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Brent Batten: Mack’s gone, but his plan lives on in D.C.Naples Daily News

By Brett Batten
February 17, 2013

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/feb/17/brent-batten-macks-gone-but-his-plan-lives-on-in/

Connie Mack is gone from Congress but not forgotten.

Not entirely, anyway.

The Mack Penny Plan, the blueprint the former Southwest Florida representative put forward to balance the federal budget, was featured prominently Tuesday night in Sen. Rand Paul’s tea party response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech.

Only he omitted mention of Mack, who quit the U.S. House to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson for his seat, a challenge that was ultimately unsuccessful.

But Mack confirms that the Penny Plan Paul was talking about is in fact the same plan that once carried his name.

“He and I have worked on this together. He came on pretty early (as a co-sponsor) and was a vocal supporter of the plan.”

Paul began by saying that the country needs an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced budget.

Anticipating the argument that the budget can’t be balanced, Paul continued. “If you cut just one penny from each dollar we currently spend, the budget would balance within six or seven years. The Penny Plan has been crafted into a bill that millions of conservatives across the country support.”

Under the Penny Plan, spending would be cut 1 percent per year for six years. Then spending would be capped at 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, a level just below where spending was in years before 2009, when spending jumped to more than 24 percent of GDP, where it has remained.

Unlike other budget cutting measures bandied about Washington, the Penny Plan would involve actual cuts to spending, not budgetary sleight of hand that discusses cuts in the rate of growth but still results in spending increases.

For instance, in his State of the Union address, Obama said the government is halfway toward its 10-year goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction.

The national debt stood at $13 trillion in 2010. If deficits are reduced by $4 trillion over 10 years shouldn’t that mean by 2020 the debt will be about $9 trillion? Instead, according to government projections, it will be over $20 trillion.

“It’s hard to imagine people can with a straight face say those are real cuts,” Mack said.

The Penny Plan never got far while Mack was in Congress, even in a House controlled by Republicans. Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee, had his own plan for reducing spending and balancing the budget. “Nothing else saw the light of day,” Mack said.

The Ryan plan wouldn’t result in a balanced budget until about 2038. Mack said his plan, now Rand Paul’s plan, would do it in less than seven years.

A 1 percent cut might seem small, but Mack knows the challenge of getting politicians to agree to any reduction is great. “It comes down to priorities. A few people are going to have to give up their pet projects,” he said.

A big challenge will be addressing Social Security and Medicare, which see an ever-increasing number of baby boomers becoming eligible for promised benefits each year.

Congress would have the flexibility to make the 1 percent cut as it sees fit under the Penny Plan. Only if it fails to act would cuts occur across the board.

For instance, Congress could choose to raise the retirement age to cut the costs of Social Security and Medicare, he said.

House rules limit the amount of lobbying a former member can do for at least a year after leaving office. Mack, who has been doing commentary for CNN and consulting in South America, said he is in the process of forming an advocacy group to take on the challenge.

“The plan itself is sound and strong but it comes down to getting enough public support behind it to push the hand of leadership in Congress,” he said.

Support so far comes from dozens of House co-sponsors, about 11 Senate co-sponsors, the conservative group Freedom Works and Lanny Davis, an aide to former President Bill Clinton.

Still, it’s hard to imagine the Penny Plan, with or without Mack’s name attached, gaining approval in capital as divided as Washington, D.C.

That’s a shame, says Mack. “It’s so simple everyone can understand it. Everyone’s had to do it in their homes and in their businesses.”

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Drone warfare campaign strikes at heart of Constitution

By Former Congressman Connie Mack
The Hill
February 14, 2013

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/283121-drone-warfare-campaign-strikes-at-heart-of-constitution

One of the most important impacts of last November’s elections is that freedom is again under attack. This time, the assault on our freedom is not being led by our enemies abroad, but rather by Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington, buoyed by an increasingly complacent American public all too willing to sacrifice our liberty under the false guise of security.

In recent days, we have learned that the Obama administration has approved the use of drone warfare – often referred to as remote control assassination – to hunt down and kill terrorists, including American citizens.

Let there be no mistake – American citizens who are engaged in terrorist activities against the United States must be brought to justice. But President Obama’s decision to use drone warfare to target and kill these American citizens without any attempt at due process is a disgrace and an assault on our Constitution.

This drone assassination campaign is a frightening expansion of unchecked Presidential power. And it parallels arguments I made when I was first sworn into Congress in 2005 about the lack of oversight about some of the most troubling provisions of the Patriot Act. Then, as now, the White House invoked words and ideals like national security in an attempt to justify this troubling unilateral expansion of Presidential powers.

