Mar 13 2013
Chairman Murray Opening Statement at the Mark-Up of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2014
“The Committee will come to order.
“I want to thank my colleagues on this Committee for all of your hard work as we’ve written this budget resolution. I want to thank the Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Sessions. As well as all of the members of the public who have weighed in with your ideas, told your stories, and shared your priorities with us over the past few months.
“Here in Washington, D.C., the budget debate is often discussed in terms of abstract numbers and political winners and losers. But the truth is that budgets are about far more than that. They are about our values and our priorities. They are about our visions for how government should be serving its citizens today and for generations to come. And most of all, they are about the people across the country whose lives are impacted by the decisions we make.
“So today we are going to discuss some very different approaches to tackling our budget challenges. Tomorrow, we will continue this discussion and vote on a plan. Then we will move this debate to the Senate floor, and then hopefully work toward a balanced and bipartisan agreement with the House of Representatives while the American people have a chance to weigh in.
“But before we can talk about where we are headed, I think it is very important for us all to remember where we came from. Because our fiscal and economic challenges didn’t start today. And this debate cannot happen in a vacuum.
“The truth matters and context is very important.
“Despite some of the rhetoric you may hear from my Republican colleagues, the Great Recession didn’t start the day President Obama was elected, and the federal budget didn’t tip into deficit the day he was sworn in.
“I have served on this committee since I was first sworn in to the United States Senate in 1993. And over the past twenty years, this country has taken two very different approaches to our budget, each of which led to very different outcomes.
“I went over this history in this Committee’s first hearing of the year, but I think that as we move toward making some critical decisions tomorrow, it is important to highlight this history one more time.
“In 1992, the year I was running for office, the federal government was running a deficit of just under 5%. President Clinton ran that year on a promise of tackling the deficit and debt responsibly while continuing to invest in jobs and the middle class, and I was very excited when I was elected to the Senate to have a chance to help make that vision a reality.
“But as we all remember, not everyone was on board with President Clinton’s balanced and responsible approach. When he proposed raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans alongside responsible spending cuts, Republicans jumped up and told anyone who would listen just how devastating that would be for the economy.
“When his budget bill passed the Senate and House, without a single Republican vote, one Senate Republican said, ‘I believe this program is going to make the economy weak. I believe hundreds of thousands of people are going to lose their jobs. I believe Bill Clinton will be one of those people.’
“Of course, none of those three predictions came to pass. The economy grew by an average rate of 4% for the next eight years. 22 million jobs were created while unemployment plummeted from 7.3% in 1993, to 3.9% in 2000. And President Clinton was easily reelected.
“Now I don’t think it was the tax increase on the rich on its own that caused the economy to grow. But I do think that the responsible and balanced fiscal approach played a critical role.
“Our businesses saw government taking a credible and sustainable approach to our federal budget, and it gave them the confidence to hire new workers and invest in their growth.
“Middle class workers were getting better jobs, spending their money, and building prosperity.
“This economic growth, built from the middle out, along with the balanced and responsible fiscal stewardship, turned our deficit and debt challenges around.
“Federal revenue increased from 17.5% of GDP to 20.6%. Responsible spending cuts brought federal spending down from 22.1% of GDP to 18.2%. A 4.7% deficit was turned into a 2.4% surplus in eight years. And our nation was on track to completely eliminate the federal debt by 2010.
“The work we did in the 90s should have made it clear that calling on the wealthy to pay their fair share is not incompatible with strong economic growth. It should have made it clear that a balanced, responsible approach to deficit reduction, that includes spending cuts and new revenue from those who can afford it most, is the best path forward.
“But unfortunately, when President Bush came into office in 2001, he had very different ideas.
“Many of us saw the surplus as an opportunity for our country to erase the debt, and also to invest in middle class priorities like education, health care, and infrastructure. We wanted to build on what was working.
