Jul 28 2011
“If the year had begun with a serious budget proposal from the president, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now… Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have refused to pass a budget in 820 days or even present one this year… Democrats defied the law and sound policy all year long and now we are paying the price…
There have been suggestions that Republicans are simply unwilling to budge from their position. But the Boehner proposal represents only a small portion of the cuts Republicans would like to achieve… We’re going to be fighting for cuts in spending bills, omnibus bills, continuing resolutions—everything we can do to impose discipline in Washington…
The president says he wants a balanced approach to the deficit… Creating real balance, the right balance, means shifting power away from Washington and placing it in the safe hands of the American people.”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today to address the competing debt limit proposals currently under consideration in Congress:
Sessions’ remarks, as prepared, follow:
“There are currently two bills headed for a vote to raised the debt ceiling and reduce spending. One of those bills, from House Speaker John Boehner, cuts about $1 trillion in spending and raises the debt ceiling by $1 trillion—until the end of the year. The other bill, from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, cuts about $1 trillion and raises the debt ceiling about $3 trillion—or past the 2012 election. This is because the president has said emphatically: „the only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013.
In a sense, it's really quite simple: Speaker Boehner's bill lives up to the principle that every dollar in debt ceiling increase should be tied to a dollar in cuts. Sen. Reid's bill is a hoax. It uses Washington gimmicks designed to make it look three times as large. In reality, it hikes the debt ceiling three dollars for every one dollar in cuts. The House bill is 1-to-1; the Senate bill is 3-to-1. We have demonstrated this exhaustively in a Budget Committee analysis.
The House approach is honest and straightforward and achieves one dollar in cuts for every dollar in debt ceiling increase. It allows us to return to the table in a few months, assess our progress, and begin working toward the greater cuts that are needed. Reid's bill relies on accounting tricks, takes the debt limit off the table until after the election, and exchanges a record $3 trillion debt hike for only one-third the cuts.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle signed a letter vowing to defeat the Boehner plan. I find this a little shocking. It seems Democrat leaders and the president are prepared to shut the government down in order to avoid continuing to work toward further spending reductions in the coming months. Is it the position of Washington's Democrat majority that $1 trillion in cuts, over ten years, is all we need to achieve between now and 2013? Is it their view that a dollar in cuts for every dollar in debt limit increase is too steep? Or is this a political effort to protect the president by pushing the debt ceiling past the next election? To the extent that, for this sole reason, the Democrats would cause this financial disruption?
Let's step back for a moment and look at the wider context. Washington is often consumed by political fights and blame games. It can be hard to differentiate between facts and talking points. But I'd like to try to provide as honest an assessment as I can so to why we find ourselves in this unfortunate situation in the 11th hour.
We have a statutory process to arrive at a budget deal every single year. It's written into law. The president is required to submit a budget and each chamber is required to pass one separately and then agree on one together. If the year had begun with a serious budget proposal from the president, we wouldn't be in this mess right now. But he submitted a budget that would double our debt in ten years while claiming it would not add to the debt. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have refused to pass a budget in 820 days or even present one this year. The Majority Leader said it would be 'foolish' to produce a budget. These are facts. Democrats defied the law and sound policy all year long and now we are paying the price. A last-minute, take it or leave it, panic vote.
If the White House or Senate Democrats had taken the budget process seriously at any point in the last year—if they had presented a single credible plan to cut spending—we wouldn't be here right now in the 11th hour. Instead, Washington Democrats insisted on secret meetings that shielded them from making their budget plans public.
That shielded them from any real votes on spending and debt. And those meetings failed.
Democrats campaigned for control of Washington and they chose, in a time of fiscal crisis, not to engage the budget process in a serious way. In fact, Senate Democrats are apparently so determined to avoid the public budget process that the Reid bill even includes language designed to circumvent that process for two more years. So you'll forgive me if I'm a little perturbed by all these attacks on the Tea Party. They didn't start the fire—they sounded the alarm.
Before last election, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, every conversation was about increasing spending. Congress passed the stimulus, it passed the president's massive new health care entitlement, it passed the president's requests for extraordinary increases in discretionary spending—a 24 percent increase over the last two years. We've added $4 trillion to our gross debt since the president took office. Just in the time since Senate Democrats last passed a budget, we've spent more than $7 trillion.
These are the facts.
But, after the 2010 election, and the emergence of the Tea Party, we finally started to look at Washington's spending problem. Now, instead of just raising the debt ceiling with no spending cuts—as the White House initially and repeatedly demanded—we're trying to cut spending. People in the Tea Party, and those who share their concerns, should not be vilified. They are good, decent, patriotic Americans whose only crime is rightly fearing for the future of this nation.
The last point I'd like to make is about the issue of compromise. There have been suggestions that Republicans are simply unwilling to budge from their position. But the Boehner proposal represents only a small portion of the cuts Republicans would like to achieve. This is a truly critical point—and one the White House will not acknowledge.
The House budget cuts $6 trillion in comparison to the president's request. The Toomey budget in the Senate cuts about $8 trillion. The House passed a plan, which I cosponsored, that not only cuts and caps spending, but also requires the passage of a constitutional balanced budget amendment. In fact, all 47 Republican Senators have cosponsored a balanced budget amendment.
The $1 trillion in cuts that the Speaker is asking for would be just be a modest first step. But, under his plan, we'll return to the table in a few months. This is far from the level of savings Republicans would enact if we controlled Washington as Democrats now do. We are going to spend around $45 trillion over the next ten years and are projected to add as much $13 trillion to our gross debt. It is clear we have a lot more work to do. We're going to be fighting for cuts in spending bills, omnibus bills, continuing resolutions—everything we can do to impose discipline in Washington. We must control spending and conquer the debt. The president says he wants a balanced approach to the deficit. But balance is not a tax hike that bails out the big spenders. Creating real balance, the right balance, means shifting power away from Washington and placing it in the safe hands of the American people. That's what the voters said last year when they gave a shellacking to the big spenders. That's what we should do.”