President Bush was wrong then. President Obama is wrong now.

Drone warfare against U.S. citizens (now matter how despicable their actions) does not make us safer. It weakens the very fabric of our nation. It represents an incredibly dangerous path that conjures up an authoritarian government.

President Obama’s drone warfare policy – and its acceptance by the public and Congress – undermines everything that this nation fought for and achieved in the Cold War. It took us nearly 50 years to defeat Soviet tyranny. We now stand to become a nation no better that the enemy we once vanquished – and a generation that is all too willing to reject fundamental tenets of our Constitution and American ideals.

Rarely has an issue so clearly demanded that our leaders and our people unite to defend and promote our most fundamental American values — our constitutionally enshrined rights that have made America a beacon of freedom around the world. But if we can’t now unite to defend the most fundamental of American ideals and rights than we must ask ourselves if we will ever again be that beacon.

I harbor no support for Americans who embrace terrorism. But neither do I support government actions and policies that undermine the fundamental values of our nation. The use of drone warfare against Americans is dangerously un-American.

We can, we have and we will hunt down and punish terrorists. But we must do so in a way that protects the sanctity of our Constitution and our way of life.

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Congress has options to avoid self-made sequestration mess

Orlando Sentinel
By Connie Mack
February 28, 2013

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-sequestration-022813-20130227,0,3512393.story

Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts, domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.

President Barack Obama (White House Press Conference, Nov. 21, 2011)

… [D]ays from now, Congress might let a series of automatic severe budget cuts to take place. … Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists, they’ve already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as sequestration, are a bad idea. They’re not good for our economy. They’re not how we should run our government. … So now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice: Are they willing to compromise?

Obama (White House Press Conference, Feb. 19, 2013)

Republicans and Democrats in Congress reluctantly accepted the president’s demand for the sequester, and… the Budget Control Act was passed on a bipartisan basis.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 20, 2013)

These statements, and others like them, were made by our political leaders — Republicans and Democrats alike. The problem for them is sequestration and the failed supercommittee was their idea in the first place. And now, with a combination of finger-pointing and political amnesia, leaders of both parties have manufactured Washington’s latest crisis.

Let’s be clear about what sequestration is, how we arrived at this point, and what else could have been done.

President Obama proposed sequestration in August 2011 as part of the deal to raise the national debt ceiling. But contrary to what he wants the public to believe, sequestration will not reduce our current level of spending

In fact, under sequestration, federal spending will continue to grow every year.

I voted against the legislation that created sequestration, even though many of my colleagues supported it — not because of its concept. I wholeheartedly support sequestration as a tool and other measures like the Penny Plan that would make real spending cuts and balance the budget.

Rather, I opposed that legislation because the broader bill that created the supercommittee was merely a gimmick to delay the hard choices necessary to get our fiscal house in order. Predictably, the supercommittee failed, triggering sequestration.

Also troubling was the way sequestration was to be implemented. Instead of pursuing a fair approach like a 1 percent across-the-board reduction in spending, President Obama demanded that half of the sequester come from the military — a disproportionate share. That begs the question of why? Was it to play politics? Was it a fundamental reflection of the president’s view of the military?

What the public hasn’t been told is what other options there are, for finding and cutting wasteful or noncritical spending. To date, there hasn’t been a true public accounting and discussion of all the options that could have been on the table.

Instead, now at the 11th hour, the White House is spinning one doomsday scenario after another in a desperate attempt to undo the sequestration that this White House proposed, pretending that it will have draconian consequences.

It’s ludicrous. After all, domestic agencies have experienced a massive 17 percent increase in their budgets since Obama took office four years ago. Are we to believe that these agencies can’t find ways to still provide key services in the future because their budgets aren’t going to grow at the same rate?

Republicans and Democrats bear shared responsibility for our spending problems and the sequester shenanigans being foisted upon the public. Both parties are failing our country by continuing to refuse to make the tough but important choices the American people want and that our long-term prosperity demands.

Instead of the hysteria surrounding how we will barely reduce the size of future budget increases, Washington should be debating other ideas for balancing the budget, like the Penny Plan that would reduce our current spending and provide more common-sense ways to create fiscal discipline.

One fact is clear: Until both parties restore discipline to our politics, we shouldn’t expect discipline in our policymaking and our finances.

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On Veteran’s Day, we celebrate and honor our brave men and women in uniform who have selflessly fought to defend our freedoms at home and abroad. Because of their sacrifice, we continue to enjoy freedom and security at home and we are determined to preserve it for future generations. We are forever indebted to our veterans, those who serve today, and the families who stand strong behind them for their courage and sacrifice.

May God continue to bless this great nation.