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Public Statements

Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I came to the floor to commemorate the events of 11 years ago on September 11. But I want to respond to my friend and fellow westerner Senator Enzi from Wyoming. I appreciate the sentiments and the tone of his remarks. I respect greatly his financial acumen. We know the training Senator Enzi has, and I appreciate his call to action hopefully as soon as possible.

I would like to stay in Washington and continue to work on the Simpson-Bowles architecture. I know my colleague from Colorado, Senator Bennet, has spent a great deal of time as a member of the Gang of Six plus two crafting legislative language to put the Simpson-Bowles recommendations into effect.

I did, however, want to set the record straight as I read it and as I understand it, which is that we have had a Budget Control Act that many of us voted for last year which in effect is a budget for 2012 and 2013.

I ask unanimous consent to have the documentation of the Budget Control Act printed in the Record.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record,

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. The language reads:

..... the allocations, aggregates, and levels set in subsection (b)(1) shall apply in the Senate in the same manner as for a current resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2012 .....

That language is duplicated below in the next paragraph for 2013.

I think I hear my friend from Wyoming suggesting that the process the Senate periodically uses to determine a budget is helpful and follows regular order, and I agree. But the Congress in the last 2 years has been at loggerheads. There have been more impasses in the last 2 years than I remember in my 12 previous years. But we do have a budget in place. It is a budget that reduces Federal spending and is a downpayment on the hard work we have to do going forward.

The Ryan budget was promulgated by Congressman Ryan. I was elected the same year as Congressman Ryan to the House. I have respect for Congressman Ryan and his constituents; I just happen to disagree with his priorities. His budget proposal sets priorities; it is a template. And if you really study what Congressman Ryan includes, there are concerns that I have that I think are reflected by not just members of my caucus but many Americans: The plan lacks balance, and it doesn't balance at least until 2040, which is not how it is advertised.

Why? There is no contribution from revenue. There is an increase in defense spending. And in my opinion, it requires extraordinary and unsustainable cuts to government services. In fact, the Federal Government would be cut in half. I don't think there is anybody who thinks that is a realistic goal.

President Reagan's economic adviser Bruce Bartlett was pretty tough on the Ryan plan. He called it a monstrosity, and pointed out that the Ryan plan is backed up by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the statements of Mr. Bartlett.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. In conclusion, I want to again underline that I find, as always, in Senator Enzi someone who is thoughtful, practical, and pragmatic. And I heard in his comments a call to action where everything would be on the table, including providing for greater solvency of Social Security and Medicare, for cutting spending and ending duplication, but also for looking for additional revenue, which I think we all agree we can start to do by simplifying the Tax Code, reducing rates, and then taking a look at individual tax rates.

Mr. President, I was here 11 years ago. It was a very similar day to today; a beautiful fall day, low humidity. For us Coloradans, low humidity is something we expect in all cases, with bluebird skies. But it turned into a terrible day with terrible events, and I thought I would reflect on what they mean for our country 11 years later.

These attacks are forever etched in our collective memory. We lost 3,000 fellow Americans. It was a diverse cohort of Americans. Every religion was represented, every race, and every region. It was something that even as I try and think about it again, I am almost overwhelmed.

But we also have another memory associated with that day; and that was the amazing, beyond belief, selflessness and bravery of our first responders and the men and women of uniform as well as the resolve of whole communities who came together to help and comfort one another. Late in that day, lawmakers came together on the U.S. Capitol steps, as we did today, to say, We stand united.

During this time, Americans seeking some good to come out of these acts of sheer evil looked to each other and to their leaders in Washington to contribute to a greater cause of unity. At such a dark time, we saw the very best of America: a Nation, a community, and a people willing to stand together in the face of adversity that we didn't initially understand or comprehend. That strength of unity brought us together, and over the last decade we have made great strides in combating the evil of terrorism.

We owe a debt of gratitude, a deep debt of gratitude to those on the front lines of that battle. Intelligence officers, our men and women in uniform, and countless others have relentlessly pursued our enemies who seek to do us harm. We must honor their sacrifices.

That brings me to this point. Every time a veteran is unemployed or has injuries that are not well treated or finds himself or herself in a place so dark that suicide seems like the only way out, we failed in our most solemn duty. We must provide the best possible health care, services, and benefits to those few Americans who are willing to risk anything and everything for us. We should be ashamed of anything less.

That is why it is fitting today, on the anniversary of 9/11, that the Senate voted to move forward on legislation to help post-9/11 veterans find jobs. Congress and the administration have been focused on helping these vulnerable veterans find jobs. We passed legislation. The President has championed initiatives providing tax incentives and grants to businesses hiring veterans and offering veterans job training programs, but still the unemployment rate for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars remains higher than for the general population and much higher for veterans age 18 to 24. That simply is not acceptable. We can and we must do better.

The bill we are going to consider, the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012, is a solid step in the right direction. We all recognize the obstacles that veterans face in translating their military experience into civilian jobs. We know that is the case. This commonsense legislation will attempt to smooth this transition by connecting veterans with good-paying jobs that fit their skill sets and provide our communities with opportunities to hire veterans as firefighters, police officers, to work in the public safety sector--to work in any sector. When our veterans believe in themselves, they are up to any charge; they are up for any mission.

I have the great privilege--as does, I know, the Presiding Officer--to serve on the Armed Services Committee. I also serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. As a member of those committees I urge all of us to pass this bill as soon as possible. There is still time. We could perhaps offer it tonight. I could offer a unanimous consent request. We need to do this--and I am completely serious, Mr. President--to provide our heroes with a small measure of what we owe them for their incredible service and sacrifice.

As I think more widely, as I consider what I have heard at home from Coloradans far and wide, passing this bill alone is not enough. Looking back at the days and months after September 11, I cannot help but admire our Nation's resolve and the sense of togetherness we had in facing a shared challenge. But I also cannot help but be well aware that 11 years on we are now a nation at odds. Partisanship is at an all-time high, congressional gridlock prevents even commonsense ideas from winning the day, and middle-class Americans just wonder when businesses will have the certainty they need to begin hiring again.

For me, it seems a powerful argument and a powerful insight that a better future for our country can be and is, if we will hear it, grounded in our Nation's deep-seated respect for the courageous feats and sacrifices of those who answer the call of duty. Our military men and women have done their job. The public safety officers in the city of Aurora, back in July when we experienced such a terrible shooting, have done their job. Now it is, here in the Congress, time for us to do our job. It is not too late for us to harness the gratitude and the admiration that we have for those who have given everything for the United States and come together once again to do right by the Nation they have fought so hard to secure.

As we remember the events of September 11 and honor those men and women in uniform who fought so hard to keep America safe, we must recognize that our actions, not just our words, in the months ahead may be the greatest way to show our appreciation for their sacrifice.

Let's employ the doggedness of our military men and women, that doggedness that they exhibit on a daily basis in order to address the shared challenges of our time, to work together and to cast aside the partisan differences that stand in the way of our future prosperity. The American people deserve no less.

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