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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I have made it clear that I oppose the confirmation of Jack Lew to the most serious Cabinet position of Secretary of the Treasury. The President's Cabinet nominees should be given substantial deference; that is not in doubt. But our Constitution makes clear that appointments to high government office may only be made by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Certainly, the Senate is not a rubberstamp or a potted plant.
I believe a decent respect for the seriousness of this occasion, for my colleagues and for their opinions, for the President and for the nominee, requires, in this case, that I set forth my objections to the appointment. They are serious, and I believe what I say is important; important for the institution of the Senate and important for our country.
I have not had a personal relationship or extended meetings with Mr. Lew. My objections arise primarily and first from his performance as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. It is, in many ways, a key position in our government. That is the office through which the President controls all the departments and Agencies of our government which he is required to supervise.
Normally and necessarily, the OMB Director is the single office that drives efficiency and demands accountability on behalf of the President and the American people throughout our great bureaucracy. In that aspect of his job I have seen little leadership, and at this time of surging debt, I would rate that performance as an F. I have never seen a consistent, determined effort from Director Lew to reform and make more productive the government of the U.S. Indeed, his primary effort consistently has seemed to be to defend any program under attack, scrutiny, or question rather than examining vigorously to save every single dollar that can be saved for the taxpayers of the country.
If the OMB Director will not insist on efficiency and good government, who will? The Secretary of Energy, pushing out failed Solyndra programs? Is that whom we look to? Or the GSA leaders who host hot tub parties in Las Vegas? This government of ours has never been more poorly managed. It has never had, for a number of years, the serious oversight and management from the top supervisory agencies.
Congress is not empowered to daily manage the agencies of America. That is the Chief Executive's job, and the primary person in his administration, President Obama's administration, charged with this duty is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. At least, historically, that has been the case.
But, my concerns go even deeper. I believe every public official in this Nation owes an absolute loyalty to the United States, to the betterment of this country and its government, and to the institutional processes that lead to the governing of America. There can be no doubt that every government official, from the President on down, is accountable to the institutions of our government and to the people ultimately.
Without doubt, the Director of OMB has such a duty. He is required to meet that duty with honor, honesty, efficiency, and responsiveness. He serves us; we don't serve him. He serves the American people.
The American people send their money to Washington, and they expect it will be honestly and openly managed--accountable. They have every right to demand high performance from all officials, but particularly the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Surely, there can be no higher duty for such an important official than to periodically report to the people truthfully on the important affairs of state--specifically to report the financial condition of the Nation and to produce a budget plan that will fix it. Without doubt, the great challenge of our time is how to confront effectively the unsustainable debt course we are now on. That is clearly the greatest threat to our Republic.
Admiral Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said debt is the greatest threat to our national security. We are heading toward a financial crisis if we do not change. All have told us that, including Simpson and Bowles of the President's debt commission. They said this Nation has never faced a more predictable financial crisis. They jointly gave that statement to us in the Budget Committee.
Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, when asked to make comments about some of the long, great projections of debt out into the future, said: That will never happen. You will never get that. In effect he said: You will have a crisis before that ever happens. We are on an unsustainable debt path.
Even the most current Secretary of Treasury, Secretary Geithner, made the same comments about Director Lew's budget. He acknowledged that that budget left the country on an unsustainable financial path. Therefore, the report of the Nation's top management official on budget and management to Congress on these issues must be absolutely accurate. It must be true. His budget that he would set forth as director of the budget each year, as required by law--the President submits a budget--must put the Nation on a sound and sustainable course, not keep us on an unsustainable course.
If changes in the operating methods of the country are needed, he should say so and help lead that reform effort. He is the one who keeps the books. He is the one who must, along with the President, rally the Nation, as mayors and county commissioners and Governors have done all over America to rein in reckless spending and unacceptable debt in their jurisdictions. Why is it not happening here, now, at this time of national crisis?
In February 2011, as Director of OMB, Mr. Lew produced a budget for the President, and he presented it to the people and to the Congress. That was February, 2 years ago. He was the budget director.
The budget he prepared utterly failed to meet the needs of the Nation. It just did. As Mr. Bowles said right after the budget was announced by Mr. Lew--he said with great disappointment, the White House budget request ``goes nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare.'' This is the man President Obama appointed to head the debt commission, and he said this budget came nowhere near where they will have to go to avoid our fiscal nightmare. This budget was a disaster.
Instead of making our debt problem better, it made it worse. It taxed more and spent more. I was shocked and amazed.
Please remember, this was in February 2011, not long after the midterm congressional elections in which the American people rose up and shellacked a lot of big spenders and demanded that we get our financial house in order. The American people were shocked by the explosion of debt and the surge of big government, and they demanded more accountability. They insisted on it. Presenting a budget that did not do what the public demanded, control spending and debt, would not have been popular.
Imagine what went on in the White House. I am just a Member of the Senate. I observe these things like all of us. The question was, Would the President of the United States now, after the midterm elections that gave the majority to the House of Representatives--would at that point a policy, a budget, set forth a sound, sustainable path for America that could lead the country out of this fix?
I know they discussed it. Surely, they did. It was the most important issue they faced. Would they back down from spending and investment and taxes? Would they opt for a more limited growth in spending in America?
They made their decision. Actually, it is pretty clear two decisions were made. I do not think this is unfair to analyze it in this way. First, they decided that despite the election, they would not curtail spending or lay out a plan that would alter the debt course of America; that they would not fix and save and strengthen our entitlement programs, such as Social Security; and they would lie in wait, I guess, for anybody in the House of Representatives, particularly, and criticize their plan. They would not lay out any plan in their budget, which is the time that you would normally lay out your plan. They would set up a method to attack the Republicans when they produced their budget, as required by law, and their budget would have to deal with these things and propose real cuts in spending, and they would criticize that. Apparently, that is a decision they made.
But this presented a problem. To announce a budget that did not do what the public had just demanded--control spending and control debt--would not be popular. So what do you do then? It is pretty clear to me how the conundrum was decided.
Mr. Lew would go before the American people and Congress and just declare that the budget he had put forth did put the Nation on a sound financial course; that it would end deficits and put us in a position to pay down our debt. They just decided that Mr. Lew would go out, despite what was in the budget, and declare that it would do those things. Thus, the statements of Mr. Lew amounted to what I have called--and will explain--the greatest financial misrepresentation concerning the finances of this Nation ever made.
If somebody has something different, I would like to see it. I would like to see somebody say, when we finish talking about this, that they have other examples of this kind of misrepresentation.
These statements were made carefully and deliberately calculated and for the political purpose, I have to say, of misleading the public. You may say: Surely not, Jeff. You are exaggerating this situation. Surely, he wouldn't do that.
Let me tell you what happened. The day before the budget was to be released, on a Monday, Mr. Lew went on the Sunday news programs to report on the budget that the President would be submitting to explain what was in it.
This is what he said on CNN on a Sunday morning program.
I will put this up because the words should live in infamy. This is how he described the budget he laid out:
Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say, we're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.
That is exactly what the American people want to hear. There was no qualification placed on this statement, none whatsoever. He was speaking directly to the American people on a Sunday morning news programs. He said other things on several of the other programs that he participated in on February 12, 2011.
There were no qualifications. How could it be heard other than the way those plain words would suggest? It suggests that we had a plan, that the President had a plan, and that Mr. Lew was producing a budget--which his office produced--that would make sure we were on a sustainable financial course and we would not be adding to the debt anymore. ``We're not adding to the debt anymore.''
What else did that suggest? It suggested we can relax. We didn't need to talk about real spending reductions because we had a plan. Just follow the President's plan. Everything is going to be okay; relax. Don't get too excited as they did in this last election because we have everything under control. Our plan fixes it.
