Challenges Aheadby Senator Daniel Coats
Posted on 2013-01-22
COATS. Mr. President, I appreciate the remarks of the minority
leader, and I think he essentially gets to the point all of us, in this
first week for the 113th Congress, need to be focused on and need to
address. This is our first workweek back after the inauguration
festivities of yesterday, and I think it is an appropriate time for the
Members of this body to discuss the challenges that lay before us over
the next 2 years.
The most critical and, in my opinion, the most pressing of these challenges is one we have been dealing with for the past 2 years and is now of even more critical importance, and that is the out-of-control government spending that weakens the health of our economy, threatens the security of our country, and jeopardizes opportunities for future generations.
When I arrived here 2 years ago, it was clear the American people were [[Page S27]] concerned about out-of-control Federal spending. At the beginning of the President's term 4 years ago, the debt limit stood at $10.626 trillion plus. In the 4 years of that term, it has risen to over $16.400 trillion--nearly a $6 trillion increase.
It is unprecedented in the history of our country to have such out- of-control spending. It has resulted in our borrowing a very substantial amount of each year's budget, which is not healthy whether you are a family or you are a business or you are a State government or you are the Federal Government. The chickens will come home to roost if we continue to do that.
Each American's share of our national debt now is well over $50,000. That means every new baby born in this country instantly owes the government more than $50,000.
We have had 4 straight years of trillion-dollar deficits without a budget in this body. The minority leader just talked about that. Hopefully, we will finally have a budget to work off of and a budget for which we can look at what the priorities are and make tough decisions about how we spend taxpayers' money.
We currently spend over $40,000 a second. These are not partisan numbers, and this should not be a partisan issue. These are the facts. As our former Governor in Indiana, Mitch Daniels, said: Just do the arithmetic. This is not a deep philosophical or ideological issue. It is a matter of basic math.
With financial problems as great as these, it is my hope as we return now to this 113th Congress we will be able to address this fiscal crisis. It is the same hope I had 2 years ago when I joined the 112th Congress. As we know, we went through a series of efforts to begin to address this problem. Many of those were on a bipartisan basis--we had the Gang of 6 and then we had the supercommittee of 12. These were bipartisan efforts. Many of us worked with our colleagues across the aisle to try to put a grand bargain together. Of course, the President had his own commission led by Mr. Bowles and former Senator Simpson. He rejected that. The Simpson Bowles proposal would have been a good blueprint upon which to begin our discussions. I will be talking some more about that and the disappointment--the extreme disappointment--of Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson in terms of the inability of this body to address what has been predicted as the most predictable financial crisis in our Nation's history.
We went through this whole process of the fiscal cliff. We, unfortunately, had to pick the lesser of two evils in order to protect nearly 99 percent of taxpayers from drastic tax increases, starting with the lowest to the highest taxpayer. The fiscal cliff deal may have allowed the President to fulfill his campaign promise to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, but it did little or nothing to address excessive Federal spending.
So the debate now shifts. The President got his taxes. With revenue off the table, the debate shifts to where it needs to be and should have been in the first place; that is, addressing spending reductions.
Just last week Fitch Ratings warned that America's AAA credit rating is at risk if the Congress and the President increase the debt limit but fail to enact a ``credible medium-term deficit reduction plan.'' We can expect to see more headlines like this if we do not come together and take action to deal with our country's debt obligations.
In the coming days and weeks I will be speaking in this Chamber and outlining what I believe are rational steps we need to take to get our fiscal house in order. The easy thing to do, and the way Congress has operated over these past 2 years, is to look at our fiscal situation and say: Well, we have more time; or we can deal with this after the next election. While I thought that was exactly the wrong tactic to take, that is what happened. There were a series of efforts, but each one ended up so-called kicking the can down the road or postponing the day of decision.
This is the day of decision. This is the hour of decision. This is the time when we have to step up now and address our out-of-control spending. We have had that next election. The President has been reelected for 4 years. Members have been reelected. We have this challenge now in front of us. Continuing with the status quo, governing by a crisis, and failing to address our spending problem must be unacceptable.
Mr. President, 2013 is the year. In 2014 we are back in another election. We all know the precious 6 to 9 to 12 months that lay before us is the time--postelection, with the President's reelection and new Members here--this is the time we have to step up and address our debt and deficit problem.
If we do not do so now, most experts who look at this, whether they are liberal or conservative, nonpartisan or partisan, ideological or nonideological, have virtually all come to the conclusion that unless we address this now in 2013, with an election year in 2014, 2015 will be too late.
We have seen what is happening in Europe. We see what is happening in Japan. We see what is happening around the world--a world hungry for America to lead, to address its problem, not by pushing it down the road, not through avoiding tough decisions, but addressing the real issue before us that impacts the future of this country and the future of generations to come.
So now is the time, now is the hour of decision that we have to take to go forward and address this problem. As I said, I will be using this platform and others as a way to address what I believe we need to go forward with, not only looking at the larger picture but also looking at how this government spends way beyond its means, spends money that it does not have, wastes money through bureaucracy and waste and failed efforts, tries to do more than it should or could or is able, and I want to document some of those--everything from the macro to the micro, from the absurd to the bureaucratic to the necessary tough decisions, particularly in regard to our entitlements that have to be addressed in order to preserve and save those programs for not only current beneficiaries but for future beneficiaries.
Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to begin this process, and I think each of us must dedicate ourselves to the challenge that lies before us. That challenge is dealing with our out-of-control fiscal situation, that if not controlled will bring this country down and continue this economic malaise that we are currently in.
With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.