Search Form
Now choose a category »

Public Statements

Sequestration

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about a disappointing milestone that we passed yesterday.

Yesterday was the 1,400th day since the Senate passed a Federal budget--1,400 days. So I guess today is the first day moving toward 1,500 days, but yesterday was the 1,400th day.

It has been said--and I know I have said it on this floor--that failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don't have any idea where you are going, you are not likely to get where you would like to be.

When it comes to our budgetary future, the strategy of the majority has been just not to deal with it.

Last summer Vice President Joe Biden challenged and said: Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value. Why the Vice President would have said that I really don't know.

The President's budget that has arrived late and has been dead on arrival, apparently, every time it has arrived in the last 4 years and a Senate majority of the Vice President's party that has not passed a budget--why the Vice President would have said: Show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value, I don't know.

I like the Vice President personally a lot. I often don't know exactly why he said what he said. But this comment really does raise a question about why we are not willing to talk about the things we want to achieve as a government.

Nearly 4 years have passed since we had any kind of blueprint. I am told when we talk about a budget in Washington that apparently there were no political consequences because the majority was rewarded with the majority again even though if there was one comment made over and over again in that campaign, it is, it has been 3 years since there has been a budget, and now we are saying it has been 4 years since there has been a budget, and we have seen the government lurch from crisis to crisis. Frankly, most of these crises have been created by the people who say they are trying to deal with them.

I could not imagine, in November and December, why we would want to start a new year with the issues before us that were before us then. This could have been handled at that time as easily as it could be handled now. Part of it is the failure to plan.

Since the Senate, controlled for some time now by Democrats, passed a budget in April of 2009, lots of things have happened. Four years ago nobody in America had an iPad yet because iPads had not yet been invented. Nobody in America now doesn't know somebody who has an iPad if they don't have one themselves. Instagram, which our conference just added to one of these tools this week, didn't even exist 4 years ago. The Federal debt 4 years ago was less than $12 trillion. Now it is $16.6 trillion. LeBron James was still a Cleveland Cavalier the last time the Senate passed a budget. ObamaCare--and the President, in the Presidential campaign, said he now liked that term. I think he may not like it as well as he does now when people find out more about it--was not even the law yet. It was not the law. The ``Oprah'' show was still on the air. NASA had not announced yet that we were done with the space shuttle missions. Prince William and Kate Middleton were not engaged, and Brett Favre still played for the NFL. Lots of things have happened in the last 4 years, but one thing that has not happened is the Senate has not passed a budget.

Republicans in the House have drawn up and voted for budgets. We figured out ways occasionally to have a budget vote. But the President's budget would get no vote. There was no Senate majority budget on which to vote. I look forward to seeing that budget on the floor.

I was glad to vote just a few weeks ago on the bill that said that if we do not have a budget, we do not get paid, because if we do not have a budget, we do not have the fundamental tool it takes to have the other debates on the appropriations bills. People deserve a Senate that has a budget, is willing to put it out there, and that then is willing to have the debates on appropriations bills we need to have. It has been 15 months since we had an appropriations bill on the Senate floor. We have failed to do the work, and that leads us from one needless crisis to another.

Now the crisis, of course, is the sequestration deadline. If you listen to the administration, you would assume that this is the last day it is safe to go outside; that starting tomorrow terrible things are going to happen. I just heard our leader, the Republican leader, talk about our willingness to give the President of the other party more ability to direct these cuts in specific ways--but not forever. We need to take that responsibility back ourselves and appropriate the money that is going to be spent October 1. But between now and September 30, we need to make these reductions in the best way rather than the worst way.

The Appropriations Committee, on which I am the ranking Republican, has Agriculture in it. One thing I am going to ask the Department is, Which employees are supposed to show up on those days that are so dangerous that you say only the critical employees need to be here? And if they are supposed to be here in bad weather, why wouldn't they be here now? Why would you cut the Federal employee who has to show up at a food-processing facility for anybody else to work and have somebody in an office somewhere doing something that could be done the next day that is just dependent on them? If I were the President, I wouldn't want to be answering, why did you cut this and not cut that?

Recently the President had a series of press conferences. He embarked on a 100-city tour to warn about the sequester. He showed up in Newport News in Virginia almost exactly 1 year after three of my colleagues went there--Senator Graham, Senator Ayotte, and Senator McCain--saying: In a year this is going to be a big problem. A year later the President shows up and says: This is going to be a big problem.

The President proposed the sequester in 2011. He insisted that it become law. He even threatened to veto a bill. He said: I will veto any bill to replace the sequester--late last year. Suddenly, now he has changed his mind and all these terrible things are going to happen and it is unavoidable. It is only unavoidable if we refuse to cut things that can be cut.

The Federal Government has grown 19 percent in its spending in the last 4 years. The sequester would cut 2.4 or 2.5 percent. Anybody in America whose budget has grown 19 percent in the last 2 years can go back, not to where they were the last 4 years--rather, not to where they were 3 years or 4 years ago but just to where they were a few months ago and get their spending level back to that. This is a budget which has grown in a tremendous way, but now it is suddenly uncuttable. We cannot begin to get by with the money we were spending 6 or 9 or 12 months ago? Nobody believes that.

