BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Voting to approve the bill that reopened the federal government on Thursday was a missed opportunity to leverage further spending reductions, according to U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City.
The bill, which came through the U.S. Senate and passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday:
* avoided the federal government's defaulting on its debt, an event that the U.S. Treasury Department said would have occurred on Thursday;
* temporarily funded the government through Jan. 15 and extended the debt ceiling through Feb. 7;
* maintained spending reductions set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Roe, who voted against the measure, said that these actions have merely "kicked the can down the road 90 days."
He added that the government is setting up another round of the same issues in January and February.
"We're just going to have this discussion again," the congressman predicted. "My feeling was, we should just have it right here.
"We missed an opportunity," Roe said. "We've used debt ceiling votes before to help cut the size of the budget deficit. It's worked, and it's worked very well."
Roe said that, according to his discussions with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who serves as House Budget Committee chairman, the federal government could achieve a balanced budget within 10 years by keeping the growth of government spending at no more than 3 percent each year.
Such a balanced budget is Roe's "ultimate goal," he said.
"One of the biggest hurdles we face in this nation is our debt. It will drown us if we don't get it under control."
Taxing is not the solution; making changes to entitlement spending is, he said.
But he went on to say that, for now, the government is simply not working properly when the Senate will not pass the appropriations bills that form the annual discretionary spending budget.
As for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, and the U.S. House's failed attempts to defund or delay the law, Roe said knowing the attempts were essentially doomed to fail from day one does not mean the House did the wrong thing in trying.
Although many senators point to the House's tacking these measures onto the bill to continue funding the government as the cause of the shutdown, Roe said the shutdown would not have been much of an issue if the Senate had moved on the four appropriations bills the House had already approved.
"We knew the odds were long," he said. "I understood that going in. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have tried. [The ACA] is a bad bill."
Over the next three months, whether attached to the negotiations on the debt ceiling or not, Roe said he does expect to see some changes to the ACA, including tossing the Medical Device Tax into the "junk yard of bad ideas" and delaying the individual fine for not purchasing health insurance by one year.
"How can you fine them if you can't buy it?" Roe questioned.
Media reports indicate the health exchange website remains difficult, if not impossible, to access. Roe said he has tried three times and has yet to be successful.