“But others saw it as a blank check to cut taxes for the rich and increase government spending irresponsibly. President Bush and Republicans in Congress quickly passed two sets of tax cuts that were heavily skewed toward the wealthiest Americans.
“The costs of two new wars were simply added to the national debt, as was Medicare Part D, a program estimated to cost taxpayer $60 billion this year alone.
“Middle class families struggled as workers lost their jobs and the economy stagnated and then finally collapsed.
“By 2008, federal revenues had dropped down to 17.6% of GDP, spending was back up to 20.8%, our surplus had become a deficit, and instead of eliminating the debt, we had sunk even deeper.
“When President Obama came into office the economy was losing over 700,000 jobs a month. We were deep into a recession, and we were teetering on the edge of a full-blown depression.
“The President and Congress acted quickly to support economic growth, create jobs, and put more money in the pockets of the middle class and most vulnerable families who needed it the most. By 2009, positive growth had returned, and the unemployment rate began to decline shortly after.
“But the recovery isn’t as strong or as fast as it needs to be, millions of workers continue struggling to get back on the job, middle class families are still having trouble keeping their heads above water, and we have some very serious challenges when it comes to our medium and long-term deficit and debt challenges.
“That brings us here to today, and the choices the members of this Committee will be asked to make in the coming days, weeks, and months, as we work to tackle our economic and fiscal challenges responsibly.
“This process is not going to be easy.
“Despite what I believe are the clear lessons from the last twenty years of fiscal and economic policy, there is a serious difference of opinion about what our government should be doing to keep our economy and our national finances moving in the right direction.
“One approach is to follow a path back to the economic policies of the last administration. This is the path to more tax cuts for the rich, and fewer regulations for Wall Street. It’s the path to more uncertainty for workers and less stability for families….To higher health care costs for patients and even higher profits for insurance companies.
“It is a path not to prosperity, which can only truly be built from the middle out, but to: the deterioration of our national infrastructure, the decline of our schools, and the dismantling of the Medicare promise we’ve made to our seniors.
“This approach was on the ballot last November, and voters across the country rejected it. Instead, the American people say they want us to move forward, not backwards.
“They want an approach that puts the middle class first. That returns our nation to the fiscal and economic policies that have worked for this country before by focusing on jobs and the economy, cutting spending responsibly, and calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.
“An approach that maintains that government can’t solve every problem, that it shouldn’t solve every problem, but that it can and must work to create jobs, support the middle class, and offer a hand up to families that need some support while they work to get back on their feet.
“This is the approach taken by the budget that twelve of us on this committee worked very hard to put together, and that we will be voting on tomorrow.
“Our budget reflects the pro-growth, pro-middle class agenda that the American people went to the polls in support of last election. And I believe it is a strong and responsible vision for building a foundation for growth and restoring the promise of American opportunity.
“Our budget is built on three principles: Number one, we need to protect our fragile economic recovery, create jobs, and invest in long-term growth. Number two, we need to tackle our deficit and debt fairly and responsibly. And number three, we need to keep the promises we’ve made as a nation to our seniors, our families, and our communities.
“The highest priority of our budget is to create the conditions for job creation, economic growth, and prosperity built from the middle out, not the top down.
“We believe that with an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly high, and a middle class that has seen their wages stagnate for far too long, we simply cannot afford any threats to our fragile recovery.
“So this budget fully replaces the cuts from sequestration that threaten 750,000 jobs this year alone, economic growth for years to come, as well as our national security and the programs families and communities depend on.
“It replaces these automatic cuts in a fair, responsible way, following the precedent set in the year-end deal.
“Half of the new deficit reduction to replace sequestration comes from responsible spending cuts across the federal budget, and half comes from new savings found through closing loopholes and cutting wasteful spending in the tax code for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.
“In addition to replacing sequestration with deficit reduction that is far more responsible, our budget follows the advice of experts and economists across the political spectrum who say it makes sense to invest in job-creation in the short term, while putting ourselves on a strong path to responsible and sustainable deficit and debt reduction over the medium and long-term.