That is essentially what happened, but the budget documents Mr. Lew submitted revealed the opposite. The question is: Did his own documents confirm this analysis? Did it come close to it? Well, these documents will reveal the truth. Actually, his documents revealed a rosy scenario of the truth. The numbers I am going to give of what his documents reveal turned out to be less positive than even they predicted.
In his own accounting table, Mr. Lew's 10-year budget got nowhere close to the point where we could not say we are adding to the debt anymore or that we were in a position to pay down the debt. To anybody who has the slightest concern for the meaning of words--or who believes in the most basic concept of an objective truth--this statement must be condemned. Even though the Lew budget documents made calculations more favorable than the rosy projections of CBO, it still unequivocally showed that over the 10-year budget window there was never a year--not one year--when we would be able to pay down the debt or balance the budget or not add more debt.
Indeed, over the 10-year period his budget covered, which he was referring to in this document, we would add $13 trillion to the total debt of the United States. It would almost double it. It would be $9 trillion to the public debt and $13 trillion to the gross debt. The year with the single lowest deficit out of 10 years was $600 billion in debt. In other words, the lowest single annual deficit in 10 years was $600 billion. President Bush's highest deficit was less than $500 billion over 8 years. This is a huge debt, $600 billion, but would average almost $1 trillion a year. On average it would be $1,000 billion a year, which clearly leaves us on the same unsustainable path we had been on.
On Tuesday Mr. Lew appeared before the Budget Committee. I am the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee. I was amazed at what he was saying on television. After we scrambled around and looked at the documents, it became clear this was not close to correct. How could the Budget Director of the United States of America go on national TV and make these kinds of statements? How can we have any expectation of the truth in Washington when the Budget Director tells us we are on a sound path when it didn't appear to be so? And, indeed, it wasn't so.
He came before the Budget Committee, and I quoted this CNN statement to him. I read it back to him and directly asked whether his statement was accurate, and this is what he replied:
It's an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt ..... We've stopped spending money we don't have.
Further, let me note that outside the 10-year window--based on the financial plan that that budget set forth--the deficits got worse. They were going up in the outyears. The lowest year was $600 billion, but they were going up every single year, by his own accounting. CBO's numbers were much higher as far as the debt that would be added to the country.
For me this was a most stunning development. I don't believe it could be explained away. It is obvious he determined that he was going to stand pat with his story, which was a political narrative that they wanted to spin. They wanted to spin a political narrative, but it was not accurate, and that is important for us. The chief budget person in America needs to tell the American people and the Budget Committee of the U.S. Senate the absolute truth about the financial condition of this country. He is not entitled to sugarcoat it, and he is absolutely not entitled to totally misrepresent it.
I examined him. He said we are going to have a primary debt. We are going to have a primary deficit. So what is this, a primary debt? Well, we don't count interest. I kid you not. The Budget Director of the United States of America said the statement--as I interpret it, and it was not inaccurate--that he was not counting the interest on the debt. Did he qualify that when he told the American people that? No, he did not. Did he make any kind of representations as to that? No. I would suggest the numbers clearly show that even if we have the kind of bogus accounting where we don't count our interest, who could possibly write a household budget, a city budget, or a State budget that didn't account for the interest they have to pay every year? How ridiculous is that? That is the kind of phony, gimmicky accounting that puts this country on a path to financial crisis. But that is what he said. Even by that definition it was not true, and this would not be true, and it is false. Well, phony accounting procedures, budget manipulations, and gimmicks such as this primary balanced idea are the way politicians have maneuvered us into a situation where our path is so dangerous.
The American people are not happy about it, and they should not be happy. There is no reason we have placed this country at such risk because of debt and spending--no reason we should do that. They sent us here to this Congress for a lot of reasons, but the primary reason is to properly manage their money.
I see my colleague from Vermont, and I think we might get there a different way, but I think we may share some of the views about this nomination. I respect his independence and gumption, as we would say in Alabama, to express his views openly and directly.
I will talk some more because this is an important matter, and I don't intend to let it go lightly. I believe this Congress and the American people are entitled to honest, sober, serious commentary and information from our leaders, and we are not getting it. It makes it hard to get the American people together to figure out how to tighten our belts and how to handle the financial crisis we are in if we have top officials who say: We don't have a crisis, don't worry about it, we have a plan that fixes it.
I don't see any reason to extend for a longer period of time the Lew nomination. He has come out of committee and he has bipartisan support. He is going to be in a position to be confirmed, but I am not going to vote for him. I wish to talk some more about some of the additional problems we have with his nomination but will do so later. I believe it is my responsibility to do so, and I intend to fulfill it.
I thank the Chair and yield the floor.
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Mr. SESSIONS. With regard to the Senator's views, I am concerned that working Americans are not being fairly recompensed for their work on the American debt. We have gone a long time with no real net improvement in the income, inflation has been higher than wages, and Wall Street is doing fine. It seems as though they win whether things go up or down. I don't have any brief for that crowd. I think the Senator is right to be skeptical about how things are handled on Wall Street, and I salute my friend for being aggressive in that pursuit.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, just to follow up further on the situation we face, I talked earlier about the critical importance of having honest numbers. We can disagree on certain numbers. Mr. Lew predicted that under his budget, last year's deficit in the 10th year would be about $800 billion. The Congressional Budget Office, using the same numbers, the same analysis, says it would be 50 percent higher. They said it would be $1.2 trillion. He was using rosy scenarios. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office came out with greater debt numbers and more danger for America.
I am not so much complaining about that, although I think they deliberately tried to make their numbers look rosy. What I am complaining about is a fundamental mischaracterization of the budget he presented and what it would do according to his own analysis contained in the budget documents he submitted with his budget.
This is a very important matter. People say: Why don't you get together in Congress? Why don't you all reach an agreement? Well, it is kind of hard to reach an agreement when the lead negotiator for the President, Mr. Lew--some call him Dr. No--goes around saying:
We don't need to do anything; our budget we submitted will get us over the next several years to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say, We're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our debt.
He implies bringing down our total debt because we are going to have surpluses, enough money to pay down the debt. However, according to his own numbers, the lowest deficit he had was over $600 billion, and they were going upward the last 6 years, getting worse, and the Congressional Budget Office said the last deficit would be $1.2 billion. Unbelievable. So I wanted to continue to discuss that.
According to the budget numbers he put out, his plan would add $13 trillion in new gross debt to the United States in 10 years, by 2021. That was in 2011. Single-year deficits will never drop below $600 billion. In 2015 they would start climbing back up to $774 billion. Over the 10 years total spending would increase--not be reduced at all, of course, but increase--by nearly 50 percent, with mandatory spending alone--not in any way controlled or reformed or fixed by the Lew budget--mandatory spending would increase by more than 80 percent. And mandatory spending makes up more than half of all the spending in our government. So on his track, by his own budget, by his own projections, by what he believes should happen, it increased by 80 percent. In fact, entitlements are growing at about three times the rate of GDP growth, the rate of the growth in the economy. That is unsustainable.
Do we ever hear that from the President or his chief budget guy, Mr. Lew, who is now expecting to be the Secretary of the Treasury, the primary, premier economic leader for America? If one can't be honest about what the situation is, one ought not to be promoted. That is the way I feel about it, and I feel strongly about it. I have never seen anything like that in my entire time in the Senate, to have this kind of statement made that is so utterly unconnected to reality.
It wasn't long after Mr. Lew came to the committee--2 days or 3 days after this statement--when I asked him about that. I asked him if that was accurate, and he said:
It's an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt ..... We've stopped spending money that we don't have.
And the lowest deficit is $600 billion.
