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Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 -- (Senate - March 20, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first of all, I thank the distinguished chairman of the Budget Committee for his outstanding work and his commitment day in and day out to putting together a new direction for the country in this budget and meeting our fiscal responsibilities, and thanks to his staff for their hard work as well. Also, to our ranking member, the former chairman, we disagree in approach, but I have great respect for him and his staff and the way in which they conduct business and their professionalism.

Before talking about why this is a good budget resolution, let me start out by, in fact, disagreeing with the distinguished Senator from New Hampshire. He says everything is going great all across the country, everything is going great. But just last week, in the newspaper here, the Washington Post, we had a story about a national survey showing a soaring number of homeowners failed to make their mortgage payments. The number of foreclosures of all homes jumped to its highest level in nearly four decades, according to the survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The highest level in nearly four decades? Is that because people just don't want to pay their mortgage? Of course it is not. It is because the average people--middle-class families, people working hard every single day--are not feeling the benefits of what the distinguished Senator was talking about.

It is true that you can show numbers--stock market up 58 percent, real GDP up 32 percent, real corporate profits up 36 percent. But the median household income--the majority of Americans working hard every single day, who care about their families and are trying to make a better life for themselves, have seen their incomes go down--in fact, $1,253 over a 5-year period, from 2000 to 2005.

Why? First of all, we have lost 3 million manufacturing jobs in America under this President and during the previous Congress--3 million manufacturing jobs. What does that mean? Good-paying jobs, good wages, pensions, health care benefits, a chance at the future, the hope of sending your children to college--good-paying jobs, 3 million of them lost. I have a list here of just some of those in manufacturing: computer and electronics manufacturing, 543,900 jobs, good-paying jobs, people who have a very different view than what was presented earlier about how great it is right now economically in America. Vehicle parts, machinery, fabricated metal products and primary metals, and right on down, transportation equipment, furniture products, textile mills--43 percent drop in textiles--leather products, right on down through chemicals.

The reality is too many people in this country, the majority of people in this country, have not benefited from the rosy picture we have heard about and we are going to continue to hear about on this floor. Why? Because they have not been the priority under this administration and the previous Congress. They have not been the priority.

The good news about this budget is that in this budget, they are the priority. We are in a new direction through this budget. We are, in fact, returning to fiscal discipline. Yes, we value paying the bills. No more borrow and spend, borrow and spend, over and over again, borrowing, adding up mounds of debt. We are putting us back on the road to fiscal discipline, and we are putting middle-class families first. That is the value base for this budget. That is what we are looking at in the big picture.

In fact, the budget is our value statement. It is about our values and our priorities. It reflects who we are as a country and allows us to shape who we want to be in the decades ahead. This budget is about making sure everybody has a chance to make it. Folks working hard every single day want to know that they are going to see their lives improve, not just some numbers for some people.

Last November, the American people sent a clear signal that they were unhappy with the way this Government was doing business. They chose new leadership for America. They wanted a new direction, a direction that builds on our common values and places a premium on putting our middle-class families first.

We have already made great strides in delivering on those promises and the potential of last year's election. The Senate has passed an increase in the minimum wage for folks working hard every day, working not one but maybe two or three jobs, probably without health insurance, trying to make ends meet for their families. We finally engaged in an open, important, a critical debate on the war in Iraq, and we have taken concrete steps to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to make our families and our communities safer.

But in many ways, this budget debate, the budget in front of us, is our first big test about who we are and what are our priorities. We are faced with a very simple question: Will we bend to business as usual and deliver a budget that fails, again, to live up to the mandate the country has asked of us or will we do what the American people have charged us to do--deliver a budget that reflects middle-class values and works for American businesses, farmers, workers, and families? That is what our budget resolution does.

It will not be easy. We have inherited a fiscal mess, quite honestly. We have tough choices to make. I love seeing that the wall of debt, the wall that was actually created by the distinguished Budget chairman talking about where we have come from in the last 6 years--I remember in the Budget Committee when we had the largest surplus in the history of the country, over $5.6 trillion. We at that time, the Democrats, indicated in the Budget Committee that we wanted to see a third of that go to tax cuts, a third of it to investments and opportunity and science and the future--education and health care--and a third to prefund the liability on Social Security. We wouldn't be where we are in the Social Security debate if we had done that back in 2001. But that is not what happened. Virtually all of it was put into supply-side economics, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and then we went into a war that has not been paid for, et cetera. So we are in a hole. We are in a huge hole.

