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Pat R.
Republican KS

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  • Concurrent Resolution on the Budget Fiscal Year 2014

    by Senator Pat Roberts

    Posted on 2013-03-20

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    ROBERTS. Mr. President, I thank my distinguished colleague, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, the fully declared champion of fiscal responsibility, defender of hard-pressed taxpayers all across the country, doing a splendid job here as a Senator who actually asked to be on the Budget Committee to try to meet these challenges, and I credit him for his leadership and example.

    I rise today to speak on my Democratic colleagues' proposed budget resolution upon which they have just been waxing poetic before the Senate. I have mixed feelings about this budget. I have mixed feelings even being here on the Senate floor in that I am bereft of charts. What on Earth am I going to do making comments about this budget [[Page S2002]] without the appropriate charts? Everybody has charts. Look at these stands around here.

    My colleagues across the aisle--who have now left the Chamber since I began speaking--have displayed charts. I wonder if the Parliamentarian could inform this speaker if we could turn off the lights and I have a PowerPoint and a laser pointer? I will not ask that.

    But I don't have a chart. I just have some remarks that I would like to put together about the challenge we all face. I am pleased, everybody is pleased, finally, that the Senate has again, finally, taken up its constitutional responsibility to consider a budget in regular order--or at least some framework of regular order. However, I have the temerity to suggest that after 4 years, this budget resolution does not cut the spending muster and, from a constitutional responsibility, I fear it has indeed been very irresponsible.

    At the same time, I look at this budget and I ask: Is this all we waited for these past 4 years? In the words of the famous song, ``Is That All There Is?'' Or better put, is this more than all there is? And it certainly is more.

    There is an old saying that if you want to be remembered by your children, leave a lot of debt. Well, if this budget is passed and it sticks, then there are going to be a whole lot of people who vote yes who will certainly be remembered.

    The solution was, indeed, to return to regular order, return to the regular process: Examine the President's budget, pass a budget resolution, and provide clear directives to the authorizing and appropriations committees to develop legislation to reflect the tough decisions made in the budget. A lot of words. None of it is very easy, but that is called regular order. That is what we should have been doing the last 4 years. We have not been doing that. We haven't been doing that at all.

    Everybody knows the process around here. What happens is we have a major bill to do, we have our obligations to do, we have our constitutional responsibilities to do. We try that. We ask for amendments; we don't get amendments. We file cloture, they don't get 60 votes, and the bill fails. Or we have a continuing resolution, some giant body of legislation that is the worst way to do business--or a sequester, the same kind of thing. And people back home scratch their heads. People on that side of the aisle perhaps have an issue--not a bill, but they might have an issue. Then the blame game starts. I think the American people are tired of it.

    None of it is easy. I understand that. But it works much better, much better than lurching from crisis to crisis as we have done and experienced in the last 4 years.

    So I am pleased that we are slowly returning to some aspects of regular order, but I remain deeply concerned about the daunting fiscal challenges we face and the fact that we are not answering these challenges. The Federal balance sheet is now truly frightening.

    Today, almost 1,500 days since we last considered a budget resolution on this Senate floor, we are fast approaching $17 trillion in debt--and beyond. It is climbing. Our per-person share of that debt is now more than $53,000. This is why I am so frustrated, and many of our colleagues are frustrated and disappointed by the budget resolution we are about to consider.

    Yes, again, we have brought this resolution through regular order. I appreciate that. But the recommendations fail. They fail to begin to meaningfully address the key fiscal issues that we are all generally agreed are sustainable.

    I don't have a chart, but I think people can understand this. The numbers are startling.

    Since 2009 we have added nearly $6 trillion to the national debt. Under the proposed budget resolution, despite a massive new tax hike proposal, new debt will rise--since I don't have a chart, just sort of imagine it here--$7 trillion over 10 years. I hasten to add, that is on a projection by the Congressional Budget Office, and I think it is probably low.

    Spending will increase another $645 billion above the projected growth over 10 years, including $162 billion in the next year alone.

    The deficit will increase in the next fiscal year by $95 billion above current forecasts.