But Mr. Geithner came after this exchange, and I am sure Mr. Geithner was well aware of what happened in the Budget Committee. Mr. Lew dug his heels in and insisted this statement was true. What did the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Geithner, say at that point? I think this is the difference between Mr. Lew and Mr. Geithner. Mr. Geithner was former head of the Federal Reserve in New York, a man of some seriousness and gravitas, and he wasn't going to go in there and say something that wasn't true before the Budget Committee, although he didn't give it up easily. I had to use all the skills I had to pin him down, but when I did, this is what Mr. Geithner said. Even if the budget Mr. Lew put forward were passed and enacted, Mr. Geithner said that ``we would still be left with a very large interest burden and unsustainable obligations over time.'' In effect, he said we would be left with an unsustainable debt path, when Mr. Lew says: Don't worry, my budget fixes it. And Geithner was talking about this very budget.
Writing in the New York Times, writing an article, an op-ed in the New York Times, Mr. Lew said:
The President's budget is a comprehensive and responsible plan that will put us on a path toward fiscal sustainability in the next few years.
He wrote that in the New York Times--totally inaccurate. Does he not respect the American people? Does he think he can just go and make CNN statements and write in the New York Times and say anything he pleases about the financial condition of our country--a financial condition that represents the greatest threat to our national security, more than any other threat we have in this world today?
That same month, Mr. Lew stated in an interview with National Public Radio:
If we're able to reduce the deficit to the point where we can pay for our spending and invest in the future, that is an enormous accomplishment. This budget has ..... proposals that would do that.
And it did not. The budget did not have anything in it that would have had us pay for our spending. We are borrowing 36 cents out of every $1 we spend today. We are adding debt to our Nation every single hour--and to say we are going to be paying down the debt.
At no point did Mr. Lew's own estimate show that the President's 2012 budget was coming close to a point where we could pay for our spending. Excluding interest payments on the national debt--excluding the interest--the plan would have resulted in $1.5 trillion in deficits over 10 years, and even more than that when you consider the full interest cost of $7.2 trillion. The long-term outlook, with annual interest payments approaching $1 trillion and mandatory spending consuming over three-quarters of the budget after 10 years, and growing--entitlement and mandatory spending absorbing three-quarters of the budgets--Mr. Lew's comments were not merely misleading, but I believe qualify to be described as the greatest financial misrepresentation in the history of the American Republic. If someone has a better analysis of it, I would like to hear it. If somebody comes down and says this is a true statement, I would like to hear them say it. I invite all my colleagues--members of the Finance Committee; lots of them voted for Mr. Lew--do you think it is OK to say this? Do you think this is accurate? And if it is not accurate, do you want to promote him anyway? Why would you want to do that? I do not understand it. I am not going to support that. Mr. Lew made these representations over and over again.
The President's next year's budget in 2012, for the 2013 fiscal year, was formulated while Mr. Lew was still the President's Budget Director and delivered while he was the President's Chief of Staff. It similarly was extreme and irresponsible, and it was part of a continued campaign to mislead the American people about how it operated, to say it was so much better than it really was.
Although the White House claimed $4 trillion in savings, according to the Office of Management and Budget's own data, the 2013 budget would only have reduced the deficit by $197 billion over 10 years. They claimed they saved $4,000 billion--$4 trillion--but, in fact, it would only have reduced the budget by $197 billion over 10 years--virtually not changing the debt course of America. And all of those savings--virtually every one--were from tax increases. The spending was not reduced.
The White House also pushed the idea that the budget contained $2.50 in budget cuts for every $1 in tax hikes, while in reality there was a net spending increase above the policy baseline we were operating under. It spent more, not less. They claimed there were $2.50 in cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. That is not true. Overall, from current budget levels, spending would have increased by more than $2 trillion.
The net result of the proposals contained in the 2013 budget was to bring the Federal debt up to $26 trillion by 2022--an increase of $11 trillion. The proposed $4 trillion in savings simply did not exist. It was a complete fabrication. Mr. Lew understood that. He helped write that budget. He was the Chief of Staff at the White House when it actually came to the Senate.
Once again, a Lew-designed budget was presented to the American people in false terms designed to create the impression that we were putting America on a sound financial path, while we were doing the opposite--if it had passed.
And, of course, you say: Well, SESSIONS, that is your view. You are the one who is mischaracterizing the President's budget. This is all partisan. Maybe you would think that. I hope not. But let's see what some of the other observers around the country said about it when it was released. I am not talking about the budget that was described by Mr. Lew in these wonderful terms. If we had a budget that would do that, the American people would jump up and down and shout hallelujah. We are not close to it, however, as independent observers noted.
Look what these honest observers said about it.
The Washington Post, the largest paper here in Washington, said this:
The larger problem with the budget is the administration's refusal to confront the hard choices that Mr. Obama is so fond of saying must be faced.
The title of that editorial: ``President Obama's budget kicks the hard choices further down the road.''
What about USA Today, a nationwide paper?
President Obama likes to talk about those ``Sputnik moments'' when the nation rises to difficult challenges like the one posed by the Soviet space program in the 1950s. On Monday--
The day this budget was released--
he had a chance to turn his ..... budget proposal into his own such moment. He whiffed.
The title of that editorial: ``Obama's budget ducks tough choices.''
What about the Financial Times?
President Barack Obama has unveiled a hugely disappointing budget, cutting only a few percentage points ..... in projected US federal deficits over the remainder of this century. ..... If Mr. Obama will not make this case, who will?
The title of that editorial: ``Obama's budget shows failure of leadership.'' That is absolutely true. It was a failure of leadership.
Another from the Washington Post:
White House budget director Jacob J. Lew has told advocates of reform that the White House thinks any significant plan offered by the president would simply become a target for partisan attack.
Then it goes on to quote Alice Rivlin:
``I would have preferred to see the administration get out front on addressing the entitlements and the tax reform that we need to reduce long-run deficits,'' said Alice Rivlin, a commission member [on the deficit commission] who served as budget director in the Clinton White House.
That was Alice Rivlin, a wise commentator, a Democrat, but a wise commentator. She went on to say:
But they clearly made a tactical decision.
She meant a political decision.
That was the Washington Post. The title of that was:
``Obama spending plan criticized for avoiding deficit commission's major proposals.''
Another from the Washington Post:
Erskine Bowles, the Democratic chairman of the fiscal commission, said the White House budget request goes ``nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare.''
He is referring to this. This was on February 14--2 days after Mr. Lew made those ridiculous statements.
This is Mr. Erskine Bowles, a man chosen by President Obama to head the fiscal commission and spent a year studying our debt problem.
How about Investor's Business Daily, a prominent business publication?
The White House's new budget is far worse than merely bad. By not attacking the underlying cause of our debt explosion and by raising taxes, it will lead inevitably to a weaker economy and perhaps even default.
The title of that editorial: ``Obama's Gutless Budget Proposal''--a proposal written by Mr. Jack Lew.
What about the Wall Street Journal? This is entitled: ``The Cee Lo Green Budget.''
After three years of historic deficits that have added almost $4.5 trillion to the national debt, President Obama was finally going to get serious about fiscal discipline. Instead, what landed on Congress's doorstep on Monday was a White House budget that increases deficits above the spending baseline for the next two years. Hosni Mubarak was more in touch with reality last Thursday night.
The Wall Street Journal, the premier business publication in America.
The Orlando Sentinel:
Count us deeply disappointed by the $3.7 trillion budget that President Obama unveiled Monday. ..... To really tackle the national debt, Mr. Obama needs to get off the sidelines, and start leading.
The title of that: ``President Obama's budget plan falls short''--Jack Lew's budget plan.
The New York Daily News:
But the bottom line is that [President Obama is] figuring on reducing the deficit by $1.1 trillion over 10 years while his blue-ribbon commission said cutting four times that amount is critically necessary.