One of the things we always talk about is: If you are in a hole and you want to get out, the first thing is to stop digging. This budget stops digging the hole and puts us on a path of fiscal responsibility. Just like every family in America, the Government has the responsibility to balance its checkbook, and we are committed to putting us in that direction and getting that job done.

We are committed to a return to fiscal discipline and putting a stop to the bad habits of the last 6 years of writing checks the Government cannot cash. Under our budget resolution, we begin to chip away at the problem immediately with the target of 2012, 5 years from now, for completely erasing the Federal deficit.

We know we can do that. It is simply a matter of prioritizing and not spending money we do not have. I was proud to be part of a Congress that balanced the budget in 1997, working across party lines, to keep spending in check. It was not easy. But we understood the long-term health of the American economy and the long-term well being of our middle-class families and our businesses were dependent on making tough choices.

The irresponsible fiscal policies of this administration have gutted our record surpluses and driven us into record deficits. Thank goodness we are beginning now to come out. But it has hurt our families, it has hurt our businesses, and it has put our way of life at risk. We are committed to stopping that.

Second, as we put our fiscal house in order, we need to focus on the priorities that matter to American families, and that is what this budget does. I should mention in talking about that, when we hear about all this spending being talked about, only 17 percent of all the so-called domestic discretionary spending, the money we have the ability to make decisions about, in terms of science and health care and education and environment, public safety, and so on, that the discretionary part of the budget is 17 percent of the whole budget--17 percent. It is invested in the quality of life and the future for the families of this country. Those are critical investments.

What are we suggesting? Well this budget, in fact, focuses on what matters to middle-class families the most. First, people want to know we are going to be investing in education and opportunity in the future for themselves and their children. We commit to health care for every child. We commit to making sure every child who does not have health insurance is able to get health insurance, so that families who go to bed tonight don't worry about what is going to happen--and pray to God, please do not let the kids get sick tonight--they will know there is health care available to them. Frankly, it needs to be step one to make health care available to every American.

Third, we keep our promises to our veterans. This ought to be a given. This budget resolution guarantees that. We provide middle-class tax cuts. We are all for tax cuts; it is about time the middle class got some. That is what this budget resolution does. We restore key investments in law enforcement, health care, technology, protecting our environment. Key investments the President has tried to cut, we have put back and restored those.

Let me speak for a moment about education. Everyone understands the world economy is changing. Our increased reliance on technology and the growing competition in the global marketplace means that today, more than ever, we need to be investing in the best education system possible for our children. We all say that. We all talk about education.

We had a wonderful hearing this morning in the Finance Committee on education. This budget actually does more than talk about it; it takes critical investments and places them as a top priority for us because we know this is the only way we are going to be able to have our businesses competitive and create real financial opportunities for working-class America.

In real-world terms, that means investing more in education and focusing more on innovation. Education policy is economic policy. We understand that. Creating opportunity for everyone who works hard to make it is what America is all about. It is one of the pillars, the foundations of our economy and a huge focus for our families and a huge focus in this budget.

Unfortunately, what did the President do when it came to education last year? Well, he and the Republican Congress, back in Christmas of 2005, cut $12 billion out of student loans. Then the President came back in 2006 with the largest proposed cut in the history of education. Our children deserve better. This budget resolution reflects our commitment to education. Under our budget proposal, we invest $6.1 billion more in education funding than the President's proposal for 2008.

Let me speak for a moment about health care. This is a major priority in this budget. I believe health care should be a right, not a privilege, in this country. We need to be about the job of changing the way we finance it in total and getting it off the back of business. Your ability to remain healthy should not be tied to your employment status or depending upon where you were born or what kind of family you were born into.

In America, we can do better than we are doing, and this budget moves us in the right direction. We spend more on health care, per capita, than any other Western Nation. Yet We have nearly 50 million people with no health insurance. There is something wrong with this picture. We intend to fix it. Americans who do not have regular access to health care also put a strain on our system economically, produce less for society, while at the same time saddling business with the skyrocketing cost of employee health care is making it more and more difficult for our manufacturers and our other businesses to compete globally.

This is an economic issue as well as a quality of life issue. Our budget proposal, this budget resolution, begins to tackle this issue where common sense dictates we should start--America's children. Our children have no choice when it comes to access to health care. They also represent the segment of our population that will reap the most long-term benefits in the introduction of regular, reliable, affordable access to health care.

Programs that exist, namely SCHIP for children, already exist, and it covers millions of American children who do not have insurance otherwise. But this needs to be expanded, and we need to create a priority to say that every child without insurance should have access to this program.

The President's budget designated only $2 billion for children's health care, for SCHIP, $2 billion. To say that this will not get the job done is an understatement. That is why our budget has designated $50 billion, 25 times more than that over 5 years, to fully fund health care for children in America.

Now I might say as an aside because that is a lot of money, we are talking about $10 billion a year to make sure every child in America has access to health care, $10 billion. That is about what we are spending in 1 month in Iraq--1 month in Iraq. We can take 1 month in Iraq for American children. That is what the budget does. It is time to get beyond talking about how children are our future. It is time to walk the walk.

That is what this budget does. Americans also want us to keep our promises to our veterans. The revelation about conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital over the past few weeks have brought into focus the concerns that many of us in this Chamber have been voicing about the treatment of America's veterans over the past few years. No group of individuals, no group, deserve our respect, support and admiration as Americans more than those who selflessly and voluntarily choose to wear the Nation's uniform.

They put their lives on the line for us every day, and all they ask in return is that when they come home from the battlefield, their Nation, our country, keeps its promises to them, including providing the health care they need and deserve. It is not enough to make statements on Veterans Day or remove military leadership when problems arise. It does not get any simpler than this: If the money is not in the budget then our veterans do not get what they need and deserve.

Now we are not talking about the type of issues that have reared their ugly head at Walter Reed, we are also talking about systematic issues that touch America's veterans in all our 50 States. Inadequate access to doctors and the facilities, extremely long drive times for care, which frequently happens in my State of Michigan, patient backlogs that would make you cringe, our budget addresses what we believe are the shortfalls in the President's plan when it comes to our veterans and their health care.

We have set aside an additional $3.5 billion for veterans health care in 2008 alone. What is most important is that, for the first time, this Senate has a budget resolution that reflects the recommendations of the independent budget, which is the budget of all the veterans organizations about what they believe is needed to adequately fund veterans health care and other critical needs.

Finally, let me say a few words about tax cuts. My friends on the other side of the aisle will try to paint Democrats in this budget as being antitax cut. Nothing could be further from the truth. You know we are going to hear all of this; it does not matter what the document looks like. We also know in advance what the mantra is going to be because it has been that way for years. It has been that way for years. But the reality is very different. I have to say that the--

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The 20 minutes yielded to the Senator from Michigan has expired.

Ms. STABENOW. I would ask for an additional 3 minutes.

Mr. CONRAD. If I can give her an additional minute because we are now down to 9 minutes, and they have got 43 minutes.

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I will take 1 more minute.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized for 1 minute.

Ms. STABENOW. We support this budgeting through tax cuts that make sense for middle-class families. That is who needs the tax cuts. We talk a lot about these tax cuts being given. You ask the average family if they feel like they have gotten a tax cut. They tell me: No. Because they did not get it. People are smart enough to know they did not get it.

Well, we have put in place tax cuts for the middle class. We have started with the alternative minimum tax, which is about ready to hit a whole new group of middle-class taxpayers. We make sure that our Tax Code gives middle-class families a leg up and does not punish them for working hard and being successful.

Finally, we go on to make sure we reinstitute, as I said in the beginning, law enforcement, transportation, community development, protecting our environment, which is a very small part of the budget but critical for our families.

