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Charles G.
Republican IA

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  • Federal Spending

    by Senator Chuck Grassley

    Posted on 2013-01-28

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    GRASSLEY. Mr. President, during the next few weeks and months Congress and the President will again have an opportunity to demonstrate that we are serious about dealing with deficits and debt by reducing spending. We have the debt limit issue coming up, we have the sequestration issue coming up by March 2, and we have the continuing resolution issue coming up on March 27. So those are three very real times--and important times--to deal with deficit and spending.

    The reason we need to address the Federal runaway spending is obvious to everybody who has a family budget and wonders why Congress cannot live the same as families live--within our income.

    The reason we need to address the Federal spending is obvious-- because it is the real driver of our deficits and our debt. Spending is the reason we are up against the $16.4 trillion debt limit. Spending was the reason Congress and President Obama raised the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion just a year and a half ago.

    In 2006 the junior Senator from Illinois, Mr. Obama, came to the floor and made a very passionate and thoughtful statement here on the Senate floor in opposition to raising the debt limit. Many of the reasons he gave then are relevant today. In fact, they are even more appropriate because the debt is much higher and we have a fiscal mess.

    It is instructive for my colleagues to hear the words straight from then-Senator Obama. He delivered these remarks on March 16, 2006. At that time, the Senate was debating raising the debt limit by $781 billion to a new limit then that seems very small today--about half of what it is today--raising the limit in 2006 to $8.9 trillion. So I thought it would be worth--for the President's benefit as well as our benefit--going over what then-Senator, now-President Obama had to say, so I am going to quote partially from his speech. This is from the 2006 debt ceiling debate: The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

    He goes on to say: Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is ``trillion'' with a T. That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost $3.5 trillion.

    Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we will spend on Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, veterans benefits combined.

    It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America. And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget.

    Senator Obama went on to say: This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investment in infrastructure like bridges, ports, levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education, health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

    Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America's priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans--a debt tax [[Page S301]] that Washington doesn't want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.

    So what he said in 2006 is still very much true today, only we are in a worse situation. We are in a situation where he is now President of the United States, and through his leadership, something can be done about it.

    I wish to continue to quote him by saying--this is what he said in 2006: Our debt also matters internationally. My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years.

    The administration he refers to was the Bush administration at that time, and he was legitimately finding fault with that.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.

    Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ``the buck stops here''. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.

    America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

    That is what Senator Obama said in 2006. That pretty much applies today as well. For these reasons, Senator Obama announced his position to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit in 2006.

    The national debt today is nearly double what it was in 2006 when President Obama called it a sign of leadership failure and a hidden domestic enemy. During President Obama's first 4 years, we added $6 trillion to the national debt--more than was added under President Bush's entire 8 years. Yet, under President Obama's recent budgets, he'd add another $10 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. That is his plan, to add another $10 trillion. Perhaps that is why, when given a chance, not a single Democrat in the Congress voted in favor of President Obama's budgets.

    When President Obama announced his vote against that debt limit increase in 2006, if we had a debt problem then and a failure of leadership in 2006, what do we have today? Surely President Obama, after 4 years of trillion-dollar deficits each year, believes that now is the time to reduce our debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies, as he stated as a Senator. At more than $16 trillion, President Obama must know that our national and economic security are undermined by our dependence on foreign countries to lend us money.

    In the summer of 2008, while on the campaign trail, Senator Obama made this statement when answering a question about deficits and debt. This will be the last quote I give. This is not from the floor of the Senate, this is from the campaign trail. He was asked about deficits and debt.

    The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents--number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back-- $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.

    Remember, he made these statements when annual deficits were a couple hundred billion dollars per year rather than the $1 trillion-plus deficits of each of the past 4 years. He made these statements when our national debt was $8 to $9 trillion rather than today's $16 trillion. That is close to $50,000 for every man, woman, and child, not the $30,000 it was when he spoke to us in 2008.

    So it is time for the President to acknowledge what he realized in 2006--that we have a spending problem--when he voted against increasing the debt limit.

    Earlier this month the President got his campaign wish to raise taxes on the so-called wealthy, even though it will do next to nothing to reduce deficits. But that is done. Now it is time to focus on the real driver of our deficits and debt: runaway Federal spending.

    I look forward to working with my colleagues and hopefully with President Obama over the next few months to finally take action to get our fiscal house in order. Leadership means the buck stops with him. It is time to stop shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. It is what Americans deserve, and with Presidential leadership, it can be accomplished.

    I yield the floor.


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