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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ENZI. Madam President, since this is a day of remembrance of 9/11, when I started my day this morning, I picked up a book I read from time to time. It is called ``One Simple Act'' by Debbie Macomber, and it is about gratitude and being generous. The very first paragraph I picked up happens to be about 9/11. It says:

Watch the Helpers

After the bombing of the twin towers at New York's Trade Center, the nation was stunned. Parents didn't know what to say to their children. They'd seen such evil things on television that even adults couldn't put the events into any kind of context. When a few parents wrote to Mr. Rogers, the beloved children's television personality, to ask for advice, Fred Rogers said, ``Tell them to watch the helpers.'' What wise advice. I've thought about his answer many times. When tragedy hits, don't focus on the faces of pain and horror. Let your eyes follow those who are rescuing, feeding, healing, sweeping, comforting, and rebuilding. On 9/11, it was the selfless firefighters who took center stage. They will be remembered long after the evildoers are forgotten.

What good advice: Watch the helpers.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I have often said how blessed I am to have found a group of people who are strongly committed to the future of Wyoming, the West, and the United States to serve on my staff. If being a Senate staff were an Olympic event, I have no doubt I would be the coach of one of the Senate dream teams. I believe they would be the gold medal winners. I am that proud of them.

Today I wish to express my appreciation to one of my long-time staffers who will be returning home to run a business in Wyoming. She is Wendy Gnehm, and although we are going to miss her, we are also proud of her decision to return home to raise her family with her husband Ed, because there is no better place for families and children than Wyoming. We wish them both the best and we are confident as she is that they have made the right decision.

Although Wendy has been part of my staff for quite some time, her family, her husband's family, and my own family have been close for a lot longer than that. Wendy's mother Sharon was the one who first introduced me to Diana, now my wife, on a blind date in Denver when Sharon was in town looking for a bridal gown.

It was not long thereafter that Diana was looking for one too, which means we knew Wendy's parents long before she was born. So we have known Wendy for all of her life. I remember when Wendy was in high school. She set her sights on coming to Washington to serve as a page in the House of Representatives. It was a difficult goal, but with her determination, her abilities, and her good grades she was able to make it happen.

Wendy's time in Washington as a page must have given her the idea of coming to college here, which she then began to pursue in earnest. So when the time was right, I agreed to write her a letter of recommendation to the George Washington University, as an alum and Wyoming liaison for the school. I was glad to be of help, but Wendy's credentials spoke for themselves and soon she was headed back to Washington, DC, to attend one of the finest schools in the country.

Later, when I came to Washington to serve in the Senate, I had a swearing-in reception for friends and extended family to mark the beginning of this new and great adventure in my life. And of course Wendy was there. It was at that reception that she met the son of my college roommate, Skip Gnehm, and they started to date. Their romance blossomed while she served as an intern for me, and it started to occur to them and to Diana and me how all three of our families could soon be permanently intertwined. What a great gift for all of us. Soon Wendy was looking for a wedding gown of her own and she and Ed were married.

Not long after their marriage, Ed and Wendy moved to Kuwait to work. They absorbed a great deal of knowledge about the culture and the way of life in the Middle East. When they returned to the United States and made their way back to Washington, DC, I learned that Wendy was looking for a job. At the time I happened to be looking for someone who could help me handle constituent mail and services. She was quickly promoted to legislative assistant specializing in the foreign relations field. I could not think of a better individual to take on those responsibilities than Wendy. I was right. Wendy has been a great help with those difficult issues ever since. She did so well, in fact, that I did not hesitate to expand her responsibilities to include defense, veterans affairs, transportation, and the Judiciary Committee agenda when the opportunity presented itself. Wendy has worked on so many issues of importance over the years--defense, with the focus on the United States Air Force and missile communities, to helping start the Air Force Caucus, veterans health, United Nations reform, Cuba travel, immigration, gun rights, to name a few.

