability hurts the economy and keeps job growth sluggish. It is time to settle the 2011 budget and give America the confidence that we are stabilizing our debt and growing our private sector economy. But the House can’t do this alone; this is a task that requires full participation. 

Both parties and both chambers must get off the sidelines and into the game. We shouldn’t ask the American people to do their job while we fail to do ours.

Congressman Lankford serves on the House Budget, Oversight & Government Reform, and Transportation & Infrastructure Committees.