“We believe that in order to truly tackle our economic and fiscal challenges in the real world, and not just make them disappear on paper, we need a strong foundation for growth built from the middle out.
“So this budget invests in a $100 billion economic recovery protection plan to put workers back on the job repairing our nation’s highest priority deteriorating infrastructure, and fixing crumbling schools and installing critical educational technology, like broadband, that our students need to succeed.
“This plan creates an infrastructure bank to leverage public funds with private investment. It invests in our workers by making sure they have the skills and training they need to move into the 3.6 million jobs businesses across the country are trying to fill.
“And it is fully paid for by closing loopholes and cutting unfair spending in the tax code that mainly benefits the well-off and well-connected.
“Our budget also makes sure we aren’t reducing our budget deficit while increasing our deficits in education, skills, infrastructure, and innovation.
“While cutting spending responsibly overall, this budget protects investments in national middle class and economic priorities like our schools, our roads and bridges, and our clean energy and manufacturing industries.
“This budget puts jobs and the economy first and foremost, but it also builds on the work we’ve done over the last two years to tackle our deficit and debt responsibly.
“In 2010, President Obama established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly referred to as ‘Simpson-Bowles.’ This bipartisan group came back with a report recommending approximately $4 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years from a balanced combination of spending cuts and new revenue. The report points out that this level of deficit reduction is ‘more than any effort in the nation’s history.’
“Other bipartisan groups including Domenici-Rivlin and the Senate’s Gang of Six, as well as economists from across the political spectrum, agreed that $4 trillion over ten years was a reasonable and responsible goal.
“Since that time, Congress and the administration have worked together to reduce the deficit by $2.4 trillion, with $1.8 trillion coming from spending cuts, and $600 billion from allowing tax rates to rise on the wealthiest Americans in the year-end deal.
“The Senate Budget takes us the rest of the way to the $4 trillion goal, and beyond.
“It builds on the $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction already done with an additional $1.85 trillion in new deficit reduction, for a total of $4.25 trillion in deficit reduction since the Simpson-Bowles report.
“It reduces the deficit to below three percent of GDP by 2015 and keeps it well below that level for the rest of the ten-year window in a responsible way, and it pushes our debt as a percentage of the economy down and moving in the right direction.
“Our budget tackles this issue the way the American people have consistently said they want it done, with an equal mix of responsible spending cuts made across the federal budget, and new revenue raised by closing loopholes and cutting wasteful breaks that primarily benefit the rich.
“This budget cuts spending responsibly by $975 billion, and we make some tough choices to get there. We think every program, including the ones we know are important, need to be wringing out waste, trimming fat, and reducing costs to taxpayers.
“So $500 billion of our deficit reduction comes from responsible savings on the domestic spending side, including $275 billion in health care savings that doesn’t harm seniors or families.
“There are no sacred cows, we put everything we can on the table, but we do it in a responsible way that preserves, protects, and strengthens the programs like Medicare and Medicaid that the American people strongly support.
“Our budget saves $240 billion by carefully and responsibly reducing defense spending while giving the Pentagon enough time to plan and align the reductions to time with the drawdown of troops from overseas.
“This will involve some tough decisions, but it is a responsible path that is nothing like the across-the-board cuts from sequestration that would be devastating to defense programs and jobs if they weren’t replaced.
“The remainder of the savings, $242 billion, comes from the savings on interest payments due to the lower debt.
“Taking the balanced approach the American people have consistently called for, the Senate Budget matches these responsible spending cuts with $975 billion in new revenue, which is raised by closing loopholes and cutting unfair spending in the tax code for those who need it the least, while locking in tax cuts for the middle class and low-income working families, and protecting them from paying a penny more.
“For perspective, $975 billion is less than one-tenth of the total spent on tax expenditures over the next ten years, much of which ends up going to the wealthiest Americans who need them the least.