She is now my senior legislative assistant, a title and post she has earned with her hard work and determination to make a difference. As my senior legislative assistant, she has been a captain in the legislative office and she has always made herself available to help guide and direct our efforts as a legislative team. She is also there to provide some good advice on the issues that are coming up and how we can best focus our efforts to obtain the results we are working together to achieve.

Now she and her husband are packing up and moving to Sheridan, WY, where Wendy grew up. They will be running a business there and providing some good jobs to the community and some support to the local community economy. It is a restaurant, so they will be providing some good food to people in the area too. Although we are sorry to see them go, we could not be happier that they are returning to Wyoming. I always tell the people from Wyoming who come to
work for me: Enjoy your Washington experience and learn all you can every day you are here. Tomorrow, when you find yourself married with children, do not hesitate to start looking for a way to get back home.

As I said, and it bears repeating because it is one of life's great truths: There is no better place to raise your family than Wyoming, where you were born, where your roots are strong, and your family is nearby to give you the love, guidance, and support that helped to make you the person you are today. Of course, it is no surprise that the place that is calling Wendy home is one of the most beautiful on Earth--Wyoming.

In the years to come, Wyoming will teach Wendy's children all about being individuals, trusting in your instincts, about facing the future with confidence and faith. It is a great lesson to be learned, and there is no better place to learn it than the great outdoors and open spaces and magnificent mountains of Wyoming, where life is centered around being a part of the great splendor and creation of God, and with a strong sense of community.

For team Enzi, this was a good-news, bad-news moment. The bad news is we are losing a very special staffer, a good friend, and a member of our extended family, someone who has given so much to everyone she has known or worked with here in my office. The good news is we are not only gaining a constituent who knows us and understands the work we do every day, Wyoming is gaining another family that will forever define for others what is so great about being from the West.

Diana and I send our best wishes to Wendy, Ed, and their children, who must be looking forward to the opportunity to live the life that made Wendy what she is today.

Wendy, we could not be more excited for you and for the great opportunities that lie ahead as you begin the new chapter in your life, the great adventure of coming home to Wyoming. We know we will miss seeing you every day, but when we are back home and traveling around in your area, we will expect to see you at our official functions and when we stop by your new business. May God bless you and be with you and your family. Good luck, Wendy.

I yield the floor

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Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I came over earlier to speak and talk about a dedicated staff person of mine who is moving back to Wyoming, but I had to wait about 30 minutes while I listened to the Senator from Iowa talk about a Romney-Ryan budget. There is no such thing. Governor Romney hasn't put forward a budget for this group. Congressman Ryan, of course, was the chairman of the Budget Committee in the House, and he was obligated to do a budget. He did a budget--something the Senate hasn't done.

I don't think we can complain about a budget when we have gone 3 years without a budget. There is a timeline for a budget around here. We are supposed to have a budget finished by April 15 of each year, but we have gone 3 years with no budget.

The President submitted his budget to us, and that is what we are supposed to work from in the Budget Committee. I am on the Budget Committee, and we have had a little discussion in the Budget Committee. We haven't gotten to do the budget debate on the floor, which is one with unlimited amendments, but we have gotten to vote on the President's budget. At least Congressman Ryan got some votes for his budget. The President's last two budgets have been voted on

by this body and there hasn't even been a single Democrat who was willing to vote for that budget--not a single one. The President couldn't persuade one person from his party to go along with the plan he had for this country.

You know what would happen in a corporation if the chairman of the board or the president presented a budget to his board of directors and they rejected it unanimously. He would be looking for a new job. I think I have heard some suggestions along that line.

Do we want to continue with out-of-control spending? That is what a budget controls. That is where the caps are put on and it lays out what is the most we can spend. We actually ought to be doing that, as we used to do it, where there were multiple-year caps, and we would be stuck with the far-out caps we projected. It is time we had a balanced budget around here.

