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Public Statements

The Fiscal Cliff

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, it is appropriate that the Senator just said what I have said, and I thank him for his comments. This, again, leads me to what I see is the rub. In his comments a minute ago, the President alluded that the tax arrangements have all been agreed to and the things Americans most care about have been agreed to.

In a late request this morning, the President wanted to do away with the sequester--the $1.2 trillion in cuts--by paying for them with revenues instead of trading out other cuts, which is unbelievable to me with the amount of debt we have in this Nation. The fact is we have agreed to additional revenue. Now, at the last minute, what has happened is the sequester is getting ready to kick in because we could not agree to other revenue cuts. By the way, it was not part of this deal but to supplant what we did back in August 2011.

We all know the sequester is going to kick in. For some reason people think it is being done the wrong way and should be done in a different way, which I actually agree and hope we will do. Instead of reducing that spending, the President wants to add revenues to that to keep that from happening.

Now, let me explain what that means. We have this tax increase that is getting ready to happen--by the way, I would support that--and instead of reducing the deficit like the President campaigned on, what he wants to do is use those revenues to supplant spending reductions we have already agreed to, so we are not reducing the deficit. We are using this revenue, which has been campaigned on for a year, not to reduce deficits but to keep spending cuts that have already been agreed to from happening. I don't think there are many people on either side of the aisle who would think that is a very good idea.

Now, what the President is doing is holding this agreement on taxes for all Americans hostage to keep from doing the spending reductions we have already agreed to. I don't know if most Americans who listen to us quite understand what is happening.

I listened to the President yesterday speaking with David Gregory, ``Meet the Press,'' and I know he talked about the $1 trillion in spending reductions he has offered up, which by the way I applaud. The problem is I have never seen them. I don't think the Presiding Officer has ever seen them. As a matter of fact, there is not a soul in this body who has ever seen the spending reductions that the President has offered up because they don't exist.

I know there were broad contours that were talked about; I know that. The people in this body know that last week Lamar Alexander and I offered a bill on the floor to raise the debt ceiling by having $1 trillion in entitlement reforms so we don't end up in a situation where the credit of our country is in jeopardy. Today people are paying one-third of the cost of Medicare. There will be 20 million more Americans on Medicare over the next 10 years, and we are paying for one-third of that. It is a time bomb.

We have offered reforms to cause Medicare to be here for future generations. We have done that in advance so the debt ceiling is raised in a way that does not jeopardize the country's credit. At the same time, we reformed these programs so they will be here for the future.

Yesterday the President said on television that he has offered $1 trillion in cuts. I have never seen them. What I would say to the Presiding Officer is, if they exist it would be helpful if we could see those because that would help us with this debt ceiling debate. It may be that some of those are similar to the reforms and reductions that Senator Alexander from Tennessee offered with me. That would be highly helpful. Once the pep rallies are over maybe the President could send a list of those reductions and reforms that he says he has offered that no one I know of has ever seen. I think it would be helpful to us in the debt ceiling debate.

As a matter of fact, my guess is we might agree with a lot of those. What we could do is maybe take the President's reductions that he says he has offered, which he has never offered, and we could use those to help raise the debt ceiling and alleviate some of the issues that my friend from South Carolina was mentioning a minute ago.

Mr. Presiding Officer, my friend, I will tell you that I am disappointed where we are today. I thought 2 years after we began this process we would end up with something that would cause us to have this viewed from the rearview mirror. In other words, this would be behind us, and we would begin 2013 in a situation where the economy was ready to take off and people in this country would know that we dealt with our issues, and, candidly, people around the world would know it as well. We have not done that. We are talking about the kick-the-can-down-the-road deal. Everybody knows that.

Everybody in this body knows that by the time this agreement takes place we have done nothing to reduce a penny of debt in this country. People know that, and that is a shame.

The American people are watching us. We have turned ourselves into the laughing stock of the world because we cannot sit down and just solve these problems. Candidly, I don't know why we cannot do this on the Senate floor. It has been empty over the last week. I think we could have brought a bill to the floor to deal candidly with this. I think most people on both sides of the aisle think the same way. We have not done it. Surely, we should not let this happen again.

I want to close by saying that I am disappointed with what I think is about to happen on the sequester. It looks like we are going to use revenues to substitute for spending reductions that have already been agreed to. What that means to the American people is that the tax on the wealthy, which I support in the form that I have understood it to be, is not going to be used to reduce our deficit but to keep from putting in place the spending reductions we have already agreed to.

I don't know many Democrats or Republicans who would think that is a particularly good idea, especially with everything we went through and everything we put the world through in August 2011. Much of that will be dissipated and watered down today. Not only are we not making progress if that happens, we are actually going to be setting ourselves and our country back. I think this will make it even more difficult to overcome the debt ceiling that is coming up in 75 days.

I am obviously making this speech to, hopefully, help influence the outcome over the next couple of hours. I hope that what the President said over in the Executive Office Building is not what he means. I doubt there are many people in this body who agree with the comments made by the President, and I hope the negotiators will take that into account.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.

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