The title of that editorial: ``Deficit of courage.''
This is another one:
President Barack Obama rolled out a $3.7 trillion budget Monday that promises $90 billion in reduced spending for fiscal 2012, but it would still produce a whopping $1.1 trillion deficit. The best that can be said is that we've started to frame the national debate.
So said the Chicago Tribune.
The Indianapolis Star:
Obama has all but ignored the recommendations of his own deficit reduction commission.
The headline of that editorial: ``We ignore `red menace' at our peril.''
How about the Los Angeles Times, a major western newspaper of liberal political views:
President Obama's budget for fiscal year 2012 landed with a thud Monday, laying out short- and long-term tax and spending plans that disappointed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The proposal was a remarkably tame response to Washington's fiscal problems, not the bold statement about belt-tightening that the White House had suggested was coming.
The Denver Post, another large and liberal newspaper, states:
Obama called the proposal one of the ``tough choices and sacrifices,'' yet it does not confront entitlements and continues to act as if government spending is the way to prosperity.
That is true for sure.
The San Francisco Chronicle, an important newspaper:
In a crucial way, it lacks honesty.
The Dallas Morning News, a big newspaper:
But taken as a whole, his proposals represent the third time in 2 months he has walked up to the challenge of curbing the deficit and more troubling long-term debt and turned away on leading the Nation back from an impending fiscal nightmare.
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
The shortcoming in Obama's spending proposal is its lack of strategy for sustained, long-term deficit reduction.
That is correct. It had none of that in it. It goes on to say:
Cutting deficits by $1.1 trillion over a decade might sound significant. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected deficits rising $12 trillion over that time.
The title of that editorial is ``Still missing the mark.''
The Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The flurry of deficit-reduction plans released late last year were supposed to kick off a national ``adult conversation'' about the Nation's metastasizing long-term debt problem.
When is that conversation going to begin? It certainly didn't happen on Monday when President Obama released his $3.7 trillion budget request for 2012. The title of that editorial is ``Slinking away from U.S. budget reality,'' written by Mr. Jack Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who declared it was a wonderful budget, totally misrepresenting what it would do.
The Washington Post, Dana Milbank:
Obama's budget proposal is a remarkably weak and timid document. ..... The President makes no serious attempt at cutting entitlement programs that threaten to drive the government into insolvency.
What about Senator Conrad, who was the chairman of the Budget Committee at that time, a distinguished Democratic Senator who retired from Congress and is no longer in the Senate. This is what Kent Conrad said, my friend, with whom I served on the committee:
But we need a much more robust package of deficit and debt reduction over the medium- and long-term.
Well, our Democratic leadership in the Senate refused to bring up a budget. Today marks the 1,400th day this Senate has violated the law of the United States and not produced a budget. It is unthinkable at a time when the debt represents the greatest threat to our country.
The House has passed a budget each year. That was part of the strategy. That was part of the gimmick. Senator Reid, the Democratic leader, says we don't need a budget; it is foolish to have a budget. That was his comment: It is foolish to have a budget even though the law explicitly requires the Senate to produce a budget.
What did he mean, ``foolish''? He meant if you pass a budget, somebody could criticize you. Somebody could look at your spending and taxes, evaluate it, and say: We don't like that. He doesn't fix the debt. It raises taxes too much. It doesn't cut spending. Or it increases the spending too much. Why do that? It is foolish. Let's don't pass one, and we will criticize Paul Ryan, the young, dynamic chairman of the House Budget Committee who wrote a budget that passed the House and would have fixed our debt problem and put us on a sustainable course.
This was a budget that was complimented by Alice Rivlin and Erskine Bowles. They may not have agreed to everything that was in it, but they complimented him on having integrity and doing what it said in laying out a plan for the future of America. The House passed it.
What did the Senate do? Nada, nothing. It was one of the greatest acts of irresponsibility, I submit, in Senate history. There are a lot of them out there. This is one in the top group, in my opinion. How could you possibly, at a time of crisis, not bring up the budget? The President submitted a budget, as he is required to do by law, and every President always has. The Senate just decided not to even move one. They say: We will have one this year. I am looking forward to that. It is behind time, as was the President's submission of a budget. He was late, according to the law, in submitting that.
As time went on and the tension rose over the budget and our future spending program, the Democratic leader in the Senate thought he would be clever and would bring up Congressman Ryan's budget and make all the Republicans vote for it--virtually all did; maybe two or three didn't--and then they would attack them because it had cuts in spending. They are going to say: You don't like old people. You don't like children. You don't like education. You don't like this in health care, and this will be great.
As I said, most Republicans, virtually all, voted for it.
Senator McConnell said: All right, let's bring up the Obama budget. Let's bring up the budget Jack Lew prepared to the floor.
He forced a vote on the Lew budget. How many votes do you think it received? Zero. Every Democrat voted against it and every Republican voted against it. It was brought up in the House of Representatives. Every Democratic Member of the House voted against it and every Republican voted against it. It happened the next year in the 2013 budget.
Not a single person voted for this budget because it wasn't worthy of a single vote. It would not do anything to change the debt course of America, and they were totally misrepresenting what it would do. It was a sad moment. That is where we are.
My question simply would be, Where was Mr. Lew in this? He was the architect. He was the architect of the budget, but he was deeply involved in the political activities that were going on at this time. It fell to his lot--I am not sure if he asked for it--to come and testify before the Budget Committee and say these kinds of things about it, these words that will live in infamy. Did he just volunteer to do it? Was he so much a part of the Obama political interest he would say whatever it takes to promote a budget that wouldn't work?
Secretary Geithner, President Obama's own Secretary of the Treasury, would not say so. He wouldn't say these kinds of things. He tried not to embarrass the administration, tried not to embarrass Mr. Lew. When I pinned him down, he said this still leaves us on an unsustainable debt course; not fixing our problem as was represented.
Now we want to replace Mr. Geithner, a man who was frank in his testimony about the dangers we faced, with a man who stood by this kind of testimony and statements.
I do believe our country is a bit confused. I believe we are to the point where in politics people think they can say almost anything and nobody cares. Just say this or say that; if it is not true, well, so what. I guess it is just politics.
If we continue in that way, this is a very dangerous trend. It places the entire democratic Republic of America at risk. The whole concept of American Government is based on finding the truth. This is why you have debate in the Senate; open, public debate. The truth, the theory is that it will somehow rise to the top, and it normally will when you have honest debate. You have negotiations on issues, you advocate for your side, and you may begin to reach consensus, sometimes at least.
How can you reach consensus when the person you are negotiating with is insisting his budget does things it absolutely does not do? He is doing that for political reasons, not for the interests of America. How are you able to deal with that?
I think this Senate--as a matter of its own integrity to defend the integrity of the Senate, and, perhaps, more importantly, to defend the integrity of the American people--has a firm and clear duty to insist that high public officials tell the truth when they come before Congress or when they go on national television. He is being paid by the American people. Was he paid to misrepresent the budget or to tell the truth about the budget?
He didn't tell the truth about the budget. Is there a consequence? We just promote him to some other high office because he helped the President win his election by spinning the debt situation in America in a way that is not correct.
Make no mistake, I don't have proof of this. And maybe it is wrong. But it seems to me this was a campaign decision made in early 2011 that they were going to say their budget fixed our debt problems. Why do I state this? Because it was continued periodically off and on and was repeated again in a national television ad by the President of the United States in September 2012 to win reelection. ``Our plan pays down the debt,'' I believe, was the phrase they used in that television ad.
That wasn't true. He didn't have a plan that paid down the debt or didn't add to the debt or put us in a position to pay down the debt. He never had a plan to do that. He didn't.
