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Transaction Account Guarantee Program Extension Act -- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SESSIONS. I will associate my remarks with Senator Graham and say how much I have appreciated working with Jim DeMint. He is courageous, determined, and principled. He has a vision for America, and he has advocated for it every single day. He stood, sometimes alone, to advocate for those views. He is smart, he is intelligent, and he is good. It has been my pleasure to work with him and actually to support him.

I have consistently felt his values and views were beneficial to America, and we can all disagree sometimes about how to accomplish them, but we can't just go along all the time. Sometimes we have to rock the boat, and he was willing to do that. I so much have enjoyed working with him.

THE FISCAL CLIFF

I wished to share a few thoughts, as ranking Member on the Budget Committee, concerning the proposal that the President has made through Secretary Geithner toward fixing the fiscal cliff that has been talked about so much. I just want to say, sadly, that the facts disprove what they have alleged their plan would do.

We have looked at the numbers. There is no real mystery about this. There are gimmicks and manipulations in the way they have expressed what they intend to accomplish that I think are beyond the pale and the American people need to know it is not accurate.

This would not be possible if we had the plan on the floor so it could be voted on in the light of day. But we all know what the plan is, the scheme is, the strategy is. It is to meet in secret and then plop down on the floor of the Senate, at the last hour, some sort of coerced agreement that all Senators--like lemmings--are supposed to vote for.

We are supposed to expect that the American people will believe the agreement is what the President says it is, but that is not, in reality, what is occurring. Secretary Geithner met with Senate and House Members last week to present a proposal, and the President made a number of claims. He says the proposal Secretary Geithner made will fix our debt. He said his proposal will make our debt ``stable and sustainable.''

Both of those claims are untrue. He also claimed his proposal contains $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases--not so.

Secretary Geithner has been around a while. He knows these numbers aren't accurate. It is disappointing to me to see him come in with so much bluster. In an interview yesterday he said: We are going to go off the cliff unless Republicans agree to what we demand, and we can't have a debt ceiling anymore. To have to debate that causes controversy. We don't want a debt ceiling anymore. Those were basically, as I heard him hubristically suggest, nonnegotiable positions. The plan called for $1.6 trillion in new taxes, twice what the President asked for in the campaign. He asked for $800 billion during the campaign. Now he wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes.

So far, even with $1.6 trillion in new taxes, there is more than $1 trillion in spending increases. Far from fixing our debt, our debt will grow over the next 10 years by nearly $9 trillion. That is almost $1 trillion a year, on average. It goes up in the last number of years.

So we remain on an unsustainable course with our debt continuing to surge out of control. We are projected, based on our debt now, to have our interest payment on the money we borrowed exceed the defense budget in just 7 years. These are facts.

Spending under that plan would increase $1 trillion above the levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act, as signed into law. We agreed to the Budget Control Act 16 months ago, in August 2011, and we raised the debt ceiling and agreed to reduce spending. We raised the debt ceiling $2.1 trillion and agreed to reduce spending $2.1 trillion. The President's plan would take out over $1.1 trillion of those spending limitations that are in current law. I repeat, spending will increase more than $1 trillion above the already projected growth in spending.

Our spending is growing. It is not decreasing. It is already projected to grow, but the President's proposal is to have it grow even faster than the law currently calls for.

I don't believe the numbers I have presented can be disputed. They can spend, and they can say things and mix up baselines and confuse the American people, but the plan he has outlined does just what I described. It is not much different from the budget the President submitted this last February. As a matter of fact, it is very similar to it. What did that budget do? It increased taxes by $1.8 trillion, and it increased spending by about $1.4 trillion.

So this is the kind of path we are being asked to take. I don't think the American people would agree to that.

There are other increases in spending other than the elimination of the $1.2 trillion sequester cuts that were agreed to last year. For instance, more than $170 billion has been in new spending, arises from more stimulus spending and as an unpaid for increase in Medicare reimbursements, the doc fix, that is going to be due and will cost $394 billion. That is almost $400 billion that is not currently funded--and will have to be funded--that they have ignored, they have left it out of the budget, which makes it look $400 billion better than it is.

We have to count that money. Together, that is almost $1.8 trillion in new spending. But the only cuts that the White House offers are $600 billion in mandatory spending reductions, basically cutting the providers of Medicare, it appears to us. In other words, the doctors and the hospitals that already took a cut to fund ObamaCare will now be asked to take another $600 billion in cuts. They tell the seniors: Don't worry. We are not cutting your Medicare. We are just going to cut providers.

But at some point, we have to understand these reductions to providers can damage their ability to provide care. A hospital has to stay open. Doctors have to make a living. A lot of them are considering retiring early because it is so difficult to operate under the Federal programs.

The bottom line is that the proposal that is out there calls for a huge tax increase, $1.8 trillion they are now saying. And this money is being gobbled up with new spending.

I try to be precise and operate from a known spending baseline; specifically, the Budget Control Act baseline we agreed to 16 months ago. The President's plan clearly contemplates this.

The $1.2 trillion in sequester cuts would be eliminated. That is more than half the cuts we agreed to last year. They would be eliminated.

There would be one reduction. The Medicare reimbursement cuts of $600 billion would reduce spending. That would still mean that net spending has gone up $600 billion. The doc fix, as I just mentioned, is another $400 billion, so it adds $1 trillion. There is about $200 billion in stimulus spending that is over $1 trillion, and we have an $800 billion tax increase. If the President got that, which is what he originally asked for, then we would end up with more debt than if we didn't have the $800 billion tax increase.