I applauded the President when he named a deficit commission. That was a great thing. I was a cosponsor on a bill that came before us, and we didn't have enough votes to pass that bill, but the President went ahead and did a deficit commission and he appointed two outstanding people to chair that budget commission--Erskine Bowles, who was the Chief of Staff for President Clinton, and Alan Simpson, who was a long-time Senator from the West, a member of the revenue committee--and they did some diligent work with the commission and came up with a plan. They actually came up with a plan for how we could save America.

I heard the Senator from Iowa say: Some of these people who are talking are talking like we are broke. You know what. We are pretty close to broke. When the national debt is the same as the gross national product, we are in trouble. In the United States, every man, woman, and child owes a shade over $50,000. We have been seeing the riots in Greece and Italy. In Italy, they only owe $40,000 per person. In Greece, they only owe $39,000 per person. Yes, we are the most resilient country in the world, and that is why we have a little bit of breathing room. But it is not inhaling time. It is time to figure out what we are going to do about it.

I did expect, after the President appointed this deficit commission and when they came back with a report--and it didn't have enough to force us to have a vote, but it was a report that would solve the situation--I thought for sure at the State of the Union speech the President would paint the same bleak picture they painted in order to get the deficit report they got. But instead, he promoted another stimulus.

Had he painted that same bleak picture and at the end of his speech said, I am not telling you tonight how to solve it, but in 2 weeks, when my budget is delivered to the Senate, you will see what the deficit commission said we ought to be doing and we will do it. I think that by about May of that year, we would have hassled through that situation, and we would have adopted most of what they had in that. It would not have been easy. There would have been a little bit of pain, but it would have had a lot of gain. I think, by this point in time, the President would have been a hero--instead of hearing the question: Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?

We can't continue the out-of-control spending we have had. Let me give an example of what we are doing. We are doing it without a budget, but here is what we are doing. The highway bill, that is one of the most important bills--everybody admits--for America. We have to have transportation in this country, and the highway bill is one of the major ways we do that. It creates jobs because people go out and build the roads or repair the roads, and it makes a difference.

But here is how we funded the highway bill: In the Finance Committee, I suggested we needed to increase the tax on gasoline. That is the tax that funds the highway trust fund, which is the sole source of money for building the highways before. But we haven't raised that since 1993, and it ran out of money.

The deficit commission President Obama appointed suggested we needed to raise the gas tax 5 cents a year for three consecutive years if we wanted to build highways. In the Finance Committee I said, I am going to put in something a little bit more modest to see if we have any support for it. I am going to put in something that just deals with inflation on the gas tax.

I was told we wouldn't have a vote in the Finance Committee on it--and we didn't have a vote in the Finance Committee on it. And when it came to the floor, we did not have a vote on that on the floor because we weren't going to raise any taxes. Well, let me tell you what the bill does: There is a tax increase in the bill. We just didn't talk about it. I talked about it, but not many people talked about it. There is a tax increase in the bill. There is a tax on any private pension fund in America. That goes into a trust fund, supposedly.

I have a little problem with what we call trust funds around here, because I don't have trust any of them. That is going into a trust fund so that if a company goes out of business, the people who were promised a pension will get at least 60 percent of what they were promised. That is what that tax is for. That is why we do the tax on private pensions. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation guarantees that people will get a portion of what they were promised in a private pension, and so we raised the tax to make sure that would be there. Then, before it got there, we diverted it, we stole it, we stripped it, and we put it in the highway bill. And we didn't just take 2 years' worth. That is how long the bill covers highway construction. It says in the next 2 years all the highways that we will build and how much they will cost. But from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation tax that we increased, we took all of that for 10 years to build 2 years' worth of highways. I don't know of anybody who would consider that to be good financial management. Highways are essential, but that is not good financial management. We have to stop this trend. And we particularly have to stop stealing from trust funds.

