Sessions Opens Debate On Opposition To Jack Lew Nomination
“Normally, and necessarily, the OMB director is the single office that drives efficiency and demands accountability on behalf of the President and the American people. In that aspect of his job, and in this time of surging debt, I rate Mr. Lew’s performance as an F…
[It] was decided [that] Mr. Lew would go before the American people and Congress and just declare that the budget did put the nation on a sound financial course… To anybody that has the slightest concern for the meaning of words, or who believes in the most basic concept of objective truth, this statement must be condemned."
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered remarks on the Senate floor today laying out the case for opposition to Jack Lew’s nomination to be Secretary of the Treasury. As debate was set to continue throughout the day, Sessions explained that Lew’s nomination exemplifies the Obama Administration’s strategy to block all attempts at reforming government.
Sessions’ remarks, as prepared, follow:
“I have made it clear that I oppose the confirmation of Jack Lew to the august cabinet position of Secretary of the Treasury. The President should be given substantial deference in choosing cabinet nominees, but, by our Constitution, the appointment may only be made “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.” Certainly, the Senate is not a rubber stamp or a potted plant.
A decent respect for the seriousness of the occasion, for my colleagues, for the President, and for the nominee requires, in this case, that I set forth my objections to his appointment.
Not having a personal relationship or meetings with Mr. Lew, my objections arise first from his performance in office as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. It is in many ways a key position in the U.S. government. It is the office through which the President controls the departments and agencies which he supervises and directs. Normally, and necessarily, the OMB director is the single office that drives efficiency and demands accountability on behalf of the President and the American people. In that aspect of his job, and in this time of surging debt, I rate Mr. Lew’s performance as an F. I have never seen a consistent, determined effort from Director Lew to reform and make more productive the government of the U.S. Indeed, his primary effort seems to have been to defend programs and expand programs. If the OMB director won’t insist on efficiency and good management, who will? The Secretary of Energy, pushing out failed Solyndra loans? The GSA who hosts hot tub parties in Las Vegas?
This government of ours has never ever been so poorly managed. Mr. Lew was the person primarily responsible for smart operation of government.
But, my concerns go even deeper. I believe that every public official of this nation owes an absolute loyalty to the U.S.—to its betterment—and to the institutional processes that govern America. There can be no doubt that every government official—from the President on down—is accountable to the institutions of our government and to the people.
Without doubt, the director of OMB has such a duty. He is required to meet that duty with honor, honesty, and efficiency. He serves us; we do not serve him.
The American people send their money to Washington and they expect that it will be honestly and openly managed. They have every right to demand high performance from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Surely, there can be no higher duty for such an important official than to report to the people truthfully on important affairs of state. Specifically, to report the financial condition of the nation and produce a budget plan to impose it.
Without doubt, the great challenge of our time is how to confront effectively the unsustainable debt course this nation is on. We are heading to a financial crisis if we don’t change. All tell us that: Simpson and Bowles, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, even outgoing Treasury Secretary Geithner.
Therefore, the report of the nation’s top management official to the American people and to Congress on these issues must be absolutely accurate. His budget must put the nation on a sound, sustainable course. And, if changes in our operating methods are needed, he must say so.
He is the one who keeps the books. He is the one who must, along with the President, rally the nation, as mayors and governors have been doing every day, to get us on a sound course.
In February of 2011, as Director of OMB, Mr. Lew produced a budget for the President, and presented it to the people and to the Congress. The Budget he prepared utterly failed to meet the needs of the nation. As Mr. Bowles said, with great disappointment, “[the White House budget request] goes nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare.” This budget was a disaster. Instead of making our debt problem even slightly better, it made it worse. It taxed more and it spent more, but as spending exceeded taxes, it made our debt situation more unsustainable. I was shocked.
Now, please remember, this was in February of 2011—not long after the mid-term election shellacking taken by the President’s big-spender allies. The American people were shocked by the explosion of debt and the surge of big government. They demanded more accountability.
To produce a budget that made things worse would not have been popular.
Imagine the decision process in the White House. It is clear that two decisions were made. First, despite the election, they decided not to curtail spending or to reduce the deficit. The political decision was to attack Republicans when they produced a budget as required by law.
But this presented a problem. To announce a budget that did not do what the public demanded—control spending and debt—would not be popular.
It is clear how the conundrum was decided. Mr. Lew would go before the American people and Congress and just declare that the budget did put the nation on a sound financial course, that it would end our deficits and put us in a position to pay down our debt.
Thus, the statements of Jack Lew amounted to the greatest financial misrepresentation concerning the finances of this nation ever made. These false statements were made deliberately, calculatedly, and for the political purpose of misleading the public. You may say surely not, Jeff. You are exaggerating the situation, surely. Sadly, no. This is what happened.
The day before the budget was to be released on Monday, Mr. Lew went on the Sunday news programs to report to the American people on the President’s budget that he had produced.
This is what he said on CNN:
“Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”
There was no qualification placed on this statement. It was explicit and clear. And could be heard by the people in only one way. But, the budget documents that he filed with the Congress said just the opposite. They revealed the truth. In his own accounting tables, Mr. Lew’s 10-year budget got nowhere close to the point where we would be “not adding to the debt anymore,” or “only spending money we have every year,” or “bringing down the debt.”
To anybody that has the slightest concern for the meaning of words, or who believes in the most basic concept of objective truth, this statement must be condemned.
Even though the Lew budget documents made calculations more favorable, more rosy, than the non-partisan CBO, it still unequivocally showed that over the 10-year budget window, there was never a time that the budget was close to balanced and never, ever, a time when we would be able to pay down our debt. Over 10 years, his budget would have added $13 trillion to the gross, total debt of the U.S., and $9 trillion to the public debt. The year with the lowest public deficit, using the lower public debt figure, his tables showed the debt would still be over $600 billion. President Bush’s highest public debt in eight years was never higher than $500 billion. And the Lew budget deficits were growing in the out years.
On Tuesday, he appeared before the Senate Budget Committee and I quoted his CNN statement back to him, and directly asked whether his statement was accurate. He replied: “It’s an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt. . . . We’ve stopped spending money that we don’t have.”
Though he had never qualified this statement when he addressed it to the American people, at the Committee he made some effort to say he was referring to the “primary debt.” This definition of “debt” has no value. It excludes the interest paid on the debt from the accounting. No sound thinking person would use such an accounting procedure, of course. Yet, that was the excuse he used. He said he was referring to this “primary deficit” concept. He suggested that under that calculation, his statement was not false. But, even using this phony calculation, his statements were not true. Even then there was never a time when—without counting our huge interest payment—there was a primary balance. Phony accounting procedures, budget manipulations and gimmicks, like the primary balance idea, are why the country is going broke. Why the American people are outraged. They sent us here for many reasons, but a primary reason is to properly manage their money.”
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