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Public Statements

The Debt Ceiling

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROOKS of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen testified before the House Armed Services Committee that America ``is maintaining nearly historic fiscal deficits and national debt. Indeed, I believe that our debt is the greatest threat to our national security. If we as a country do not address our fiscal imbalances in the near term, our national power will erode, and the costs to our ability to maintain and sustain influence could be great.''

Admiral Mullen is right: debt caused sequestration. Debt and sequestration will slash our uniformed personnel to their lowest levels since before World War II; will reduce our Navy to the smallest number of operational vessels since World War I; and will cut our Air Force to the smallest number of operational aircraft in its history. In sum, debt is putting America's national security at risk.

Last week, on January 17, the Comptroller General of the United States delivered to President Obama a Government Accountability Office report on America's financial health. I have reviewed many government audits and financial statements during my three decades in public office. I have never seen warnings as stark as those given by the GAO to President Obama. Some lowlights of the GAO report are striking and deserve emphasis.

In fiscal year 2012, the Federal National Mortgage Association and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported about $85 billion in net valuation losses. The Federal Government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's liabilities exceeded its assets by about $34 billion. The Postal Service ``finished the year with a reported net loss of almost $16 billion.'' The Federal Housing Administration reported that its liabilities exceeded its assets by about $15 billion.

Mr. Speaker, America is on a path to insolvency and bankruptcy, an event that will debilitate our country. America has incurred four consecutive, unsustainable trillion-dollar deficits and is in the midst of a fifth consecutive trillion-dollar deficit. America's national debt exceeds $16 trillion. Interest on our debt is well in excess of $200 billion per year. To put our debt service burden in perspective, that is more than four times what the Federal Government spends on all highway and transportation infrastructure projects in America each year. Unless Washington becomes financially responsible, future debt service will escalate and even more money will be spent on debt service rather than on programs that serve Americans.

America's Comptroller General issued a stern warning to President Obama:

The comprehensive, long-term fiscal projections show that, absent policy changes, the Federal Government continues to face an unsustainable path. Over the long term, the structural imbalance between spending and revenue will lead to the continued growth of debt held by the public as a share of GDP. This means the current structure of the Federal budget is unsustainable.

America's current path and Federal budget are unsustainable. Absent changes, Federal Government insolvency and bankruptcy are certain to result and cause an economic disaster unrivaled in America's history. This week, the House of Representatives faces a vote to increase America's debt ceiling. Pending legislation raises the debt ceiling by roughly $300 to $400 billion. What protection from the risk of insolvency and bankruptcy does America get in return?

Are there any spending cuts? No.

Are there policies that spur economic growth and result in revenue increases? No.

Does this proposal help fix in any way the trillion-dollar deficits that threaten America with financial ruin? No.

Mr. Speaker, I can only speak for me. I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless significant efforts are made to fix the underlying problem of deficits and accumulated debt that force debt ceiling votes and risk America's future. I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless, first, Congress passes a substantive balanced-budget constitutional amendment that solves the debt problem for future generations or, second, we implement sizable spending cuts that help get our financial affairs in order.

I take this stance full well knowing the adverse economic effects of a failure to raise the debt ceiling but also knowing, Mr. Speaker, that those effects pale in comparison to an insolvency and bankruptcy of the America I love.


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