There is one other source of trust fund in there I am particularly sensitive to. There is an abandoned mine land fund. This is a fund that was set up where coal mines in the West would get an additional tax--which we agreed to and the companies agreed to. Half of that tax would stay with the State where the coal was mined, and the other half would go to the eastern States to reclaim abandoned mines. It is a good idea. Well, Wyoming mines most of the coal in the United States, so Wyoming gets most of that money. There is a little provision that they stuck in there to affect Wyoming--and I don't think ought to be the sole source of revenue for funding all the highways in the United States, but they took that abandoned mine land money and said that would go into this highway fund. That is a trust fund too. We heard about it at 2:00 in the morning the day before we voted on this bill, and it was a total shock to us that they were giving this to the trust fund that was billed as a massive coalition between the East and the West, between companies and between miners who relied on the companies that went out of business for their health care. And abandoned mine land money takes care of that, too. But they said, Well, for Wyoming we think you get too much money, so we are going to strip out the half that you were promised and didn't get for years and years and years while they took care of their own problems. That is in there too and that is in there for a 10-year period for 2 years' worth of highway construction.

So when we say that America is not broke, America is not broke. But it isn't fixed either. It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed legitimately, upfront, telling the people exactly what we are doing. There is going to have to be a lot of things that have to be done in order to do it.

I have suggested one way it can be done--and I have tried to cut things before, and I know that if we try to cut a single program, any single program--and we have to cut a lot of programs--that program will inundate Washington with a few good examples of what that program has done, even though audits of it say that is not what happened. But those people will flood here, they will talk to their Senators, we will feel sorry for them, we will approve the program, and we will continue the program. It is almost impossible to cut a program around here. It is hard to cut the amount of increase that program gets, let alone make an actual cut to a program or--Lord help us--eliminate a program altogether.

So what are we going to do? I have a 1-percent solution. That is to take 1 penny out of every dollar the American government spends and eliminate that, cut that, save that--1 penny out of every dollar. People across America, when I talk to them about this, say, I have personally had to make a bigger cut than that. I could make 1 percent; the government ought to be able to take 1 percent. And if the government made 1 percent for between 5 and 7 years, our budget would balance. That is a lot of discipline, but it is a little pain for a lot of gain. And I am pretty sure if we were able to do that, at the end of 1 year people would say, You know, that didn't hurt that badly, and we ought to go for 2 and speed this thing up. Because I don't know how much time we have before interest rates go up, and when interest rates go up, they can use up all of the revenue we have from taxes to pay the interest on the loans we have out there. We have tremendous debt out there, and we had better start taking care of it. I have looked at some ways to do that, and I will share those at another time.

But I hope I don't hear a lot about the Romney-Ryan budget here on the floor when there hasn't been a budget presented and voted on by the other side. You have got to have the courage to make some cuts. You have got to have the courage to put forward a budget that is on a track--a track somehow to getting us back to solvency. And it better happen pretty fast.

So I think I am going to feel sorry for whomever gets elected President, and perhaps whomever is going to be in this body and in the House next year, because it is not going to be a pleasant task. We are going to have to buckle down and do the right thing.

I got to meet earlier with the new Prime Minister of Italy, and I was very impressed with him. He was talking about what he has to do right now to pull them out of their deficit. Remember, we owe $50,000 per person. They owe $40,000 per person. They are taking the hard steps. He has laid out a plan, he has talked to the people involved. Over there they have strikes whenever they get upset with the government. He had to talk to some of the labor unions. He said, I talked to them and they went out on strike for 2 hours. Of course, usually a minimum strike is 3 days over there, so he felt pretty good about that. But he said with the changes that he has to make--and it was a reflection on what we are looking at too--probably none of the people will be there next year. Those in the cabinet who were sitting next to him were a little bit shocked to hear that. I think if he does the plan, people will appreciate the way he is saving their country and they will put him back in again.

But we are looking at some difficult times and we need good solutions. It is going to mean working across the aisle to make sure that gets done. Our time is short. But this is the most resilient country in the world, and the rest of the world is relying on America.

I yield the floor.

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