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Mr. HOEVEN. Madam President, today I would like to speak on several important issues pending before the Senate--issues that I believe are related.
I want to speak first about the recent proposal to change the rules of the Senate with a simple majority vote.
Second, and related, I want to talk about the need for consensus and bipartisanship to address our Nation's pressing challenges; specifically, the fiscal cliff that we face.
We must, and in fact we can, find consensus and agreement. We have done it before. We have done it in building a good solid farm bill which actually found $23 billion in savings toward the deficit. We did it in passing a strong highway bill that will strengthen our Nation's infrastructure. We did it most recently this week in working through a large and complex Defense authorization bill that will keep our Nation safer and more secure in these perilous times.
It will take more of this kind of cooperation and consensus building to address the very real and substantial challenges facing our Nation today. That is why I am deeply concerned about a proposal floated recently by some Members of the majority regarding the rules of the Senate. They propose to change the nearly 100-year-old Senate rule that requires a two-thirds majority to change the operating rules of the Senate.
Our colleagues in the majority are proposing to use a simple majority vote to make the change. That is the issue here. The issue is the manner in which they plan to do it. Once the precedent of changing a rule with a simple majority vote is established, 51 Senators could change the rules to suit their own convenience. In other words, they want to break the rules in order to change the rules.
That would be a big mistake. That would be, as the majority leader himself said in his own book, the death of the Senate. Votes that require a supermajority serve a very valuable function in the Senate. They encourage consensus, they encourage bipartisanship, and they make certain that the minority has a voice in the lawmaking of this body.
In recent history, both Democrats and Republicans have held the majority. In fact, it was not that long ago that the Democrats themselves were adamantly opposed to changing the rules of the filibuster. They argued that doing so could bring an end to a century-old tradition of bipartisan consensus building in the Senate and diminish the influence of minority voices. The reality is, we are now at a point in our history when bipartisanship and consensus is exactly what we need.
Laws passed by a narrow majority will only fuel greater partisanship and greater divisiveness. We need both parties working together so that when we are done we can say, this is a plan the American people can agree on. That is the kind of approach we need to address the economic challenges that are posed by the fiscal cliff. We need bipartisanship and we need consensus building.
With bipartisan consensus, I believe we can avert the fiscal cliff looming before us and put our Nation on a sustainable fiscal path. To do anything less could put our Nation and our future at risk. In little more than a month, nearly $400 billion in tax increases will combine with sequestration; more than 100 billion in mandatory across-the-board spending cuts over 1 year, to drag our Nation over the so-called fiscal cliff.
What those tax increases mean to the average American family of four earning $50,000 a year is over $2,000 in higher income taxes. Add to that expiration of the alternative minimum tax patch new taxes mandated by the Federal health care bill, and the reinstatement of the death tax, which will impact the next generation of farmers, ranchers, and small business owners, and Americans will see the largest tax increase in the history of our country.
If all of this happens, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the Nation's economy will shrink next year, and the unemployment rate could rise again. In other words, we go back into recession. I believe we can avoid the fiscal cliff and address our massive deficit. But that requires doing three essential steps: reforming our Tax Code, reforming entitlement programs, and better controlling our spending. We can get additional revenue by reforming our Tax Code. That means closing loopholes and limiting deductions.
By closing loopholes and limiting deductions, we can make the Tax Code simpler and fairer to stimulate growth in our economy. Markets get the kind of certainty they need to invest, to grow, and to hire. It is a growing economy, a growing economic base that creates more jobs and revenue, not higher taxes.
The simple fact is we must make America a great place to do business again. Our progrowth strategies in my home State of North Dakota have broadened our economic base and raised revenue without raising taxes. That has resulted in the lowest unemployment rate in the Nation, growing personal income, and, rather than a deficit, a budget surplus.