“There is bipartisan support for reducing the deficit by making the tax code more fair and efficient.
“During the recent fiscal cliff negotiations, Speaker Boehner proposed that we reduce the deficit by $800 billion by closing what he called ‘special-interest loopholes and deductions.’ And this budget would take him up one that.
“Every bipartisan group that has tackled this issue in a serious way recommended much more revenue than the $600 billion raised from the wealthiest Americans in the year-end deal.
“If this budget passes, the total deficit reduction since the Simpson-Bowles report will consist of 64% spending cuts, 14% tax rate increases on the rich, and 22% new revenue by closing loopholes and cutting wasteful spending in the tax code for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.
“That is a responsible approach. It’s a balanced and fair approach. It’s the one endorsed by bipartisan groups and experts, and it’s the one supported by the vast majority of the American people.
“In addition to investing in jobs and economic growth and tackling our deficit and debt responsibly, this budget also keeps the promises we’ve made to our seniors, our families, our veterans, and our communities.
“We reject calls to dismantle or privatize Medicare by voucherizing it. We think this critical program that seniors and families strongly support, paid into, and depend on should be protected and preserved for our children and grandchildren, and this budget is focused on doing exactly that.
“We also think we should be building on what is working in our health care system, not rolling back the clock.
“The House budget that was just released would repeal the health care law and would: increase the cost of care for seniors, throw students off their parents’ plans, cause tens of millions more Americans to be uninsured, and put the insurance companies back in charge of patients’ care.
“This budget rejects that approach, and it builds on the heath care law to continue reducing costs responsibly, increasing efficiencies, and improving care.
“Our budget also maintains the key principle that every other bipartisan group has maintained, but that has been rejected by House Republicans: we don’t think the burden of deficit reduction should be unfairly borne by the most vulnerable children and families who have already sacrificed so much.
“Everyone needs to be a part of this solution, but the House Republican approach would shred the safety net that has offered a hand up to millions of families across America, including my own, and we reject that approach.
“Our budget also makes the investments we need to keep our military strong, protect our communities and environment, and uphold the sacred commitment we’ve made to our veterans.
“I know that I am hearing the same thing from my constituents that all of you around this table are hearing. They are sick and tired of the gridlock that has paralyzed the budget process in Washington, D.C. They are looking to us to end the constant artificial crises and political brinksmanship that is threatening our fragile economic recovery, and to work together to responsibly tackle the serious economic and fiscal challenges we face as a nation.
“I believe the Senate Budget offers a path forward to accomplish this. I am proud of the work so many of you have done to put this budget together with a lot of input from our colleagues outside the Committee and members of the public across the country.
“Our budget reflects the values of a diverse Senate serving a diverse nation, and it is guided by the principles and priorities that are strongly supported by the constituents we were elected to represent. I am confident our country can move beyond this division and work together to tackle our fiscal and economic problems fairly and responsibly.
“Our nation has faced far greater challenges in our history, and time and again the American people have come together with our unique brand of ingenuity, diversity, and compassion to do the right thing.
“The House of Representatives is working on their budget resolution today, and I know there are going to be serious differences between the visions, values, and priorities within the budgets that will emerge from each chamber.
“But the American people are going to have an opportunity to examine these budgets side by side. They are going to be able to decide which approach is best for our economy, best for jobs and best for the middle class.
“They will let us know whether they want to go back down the path of the trickle-down policies that decimated the middle class and threw our economy into a tailspin. Or if they would prefer the approach we’ve seen work before, to tackle our deficit responsibly, reinvest in the middle class, build a strong foundation for growth, and restore the promise of American opportunity.
“The Senate Budget is a balanced and responsible approach to taking us down that second path. And I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will join us at the bargaining table and we can work together toward the responsible and bipartisan budget deal the American people expect and deserve.
“I will now turn this over to Ranking Member Sessions for his opening statement.”
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