Mr. REID. Mr. President, just a brief comment on the statement of my friend, the Republican leader.
He continues bad-mouthing the recovery. We are in a recovery. The moral of the fourth quarter is a repudiation of the Republican playbook. Growth went down in the fourth quarter because of reduced government spending and a reticence of the private sector, as Congress fought over the fiscal cliff. That fight came as a result of the Republicans being so unreasonable. When we were finally able to work something out that was a compromise, it was good for the economy. The economy was rejecting the austerity and brinksmanship.
So let's hope the Republicans will understand that we have to move forward, that the Republican playbook of continually complaining about spending is something--we know we have to do something with spending. We understand that. But there is more to making our economy recover than just continually harping on what is going on with spending.
Everyone recognizes we have to do something with spending, but we also have to do something to have a fair program. Is it fair that to this point all spending cuts have come from nondefense spending? The answer is no. Is it fair that the Republicans continue to want to go after Social Security, Medicare, even food stamps that hits the poorest of the poor?
Let's start talking about fairness. Even Presidential nominee Romney said he had all these tax loopholes that he believed should be closed. We agree with Mitt Romney, and we would hope the Republicans would agree with their nominee for President. That is where we should be looking--to have a fair approach to what we do with sequestration and balancing the budget.
THE DEBT LIMIT
Mr. President, later today the Senate will vote on the House-passed legislation to suspend the debt ceiling until this summer and remove the specter of default hanging over the Nation's economy. I expect this legislation will pass on a strong bipartisan vote, sending the message loudly and clearly that while we are willing to negotiate, we will not engage in another irresponsible debate over whether the U.S. Government should pay its bills.
I would remind my Republican colleagues that most of them voted to incur the debts now coming due. Suspending the debt limit will not authorize a penny of new spending, but it will ensure we pay the bills we have already incurred.
What are some of those bills we have incurred?
We have had two wars going on that have been unpaid for with real money. We borrowed the money. Every Republican voted for these wars. So we should pay our bills.
I was reassured by the House Republicans' decision last week to back off their reckless threat to hold the debt ceiling hostage. Suspending the debt limit will not authorize a penny of new spending, but it will ensure we pay the bills we have already incurred.
The legislation before the Senate sets an important precedent that the full faith and credit of the United States will no longer be used as a pawn to extract painful cuts to Medicare, Social Security, or other initiatives that benefit the middle class. A clean debt ceiling increase that allows the United States to meet its existing obligations should be the standard.
Congress will continue to work to reduce the deficit but will do it without the threat of default. We have already made $2 1/2 trillion in historic, bipartisan deficit reduction--$2 1/2 trillion. Democrats believe we should do more. It is critical that we use a balanced approach that couples smart spending cuts with revenue from the wealthiest Americans and from closing the wasteful tax loopholes I have just talked about.
Obviously, Democrats would prefer a longer suspension of the debt ceiling, which would provide additional economic security and stability as we continue to find ways to decrease the deficit. Raising the possibility that the United States could default on its obligations every few months is not an ideal way to run government. But a short-term solution is better than another imminent manufactured crisis.
Every Republican admits that default would rock our financial system to its core. However, injecting uncertainty into the system every few months also has a chilling effect on the economy. This insecurity does not just affect big investment banks or wealthy investors, it costs jobs. All around the country, ordinary Americans with 401(k)s and college savings accounts are affected. I am glad Republicans set aside their plan to gamble with default. It was bad politics and even worse policy.
Middle-class Americans remember the last time the Republicans put us through a protracted fight over the debt ceiling in an effort to force deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other programs important to the middle class. Middle-class Americans remember how the tea party-driven Republicans forced the Nation to the brink of default in 2011, sending the stock market into a tailspin and prompting a historic downgrade of America's credit rating. Middle-class Americans remember how the economy suffered and our bottom line suffered with it. Middle-class Americans remember the consequences of the Republicans' willingness to threaten a national default. I am relived that this time Congress was able to reach a compromise and avert a fight so middle-class families can get the certainty they badly need.