In addition to progrowth tax reform, we also need to start a fair and thoughtful process to reform entitlement programs. If we do not, they will not be sound and solvent for future generations. For example, Medicare's Hospital Service Program is in serious financial trouble. In a report this spring, the Medicare trustees cautioned that the trust fund that covers the program's hospital services will be depleted and consequently insolvent by 2024.
The fact is, we can accomplish entitlement reform in a way that does not change programs for people at or near retirement, yet ensures that those promises will be there for our children and grandchildren down the road when they need them. Republicans and Democrats should be able to come together, as should older and younger Americans, because thoughtful entitlement reform is in everybody's interests.
Finally, we need to control our spending. Our Federal deficit for the fiscal year 2012 was $1.1 trillion. Our national debt is now more than $16 trillion. That is unsustainable. More revenues from tax reform and economic growth, combined with entitlement reform and controlling spending, will reduce our deficit and our debt. There is no question we can do it. For example, we can help make a downpayment on our deficit reduction right now by passing the farm bill we put together in this Chamber.
The farm bill version we passed with broad bipartisan support in the Senate would save $23 billion over 10 years. The House version, which has been passed out of committee and is now pending on the floor, would save $35 billion. Passing a good farm bill can be part of the solution for the fiscal cliff. The reality is, solving our Nation's fiscal problems is achievable. We can find real budget savings in a far more thoughtful way than doing it through sequestration: Reforming our Tax Code, reforming entitlement programs, and better control of our spending will work.
Add a measure of good-faith bipartisanship and we can get our Nation growing again. We can get people back to work. For the sake of our country, we need to do it and we need to do it now.
HONORING OUR ARMED FORCES
SERGEANT FIRST CLASS DARREN M. LINDE
SPECIALIST TYLER J. ORGAARD
I rise today to honor the lives of two North Dakota soldiers who were killed in action on Monday, December 3, in southern Afghanistan while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. SFC Darren M. Linde and SPC Tyler J. Orgaard were both members of the North Dakota National Guard assigned to the 818th Engineer Company.
Their unit had been tasked with an important but dangerous mission. They were conducting a route clearance operation when their vehicle struck an IED on Monday, fatally injuring both men and wounding SPC Ian Placek, who is currently undergoing medical treatment in Germany. We pray for his full recovery.
Today we honor the lives of Sergeant First Class Linde and Specialist Orgaard. Our thoughts and our prayers are with their families and their friends as well.
Sergeant First Class Linde of Devils Lake, ND, led a distinguished military career since enlisting in North Dakota National Guard in 1990. During the course of his career, he served with the North Dakota National Guard as well as the United States Army and the Montana National Guard. He earned several recognitions for his valor, including the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Good Conduct Medal. Since 2009, he worked as a full-time instructor with the North Dakota National Guard's 164th Regional Train Institute, Camp Grafton Training Center in Devils Lake.
Sergeant First Class Linde was a devoted and selfless leader as well as a committed family man. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. He is survived by his wife Adrienne and four children.
Specialist Tyler Orgaard of Bismarck, ND, joined the North Dakota National Guard shortly before his 2001 graduation from Bismarck Century High School, where he was a member of the Century Patriots wrestling team and began competing in the Impact Fighting Championships. He was passionate about training in mixed martial arts. His family and friends knew him to be an extremely disciplined, hard-working man who served his country with great pride.
This was Specialist Orgaard's first overseas deployment. For his commendable service, he has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Specialist Orgaard is survived by many loving friends and family including his parents, Josephine and Jesse Orgaard. For the service and sacrifice of these brave men, we offer our thanks. We pledge to honor their lives through our commitment to supporting our troops and veterans and by remembering their lives of service.
My wife Mikey and I also join our fellow North Dakotans and Americans in extending our deepest sympathy to the families of Sergeant First Class Linde and Specialist Orgaard. We recognize that these men have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our Nation. We will remain forever grateful for their selfless service and commitment to defending the principles of liberty and justice that continue to guide our country.
May God bless and continue to watch over their families.
I yield the floor.
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