You say: That is not correct. I will ask my Democratic colleagues--this is a free country, a free Senate--you come down and say if I am incorrect on this. Show me if I am wrong. If I am wrong, I will apologize; but I don't think I am wrong. I have looked at it hard, and I don't think anybody is going to come down and dispute what I have said fundamentally on the details of this budget document.
I thank the Chair for indulging me.
I yield the floor and would note the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, the Lew nomination has not received an enthusiastic response in many quarters, that is for sure--maybe from the hard left, where he has been an advocate of some very hard left views and some inflexibility when it comes to dealing with some of our entitlement programs and welfare programs that have been surging out of control. But this is what some others have said about the nomination.
Larry Kudlow, a commentator on CNBC--who was an economist for the Federal Reserve System of the United States and a former chief economist at Bear Stearns and an employee at the Office of Management and Budget, where he was a chief economist--said this on the radio not too long ago. I guess this was written about by Jeff Poor, a reporter for the Daily Caller.
Larry Kudlow explained why President Obama's nomination of Jack Lew as Timothy Geithner's replacement to head the Treasury Department was a ``nutty appointment.''
If you keep up with business issues and stuff, you will see Mr. Kudlow on TV regularly, and he, like a lot of our commentators, enjoys stirring the pot sometimes, but, as I say, he was a chief economist at Bear Stearns and at the Office of Management and Budget and an economist at the Federal Reserve. He knows a great deal about the economy. His instinct is what led him to call this a ``nutty appointment.''
Continuing Mr. Poor's quote:
Kudlow pointed to Lew as part of the problem.
Part of the problem as to why we don't have a budget. He said he is part of the problem.
Once again citing the Poor article:
Kudlow cited Lew's lack of qualifications as another reason that President Obama's appointment was ``completely irresponsible.''
Quoting Mr. Kudlow, the article went on to say this:
``You know, this whole thing is kind of centered around the Senate, which hasn't done a budget in 1,351 days--so whatever that is, four years,'' Mr. Kudlow said.
And I will just add that today is the 1,400th day.
Continuing the quote:
``Now the White House might not even submit a budget, and now the White House had taken the budget director and chief of staff and put him over the Treasury, where Jack Lew is completely--and I mean completely unqualified to be Treasury Secretary.''
He is talking about Lew, and sending him to be Secretary of Treasury.
Mr. Poor goes on quoting Mr. Kudlow, who explains:
``He has no financial experience. He has no international experience. He has no currency experience. He ripped off Citibank for a couple million dollars. He was there for one year. I mean, there's about a million people--give me a phone book, and I'll find somebody more qualified for Treasury Secretary than former OMB director Jack Lew. This is all of a piece. It is completely irresponsible.''
Well, that is pretty clear, what he expresses there, what he believes. And I think that is valuable insight.
Are we just making this up? This staffer for Tip O'Neill, the Budget Director of OMB before and now Chief of Staff at the White House, is he really qualified to lead the United States of America in addressing the challenges of our time?
What about the Secretary of the Treasury position? Is that a matter of great importance? The Treasury is one of the four great senior Cabinet positions we have--Attorney General, Defense Secretary, State, and Treasury. The credibility of the Treasury Secretary is his greatest asset, and, as I have said, this statement raises the most grievous doubts about his credibility.
We have had great Secretaries. Albert Gallatin early on, who was a Swiss immigrant, helped create the House Ways and Means Committee and instituted the development of the Treasury. Simon Chase from Ohio stood as one of Lincoln's top aides and was responsible for the civil system of federally chartered banks. William McAdoo, a distinguished businessman, helped create the Federal Reserve System. Andrew Mellon, a brilliant Pennsylvania businessman, served as Secretary of Treasury. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., served as FDR's Secretary from 1934 through 1945. William Simon, a successful businessman, served as Secretary under Nixon and Ford. He supervised the Nation's economic policies in crisis times.
So this nominee doesn't have the kind of background one would normally look for in a Secretary of Treasury, particularly when we are doing so poorly economically. We had a big recession, and we are coming out of it at a slower rate than we perhaps have ever seen other than the Great Depression.
Mr. Malpass testified at the Budget Committee yesterday about the Lew-Obama-Paul Krugman theory of borrowing money and spending money to stimulate the economy and get us out of the recession. All you have to do is look at it and see it didn't work. How much more evidence do you need?
So that is the advice we have been getting there. And this good staffer quality is what our Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, seemed to see in Jack Lew during his recent confirmation hearings. He seemed to call into question the necessary stature the position requires and whether Jack Lew met those standards. This is what Senator Baucus said to Mr. Lew:
I'm going to ask you--it's clear you'd be a great staffer. I'm not talking about being a great, courageous staffer and telling the President what you think and don't think. I'm talking about something else. I'm talking about the public perception, the public demeanor, representing the United States across the country and around the world, be able to influence policy in a way that makes sense--most of us would tend to agree with. We may differ along the edges, but most everybody in this room agrees that needs to be done.
So even the chairman of the Finance Committee, a Democratic chairman, Senator Baucus, with great experience, certainly raised some questions about the nomination.
Madam President, I appreciate the opportunity to speak, and I look forward to Senator Kaine's remarks.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I wish to continue to share my concerns about the appointment of Mr. Jack Lew to be the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, one of the four senior Cabinet positions that are so important to America.
I have delineated how he proposed the budget in 2011. He announced on CNN and several other Sunday morning shows--this is when he was going to introduce the budget the next day, and he was giving a preview of it.
``Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say, we're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.''
Now, that would be a thing to celebrate. But I am convinced that he and the White House officials had met and they decided they weren't going to change the tax-and-spend and deficit policies of the United States, but they knew that wasn't going to be popular after 2010's shellacking of big-spending politicians. So what did they decide to do? They decided to prepare a budget that made no real change in the spending trajectory of America, continuing us on, as Secretary Geithner said just a few weeks later, an unsustainable course, while telling the American people they did what they wanted.
As I indicated earlier, this budget he presented never had a single year in the 10 years of that budget in which the deficit fell below $600 billion. That is larger than any deficit President Bush ever had in his 8 years, and it was going up during the last 5 years.
They said the deficit would go up $740-some-odd billion in the 10th year. The Congressional Budget Office took their very same proposals--the independent CBO--and concluded that it would be $1.2 trillion in the 10th year, in debt--a totally unsustainable debt course and getting worse in the outer years.
So I am very much of the belief that this Senate should not accept a man for the Secretary of the Treasury, to promote him to that august position, who makes this kind of representation about the budget he prepared as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. The budget got zero votes in the House twice and zero votes in the Senate twice. It has been panned by editorial boards all over America. He has been at the center of the political financial maneuvers of the Obama Administration from the beginning.
A lot of people are wondering why an agreement hasn't been reached around here: Why don't you agree? It is hard to agree if the man you are negotiating with is as out of contact with reality as the Wall Street Journal said of Hosni Mubarak shortly before he fell in Egypt. So I am baffled by it.
I wish to share now a few more thoughts about how this sequester we are talking about so much now happened, how it came about, and Mr. Lew's role in it. In fact, he designed it. He proposed a budget later in February 2012 that would eliminate it, and now he denies ever creating it in the first place. From Bob Woodward's book--he studied this carefully and talked to people, and I saw him on television this morning being quite firm about this. He has written a recent op-ed piece explaining the situation.
This is what Bob Woodward said in his book ``The Price of Politics'':
Lew, Nabors, Sperling and Bruce Reed, Biden's chief of staff, had finally decided to propose using language from the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law as the model for the trigger ..... It would require a sequester with half the cuts from Defense, and the other half from domestic programs.
Later in the negotiations, Obama adviser David Plouffe reportedly said that he couldn't believe that Republicans were going to agree to any deal with sequester as a trigger.
