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Mr. HELLER. I thank the Senator from Nebraska for yielding time and also those from Oklahoma and Arizona for this colloquy that we are having today and the ability to talk about issues that, frankly, the other side will not talk about--in fact, their conspicuous absence today on the other side is clear of the depth of their budget.
As we have heard, we have not had a budget for the last 3 years. So I rise today in support of a serious debate concerning the direction of our Nation. Three years have passed since Congress adopted a binding budget resolution. In this light, I respectfully submit that the American people do not believe that today's debate is serious. They know the Senate is not going to adopt a budget; once again it will ignore one of the most basic and important jobs of Congress.
What the Senate is doing this week could be considered political comedy if the stakes were not so high. In fact, the fact is this is not a serious discussion.
In May of last year, the majority leader stated: There is no need to have a Democratic budget, in my opinion. It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage. As early as February of this year, it was stated by the majority leader that there is no need to bring a budget to the Senate floor this year.
If that is the case, this week's debate is nothing more than a political sideshow, and the American people are tired of it. Ever wonder why the approval rating of Congress is so low? They hate Washington because it spends its time on stunts like this instead of working together for the good of the country; pushing votes for campaign press releases instead of solving problems.
The bottom line is if Congress does not do its job, then its Members should not get paid. That is exactly what I have proposed with the No Budget, No Pay Act. The American people know in an election year too many of their representatives in Washington are afraid of the tough choices that would help get our Nation on a path of fiscal sanity.
Most of the people watching the so-called budget debate will witness exactly what they have come to expect from Washington: the Republicans blaming Democrats, Democrats blaming Republicans. At the end of the day, all we will have accomplished is filling another page in the Congressional Record.
Unfortunately, Americans will face the same fiscal disasters they did before this debate. Unless we change course, Federal spending per household is projected to rise to $34,602 by the year 2022, a 15-percent increase in one decade.
The government's own actuaries tell us Medicare is going bankrupt in 10 years, Social Security one decade later. Both sides should be willing to come together to strengthen and preserve these programs for future generations instead of simply ignoring the problems because it is inconvenient in an election year.
Our national debt will reach $16 trillion before the end of the year. The Federal Government's unfunded obligations will total some $100 trillion. Yet there will be no budget this year, just like there has been no budget for the past 3 years. We cannot look beyond the beltway and say this failure of leadership has not had tremendous impact on the people we represent.
National unemployment has registered above 8 percent for the last 38 months. Nevada has led the Nation in unemployment for more than 2 years. Almost everyone I speak to in Nevada--businesses, job creators, elected officials, and families--speaks of the uncertainty that has characterized their lives in this economy.
We are not moving forward as a Nation, and it is no surprise to these no-nonsense folks. They know from everyday life in their businesses and in their households that you cannot move forward without a plan. When Americans look to Washington, they see no meaningful proposal, no viable plan, and no progress.
There are those who claim the Budget Control Act is a budget, and I strongly disagree. This bill does not establish priorities or a path forward for our Nation as a real budget should. It does not provide certainty, nor does it address many of the pressing fiscal problems we have today. If the Budget Control Act were truly a budget, there would be no need for this discussion today. It is past time for Congress to hold itself accountable.
That is why I have advocated my No Budget, No Pay Act for nearly a year. My legislation calls on the House and Senate to pass a concurrent budget resolution and the regular appropriations bills before the beginning of each fiscal year. Failure to do so would result in the loss of pay until we take our jobs seriously and make these bills our legislative priority.
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 already requires Congress to pass a budget by April 15. My bill creates an enforcement mechanism to further encourage Members of Congress to do their constitutional duty.
I have spoken on this floor previously about No Budget, No Pay, but I believe now is the time to consider whether we are willing to make this promise to our constituents. I believe it is more important now than ever because the American people are increasingly losing confidence in Congress and its ability to deliver solutions.
No Budget, No Pay is not a silver-bullet solution to our Nation's fiscal challenges, but it would indicate that we are hearing the concerns of the American people and are willing to participate in the dialog necessary to get our country moving again.
I am pleased that 10 of my Senate colleagues have cosponsored this important effort, and others have expressed support for No Budget, No Pay on the Senate floor. I am especially grateful to Senators Lieberman and Collins for holding a hearing to discuss No Budget, No Pay as a meaningful proposal that would help hold Congress accountable to the American people. This bipartisan bicameral proposal is worthy of the Senate's time if we are serious about regaining the trust of the American people whom we are supposed to be representing.
My colleagues, our Nation can literally no longer afford to survive on sound bites and press releases about the importance of budgeting. We need to engage in the serious business of budgeting for our Nation's future. That work should start today. Sadly, I simply don't believe we will make the tough choices necessary until Members of Congress have more skin in the game. I will continue calling for the adoption of the No Budget, No Pay Act.
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