The bottom line is this budget works for people. This is about middle-class families, the values of the majority of Americans, and doing it in a responsible way. I urge the adoption of the budget resolution.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, the comment I have, when we look at what the Senator from Alabama is talking about, he is basically saying that the tax cuts that were passed, first of all, were a good idea for most Americans and that he wants to make it as difficult as possible to change that. So when we look at what happened this last year, if you have more than $1 million that you earned in some way--unearned income or earned income--more than $1 million, you received $118,477 from the President's tax cuts last year. So what this amendment would do is say basically that they like this ratio. The less you made last year, the less you got. In fact, less than $100,000 in income, a family making less than $100,000 got $692. If you were willing to run that out even further, you had a lot of folks who maybe got $30, $40, $50 from this tax cut. So this locks in this kind of a tax cut.

We don't think this is fair. This budget resolution changes the way we look at tax cuts going forward and basically says we want tax cuts going to middle-class Americans. We want tax cuts going to the majority of Americans who are working hard every day, worried about their kids, who want to be able to send them to college, want to be able to have health care for them, and want a job, a good-paying job in America. These are the folks we are focusing on in this budget.

There is no question about it. This budget resolution is a new direction. It is a new day. It is a new set of values and priorities. The idea of saying, as this amendment does, that we should make it harder to change this, harder to rearrange things here or to maybe move some of those dollars over into making sure kids can go to college or making sure they have health care or their folks have health care or making sure we keep our promises to our veterans--those are the priorities in our budget.

Essentially, this amendment would say, if we need to address our veterans through adding dollars to make sure they have the health care they need, if we need to do more as we investigate and see what is unfolding with Walter Reed and other parts of the VA system and so on, that it would take more votes, it would take 60 votes to do something that would help our veterans but it would only take 50 votes to be able to continue this kind of a tax cut, this kind of a structure.

We reject that. We reject that set of values and priorities. They have been in place for 6 years, and I believe the American people have rejected those priorities with the changes in majority and the change in leadership that was made and that has begun as of January. What we have is a different approach.

First of all, as our distinguished budget chairman has said, we do want to say for new spending--whether it is tax cuts or other kinds of spending--we do want, overall, to make it a little tougher by having a 60-vote requirement because we want to make sure we are paying attention to lowering the deficit and moving in the other direction, to stop this spending using Social Security that has been going on for years and years.

But also in our budget, within that context, we have changed the priorities on the spending. We have said let's be fiscally responsible on any new mandatory spending, any new tax cuts, and require that people come together in a bipartisan way. It is a conscious choice, a supermajority vote. But we have also said we are going to increase the budget in education.

Earlier we heard from colleagues talking about all the new money that has been put into education under this President. The fact is that if you include this President's budget for next year, the Leave No Child Behind legislation is underfunded by over $70 billion. We put more dollars into education because we know it is about opportunity for our kids, it is about economic competitiveness, it is about creating opportunity--to dream big dreams and go as far as you can in the greatest country in the world--and that we have to focus on education.

Our budget does that. Our budget also says that part of what we need to do is invest in children's health care. For working families, those folks whose minimum wage we raised who do not have health insurance with their job, who are working one job, two jobs, three jobs, to try to make ends meet, we think they ought not have to go to bed worried about whether their kids are going to get sick; with a prayer at night saying: Please, God, don't let my kids get sick.

The SCHIP program is about making sure we support those working families, and we made a commitment in this budget to say we want every child from that working family--every child who does not have insurance to be able to receive insurance. This budget keeps its commitment to its veterans. This budget provides real middle-class tax cuts.

Not what is on this chart. I am not interested in adding. Can you imagine, $118,000-plus is the tax cut for last year? That is more than the average person in Michigan or anywhere in this country makes in a year. That is more than they make in a year.

We say we need a different kind of tax cut. For the folks who are making less than $118,000 a year, for the folks who are working hard every day, we want to change this picture. This amendment would basically say: The current tax cuts that are in place are great, we want to make it harder to change them. They keep in place something that frankly has been so unfair to middle-class Americans.

All over Michigan, when you talk to folks about tax cuts, most people say to me: What tax cuts? What are you talking about? I did not get a tax cut. You mean that tax cut that went into place in 2001?

You don't remember getting that big tax cut? Most people never saw that tax cut. That is why if you earned more than half a million dollars last year, you saw it, $21,000 worth. If you earned more than $1 million last year, you got over $118,000 in tax cuts.