Who started this? According to Mr. Woodward, no doubt about it, it was Mr. Lew.
In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Bob Woodward quoted Lew in saying this:
There was an insistence on the part of the Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger ..... [it] was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.
Woodward went on to say:
The president and Lew had this wrong.
That is what I just read about him saying the Republicans insisted on it. Mr. Woodward said in his piece:
The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book ``The Price of Politics'' shows the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors.
Was Mr. Lew correct in insisting somebody else did it, or he and the White House?
Furthermore, on Senator Burr's questioning of Lew at the February Finance Committee confirmation hearing, Woodward says:
[Senator] Burr asked about the president's statement during the debate, that the Republicans originated it.
That is, the sequester.
Mr. Woodward writes this:
Lew, being a good lawyer and a loyal presidential adviser, then shifted to denial mode:
``Senator, the demand for an enforcement mechanism was not something that the administration was pushing at that moment.''
That is how he handled that in the committee. Did he give a straight answer? No.
Then, during the negotiations for compromise that people had been hoping would happen for really the first 4 years of President Obama's administration because we are on an unsustainable path, and it is not going to be fixed without leadership from the President--if he opposes it, the Democratic majority in the Senate will not pass it. You can put that down. They have not bucked him one time and won't buck him on a comprehensive financial settlement to put America on a sound path. We have seen that the whole time. We have Senators meeting and talking and indicating they might agree, but fundamentally they are looking over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They don't want to break rank with the President. That is just the way it is.
So Lew was now the top negotiator for President Obama. He has been called an ``obstructer of compromise.'' Reportedly, more than any other person in the room, Lew sabotaged agreement. Jack Lew has a long history of showing a failure to compromise on the drivers of the debt, the kinds of spending programs that are out of control, and we have to look at them. We can't have fundamental, large programs growing at three times the rate of the GDP, three times the rate of the economy.
Going back a long time ago, when Speaker Gingrich and now-Ohio Governor John Kasich--Kasich chaired the Budget Committee, and Mr. Lew was a deputy in President Obama's OMB office. Mr. Kasich reportedly told President Obama's economic adviser Gene Sperling at the White House that Lew ``did not know how to get to yes.'' That is Kasich's view of it.
A recent National Journal article on Lew quotes former Senator Judd Gregg, who chaired and was ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, of which I am ranking member today. Judd Gregg, a highly respected Senator who didn't seek reelection and remains a very valuable contributor to the national discussion on debt and spending, said this:
``He's like a labor-union negotiator. He's not going to give you an inch if he doesn't have to ..... He's a true believer in the causes.''
Well, that is apparently what we have been having because we can't ever get to an agreement that would do something significant.
The same National Journal article went on to say:
By causes, Gregg means Medicare and the rest of the social safety-net. These are the progressive ideals close to Lew's heart, friends and former colleagues say .....
So Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps have been growing at very rapid rates, and they are very large programs. And all of them, every program, can be examined, looked at, and we will find waste, abuse, fraud, mismanagement, and they can be reduced. But Mr. Lew said no.
When it came to the sequester, let me remind my colleagues that food stamps, which have gone from $20 billion in 2001 to $80 billion in 2012--11 years--went up four times. There is no way to make that program better? We have the inspector general finding fraud in some of these programs. Medicaid has been rising well above the economy's growth rate, and it definitely has the potential to be reformed and made more efficient. Not a dime was cut from food stamps. Not a dime was cut from Medicaid. Only 2 percent was obtained from Medicare, but it was taken in a way that just cut the payments to doctors and hospitals, which is not going to be able to be maintained much longer, experts tell us.
What kinds of examples do we have from Bob Woodward's book ``The Price of Politics''? This is what he says:
[Brett] Loper [House Speaker John Boehner's policy director] found Lew obnoxious. The budget director was doing 75 percent of the talking, lecturing everyone not only about what Obama's policy was, but also why it was superior to the Republicans'.
That is Woodward's take. He goes on to say:
[Barry] Jackson [Boehner's chief of staff] found Lew's tone disrespectful and dismissive.
He goes on to say:
Lew was incredulous when he considered the Republican proposal as a whole. The changes they were considering sounded simple. But the speaker's office was laying down general principles and looking to apply them to extremely complex programs. The devil was always in the details.
Boehner was sick of the White House meetings. It was still mostly the president lecturing, he reported to his senior staff.
The other annoying factor was Jack Lew, who tried to explain why the Democrats' view of the world was right and the Republicans' wrong.
Look, when you are in a negotiation, it is not the time to have an argument over what your world view and my world view is. What you have to try to do is find out: Aren't there some things we can agree on that are consistent with both our world views and get us in a position so we can reach an agreement to save the Republic from financial disaster.
Why would not the Office of Management and Budget Director, unless he believed this bogus, phony statement--which he does not; he knew it was not accurate--why would he not want to do something historic and try to get America on a sound course? It was within the grasp.
So Mr. Woodward goes on:
``Always trying to protect the sacred cows of the left,'' Barry Jackson said of Lew, going through Medicare and Medicaid almost line by line while Boehner was just trying to reach some top-line agreement [on what they could do].
It was a very unsatisfactory situation. An agreement that could have been reached, I think, was not reached. And you keep looking around for fingerprints about how it fell apart, and it looks as though Jack Lew was the person doing that.
Mr. Lew is ideologically driven very strongly. That has become more clear as I have looked at the data and researched his background.
During the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, Lew reportedly would not entertain even an idea by Senate Republicans that included any reforms to Medicaid. Everybody knows Medicaid has to be reformed. This is a health care system for poor people. Governors all over America are up in arms about Federal regulations and restrictions. The program had been surging in cost. It needs to be evaluated and improved. It has to be. It had no changes whatsoever in sequester because Jack Lew said no.
The publication Politico reported that ``Democrats and progressives''--progressives are, apparently, not liberals. Progressives are folks who--I do not know. One of the things progressives do is they tend to be postmodern and they pretend not to pay much attention to the meaning of words. They have an agenda, in my observation, and they interpret the Constitution or the laws of the United States--well, they are more flexible. What do you want it to mean today? They are not into the plain meaning of words so we can have a common understanding of what people mean when they sign an agreement or pass a law.
Anyway, Politico reported that ``Democrats and progressives'' were ``cheering Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew's promotion to White House chief of staff, saying he has a decades-long history of protecting entitlement programs--especially Medicaid--
It goes on. Politico reported that:
Lew played a crucial role in protecting Medicaid from the across-the-board cuts that would take place if the supercommittee didn't get a deficit deal--which it didn't. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's aides pressed for including Medicaid as part of the sequester during a last-minute conference call, Lew shouted, ``The answer is ..... No, no, no!''
So this has not been a healthy situation. This country is now in a fix. We have the sequester that is hammering us and disproportionately and unwisely mandating cuts on the Defense Department.
We can do better than that. Mr. Lew wanted that. He got that. Maybe he knew all along the White House was not going to agree to the things that would make this system work better and maybe, therefore, put us on a sound path and, he was quite happy to have the Defense Department--one-sixth of the government--get half the cuts and happy to protect huge segments of the government from any cuts.
Well, you cannot cut our interest payment. We do not want to cut Social Security, but need real reform that puts the program on a sound basis.
So that is how we got into this fix.
I would say to my colleagues, if you believe the President's budget that Mr. Lew submitted on CNN on February 12, 2011--if you believe he was correct to say: ``Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt,'' then you should vote for him. If you think that is a true statement, I would like to have somebody explain to me how it is true. And if it is not a true statement, should not the Congress of the United States, the U.S. Senate, stand up and say we cannot accept high government officials giving us this kind of answer?
