A picture of Senator Tom Harkin
Thomas H.
Former Democrat IA
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    American Family Economic Protection Act of 2013—Motion to Proceed

    by Former Senator Tom Harkin

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    HARKIN. This has been very interesting. This is not what I was going to speak on. I was going to speak on the amount of cuts we have already taken in our appropriations bill on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education, NIH, and Centers for Disease Control.

    I could not help but hear my friend from Pennsylvania talk about the President's budget as though that is controlling this. Would the Republicans want to adopt everything in the President's budget? I don't think so. They might want to select this or that or this or that, but are we now hearing from my friends on the other side that we should just carte blanche rubberstamp the President's budget? I sure hope not.

    I remind my friends that the Constitution of the United States clearly says this body has two functions: taxing and spending--not the President and not the executive branch. The executive branch can propose whatever budget they want, it is up to us to decide both how to collect the taxpayers' money and how to spend it. It does not matter to me exactly what the President proposes. What I want to know is how do we--as Senators and as Congressmen--feel about where we should be investing our money and on what we ought to be spending the taxpayers' money.

    The idea that somehow the President's budget says this or that and that people can pick and choose whatever they want with it, I submit again, I will bet my friends on the other side will not say: We will just adopt the President's budget as it is and we will go with that. I don't think they are ready to do that. I would not even do that for a President of my own party.

    I wish to talk a second, again, about sort of the intransigence on the part of my friends on the Republican side--not only in this body but in the other body--of not countenancing any other funding or raising of revenues. I keep hearing the Speaker say: We gave revenues last month, that we had $700 billion of revenues last month; now it is time to talk about spending cuts.

    What the Speaker has done is he has drawn an arbitrary starting line of January 2013. What about last year and the year before when we adopted over $1.4 trillion in spending cuts that have already been adopted? What about the starting line there? That is when we started to address the $4 trillion we needed by 2020 to stabilize our debt.

    We have come up with about $1.4 trillion in spending cuts and about $700 billion in revenue. It is not the idea that we have already given up and that we have collected enough revenue. That is not it at all. Going forward we need a balance between revenues and spending cuts.

    I want to read some of the things we have done in our own committee last year. We had $1.3 billion in cuts. We eliminated the education technology state grants, which a lot of people kind of liked. The Even Start Program was eliminated. The tech-prep education state grants were eliminated. The mentoring children of prisoners was eliminated; the foreign language assistance was eliminated; the civic education was eliminated; The Alcohol Abuse Reduction Program was eliminated. The career pathways innovation fund was eliminated.

    Many of these programs were started by my friends on the Republican side at some time in the past, some were started by Democrats, but most of them were started jointly with Republican and Democrats. What I am pointing out is that we have already cut a lot of things out of Health and Human Services, education, NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control. I can tell that you Dr. Francis Collins, the head of NIH, warned that the sequester will slash another $1.6 billion from NIH's budget at the very time when we are on the cusp of having some good breakthroughs in medical research. A lot of medical researchers have been lined up and doing some great programs out there. Now all of a sudden they are going to have the rug pulled out from underneath them, but that is what is going to happen.

    I might mention the kids with disabilities and what is going to happen with the funding for the IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I am told about 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff who help our communities and our schools cope with kids with disabilities who come into schools--because under IDEA we are providing that kind of support--are going to be cut. But it is going to be cut.

    So this idea that somehow we can keep cutting and cutting and cutting and we are going to get to some magic land where we can continue to function as a society just isn't so. We need revenues. That is what is in the bill the majority leader has proposed, revenues that will help us reach that point where we can have both spending cuts and revenues and stabilize our debt at a reasonable percentage of our GDP.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.

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