Sessions Delivers Opening Remarks As Senate Begins Debate On First Budget In Four Years

“If the American people take nothing else away from this debate, it should be that the party running this Senate, spending your dollars, refuses to ever balance the federal budget… [Their plan’s] surging debt and taxes will crush American workers, close American factories, and depress American wages…

This budget effectively shows no concern for Americans living in poverty, struggling to find work, trapped in a stale bureaucratic welfare state… This budget perpetuates the misguided policies that are causing social and economic harm in every state and every region and every part of this country” 

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered opening remarks on the floor today as the Senate began debate on its first budget resolution in four years. His remarks, as prepared, follow:

“Today we begin debate on the budget resolution drafted by Chairman Murray. This is the first budget resolution on the Senate floor in four long years. The decision not to produce a budget was made by Senator Reid, but supported by his members.

There is no greater symbol of the arrogance of those in power than the refusal of the Senate Democrat majority to produce a budget resolution these last four years. Our friends in the majority speak of their deep concern for struggling Americans yet, year after year, they offered no financial plan to help them.

America has never been in more perilous financial condition and has never needed a sound budget plan more than we do today.

So what changed? Why do we have a budget on the floor now? The answer is a simple one: the House of Representatives passed legislation called No Budget, No Pay. Then—and only then—Senate Democrats relented.

Today we know why the Senate Majority resisted offering a plan all these years.

The answer is this: the Senate Majority refused to offer a budget these last four years because they know their plans could never be publicly defended.

The budget before us today is a bankrupt vision that will bankrupt the country. It is a jaded tax-and-spend budget that surges our nation’s debt and achieves no reduction in our annual deficits. It is a budget that never balances—never.

I think this quote sums it up well: “In short, this document gives voters no reason to believe that Democrats have a viable plan for — or even a responsible public assessment of — the country’s long-term fiscal predicament.” That is not my analysis—although I would agree with it; that comes from the editorial by the Washington Post.

Senate Democrats have made no attempt to make government leaner and more productive. Their proposal goes to extraordinary lengths to shield failing government programs from reform. It grows the government at the expense of the economy. It enriches the bureaucracy at the expense of the people. It has no plan to help discouraged workers move from dependency to independence.

Its surging debt and taxes will crush American workers, close American factories, and depress American wages.

I would ask the American people to answer this question: do you believe the government is wasteful and needs to do a better job saving money?

If your answer to that question is yes, then consider this: the Democrat budget does not achieve a single penny in net savings. After four years, they have failed to identify any way to save taxpayers a single solitary cent.

Any Senator who votes for this budget apparently believes the government is perfect and requires no reform. Any Senator who votes for this budget is saying to the American people: “Washington is not the problem, you’re the problem.” They’re saying: “We’ve managed the money well. The problem, you see, is you. You haven’t sent us enough money.” This budget calls for another $1.5 trillion in higher taxes—not through closing loopholes but through slashing popular deductions to pay for more Washington spending.

Let’s take a moment and look at the numbers in this budget. First, I’d like to examine the claim that this budget reduces the deficit by $1.85 trillion. Now, when many Americans hear this they might think that means the budget’s authors are proposing to reduce the debt. Not so. According to their own budget tables, our nation’s debt will climb another $7.3 trillion over 10 years—passing $24 trillion in total federal debt.

As their own promotional materials clearly state, they claim $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction. This claim refers to an alleged reduction in the size of the projected debt increase. But the $1.85 trillion claim is totally false. It is a complete fabrication. Several accounting tricks are used to create this number. The biggest of these is that their budget completely eliminates the savings from the sequester, but fails to count this as a spending increase.

I asked Chairman Murray’s staff about this at the hearing. They didn’t want to talk about it, but when pressed, they admitted this was true. Let me quote from those exchanges:

Sessions: “Relative to current law, under your plan, if it is enacted, how much deficit reduction will occur?”

Murray Deputy Staff Director: “Again, if you want to go straight CBO baseline that we started when I was talking to Mr. Johnson, it would be about $1.75 trillion. If you want to make the adjustments and take out the sequester and the disaster, yes, obviously it’s much less. I think the total deficit reduction is about $700 billion in the plan.”

Sessions: “Can you honestly say that under this budget you can achieve $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction and eliminate the sequester with only $975 billion in new taxes?”

Murray Deputy Staff Director: “No…”

So there it is. Once again, the big spenders in Washington are trying to spend more money while pretending they’re not. There are other gimmicks too. Chairman Murray fails to account for the cost of continuing the stimulus tax credits, and fails to offset the doc fix. Her proposal includes only $75 billion in funds for the war—substantially below the $494 billion requested by the President in his last budget. Together, this all has the effect of zeroing out her deficit reduction.

It also means there is a net spending increase above projected growth. Her budget breaks the spending limits we signed into law just a short time ago with Budget Control Act.

