Washington politicians face big issues as 2013 draws to a close and a new year begins, but U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Genoa Township) said he doesn't expect quite the recent high levels of drama.
Tiberi made his annual visit to the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce Monday, Dec. 9, discussing Congress's big issues and fielding questions from local leaders and business people during a luncheon at Embassy Suites.
"I don't think you'll see us close down government again," Tiberi said. "That wasn't an effective strategy in most people's minds."
Nonetheless, in the coming weeks, politicians will be doing battle over the same issues that brought about the government shutdown in September, as the country faces another deadline to pass a funding bill and raise the debt ceiling.
The discussion already is becoming heated, as Republicans in Congress would like to end the across-the-board budget cuts that came with the so-called sequester and enact long-term, more thoughtful cuts, Tiberi said.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has added unemployment benefits to the negotiating table, saying he would like to see Congress extend legislation that lengthened unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, Tiberi said.
Doing so would cost an estimated $25 billion in the current fiscal year, Tiberi said, making it harder to scale back spending enough to be able to call off the sequester.
The problem with relying solely on the sequester to reduce spending, Tiberi said, is that it addresses only discretionary spending, which represents an ever shrinking portion of government spending.
"It's the wrong kind of cutting because if you want to bring down the debt, you have to cut mandatory spending," Tiberi said.
Reducing mandatory spending can only be done through a bipartisan effort, Tiberi said.
Congress is due to hash out a spending bill by the end of this week, Tiberi said, but if a deal isn't reached, the current spending bill likely will be extended to assure the public that another shutdown isn't imminent.
Congress also is expected to vote this week to extend regulations on how hospitals and physicians are reimbursed for Medicare patients, Tiberi said.
The extension will allow legislators to work on a new funding formula, as the existing one is decades old and badly outdated, Tiberi said. Health-care providers are hurt further by the outdated formula because private insurers generally follow the federally provided formula, Tiberi said.
"If it's not a good model, both of your paysets aren't very good," he said.
Congress also is working on a new farm bill, Tiberi said, though legislators are unlikely to reach an agreement by the end of this year.
Asked about partisan divides that lead to legislative gridlock, Tiberi said too many politicians are focused on "winning" for their side of the political divide rather than on producing a solution in which the other side also can claim a "win."
This was a strategy employed by President Ronald Reagan, Tiberi said, and it allowed the Republican Reagan to work with a Democratic Congress to make strides in Washington.
"Both sides have to win in a negotiation," Tiberi said. "Until that changes, or until the commander in chief changes, Washington is going to be stuck in this mess."