Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, over the past several days, I have spoken of the need for the two parties to come together to address the Federal debt. We need to act quickly if we are going to avert a European-style debt crisis and avoid the harsh austerity that would bring.
But this is about more than just avoiding a calamity, as serious as that prospect has become. What this debate offers is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to update government for the 21st century, to modernize programs that work, and to reform ones that do not. Many Federal bureaucracies have not been reformed in any real way since the age of black-and-white television. Even if we did not have a debt crisis, we should want to reform them. This debate is an opportunity to do so.
By making government leaner and more efficient, we can sweep away outdated and heavyhanded regulations that have impeded private sector growth and the job creation we so desperately need. And by reducing the debt, we can eliminate an additional drag on our economy.
So this is not a conversation about austerity; it is a conversation about growth and opportunity. That does not mean we are all going to agree on the path forward. Americans certainly expect a serious policy debate. They expect both parties to offer competing plans to preserve and protect long-term entitlement programs, and they expect both sides to propose different plans to get our fiscal house in order and our country back to economic health.
Republicans have done their part. The budgets passed by House Republicans over the past couple of years contain fresh ideas that would help solve our fiscal crisis. Policymakers from both Chambers and from statehouses across the country have put forward a number of their own ideas and proposals as well. But from the Democrats? So far, not much. Four years on, President Obama and congressional Democrats still have yet to offer a serious plan to address the economic challenges we face. They have been content to wage political war instead.
It is my hope, however, that the debate over the debt ceiling will finally move our friends on the other side beyond their preoccupation with the horse race. Already, Senate Democrats have committed to developing a budget this year, after years of ducking their responsibility to do so. Hopefully, this will be a serious exercise and not simply an excuse for them to try to raise taxes, which, as we all know, is just another way to avoid solving core problems. Last week I came to the floor with a chart which showed that even if the President got every single tax increase he asked for, every one of them, we would still not even come close to solving the problem--not even close.
So let's not waste time with more pointless arguments about tax increases. We had that debated already. It is done. It is over. Instead, I call on Democrats to approach the spending debate with the seriousness it demands and to do it through regular order. We have to break this penchant among Democrats for putting off all important work until the final hour. We need to get back to regular order, and that takes time, and that is why we need to get started right now. Let the tough work of developing a budget and putting together long-term policies to control government spending begin today--not 1 minute or 1 hour before we come up against a deadline but today.
Americans deserve better than what they have been getting from Washington the past few years. Democrats were reelected, and I congratulate them. It is time now to get serious about actually governing.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.