Isakson addresses future of legislation, Congress
by Mark Andrews
Dec 04, 2013 | 1204 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Tuesday at the Bartow County College and Career Academy, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., spoke to educators and members of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce regarding a number of issues ranging from education to the sequester and foreign policy.

Isakson began by commending the work of Bartow County in the development of the BCCCA while also addressing the Common Core State Standards and other issues surrounding education in Georgia and across the nation.

“A lot of times you hear people saying, ‘I don’t like teaching for the test,’ but ideally, if education is executed perfectly, if the curriculum and instruction are aligned by definition you’re teaching for the test because the test is going to be on what the curriculum demanded you to know,” Isakson said. “There are a lot of buzzwords that go around in education that people [use] to try and make educational policies seem bad when in fact [education] is going in the right direction, not the wrong direction.”

He also spoke on his experience with the Affordable Care Act and what he expects the results to be of the legislation.

“I got an email from Obamacare last night, the D.C. exchange, that finally certified that I had been able to successfully reserve a policy for me next year through the District of Columbia exchange,” Isakson said. “The fact is my contribution to my health insurance is going up from $402 to $904 a month, so it’s going to raise the cost and it’s going to raise the demands on the healthcare system and it’s going to cause some real challenges in the 21st century to small businesses.

“When the employer mandate kicks in next year ... every employer is mandated to either provide health care to their employees or pay a fine to the federal government and when the fine is far less than the cost of providing the health care, you’re going to see a plethora of people turned in to the federal system and a lot of private companies getting out of that business. I personally don’t think that’s a very good idea. I think Obamacare is a classic battle between two philosophies: those who believe in the private sector delivering ... services to our citizens and those who believe a single-payer health care [system] is a better idea.”

During the question-and-answer period, Isakson told The Daily Tribune News what he felt needed to be done in order for Congress to operate in the best interest of the American people, specifically addressing another potential sequester in 2014.

“We’ve got to find some common ground to meet some of our challenges. One of them is our debt and deficit problem because you have a sequester today for one reason, because Congress did not have the intestinal fortitude to make the cuts necessary that were mandated by the budget control act of 2011,” Isakson said. “In 2011, ... the tradeoff on raising the debt ceiling to $17 trillion was for Congress to create a select committee of 12 members from the Congress, six from the House and six from the Senate, six Republicans and six Democrats, to come up with a recommended $2.1 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years in order to move toward a more balanced budget, but if they didn’t come up with those $2.1 trillion in cuts, sequestration would automatically kick in in January of this year, meaning you’d cut across the board.

“Cutting across the board is the worst way to cut. I ran a company and when you cut across the board you’re hurting people who are doing a good job and you’re taking care of people who aren’t doing as good of a job. You should always go through things on a cost/benefit analysis, but because Congress did not come up with $2.1 trillion in cuts, $900 billion in cuts went into effect in 2013. ... At the beginning of next year if we’re not on track toward the $1.2 billion in additional cuts to get us to $2.1 trillion by the end of 10 years, sequestration kicks in again and as of right now it will kick in. It will get tougher and tougher because the more you shave indiscriminately off the top, the more you hurt people doing a good job and reward people who aren’t doing a good job.”

He continued, “2014 will be the watershed year because one more year of sequestration and the pressure is going to be so great on education, on national defense, on national security and health care that finally the pressure is going to be great enough to cause Congress to do what it should have done three years ago. ... Spending is not our only problem. Entitlements are a problem but spending is the thing Congress controls. Congress doesn’t control entitlements because that’s automatic spending, unless you repeal the law or amend the law you can’t control it, but discretionary spending we control 100 percent of.

“... The pressure has been great this year because of sequestration, but it will be even greater next year and that will probably be the break point to force people in Congress who would rather fight than find solutions to come to the table and find solutions.”

Isakson said he is proposing to Congress legislation with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., titled the “Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act.”

“We have what we think is the solution mechanically to get our ourselves back on track, and that’s called the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act, where we go into two-year appropriations rather than one, make those ... every other year and then every even year — which happens to be an election year — you do oversight and fundamentally review every dollar you’ve been spending to find the savings and cuts to pay for the programs you want to have next year. That’s another way of saying zero-based budgeting, but at least it creates a structured responsibility on the Congress to do so.”