With his budget, the lowest deficit we would have had is $600 billion. We would have added $13 trillion to the national debt over 10 years and maintained, as Secretary Geithner said, this Nation on an unsustainable debt course.
Mr. President, I see my colleague, the assistant Democratic leader, Senator Durbin, and I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, as we review the Lew nomination--I think all of us should ask a number of questions about any nominee. One of them deals with their professional competence, their proven integrity, and their good judgment.
Senator Grassley has invested a good deal of time working on and understanding some of the things that happened when Mr. Lew was at Citigroup, the bank that apparently had the largest losses of any of the Wall Street banks, and it was not a good tenure there. He was a financial adviser; and it shows that, to the extent he has had any real banking experience, his experience has proven not to be successful. It is like the football player who might have played some games but he lost.
In early 2008, Mr. Lew became a top executive in the Citigroup Alternative Investment Unit, which houses hedge funds and private equity investments. News reports indicate that massive losses in this department played a role in leading to a Federal bailout of Citigroup--his department.
One troubling aspect of Mr. Lew's department was that he was betting against the taxpayers. That is what the experts conclude: Citigroup, under Mr. Lew's leadership, was betting on the collapse of the housing market.
Simon Johnson, an economist at MIT and a liberal, testified before our Budget Committee and said this about the crisis:
This mismanagement of risk was comprehensive in that organization.
He was talking about Citigroup, their mismanagement of risk was comprehensive. On January 16, 2009, Citigroup announced a loss of $18.7 billion, the same day that taxpayers bailed out Citigroup with $301 billion in loan guarantees. What a dramatic event that is, and was.
Mr. Lew's previous experience as an adviser at Citigroup provides a pretty good indication that he was in the wrong place and didn't perform well under these circumstances.
The day before the taxpayers came to Citigroup's rescue, Mr. Lew received a bonus. The President has been vigorous in attacking those who received Wall Street bonuses. He said it was wrong and it shouldn't happen. And in this case, he is exactly right: Mr. Lew should not have gotten this bonus. But it doesn't seem to bother the President to promote this man to Secretary of Treasury.
Here is what happened: Mr. Lew received a bonus, for the mismanagement that occurred there, in an amount exceeding $940,000. Almost a $1 million bonus. How many people do you know who get a $1 million bonus? The bonus was in addition to the $1.1 million salary he was paid for his work at Citigroup.
One news account of this event, citing that Securities and Exchange Commission filing, states this:
His unit lost billions of dollars in 2008 as its bets turned sour. In the first quarter of 2008 alone, the unit lost $509 million. The company stopped publicly disclosing the unit's individual numbers thereafter, but the part of the company that absorbed alternative investments lost $20.1 billion in 2008.
We should be concerned about Mr. Lew assuming the role as America's top financial adviser and economic advocate. He has told us to be concerned about this, if we would listen to him. During his confirmation hearings before the Budget Committee in 2010 to be Director of Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Lew was asked his views on the Wall Street financial collapse which he was smack dab in the middle of. What did he say about that?
Well, he said, Senator, when we discussed it, I mentioned to you I do not consider myself an expert on some of these aspects of the financial industry. My experience in the financial industry had been as a manager, not as an investment adviser. I would defer to others who were more expert in the industry and parse it better than that.
In other words, he disclaimed any real knowledge of the business. If so, how did he get the No. 1 job? Was it because of his political connections to the Clinton administration? And when he got a bonus to leave Citigroup, he only got that bonus if he was going to the Federal Government--the kind of crony capitalism that Larry Kudlow has so raised questions about.
Mr. Kudlow's question: Why did Citigroup allow him to have a bonus when he departed the bank, when he led one of the worst divisions in the history of any banking department--any bank, ever--and he only got that if he was going to work for the government?
And Mr. Kudlow knows Wall Street. He knows people all through Wall Street. You have seen him on television nightly. He was an economist for the Federal Reserve, an economist for the chief economist for the Senate Budget Committee at one time, and worked for the Office of Management and Budget. He raises the question of crony capitalism. Why?
Maybe Citibank, and the Wall Street financial community in desperate straits, thought: Wouldn't it be nice to have our guy move over to the White House, be right in the President's office and be Director of Office of Management and Budget? We are glad to see him go over there and we are glad to pay him $1 million. Maybe he will take our phone calls.
That is what Mr. Kudlow was talking about. And the Wall Street Journal--the Wall Street Journal believes in a free market. They are not opposed to people making a bonus. The Wall Street Journal sensed in his maneuverings an unhealthy crony capitalism deal, where people move back and forth from businesses and they use their government connections to advantage the business they left or they might return to. It is unhealthy. It is not free market capitalism; it is crony capitalism. It is not good.
The President was against all these bonuses and he is against a lot of this, and we are going to have an open administration, but he doesn't seem to worry about that.
So, such experience as Mr. Lew had demonstrates a lack of financial success, dramatic failures, in effect, $20 billion in losses in 2008 alone; but yet he got a $1 million bonus.
There is another matter of great importance. I remember when it happened. Judd Gregg from New Hampshire, former chairman of the Budget Committee, former ranking member of the Budget Committee--long-time member of that committee--worried about the future debt and unsustainable financial path of America and came up with an idea. In 2003, he proposed legislation, which was enacted, that placed a legal requirement that the President of the United States submit legislation if Medicare trustees--the people who run the Medicare Program--issue a funding warning for the program as part of their annual report. If America's trustees see they are on a funding path that is unsustainable and dangerous for Medicare, they shall formally notify the President of the United States. This would require the President to analyze the problem and submit legislation to Congress to see if we can't put Medicare on a sound path.
That is a simple event. Shouldn't we thank Judd Gregg for that? This provision has been commonly referred to as the Medicare trigger, and it is intended to ensure that steps are taken to shore up the program's finances before it is too late.
President Bush was the first one to receive that warning when he was in office, and he submitted legislation to deal with the Medicare crisis. He complied with the law.
The law states this:
If there is a Medicare funding warning made in a year ..... the President shall submit to Congress, within the 15-day period beginning on the date of the budget submission to Congress under subsection (a) for the succeeding year, proposed legislation to respond to such warning.
This is in the United States Code. When I say it is in law, it is in the United States Code. It requires that to occur. And it makes ever so much sense, does it not? Shouldn't we be worried about a program as important to Americans as Medicare? Shouldn't we be honestly dealing with it? Wouldn't Congress want to know what the President's plan is to fix it? He doesn't get to dictate that, but he gets an opportunity to lay out a vision to how to place it on a sound path.
Why wouldn't he want to do that? What objection should he ever have to that? He ``shall'' submit this, according to the law. President Bush did. But by contrast 2012--last year--marked the fourth consecutive year the Obama administration failed to submit such a legislative proposal despite the clear and unambiguous legal obligation to do so.
They say: We think we offered something with our Patient Protection Act--ObamaCare--and we do not have to do it.
They don't get to decide. The question is Medicare trustees--they said the warning is in effect. They sent the notice to the White House. And this is when the President's action is triggered. Mr. Lew, if he is confirmed, will be chairman of the Medicare trustees, as Secretary of Treasury of the United States. That is one of his top responsibilities.
So for 2 of those 4 years, 2010 through 2011, Jack Lew was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He also served in that office in part of 2012. As Director, he was the person responsible for drafting and submitting fiscal proposals and complying with budget law under 31 U.S. Code, section 1105. That is his duty, legally.
The House and Senate Budget Committees as well as a strong majority of the Senate Republican conference have written letters asking the Obama administration to respond to the Medicare trigger, the Medicare warning, and submit legislation to Congress dealing with Medicare's funding shortfall, as the law requires. But to this day they have not complied, just refused, just as the Senate majority here refused to produce a budget in 4 years even though the U.S. Code calls for a budget to be submitted.