Here are a few more figures everyone should know:

  • 60 percent spending increase over 10 years
  • $162 billion spending increase next year
  • $7.3 trillion in new federal debt over 10 years
  • $1.5 trillion tax increase
  • 80 percent increase in federal welfare and means-tested poverty spending

The question of whether or not to balance the budget is one of the central features of this debate we are having now. If the American people take nothing else away from this debate, it should be that the party running this Senate, spending your dollars, refuses to ever balance the federal budget. The Republican-led House, by contrast, does balance the budget and has passed a budget every year since gaining the majority.

We have a moral duty to balance the budget. But we also have an economic duty to balance the budget. Not just to prevent a future financial crisis, but to solve a present crisis.

Our massive debt is hurting growth today. Our economy us being damaged today. Massive federal debt is creating poverty and joblessness right now. Not tomorrow. Now.

The famed economists Rogoff and Reinhart released a paper just last April that concludes that when gross debt, not public debt, reaches 90 percent of GDP, then the economy slows between one and two percent. You may not be aware that the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements, and the European Central Bank have reached, independently, very similar conclusions. Our gross debt is now 103 percent of GDP.

The other studies, with different approaches, all find that our current surging debt of almost $17 trillion is causing a drag on our economy now. A one percent decline in growth costs one million jobs. We know that for the past three years, growth has fallen below CBO projections. These studies show our debt is hurting the economy now and that increased spending and more debt must end. It cannot be contended any longer that it is good for America to borrow more and spend more. We must grow the economy—not the government. I believe we all know this, and so do the American people.

This recovery from the 2007 recession is the slowest since the end of World War II. And slow growth is expected to continue. The Commerce Department reported last month that the economy barely grew in the fourth quarter of 2012. CBO expects the U.S. economy to limp along in 2013 at just 1.4 percent after inflation is taken out.

No one disputes that this is the slowest recovery since 1945. But why is it so slow? It certainly is not because the government has spent too little of the taxpayers’ dollars. Total federal spending has gone up 30 percent since 2007, and our annual deficit today is seven times greater than it was just five years ago. As a consequence of huge annual deficits, our debt has grown by 73 percent since the beginning of the recession, over which time we added $6.6 trillion in new debt.

The reason our recovery is so slow is because of the depressing effects of high debt, big spending, and a burdensome tax code.

But every time Republicans try to reform the government they meet with the same response. Democrat leaders—from the President to Leader Reid to Chairman Murray—attack the reformers.

Majority Leader Reid said of one Republican reform effort that it was “a mean-spirited bill that would cut the heart out of the recovery that we have in America today… It goes after little children, poor little boys and girls.”

Chairman Murray said: “I will not agree to a deal that throws middle class families under the bus.” We’re not throwing middle class families under the bus. We want economic growth and prosperity. We don’t need to be attacking, in harsh personal terms, people who disagree about over solutions.

But the real victims of these attacks are not the politicians. The real victims are the millions trapped in poverty by failed government programs. The real victims are the Americans being denied help by those who would defend the Washington establishment at all costs. The real victims of the Left’s rhetorical assault are the communities thirsting for growth and opportunity but denied any policy that would create more jobs and rising wages.

This budget effectively shows no concern for Americans living in poverty, struggling to find work, trapped in a stale bureaucratic welfare state. Look at a city like Detroit, governed by liberal policies for decades. A city once rich with business and commerce and opportunity. More than half of all Detroit children now live in poverty. Or look at our nation’s capital, another major city locally governed for decades by liberal policies, a city filled with finance and deep-pocketed businesses. Washington D.C. is flowing with federal funds. No city gets more from the government. Yet despite all this federal cash, one in three youth in our nation’s capital live in poverty. Two in three children live in single parent homes.

This budget perpetuates the misguided policies that are causing social and economic harm in every state and every region and every part of this country.

Compassion demands that we change. We need to grow the economy, not the government—for all Americans, in every state and city. We need to create rising wages and better jobs—without just borrowing money and handing it out in the form of some government check. We need to reform and improve ineffective government programs so they help more Americans achieve their financial goals. Aren’t there some things we can do without adding to the debt? Absolutely.

Here’s how:

  • Pro-growth tax reform
  • More domestic energy production
  • Make the welfare office a place to restart lives
  • Defend American workers from unfair foreign trade practices
  • Make government leaner and more productive
  • Eliminate every burdensome federal regulation that isn’t needed and that destroys jobs
  • Balance the federal budget

The American people have heard a lot of rhetoric from their elected officials and a lot of buzzwords about financial discipline. This week, rhetoric will be matched up against reality. Every Senator will have to stand and be counted. I encourage the American people to tune into C-SPAN and see where your Senator stands on the great issues of our time.

Do we balance the federal budget? Do we reform the bureaucracy or just keep sending more money to Washington? Do we embrace our great Constitutional heritage of freedom, or do we let it slip away?

These are the questions of our time. I look forward to having this debate.”