If he gets $1.6 trillion in new taxes--which will not happen, in my opinion--but if he were to get that, it would reduce the debt two-thirds of that amount, plus maybe three-fourths would be used to fund new spending and only one-fourth to deal with our current challenges.

I would ask the American people, when they read what Congress was considering--and we have heard the President advocate more taxes--did they not assume that money would be used to reduce the deficit we have so we may put our country on a sound financial path? Or did they at least not assume it could be used to save Social Security, which is already drawing money from the General Treasury, so we have enough money to pay recipients? Or did they not think that maybe the money was going to be used to strengthen Medicare and keep that program on track so it will not go into bankruptcy?

Is any of that accomplished by the President's proposal? No. He proposes no fix to Social Security, no fix to Medicare, and no real reduction in debt.

In fact, if we end up with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, we can expect the deficit to go up about $8.6 trillion instead of $9 trillion. That would be the only impact on the debt because most of the new money would be used for new spending.

So I am worried about this. I don't think the leader of our Nation, the one person elected by people all over the country, should be laying out a program to the American people that does not honestly deal with the debt threat we face, and does not honestly explain to the American people how we are on an unsustainable course, as every expert has said, and does not honestly talk with the American people about why Medicare is in trouble, why Social Security is in trouble, and what we need to do to fix them. Our President will not even talk about that, and when somebody talks about it in a serious way, they get attacked by the White House. This new budget doesn't do anything about those issues.

So I think this is not good leadership. I know Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner have pleaded with the President to talk about these long-term, systemic problems.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt are together almost 60 percent of what we spend in this country, and they are growing at three times the rate of inflation. This is unsustainable. This is what Erskine Bowles, the man the President chose to head his debt commission, has warned us about. In fact, the House proposal indicated they would accept an $800 billion tax increase as a good-faith attempt to reach out to the President, based on what Mr. Bowles had proposed. They basically call it the Erskine Bowles plan. That is what he suggested, how the tax rates wouldn't go up, but the deductions would be eliminated. You would have a simpler, more flat tax system. You would bring in $800 billion more in revenue, and they would use this revenue to help reduce our deficit. That is the kind of plan that is serious. But the President has hammered the House plan. Secretary Geithner says it is unacceptable. But it is the Erskine Bowles plan. That is what it was, and it was a serious, good-faith attempt to reach out and deal with this crisis.

I don't believe we need tax increases--any--but if we do, we have to ask ourselves, Where are we going to apply them? What are we going to do with them that puts the country on a sound path for the future so our children are not having ever larger amounts of debt accruing every month, every year that goes by?

Again, if the President's plan was accepted and the $1.6 trillion in new taxes were imposed, which I don't believe will happen, we would have virtually no reduction in the total debt accruing over 10 years. That does not change the debt course of America. It does not deal with the danger that exists. The spending path we are on is in the red zone. The tachometer spending needle is over in the red zone.

Mr. Bowles told us at our Budget Committee hearing 2 years ago that we are facing the most predictable debt crisis in our country's history. He said we have to get off this unsustainable path. So the House has basically taken his suggestions and worked with them.

I understand that earlier today there was a discussion about raising the debt ceiling. The Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to regulate the debt of America, and we have to pass legislation to raise the amount--the ceiling or the limit--on how much we can borrow. We are at $16 trillion-plus now, and we are about to reach the debt limit again early next year. The President doesn't want to have to deal with that again because last time we came up against the debt ceiling--August a year ago--the President had to reduce spending. It is the only time we have actually done anything. We reduced spending by $2.1 trillion out of what was projected to be $47 trillion in total spending.

So August a year ago, the country was on track to spend $47 trillion over the next 10 years. Once the agreement was reached and $2.1 trillion was saved, we were on a course to spend $45 trillion instead of $47 trillion. Now, America is not going to sink into the ocean if we reduce spending that much. It is still an increase--a very substantial increase. Debt would have accrued over the next decade. Instead of $11 trillion, it would have been $9 trillion. So we go from $16 trillion, to $25 trillion, to $26 trillion in new debt to the country. That is all that limit did. I believed it did not go nearly far enough, and that was a concern of mine, but the agreement was at least a step. The President's plan eliminates the sequester and does not pay for it with cuts elsewhere. So it actually increases spending because it backs off the agreement we reached just last year.

Madam President, I believe the American people have a right to be unhappy with us. And it absolutely is not true that if we take the current law baseline, the President's proposal cuts spending $2.50 for every $1 of tax increase. In fact, there is no spending reduction, really. There are only spending increases. No net reductions properly accounted for occur in the plan Secretary Geithner laid out, and that is true with the President's budget too. The budget the President submitted last year is very similar to this current proposal. It increases spending, it doesn't reduce spending.

So we need to know that we are being asked to permanently raise tax rates in America and permanently use that money on new spending programs, leaving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Defense Department on the same dangerous course they are on today. I think we can do better.

I hope the American people will look at these numbers, maybe call the White House, call their Members of Congress, and say: Look, if you have to raise taxes--and I think most Americans don't think we need to--be sure you use this money wisely. Don't start new programs when we are going broke now. Don't start new programs when we don't have money to fund Social Security, don't have money to fund Medicare, don't have money to fund Medicaid. Don't start new spending programs when we don't have the money to take care of the ones we have.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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