Panetta: With budget deal, the real work begins
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls on lawmakers to fix the budget at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16, 2013.
Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta on Wednesday said even if a deal is reached between congressional Republicans and Democrats and the White House to avert the first-ever federal default and end the 16-day government shutdown, “the hard work starts now” because a long-term federal budget must still be hammered out between the parties.
Speaking at a Campaign to Fix the Debt event at the National Press Club in Washington, Panetta, who retired as defense secretary in February, said the recent rancor and brinksmanship may be nothing compared to developing a budget. The House and Senate are expected to come up with a spending plan by mid-December.
“The kind of game-playing that went on over the past few weeks and the threats and counter-threats – that’s kind of the politics of this town,” said Panetta, a congressman from 1977 to 1993 and a former House Budget Committee chairman. “The hard work is to sit down and walk through the entitlements and decide what reforms need to be made, what savings can be achieved, look at discretionary spending and lay out a path for that, and look at tax reform.”
Panetta was in Washington this week as part of a mini media tour in which he promoted debt relief and criticized both Congress and the Obama administration for the brinksmanship that preceded the deal announced Wednesday.
As a former congressional leader on budget issues – as well as a former director of the federal Office of Management and Budget -- Panetta recalled how he himself used to sit down and perform the task of negotiating and forming a federal budget with congressional leaders.
“It was tough. Not easy. It took courage, and there were risks involved,” he said. “But dammit, that’s what governing’s all about. That’s why we elect people. We don’t elect people to simply serve blind in office. We elect people to make the tough choices of governing this country. Hopefully, having been through this experience of a shutdown and the implications of not increasing the debt ceiling, that will be a sufficient enough incentive for them to now turn to governing.”