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Opinion

US fiscal time bomb is about to explode. Here's how to defuse it.

The bad news is that Washington has to make hard choices now to avert disaster. The good news is that some members of Congress are showing real political courage.

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If politicians in Washington had the will, the American people would back an effort that deemed much of the past growth in government as gratuitous, unnecessary, and reversible. In fact, 53 percent of the likely voters in a January Rasmussen poll said cutting spending would help the economy.

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Third, politicians in Washington are already moving in this direction. New members such as Republican Sen. Scott Brown are being elected in "big government" strongholds like Massachusetts, and incumbents are warming to the idea of spending restraint.

For instance, the Senate recently came within two votes of paying for an extension of unemployment benefits with reductions in spending instead of borrowing more money from future generations.

Also, the number of members of Congress seeking earmarks – the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington – is declining.

Option No. 3: Reform entitlement programs

Finally, members of Congress are increasingly willing to touch "third rail" issues such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are driving our unsustainable deficits.

Last year, I introduced a comprehensive health-care reform bill, the Patients' Choice Act, with Sen. Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina, and Reps. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin and Devin Nunes (R) of California.

It is the antithesis of ObamaCare. Instead of building on a broken system, it would renovate a broken system and put the individual, not the government, in charge of his or her own health care.

Representative Ryan also has a more comprehensive plan called "A Roadmap for America's Future," which is a serious, specific proposal to put our major entitlement programs on a sustainable path.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina has an innovative plan to save Social Security. Sens. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire and Ron Wyden (D) of Washington have a bold plan to simplify our tax codes and lower tax rates.

I'm also drafting a plan that will lay out 12 specific steps to break Congress's addiction to spending. What is lacking in Washington is not solutions, but the courage and political will to enact real change.

Over the next two election cycles, the American people have an opportunity to mount a historic and heroic rescue of the American experiment. This is not a Republican or Democratic challenge. It is an American challenge. None of these challenges are insurmountable, but the time for action is now.

Tom Coburn, a physician and Republican senator from Oklahoma, is a member of the president's debt commission.

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