We need a new direction. That is what this budget resolution is about, a new direction for the country that says: It is about everybody. It is about everybody who works hard every day, who gets up in the morning, does their best knowing they are going to be able to share in tax cuts.

But they are also going to be able to share in a community, in an educational system that works for the kids, being able to send them to college; that they are going to be able to share in the great health care we have in this country. We have got the greatest health care in the world. We have got 50 million people with no health insurance.

We spend twice as much money as any other country in the Western Hemisphere on our health care coverage. We are saying: We can do this better. We can do this differently so that American families reap the benefit of working hard and know that the future of this country is available to them for the great things about this country, the health care system, access to college, good schools are available to them.

Then we go further and we say: We want to make sure you have enough police officers on the streets and firefighters and that local communities can take care of water and sewer needs and other issues and protect the environment; in Michigan, it is the Great Lakes and our air, to be able to breathe the air, and on and on.

There is a set of things that we are committed to doing. The good thing is all that domestic spending we have talked about, that $18 billion in increased spending, 17 percent of the entire budget, only 17 percent of the entire budget, our investments that we are talking about for the people of this country.

Let me also say again, when we talk about differences and where dollars go, $10 billion, $10 billion a year is needed to make sure every kid in this country has health care. That is what we are spending in 1 month in Iraq--1 month in Iraq worth of funding to fund every child in America with health care coverage.

We believe we need to be doing that. In fact, the entire increase in investments in the future for this country's health care, science, education, protecting the environment, law enforcement, all of it adds up to less than 2 months' spending in Iraq.

What this amendment would say is we are going to make it very hard to do any other kind of investments for the American people, American families, but we are going to make it easy to extend this kind of tax cut for people earning over $1 million a year.

I hope we will say no. I hope we will say yes to the budget resolution. We are bringing back fiscal responsibility and stopping digging so the hole does not get any bigger and we can get out of it. We are redirecting the priorities of this country to reflect what the majority of Americans want to see happen for the future of this country and for the future of kids.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I know our budget leaders are working diligently as they put together what will be happening on amendments. I thought I would take a moment to summarize again what it is that we are proposing in this budget resolution. Let me again commend our leader, Senator Conrad, the very distinguished Senator from North Dakota, for his incredible job of putting together a very complicated budget with many pieces. He has worked very hard. His staff has worked very hard. I thank them for that, as well as the distinguished former chairman, current ranking member, the Senator from New Hampshire, who is also a real pleasure to work with. Even though we disagree on many philosophical points, it is a pleasure working with him. I appreciate all of his hard work and the hard work of his staff.

What we are looking at for the next year and for basically the 5 years of the budget resolution is a return to fiscal responsibility; in other words, we think it is time that we stop digging the hole and start filling in so we can climb out of it.

In other words, we think it is time to start paying the bills and not spending more than we have, which is what every family in America has to wrestle with every day. They expect us to make the tough choices to do the same things. This budget does that.

This budget also puts middle-class families first. We start by addressing all that we know families are concerned about. It is a new direction for America. It is a new time.

We have seen in the last 6 years an effort to put the privileged few first--whether that was tax cuts, whether that was other kinds of investments, or a lack of fiscal responsibility, a real borrow-and-spend mentality.

We now are saying it is time for a new direction. I think the people of America said in November it is time for a new direction. They elected a new majority, and it is our job, it is our responsibility now to fulfill that.

That is what this budget resolution does. It reflects a very different set of values and priorities. We do return to fiscal discipline. In fact, by year 5--by year 5--we are back in the black, which is extraordinary given the fact that in the Clinton years, in the 1990s, we did all the hard work of getting it into balance. I remember being in the House with the distinguished Presiding Officer, the Senator from Ohio. We were in the House together. It was a very tough time to make tough decisions to balance the budget. The first year I was in the House, we did that in 1997. Then we began to see surpluses. We did that with a very balanced approach. We did that with tax cuts to stimulate the economy, but it was for middle-class families and small businesses and those who were creating jobs in America. We did it by strategic investments. We did it by strategic investments in education, innovation, science, technology development, and investing in health care.

