Executive Sessionby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2013-01-29
CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Passing a Budget Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, I rise to speak about taxes, debt, and spending. It is time for President Obama to show real leadership on the biggest threat America faces to our future prosperity. As my good friend the Republican leader has said: If we don't get a handle on spending and debt, not much else matters.
It has now been 1,371 days--almost 4 years--since Democrats, who control the Senate, have brought a budget to the floor and had a vote and passed the budget. Over that time, our national debt has grown by more than $5.2 trillion. Our credit rating has been downgraded because of fears we may not be able to pay back our debt when it is ultimately due, and we have experienced the longest period of high unemployment since the Great Depression.
Since the end of the official recession in 2009, Americans' median household income has fallen by roughly $2,500, while the cost of employer-provided family health insurance has increased by more than $2,300--roughly a comparable amount. Not only has income fallen by $2,500 but costs have gone up--thanks to ObamaCare--by $2,300 for the average family.
Until recently, passing a budget was considered not optional. It was considered a basic responsibility under the law. In fact, the Budget Act requires that Congress pass a budget each year, but this law has been defied for almost 4 years in the Senate.
I realize the Democratic leader--the majority leader--has said he did not want to bring a budget to the floor because he did not want to put his Members through a series of politically tough votes.
We cannot get to this problem by dealing with tax increases. This seems to be the preferred method of dealing with our deficits and debt by raising taxes, which, of course, happened as a result of the fiscal cliff negotiations where taxes have gone up on Americans by roughly $60 billion a year, which will amount to almost $600 billion over the next 10 years. Nevertheless, the President's budgets continue to ask for more revenue, but the message from this side of the aisle has been: The President has gotten his pound of flesh on taxes. Now it is time to deal with spending.
Unfortunately, we no longer have the luxury of delaying our toughest fiscal decisions. Our gross national debt is now larger than our entire economy, and we are now facing more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities for things such as Medicare and Social Security. Those are promises we will not be able to keep unless we act now to put them on a fiscally sustainable path.
I am glad our House colleagues have passed the no budget, no pay bill. I think most Americans appreciate the fact that if Congress doesn't do its basic work such as passing a budget--something every family and every small business in America has to do--then it should not be paid.
That has already prompted Senate Democrats to say they are going to take up a budget this year. Senator Murray, chairman of the Budget Committee in the Senate, says she intends to mark up a budget. Senator Reid and Senator Schumer have said they intend to see that a budget is passed by the Chamber. But they have also said they are going to attempt to extract more taxes from hard-working, middle-class taxpayers in order to double down on Washington's spending binge.
Our biggest fiscal problem is excessive spending, not insufficient taxation. We can't raise taxes high enough to close the trillion- dollar-plus annual deficits or to make up this $16.5 trillion hole we have dug. If we don't reduce spending and save Social Security and Medicare, then we will eventually find ourselves in a debt crisis. When that happens is when our creditors--the people who lend us money, including the Chinese and other governments--demand more interest on our loans and, eventually, interest rates go up to historic norms, the debt spirals out of control, and we reach a crisis of monumental proportions: It strangles the economy; it destroys jobs; it destroys our standard of living.
Don't take my word for it. President Obama himself has acknowledged that no amount of tax increases could sustain Medicare in its current form. He has also said public officials who are concerned about preserving government assistance for the elderly and the vulnerable have an obligation--those are his words--have an obligation to reform our entitlement programs and ensure their long-term viability. In other words, the debt is not only the single greatest threat to our national security, as former Chief of Staff Mike Mullen has said, it is also a threat to our ability to provide a safety net to the most vulnerable in our country.
I know Democrats and Republicans alike in this body understand the problem. The President himself understands the problem. In December of 2010, his bipartisan fiscal commission known as Simpson-Bowles reported the nature of the problem and a proposed beginning of a solution. Three of the most conservative Republican Members of the Senate agreed with that commission report. However, rather than embrace it, the President walked away from it, and he has not come back to the table.
We also have another bipartisan commission headed by Alice Rivlin, who was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under Bill Clinton, and Senator Pete Domenici, longtime chair of the Senate Budget Committee--people who understand these matters better than just about anybody. So there are solid, bipartisan proposals on the table. Yet here we are, trillions of dollars later since the Obama administration began, with no solution in sight.
The President had the American people with their back against the wall with the expiring tax provisions on December 31 which led to the so-called fiscal cliff. If we hadn't acted, taxes would have gone up more than $3 trillion on all Americans. There would have been an enormously negative impact on the economy and jobs. So we had to come up with some sort of stopgap solution. But the President got his pound of flesh. He got his revenue: $600 billion over 10 years.
Now is the time to return to what the President himself has called a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Unfortunately, the President has never even proposed a balanced approach, much less a balanced budget. I can only hope that with his final election campaign behind him and with the new term ahead of him, the President can begin to grapple with and join us as we deal with our long-term fiscal challenges.
I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.