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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Executive Session

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2013-02-14

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    CORNYN. Madam President, I rise to mark another sad record for the Senate: 1,387 days since the Senate has passed a budget--1,387 days.

    The last time I checked the 2012 election was over, and of course it has been over for more than 3 months now. Unfortunately, the President still seems to be very much in campaign mode, giving speeches all around the country. For the time being, what we need, rather than a President on a perpetual campaign, is for Democrats and Republicans to work together to try and solve some of our Nation's most pressing problems, and there is no more important issue than our national debt.

    Unfortunately, the President, after extracting about $600 billion in new taxes as a result of the fiscal cliff negotiations, is still coming back to the well, and he is calling for tens of billions of dollars in new spending. At a time when we ought to be talking about bending the cost curve down, trying to rein in wasteful Washington spending, the President wants to spend more, and he wants to raise taxes to do it.

    Perhaps worst of all, we know the promises we made to our seniors for Medicare and Social Security are imperiled. Unless we act together to save and protect Social Security and Medicare, they are on a pathway to bankruptcy, and that is irresponsible and wrong.

    I am tempted to describe President Obama's spending and tax ideas as small ball, but they are worse than that. They represent a conscious decision to neglect some of the most pressing issues that confront our country. One might even say it is a dereliction of duty in the battle to save America.

    Last week, the Congressional Budget Office projected our gross national debt will increase from $16 trillion in 2012 to $26 trillion in 2023. Now that may seem like a long way off, but since President Obama has been President, the national debt has gone up by 55 percent-- just in the last 4 years. If we project that forward to 2023, when some of these young men and women who are working here as pages will be looking at entering the workforce and looking at their futures, all they will see ahead of them is debt and a reduced standard of living. This is what lies ahead for all of us unless we embrace real spending cuts and unless we deal with the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security.

    If President Obama has a secret strategy for getting our debt under control, we would all love to hear it. His last two budget proposals failed to receive a single vote in the Senate. The last 2 years his budget has actually been put to a vote, no Democrat voted for it and no Republican, because it simply didn't address the problems I have described. I hope this year is different. Unfortunately, the President has already missed the statutory deadline for submitting his own budget, which was February 4. I hope when he finally gets around to sending us his proposed budget it is a serious plan for long-term debt reduction. Based on experience, I can't say I am overly optimistic, but hope springs eternal.

    I guess one of the things that worries me the most is that in the President's State of the Union message, which he so eloquently delivered a few nights ago, he didn't say one word about his 2014 budget--not one word. I would urge the President to take a long hard look at the new Congressional Budget Office report. I would urge him to launch serious bipartisan budget negotiations as soon as possible so we can avoid another last-minute cliffhanger and another 2 a.m. Senate vote.

    Above all, I would urge the President to take a look at a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that I have cosponsored along with all of my colleagues on this side of the aisle. That amendment would require the Federal Government to balance its budget each and every year.

    Is that such a crazy idea? Well, no. That is what every family has to do. That is what every small business has to do. And that is what 49 States are required to do under their laws. This amendment to the Constitution would be the 28th amendment to the Constitution, including the first 10, which are, of course, our Bill of Rights. It would require a congressional supermajority to raise taxes or to raise the debt ceiling.

    As I said a moment ago, families across America have to balance their budgets. And, of course, along with a budget brings the discipline of deciding what our priorities are--the things we have to have and we can't live without, the things we want but we have to defer, and then the things that maybe we would like to have but simply can't afford. Well, this number right here, 1,387 days since the Senate passed a budget, is one reason why our debt continues to go up by leaps and bounds, and there is no plan in sight to bring it under control.

    Here is the bottom line for President Obama: The 2012 election is over, and now it is time to govern. It is time to move beyond the campaign rhetoric, drop the gimmicks and work across the aisle with Republicans to do what is right for the country. We are ready, willing, and able to engage with the President and our Democratic colleagues to try to address these problems that confront our country. In fact, there is no good reason for any of us to be here unless we are willing to do that.

    Madam President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.

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