Time to Hit the Budget Reset Button

03/10/2011 02:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There's just one week to go before the current budget agreement expires. If a new agreement is not found, we face the prospect of something no one wants: a government shutdown.

My fellow senators and I are working hard to avert that, but so far, the debate has centered on so-called "domestic discretionary spending" -- basically the 12% or so of the budget that goes to programs other than the military, Social Security, and Medicare.

And let me tell you: a bipartisan compromise simply will not be found in domestic discretionary spending cuts alone.

Just yesterday, the Senate defeated H.R. 1, the House Republicans' scorched-earth spending proposal that sought to cut such critical national priorities as border security, cancer research, and food safety inspectors.

The defeat of H.R. 1 -- and a Democratic budget bill -- gives us an opportunity to reset the budget debate to include things like military spending and agricultural subsidies and put revenue raisers on the table.

And nowhere is the debate more in need of being reset than in the House, where right now a small, intense ideological tail is wagging the dog.

I've asked members of the community to help reset that debate by contacting their representative in the House. Click here to help.

The hard right wing of the Republican Party has deliberately confused two separate issues: reducing the deficit and cutting government.

Their fervor for spending cuts is not grounded in deficit considerations at all. The dirty little secret about the Republican spending plan is that once the dust has settled, it would only decrease the deficit by $5 billion in FY2011. We're talking about a difference between $1.360 trillion in budget outlays under the current CR, versus $1.355 trillion in budget outlays under the Republican proposal.

No, they are using deficit talk as a Trojan horse for eliminating things they don't like.

We don't face the current deficit because of Head Start and cancer research, and we'll never get out of it by cutting Head Start and cancer research.

To truly reduce the deficit -- and keep America a great place to live and do business -- we need to scour all parts of the budget that contribute to the deficit, not just the parts of the budget that some of us don't like.

In last week's Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, the most popular proposal to reduce the deficit -- out of 23 options surveyed -- was a surtax on millionaires and billionaires.

The Pentagon should no longer be treated as off-limits.

We can find ways to achieve savings in Medicare and Medicaid that don't reduce benefits.

Agriculture needs to be put on the table.

Yet all the Republicans can talk about is cutting "discretionary" areas of government.

We need to reset the debate. Together, we can do it. Click here to help.