That is when the first children's health care program was developed, to provide health care for children of working families who do not have health insurance connected to their job. We did it by making some very tough decisions that put Social Security first and stopped using that trust fund as a way to fund other things. As a result of some tough decisions and some smart investments, by 2001, when I had the privilege of coming to the Senate representing Michigan and sitting on the Senate Budget Committee, we had the largest budget surplus in the history of the country--$5.7 trillion. I could live on that--$5.7 trillion.

We had, then, choices. What do you do with that? After all that hard work, what do you do with that?

I remember the now distinguished chairman of the Budget Committee, the Senator from North Dakota, suggesting what I believed was a very wise plan at the time. He said: We need to be balanced, as we have been, as we were in the 1990s, in getting us to this point. We need to do strategic tax cuts, again to stimulate the economy. Those kinds of tax cuts create jobs in America, innovation. Then we need to have strategic investments in our people, in science, in health care, in education, having the opportunity for people to be able to afford to go to college.

Let's make sure our communities are safe by having enough police officers on the streets. Let's do those things that protect our air and our water and our land and invest in the quality of life of America. So let's do that for one-third; tax cuts for one-third. And then we know we baby boomers are coming. We know the concern about Social Security. So let's take a third of all that surplus and put it aside, put it into prefunding the gap we know is coming.

That was the current chairman's plan. I thought that was a good plan. I supported it. We were in the minority, and we were not successful in passing that plan. I believe if we had, we would not be debating the gap in Social Security as we are now, and we would not be talking about digging ourselves out of a hole that has been created, because instead of that balanced approach that every family would take trying to balance out multiple needs--and how do we make sure we are smart, how do we be strategic, how do we create opportunities, and so on--instead of doing that, virtually all of it was put into a tax cut that resulted last year in people who earn over $1 million--just in 2006--getting an over $118,000 tax cut, which was more than most people in Michigan make in a year.

So that was done. Then it left us no rainy day fund, no ability to respond to emergencies. Then the war happened. We essentially put it on a credit card. Other things were passed that were essentially put on a credit card. We racked up--I should not say ``we;'' I did not support those things--the largest deficit in the history of the country.

Now there is a new majority, and we have inherited all of the things that happened before. I heard tonight colleagues on the other side of the aisle talking about all these problems in the budget. Boy, do we agree. Unfortunately, we did not create those problems. We have inherited those problems over the last 6 years. But we know it is our responsibility to do something about it. That is what this budget does. This budget is an effort to be responsible, to do what every American wants us to do to get our arms around this deficit, to do those things that will require tough choices, the right choices.

We say if there are going to be further tax cuts or mandatory spending in the future, you should have to think long and hard, and we should have to get 60 votes or a supermajority to do that because we want to make it a fiscally responsible budget.

But we also understand part of being responsible is responding to what is happening to every--almost every--American family across this country. Earlier today, I heard the distinguished ranking member on the Budget Committee talk about how great things are, how great things are going. Well, they are not going great for a majority of Americans in this country who have seen their real wages, their earning power go down since 2000, not up. For others it may be going up. Corporate profits are going up. The S&P 500 is going up. But for everybody working hard every day, trying to make ends meet for their family, their wages on average are going down.

This budget addresses that issue. This budget focuses on middle-income families and those working very hard to get into the middle class who are saying: What about me? When is somebody going to stop what is going on and focus on the majority of Americans and what we need to grow the economy, our quality of life, and to make sure our families have what they need, who are working hard every day? That is what this budget addresses, those people who are, in fact, the majority of the people.

So we do it in a number of ways. We do it by investing in education. When you look at the President's budget for this year, and you add up past years, there is over a $70 billion shortfall in Leave No Child Behind. We are leaving a lot of kids behind. There was a commitment made to raise standards, and at the same time to give resources to schools, and it is $70 billion short as of this date with this President's budget.

We put more money into education. We do not think that is good enough. I was at an education hearing today, and some very good points were made. In fact, our chairman, the distinguished Senator from Montana, told a story at the beginning of the hearing about Rip Van Winkle waking up and seeing all these changes in the world, but he finally could feel comfort because the school looked the same.