If we want to have this discussion, that is fine with me. These spending cuts need to happen. They should happen, and they should happen in the right way. This is not going to be solved by campaign appearances all over the country. It is going to be solved by good management to reach reasonable goals. The accounting office has identified 51 areas where programs are inefficient, ineffective, and overlapping--51 areas. Why don't we deal with that? That is the Executive's responsibility, to say: Here is how we are going to eliminate these programs the Government Accountability Office has said are inefficient, ineffective, and overlapping. Otherwise, I guess we are committed to keep the programs that are inefficient, ineffective, and overlapping and spend billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money.

That would include things such as 180 economic development programs operating in five different Cabinet agencies. I am for economic development. I am for opportunity and jobs. But do we need 180 different programs in 5 different agencies? Divide 180 by 5--does each of those agencies need an average of that many programs?

There are 173 programs across 13 agencies to promote science, technology, engineering, and math education. That is not a bad goal, but does it take 173 programs in 13 agencies to do it?

Twenty agencies oversee more than 50 financial literacy programs. More than 50 programs across 4 departments are there to support entrepreneurs. Private sector job creation should be the No. 1 domestic goal of the country today, but do you need 50 programs in four departments to encourage entrepreneurial skills? Probably not.

Why don't we hear about that instead of the air traffic controllers and the highway engineers and the meat plant inspectors and the Head Start teachers? Why don't we hear about these programs that we all know are ready to be made more efficient--or in some cases just simply the way to make them more effective is to eliminate those programs.

There are 47 job training programs in 9 agencies that cost $18 billion in fiscal year 2009. I do not have a number newer than that. We actually don't have a budget much newer than that. But $18 billion for 47 programs in 9 agencies? I am sure we can do better.

The Government Accountability Office found at least 37 duplicative investments in information technology--that was $1.2 billion over 5 years--and 14 programs to administer grants to reduce diesel emissions across 3 departments. This is not 14 programs to administer grants and loans, this is 14 programs to administer grants and loans to reduce diesel emissions. I am for reducing diesel emissions. I am even for the Federal Government paying some attention to whether that is being done. But do we need 14 programs in 3 different agencies to do it?

Across-the-board cutting, which is what sequester really means--that means we couldn't get to the number because, by the way, we didn't have any budget, we didn't pass any budget, so of course we couldn't get to the number. We couldn't get to the number the law requires us not to exceed in our spending, so the cure for that is to cut every line item in the discretionary spending part of the budget--the part that defends the country, the part that builds highways, the part that administers most educational needs in which the Federal Government is involved? That is what sequester is. We can do better.

The Department of Defense has spent more than $67 billion in the last 10 years on nondefense spending. Probably somebody better than the Department of Defense could do the nondefense work. The Department of Energy weatherization program, which has received $5 billion in stimulus funds, exhibited a failure rate of 80 percent. The stimulus program really worked out well. Here is an 80-percent failure rate in energy weatherization.

The FAA--the Federal Aviation Administration, the one about which my friend the Secretary of Transportation, with whom I served in the House, said we would have to eliminate air traffic controllers--they spend $500 million each year on consultants. It could be that it is more important that the air traffic controllers show up than that the consultants show up.

I have a list here I am going to submit because the list literally goes on and on.

The Internal Revenue Service stored 22,486 items of unused furniture in a warehouse, at an annual cost of $862,000.

We will have this discussion of ``why cut that instead of this'' if we want to. But my side is willing to give the President authority between now and the end of this haphazardly put together appropriating year to target cuts so that those of us in the Senate can appropriate the money for next year's spending.

We ought to be moving right now. We should not be having this debate at all today. We should be having a debate on the budget to have it done by April 15 so the Appropriations Committee can begin to do its work and we can find out what needs to happen here.

This is a good time to ask the question, Is this a job for the government? If the answer is yes, the second question is, Is the Federal Government the best of all governments to solve this problem or is there some government closer to the people and closer to the problem that can solve it in a better way?

There are two things I wish to submit and ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record as I close my remarks. One is a July 31, 2012, memo to agencies from the Office of Management and Budget that says, ``Agencies should continue normal spending and operations since there are more than 5 months that remain for Congress to act.''

On September 28 the same management organization, the Office of Management and Budget, under the Executive Office of the President, sent another memo out that says, ``Agencies should continue normal spending and operations, as instructed in the July 31 memo from the Office of Management and Budget to executive departments and agencies which addresses operational and other issues raised by the potential of January 2 sequestration.''

So the new spending year is about to begin in 2 days--2 days after this goes out--and the direction from the White House is business as usual, full-speed ahead, spend money just like you are. Don't bother with that law which says that beginning on January 1, we have to spend less money.

Well, I am convinced we are going to spend less money. I am prepared to work with the President to see that we do that in the smartest possible way, but we have to get our spending under control, and I look forward to seeing the Senate do its job first with the budget and then with bills that debate our money and what we spend our money on.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top