    I could have a chart with a big zero on it. It is not a soft drink. This is something pretty serious. Zero. That is right, zero--zero real deficit reduction through spending reductions. It would never and doesn't pretend to try to balance the budget--precisely what the Senator from Alabama has been pointing out. In my view, this resolution would further damage our fiscal condition over the long haul, exactly what we don't want to do.

    We do not want to kick the can down the road any further. We can't do it. We have reached that point of no return. And here is the kicker for me. The budget resolution includes a proposed $1.5 trillion in new taxes. That is on top of the $600 billion tax hike that was just enacted in January. This would include a $923 billion reconciliation instruction to the Finance Committee. I am a member of that very prestigious committee. I look forward to trying to achieve tax reform, but I worry about a $923 billion reconciliation despite the negative impact this would have on critically needed progrowth tax reform.

    The budget also includes about $500 billion in unspecified loophole closers to increase spending on infrastructure and to replace the current sequester.

    Loopholes. Loophole closures. Boy, is that in the eyes of the beholder. I am concerned about it. No doubt the Gatling gun kind of criticisms we heard in the past campaign, singling out tax reform targets--and I always want to add, you always want to worry about what lurks under the banner of reform of whatever banner someone is waving.

    Time after time I heard the President talk about fat cat corporate jets. Boy, am I tired of hearing about that. That is business aviation. That is 1 million jobs. That is a great number of aircraft that is adding to our exports. The President has said: Let's double our exports, and still we hear this pejorative of fat cat corporate jets. Also, oil and gas subsidies, two major industries of Kansas, even those are critical, successful industries with all the hallmarks we should want in an industry--good, high-tech paying jobs.

    Sure I am for tax reform, and sure I want to reach the specified numbers that we could all agree on--if we could all agree on a specified number. But policy counts, and you don't want to do anything terribly counterproductive. The call for a gigantic tax hike to pay for more spending is misguided and will harm our chances for tax reform. It will do little to place our budget on any sustainable path. Not only that, this budget is a job killer.

    The Tax Foundation analysis I just read today indicates the legislation in its current form will result in the loss of 800,000 jobs over 10 years. It is a job killer.

    Why on Earth would we be considering a budget resolution that will result in the loss of 800,000 jobs? In Kansas, that hit would be about 10,000 jobs. That is low. I have no doubt this number understates that problem.

    We all know the time is long past for us to reform our overly complex, costly, anticompetitive tax system. That is a given. We know that. I might add that the Finance Committee, under the chairmanship of Max Baucus and the ranking member's leadership, Orrin Hatch--all of us on the Finance Committee have been meeting as Republicans and Democrats together. We can do this job. Give us 6 months to do it right. Give us a flashing light at the end of the room saying ``Do No Harm,'' and we can get this done.

    The current system is a drain on individual and business resources. It is one of the main causes of our sluggish economic growth.

    We need to put in place a Tax Code for the 21st century, one that recognizes the nature of the international trade system in which we compete--and there is competition--and one that recognizes the changes to our domestic business environment. We also need to lower corporate rates so the United States no longer has the highest rate in the developed world.

    It is critical that Congress encourage economic growth and private sector job creation by putting in place a tax system that is simpler and fairer to all taxpayers, a tax system that doesn't change every year or two, one that provides certainty. We need to provide certainty by establishing a permanent [[Page S2003]] Tax Code that will allow families to plan for their future and give businesses the confidence to expand and create jobs.

    Adopting a fair and simple tax system that lowers marginal rates, encourages economic growth, promotes our competitiveness, and eases compliance--read regulatory reform, read a Katrina of regulations that now affects virtually every business endeavor in the country, read all that--that is the most powerful step we can take to improve our economy.

    While I support considering a budget through regular order--thank goodness we are finally achieving that--we are presented with a profoundly disappointing document, a budget that includes a massive job-killing tax increase, increases spending, raises the deficit and debt, and all but kills prospects for tax reform--just what the doctor did not order.

    After 4 years of deliberate inaction, my colleagues and I had hoped for better.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alabama.

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