My kids graduated from college not long ago, but not too long ago high school. One of the things that consistently has caused me great concern is that the schools they went to look dangerously like the schools I went to. Yet we carry around personal computers. Every single one of us operates with computers. We have computers right here in the Senate Chamber. Yet we do not have one on the desk for every child in America. So we are leaving kids behind in a lot of different ways. We say in our budget resolution, that is not OK. We want to turn that around. So we put dollars back. We stopped the cuts the President has, and we invest more dollars in education and innovation.

Then we say if you are working hard and you are trying to make ends meet, and you are working in a job that does not have health insurance for your family, you ought to be able to know that when you go to bed at night your kids have health care and you can do something about it if they get sick. That is what we do by making a commitment to fully fund what is called SCHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program. This is something that is available to working families. Low-income families are able to receive Medicaid. These are families who are working hard, families whose minimum wage we raised not long ago. So maybe they only have to work two jobs now instead of three to make ends meet, but they still do not have health insurance. We make a commitment to provide that health insurance for every child of a working family.

That is a very important value. It is a very important principle. I hope we are going to come together with strong bipartisan support to be able to do that.

We also then keep our promise to our veterans. We all know what has happened at Walter Reed. We know also there are other very serious system problems. In my State of Michigan, people wait too long to see a doctor. They drive too far to get basic kinds of tests, blood drawn, or x rays. We need to do a better job for our veterans. We need, frankly, to get them out of the yearly budget process and put them into a situation where they know their funding is assured.

Our budget, for the first time ever, I assume--certainly for the first time since I have been here; and I have asked others, and I think it is the first time ever--we have in the budget the amount recommended by the independent budget which is organized by all the veterans groups. The veterans groups have come together. They analyze the VA health system and other needs and recommend to us what is needed.

For the first time, our budget for veterans health care and other critical needs matches what they are recommending. This is very important. We are making veterans--our men and women who are coming home from wars, who put on a veteran's cap, who may have tremendous hardships, physical challenges, mental challenges, financial challenges from being extended more than once--and with serious issues for families--we make veterans a top priority and say we are going to keep our promise to our veterans. That is an integral part of our budget resolution.

Then we go back to what we have always been about. The other side will say: Well, we are for tax increases. No. No. We just want to see the folks who are working hard, who are the majority of Americans, get the tax cut. I am not interested in another tax cut for somebody who makes over $1 million a year, who got $118,000 back in a tax cut last year. I want somebody making $118,000 a year to get a tax cut. We start by saying the alternative minimum tax, which is creeping up and hitting middle-income people, should be changed so it does not become the alternative middle class tax. We are very focused on making sure the other parts of the Tax Code that are important to families remain in place and that we, in fact, are giving middle-class tax cuts.

Then we take a look at all of the efforts to deinvest, to defund that the President recommended in education, cutting the COPS Program again, firefighter grants, various kinds of technology programs, environmental programs in Michigan, and I know in Ohio as well. The manufacturing extension partnership is important for small and medium-sized businesses to be able to help them receive technical assistance, to be able to compete in the global economy, to be able to hire more people.

We have restored the funding for that. We address other technology programs. So we also reject the President's efforts to move away from critical areas of priority and need of the American people.

So there are a lot of other pieces in this budget, but these basically, overall, are the important priorities that we have placed in the budget that say to the American people: We care about you. We want to put you and your family first. We know that you are squeezed on all sides. If you are from Michigan and losing your job or being asked to take less in your job or pay more for your health care or lose your pension, it is time to fix that. It is time to make you a priority.

That is what this budget does. It makes the people who work hard every day, who make this country run--the middle class, the people working hard every day to get into that middle class, who keep the economic engine of this country going--it makes them the priority. That is what this is all about. It is about whose interests are going to be represented in this budget.

I am very proud of the fact we are representing the interests of the majority of Americans, the folks who are working hard and seeing the gas prices go up along with the oil company profits, who are seeing their health care costs go up, maybe losing their pension, seeing the cost of college go up for their kids. Everything is going up and up and up and up. Those are the folks whose pockets we want to put money back into. That is where we want the tax cuts to go. That is where we want the tax cuts to go. That is where we want the investments in the future to go. That is what this budget resolution does.

I am very proud of the fact that we return fiscal discipline and we put middle-class families first. It is about time.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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