BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chair, I will vote today for H. Con. Res. 112, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, because we have a duty to address our nation's looming fiscal obligations. Simply put, we cannot continue to kick the proverbial can down the road.
When I came to the floor to vote for last year's budget, we were $14 trillion in debt. Today, we are $15.5 trillion in debt. It is projected we could be $17 trillion in debt by the end of the year and $21 trillion in debt by 2021.
This will be our fourth straight year of trillion dollar deficits. Four straight years.
We are currently spending 10 cents of every dollar on interest to finance the debt, even though we're borrowing money at historically low rates. If we realistically assume that rates will rise, we could be spending close to 1 out of every 6 dollars to finance the debt by the end of the decade. And that is under the best case scenario.
That is money that could be going to our national defense, repairing our roads and bridges or life-saving cancer research.
In 1970, 5 percent of debt held by the public was in foreign hands. In 1990, it was 19 percent. Today, more than 40 percent of our publically held debt is in foreign hands.
Who are our bankers? Nations such as China, which is spying on us, where human rights are an afterthought, and Catholic bishops, Protestant ministers and Tibetan monks are jailed for practicing their faith, and oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia, which funded the radical madrasahs on the Afghan-Pakistan border resulting in the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Quite frankly this borrowing is unsustainable, dangerous and irresponsible.
That is why I have been willing to make the hard choices to ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren. Every two years I take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. I do not sign pledges to lobbyists or special interest groups.
That is why I have been working with my colleagues, through my assignment as chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the departments of Commerce and Justice, to cut $95 billion in federal spending since the start of this Congress, including $11 billion from my subcommittee alone.
That is why I have repeatedly voted against the payroll tax holiday, which steals from the Social Security Trust Fund. The most recent extension alone took $93 billion and brought us nearly a month closer to the statutory debt limit. With just one vote in February, we practically
wiped out all the $95 billion savings from the cuts enacted since Republican took back control of the House.
I have speaking out about the need to get our nation's fiscal house in order since George W. Bush was in office.
In 2006 I introduced legislation to create an independent, bipartisan commission to address our debt and deficit. I called it the SAFE Commission, short for Securing America's Future Economy. It said everything should be on the table for discussion: all entitlement spending, all domestic discretionary spending, including defense spending, and tax reform, particularly changes to make the tax code more simple and fair and to end the practice of tax earmarks that costs hundreds of billions of dollars. Congress would be required to vote up or down on the commission's recommendations, just as was done in the base closing process.
I was glad to have been joined in this effort by my good friend and colleague JIM COOPER of Tennessee. Our legislation served as the blueprint for the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly referred to as the Simpson-Bowles Commission. I am pleased Mr. COOPER and Mr. LaTOURETTE produced a full substitute amendment that I believe is the right way forward. I commend them for their work.
The Simpson-Bowles Commission produced a credible plan that gained the support of a bipartisan majority of the commission's 18 members. Called ``The Moment of Truth,'' the commission's report made clear that eliminating the debt and deficit will not be easy and that any reform must begin with entitlements. Mandatory and discretionary spending also has to be addressed as well other ``sacred cows,'' including tax reform and defense spending.
Had just three more members of the Simpson-Bowles Commission supported the recommendations, this plan likely would have passed the Congress and be law today. I was disappointed that the president, and his administration, walked away from the commission. The president failed the country. And the Congress has also failed. This town is dysfunctional. If the plan had advanced, we would already be on our way in getting our nation's fiscal house in order.
We have to find a solution to this debt crisis. Failure is not an option.
Congress and the president must be willing to support a plan that breaks loose from the special interests holding Washington by the throat and return confidence to the country.
Congress and the president also need to be honest with the American people and explain that we cannot solve our nation's financial crisis by just cutting waste, fraud and abuse within discretionary accounts. The real runaway spending is occurring in our out-of-control entitlement costs and the hundreds of billions in annual tax earmarks. Until we reach an agreement that addresses these two drivers of our deficit and debts, we cannot right our fiscal ship of state.
I regret that the bipartisan Cooper amendment failed. But since it did, today I'm voting for the Ryan budget.
Like last year's proposal, this budget blueprint calls for significant reductions in discretionary spending, for reduced tax rates and for the repeal of the costly health care reform law.
The plan also points out that we can no longer ignore the trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities that consume our budget. There may be disagreement on the significant changes in Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs that he proposes, and while his plan is again silent on changes needed to reform Social Security entitlements, it does recognize that need. Mr. RYAN continues to pull back the curtain on the mandatory spending ``elephant in the room,'' which we can no longer ignore.
I want to be clear: I would prefer for this House to pass the bipartisan Cooper-LaTourette budget, which is modeled on the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan. Even though there were some parts that I would have liked to change, I spoke in strong support of that budget proposal and continue to believe that it is the only plan that can pass the Senate. That proposal put everything on the table, and, more importantly, sought to achieve enough deficit reductions to turn off the need for the sequester that could be so harmful to our defense capabilities. But, again, as that bipartisan proposal failed to pass, I will support the Ryan plan.
I do not agree with everything in this proposal, and will work to improve future legislation. For example, I regret that this proposal does not offer more on ways to address Social Security and tax reform efforts.
This resolution also unfairly targets the federal workforce. While there are many federal employees in the Capital region, it is worth noting that more than 85 percent of the workforce is outside of Washington.
It is also worth noting that more than 65 percent of all federal employees work in agencies that support our national defense capabilities as we continue to fight the War on Terror. The first American killed in Afghanistan, Mike Spann, was a CIA agent and a constituent from my congressional district. CIA, FBI, DEA agents, and State Department employees are serving side-by-side with our military in the fight against the Taliban.
Let's also not forget the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who are working to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs across our borders.
Or the medical researchers at NIH working to develop cures for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and autism.
Or the VA doctors and nurses treating veterans from World War II to today.
Or the FDA inspectors working to stop a salmonella outbreak. These are all federal employees.
Mr. Chair, enough is enough. It is simply wrong to claim, as the Ryan budget does, that these public servants ``have been immune from the effects of the recession.''
This budget also could be improved by providing for the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. As the Congress deals with the budget, we must always do it in a way that does not neglect the needs of the poor. Scripture (Proverbs 19:17) tells us, ``He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.'' And in the New Testament Jesus talks a lot about the poor. Matthew 25 says that if we ignore the poor and hungry it is the same as ignoring him. But this budget resolution is an outline for future action, not an enacting piece of legislation that carries the weight of law.
The budget also seeks to shore up our defense capabilities for the next year by finding alternative savings to prevent the across-the-board cuts that are coming in January as a result of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction's bipartisan failure of leadership, which, regretfully, represents the larger failure of the President and both political parties.
Another example of this failure of leadership is the decision by the Senate not to even offer a budget proposal. While the Budget Control Act, BCA, does not require a new budget to establish FY 2013 spending levels, the BCA was passed with the assumption that the so-called supercommittee on deficit reduction would be successful. We need to have a robust debate in the public arena as everyone works to mitigate the harmful cuts that will result from the coming sequester. It is an abdication of responsibility for the Senate to refuse to put forth a budget.
This budget recognizes that our fiscal challenges are too great to wait until the next election. We, as elected representatives, have a duty to lead. We have a duty to put forth ideas within the public sphere and engage in debate. I'm ready to make the tough choices today. I vote for the Ryan budget so that the House can get to work.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT