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Mr. MARKEY. The Republicans call this bill a ``balanced budget amendment,'' but it is not balanced because it will blow a hole in the budget of vital programs that millions of Americans depend on. It's unbalanced, unneeded, and will undermine our struggling economy.
Republicans want us to mangle the Constitution because they cannot manage this institution. This amendment is a means to an end. It's a means for Republicans to end Medicare, to end Social Security and Medicaid, to end every antipoverty program. And why? Because they harbor an ancient animosity towards all of those programs. And their plan is to leave them as debt-soaked relics of an era where we actually cared about poor people, the elderly in our country, because the Republican plan will cut critical health care and antipoverty programs, put them on a starvation diet, and leave vulnerable Americans with the crumbs.
Our economy now has a 9 percent unemployment rate. You know what that means? It means that 46 million Americans today live in poverty. Do you want to know what poverty is in America in 2011? That's a family of four living on $22,000 a year. There are almost 9 million families living at or below the poverty line, including 15.5 million children. That means that one in five children in our country are living in poverty. Those are the programs that they want to cut here today, for the poorest children in America in 2011.
There are almost 50 million Americans at risk of not having enough food. More than 16 million children are in danger of going to bed tonight without a meal. One in six seniors now live in poverty, dependent upon Medicare, dependent upon Medicaid, each of them now at grave risk because of the Republican plan here today. Their plan is really a Robin Hood in reverse--take from the neediest and give to the greediest. That is the plan.
Now let's go back into the ``way back'' machine, all the way back to the year 2000, the last time we voted on a balanced budget here in Congress, 2000. Bill Clinton was President. It passed. The budget balanced. And the country was feeling good. The economy was booming. And then George Bush takes over in January of 2001. The Republicans controlled the House. The Republicans controlled the Senate. What do they do? Huge tax breaks for billionaires and millionaires, two wars which were not paid for, Iraq and Afghanistan, all on the Republicans' shoulders. And they then turn a blind eye as Wall Street turned the entire economy into a casino, which then cascaded into the biggest longstanding recession that we've seen since the Great Depression, descending upon the shoulders of whom? The poor, the sick, the elderly, the ordinary families killing themselves to pay for their mortgage each day.
You don't need a constitutional amendment, ladies and gentlemen, Republicans, my good friends. You have a supercommittee meeting right now down the corridor. You know what you should do? Say: Take away those $40 billion worth of tax breaks for the oil companies. They don't need them. Take away the $700 billion in new nuclear weapons programs. We don't have any targets for those nuclear weapons. Kill those programs. Look at the tax breaks for the billionaires and millionaires. They don't need them. Cut them right now.
All of you have taken a pledge, no reductions in the tax breaks for billionaires. No reductions in defense spending. You've tied your own hands even as you, with crocodile tears, come out here and say how much you care about balancing the budget and how much you care about the American economy. The proof will come next week when you do not stand up in order to take the tough actions needed right now for the American people.
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Mr. MARKEY. We do not need a constitutional amendment. We need a supercommittee congressional agreement now.
To the Republicans: do it now. Call President Obama now. Tell him tax breaks for the billionaires, on the table. Tell him defense spending, on the table. Tell him tax breaks for oil companies, on the table. The President says he'll put the social programs on the table.
You don't have to go back 200 years to amend the Constitution. You just have to next week, next Wednesday say, We want to do it now. We, who are here, will do it now. We will balance the budget by putting all of our programs on the table.
Do it now. Do it now, Republicans. Don't pretend and hide behind a constitutional amendment when you can do it now. You can be the Founding Fathers of a balanced budget in 2011.
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