THE DEFICIT REDUCTION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - November 08, 2005)
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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. HENSARLING. I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.
Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I think it is really important that if Members look at the deficit reduction package that we are looking at, it is a reform package that creates savings as opposed to the typical tax-and-spend tactics of the other party, and reform is what most of us, Democrat or Republican, have come to Washington to do.
How many times do people running for Congress go to the local Rotary Club and say we have got to run government more like a business, we have got to end the duplications and the bureaucracy, we have to cut the red tape? And yet here is an opportunity to have some great bipartisan reforms, and all we are doing is getting criticism. And it is the same old broken record we hear from the Democrats that this is all about cuts.
I was here when we did welfare reform, and the same people were saying that we are pushing people out in the streets, even though welfare reform has been a success, and incidentally, was signed into law by President Clinton. But when a person in today's world thinks about what companies are doing great, they think about Verizon or UPS or Starbucks or Coca-Cola or McDonald's, and they think there are a lot of things going on in the private sector. And they turn around and think what do we have in the Federal Government? FEMA, the IRS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the United States Postal Service, and then the local motor vehicle department.
One can go into McDonald's and order food for a busload of teenagers coming back from a homecoming football game and get the food faster than they can going into the post office and getting a book of stamps. And I think it is relevant for people to realize we should not accept second best, third best, and fourth best from the United States Government. This package takes a step in that reform, and it does so by creating a lot of savings for us.
I am an agriculture guy, and I think it is really important to talk about the food stamp portion. We hear time and time again, oh, the agriculture budget is too much and you guys should do something about it. Well, 60 percent of the budget is actually for food stamps. Food stamps have increased from $17.7 billion in 2001 to $35 billion today, $35 billion.
Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, since the gentleman serves on the Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over the food stamp program, we just heard folks on the other side of the aisle, the Democrats, talk about massive cuts in the food stamp budget. But is it not true that even after we reform these programs, we will spend more on food stamps next year than we did last year?
Mr. KINGSTON. $250 million more next year than we are spending this year on food stamps, Mr. Speaker. And yet only in Washington, DC, only in that fantasy world that competes with Disneyland when it comes to creating make-believe, would people call it a cut. Because what we want to do is look at the increase, and we have determined that we can reduce one-half of 1 percent of the total food stamp budget, about one-half of 1 percent. Food stamps will still increase $250 million, and yet people can go down to the floor of the House with a straight face and say that is a cut. I do not know how they do it.
If I am giving my child an allowance of $10 and I am going to increase it to $15, but he wants $16, I still have not cut his allowance. I cannot get away with that back in Savannah, Georgia, but somehow the Democrat Party can do that with a straight face in Washington.
If nothing else, you have to admire their nerve.
Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman will yield again, it reminds me that in this great body everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. The fact is that these budgets are still increasing, even after our reforms.
But another question for the gentleman: is not one of the suggested reforms that we are offering here simply to extend for noncitizens, people who are not citizens of the United States of America, supposedly people who came here who wanted to roll up their sleeves and seek freedom and opportunity, a waiting period of 7 years instead of 5 before they receive food stamps, for noncitizens? Is that correct?
Mr. KINGSTON. Yes. The irony is that under President Clinton's signed welfare reform plan, originally you had to be in the United States of America 10 years before you were eligible to receive food stamps. That was later reduced to 5 years. And what we are saying is, you know what? That got real expensive. Let us just change it to 7 years. Yet, people are screaming bloody murder, and it is the same folks who say we have to do something about our illegal immigration and our immigration laws in general.
But remember, when you come to the United States of America and you become a citizen, noncitizens, you actually have to sign a waiver saying that you would not get public assistance benefits, you would not become a ward of the State. We are saying okay, listen, at least keep your word for 7 years. Yet, there again, we hear all the hysteria and rhetoric, which makes people just feel less belief in the government. As the gentleman said, people just pick and choose their own facts here. That is not allowed in the real world.
Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's comments to help illustrate the point again that almost every single budget for these programs will increase next year over last year. That is just a simple fact.
It is hard for me to believe that there are people in America who are going to find it highly controversial that those who supposedly signed a contract not to be wards of the State, those who came here for jobs and for freedom and for opportunity, that somehow it is a draconian cut to ask them to wait for 7 years instead of 5 years to be on food stamps.
Dollars have alternative uses. So the millions you save by this simple reform are millions of dollars that instead now can go to help relieve human suffering along the gulf coast. It could go to increase the number of mammograms for indigent women in the Medicaid program. It is dollars that could be used to help fund more college scholarships. But instead, our friends on the other side of the aisle said, no, we cannot have any reforms, we cannot have any reforms. It is all about massive cuts.
Mr. KINGSTON. In the nanny state, the liberal Democrats envision that the United States has to have Big Government sitting by your cradle when you are born and taking you to your grave when you die 75 years later or whatever. In their nanny-state vision, they are convinced that we have to pay for every step of your progress along the way.
One of the things they are screaming about now is nobody will be able to go to college because the Federal Government will not be able to step in and pay for your tuition. Well, the Federal Government does have assistance for people who deserve a college education and who have worked hard for it. But in the food chain, lenders make a minimum of 9.5 percent loaning you the money. Now, most people right now are not getting 9.5 percent on their investments.
What we are saying is, we are going to cut out that minimum of 9.5 percent that the lenders are getting on college education loans. Yet, again, we hear from the other side that that is a cut. I have trouble following them. I like fiction, I like crazy movies of fantasy, but they go beyond the page of what is real.
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Mr. KINGSTON. The gentleman from Indiana has talked about this being a first step. I think controlling spending, fiscal responsibility is almost like daily exercise and daily diet. It cannot just be a vote once a year. It needs to be a daily exercise.
There are all kinds of things that we can talk about in our multitrillion-dollar budget. Zero-based budgeting. As an appropriator I can tell you when agencies come in to us, all they talk about is the new spending. They do not ever go back to why did we originally need the money. And I will give you an example.
We had a series of forest fires out West. When I was on the Interior Appropriations bill, we spent money to help react to fight the forest fires. And the next year, no fires, so we tried to take the money out of the budget. No fires, no fire money. But guess what? That was called a cut because people decided, oh, no. You are not going to go back to zero base on us.
I think we should look at a Grace-type commission, an outside, a BRAC-type commission that could look at the Federal agencies and figure out which ones of them can be eliminated, where are the duplications and so forth. I think we should talk seriously about ending earmarks or at least reducing earmarks for the coming year to offset the cost of Katrina and Iraq. And then after we pass this, I believe we should go back and look at a half percent or a 1 percent or a 2 percent across-the-board decrease, because all of this has to be done year after year. Because that Federal budget, when all the good taxpayers are home sleeping at night, it continues to grow and it gets out of hand.
And I just wanted to say we are hearing lots and lots of crying. And I am going to close with this because I know you have the gentleman from New Jersey and the gentlewoman from Tennessee here, but if you just think about it this way, that Medicaid, through all this screaming and yelling that we are hearing from the other side, will still grow next year by $66 billion; that is, if we get to reduce it by 0.03 percent, it will still grow by $66 billion. It is not a cut.
It is not going to do all the things that most conservatives would like done, but as Mr. Pence said, this is a step in the right direction. And I thank the gentleman from Texas for your time and your leadership on these issues.
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