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Washington Post Praises Rigell Sequester Plan

Oct 26, 2015 | Budgets & Projections

Over the weekend, the Washington Post editorial board wrote a piece praising the sequester plan that Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) released last week. The plan replaces three-fourths of the sequester's discretionary spending cuts and repeals the mandatory sequester while offsetting the $765 billion cost with $820 billion of smarter savings.

The Post notes that the looming threat of the sequester has been paralyzing the budget process, so lawmakers will need to come together to agree on funding levels for FY 2016 (and beyond). Rigell's plan is a reasonable way forward, proposing smart entitlement reforms with potential bipartisan support to replace the blunt sequester cuts:

Ideally, Republicans and Democrats would work on a long-term plan to lift sequestration for both military and domestic programs, paid for with a mix of taxes and savings — the latter including entitlements, which are the true cause of the country’s fiscal predicament.

Anyone looking for ideas should read the bill Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) introduced Wednesday. Mr. Rigell’s proposal would restore 75 percent of the sequester cuts, a total of $765 billion in restored spending (over 10 years), divided evenly between defense and domestic priorities, just as President Obama wants. It would pay for $200 billion of this through new revenues, achieved by eliminating tax breaks for upper-income Americans and applying the more accurate “chained CPI” inflation adjustment to the tax code — huge concessions to the Democrats from a member of the no-new-taxes party.

The vast majority of the remaining savings in Mr. Rigell’s plan come from entitlements, including a series of Medicare reforms, many drawn from Mr. Obama’s past proposals, worth $455 billion. He would apply the chained CPI to Social Security, thus reducing future cost-of-living adjustments, but with built-in protections for the poorest beneficiaries. Mr. Rigell unfortunately gives back about $25 billion by repealing the medical device tax, but other than that shortsighted attack on Obamacare’s funding, the bill is a remarkably balanced, non-ideological approach.

The Post argues that the Rigell plan represents a much smarter way to run government.

What’s impressive about Mr. Rigell’s plan, however, is how little sacrifice it imposes on the vast majority of people. In return, the country would get a government with a more sustainable funding base; indeed, we’d get a government that is capable of governing, since it would have recovered financial latitude to meet changing public needs.

We agree that the Rigell plan would be a great way to resolve the sequester on a longer-term basis (as would our Sequester Offset Solution (SOS) plan). It would not only replace the sequester with smarter cuts, it would also help to reduce long-term debt since the savings would grow much more rapidly than the sequester relief. As CRFB president Maya MacGuineas said:

It is encouraging to see Rep. Rigell put forward a ‘go big’ approach that permanently replaces sequestration with smart deficit reduction that substantially improves our long-term budget outlook. 

See our blog and press release on the Rigell sequester plan.