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Medicare Actuary, who is a person who is really good with the numbers on Medicare and has great respect in the Congress, projects that on its current course, Medicare faces a $36.9 trillion unfunded obligation over a 75-year period. Yet the President's most recent budget submission would actually increase Medicare spending relative to the current law, putting the program in an even more unsustainable position.
Yesterday I joined with Senator Cornyn and 20 other Republican Senators in sending another letter to the President on this matter. We wrote this:
During his testimony before the Finance Committee, Mr. Lew was asked about your administration's failure to abide by federal law while he served as OMB Director. Mr. Lew stated that the decision not to comply with the law was made prior to his service at OMB. We find it stunning and noteworthy that so far Mr. Lew has not provided adequate responses to congressional inquiries on the matter. Congress needs a clearer understanding about his role in the violation of this law, including exactly when Mr. Lew became aware of this legal requirement and what counsel, if any, he provided the Administration on whether it should comply with the law.
That is what was written, and of course they have not responded. I suspect they have no intention of responding. They have not responded before. I ask, should we not consider this before we advance him from the position of chief of staff to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Medicare, who has a duty to protect the program? And he will not even respond to the legal mandate that they lay out a proposal to fix Medicare when it is in a dangerous, unsustainable path, as it is today.
There are other matters I would mention, but I see my good colleague Senator Sanders here.
I will be pleased to yield at this time.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I will just say that I share some of the views of Senator Sanders. I believe he said we need to stand up to the oligarchy that controls our economy and is involved in depressing wages. I would say most businesses like to pay their employees all they can, but it is better to not pay them more and they look for good workers at lower wages and that is the way they work and that is their interest. We can't look at the big corporations for objective analysis on how to create an economy that serves working Americans. If one thinks that, one is not truly a free market person as I like to see myself. I guess Senator Sanders sees more of a government-dominated economy and would have the same skepticism about how it works.
So I think we do need to ask ourselves a good deal about what is happening when working Americans have not seen their wages increase. Their wage increases, if at all, have been short of inflation. This has gone on for a decade and something is unhealthy and we need to do better. Mr. Lew did come from that crowd and, apparently, for what he knows about it is a part of it, and I think skepticism is certainly warranted, as I have indicated.
I believe unemployment is high, and higher than people think, and we need to work together. Senator Sanders talks about trade deals. The Presiding Officer and I have worked together. We got a bipartisan piece of legislation passed that tried to equalize currency differences between the United States and China which would begin to level the playing field rather significantly in favor of American workers who are now being unfairly competed against via currency manipulation by China. That has to be confronted, and I am prepared to do that.
I also hope my colleagues will give some thought to the problem of immigration. There is no doubt that large amounts of immigration, low-skilled, medium-skilled workers pull down the wages of American working people. So we need to have an honest, effective, lawful system of immigration that serves the American interests as a whole and part of that is to ask ourselves: Is it pulling wages down? In one sense, I would say immigration is the other side of the coin of trade. It is one thing to take a plant and move it to a country and place it down and they work for less; it is another thing to bring the workers from that same country to the United States to work for less, and then the manufacturer may not be hiring American people, may not be able to do so at wages they would need to work. So I would just make that point.
With regard to Mr. Lew, he has made a number of very serious false representations. I am going to put this up one more time. These are words that should live in infamy. They should be an example to anyone in the future who thinks they can come before the Congress and make false representations or make them to the American people. The budget Mr. Lew produced as Office of Management and Budget Director in 2011--he brought it out in February. The day before he produced it, he made this statement on CNN. He also made similar statements on other television programs that Sunday morning. The budget was officially to be produced on Monday. This is what he said:
Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.
That was Candy Crowley on CNN that morning. Was that true? Should we consider a man to be Secretary of Treasury, an august position that requires great credibility and integrity, knowledge about how to manage a government and a business and the world economy, if he is not correct on that?
I have asked my colleagues throughout the day: Does anybody defend this? Will anybody come forward and say this is an honest statement of the condition of America at this time when he made that statement, that we are not going to be adding to the debt anymore?
When Mr. Lew submitted that budget the next morning, Monday morning, he made press statements, but he submitted a stack of documents that came with the budget; it was 6 to 8 inches high, and it had tables and accounting from his office. They are his numbers from the Office of Management and Budget where he was a Director. Those numbers show this: They show that there was never a single year in 10 years in which there was a budget surplus. The lowest single deficit in that 10-year period was $600 billion, in 1 year; the lowest, $600 billion. The highest deficit President Bush had in his whole 8 years was under $500 billion. This is the lowest in 10. The 5 years, according to his own numbers, the deficits went up to $740 billion, $750 billion in the 10th year, going up. Truthfully, they were going up even more so in the next 10 years.
The Congressional Budget Office came in and they analyzed the same numbers and they take assumptions and policies. They use the same framework and the same policies, but they traditionally make more realistic assumptions. They concluded that in the 10th year, the deficit wouldn't be $744 billion but 1,200 billion, 1.2 trillion. They say Mr. Lew's assumptions were too rosy. He projected more growth than was likely to occur and got better numbers than were likely to occur.
But, regardless, I am not basing my complaint on the fact he had too rosy a scenario; I am basing my concern on the fact that Mr. Lew misstated what was in his own report, even his rosy numbers. How can he say we are spending only money we have each year, when the lowest deficit is $600 billion?
He came before the Budget Committee and I asked him about it. I was flabbergasted. How could he say that? We looked at the budget he submitted and had a full--as much time as we liked, but the numbers were clearly not sustaining what he was saying publicly. So I asked him: Is it an accurate statement? Is this an accurate statement? I read it right back to him. This is what he said:
It's an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt.
He went on to say:
We have stopped spending money we don't have.
I would just say if we are going to have a compromise around here, if we are going to discuss rationally how to get this country on a sound path, we can't have the budget director saying basically he has a surplus when he doesn't come close to having a surplus. Erskine Bowles, the man President Obama appointed to head the debt commission, said a few days after this, I think the 13th or the 14th: This budget goes nowhere close to where they will have to go to avoid a fiscal nightmare. That is President Obama's expert who spent a year heading, cochairing the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission--nowhere near. Yet what did Mr. Lew say about it? Don't worry, American people. You don't have to tighten your belt. No agencies have to make cuts. If those mean Republicans make any suggestions of reducing spending, we will just attack them because they are hurting old people, children, schools, and so forth.
That is the game that was played. I don't appreciate it. It is not right. We do not need to have high-ranking officials coming before this government misrepresenting the most fundamental facts about our future on the most critical issue of our time.
Admiral Mullen said the debt is the greatest threat to this Nation's national security. If the Office of Management and Budget Director can't tell the truth, he doesn't need to be promoted to be the Secretary of Treasury, one of the great Cabinet positions in the United States; the top, primary economic position in our country--and the world, for that matter.
What does this prove? It proves he has a political staff mentality, not an august, independent personality of leadership. I hate to say that. I don't know Mr. Lew personally. I have met him, but that is about it. I haven't been involved in these negotiations where he has been the ``heavy'' according to Mr. Bob Woodward in his book, and the people who were in there whom he obstructed and refused to allow compromises to go forward. He was the point man for the failure of the discussions that had been going on for several years between the White House and the Congress to try to reach a plan that would put America on a sound course.
What is particularly amazing is that at the same time he was announcing the President's budget--later on that year Congressman Ryan and the House Republicans passed a 10-year budget that would change the debt course of America, tighten spending across the board, alter tax rates in a way to create economic growth, reduce the deficit dramatically, and put us on a sustainable, long-term path. I wouldn't agree with everything in it, but it was a very solid effort. Erskine Bowles praised the effort. Alice Rivlin, President Clinton's OMB Director, also complimented the effort. But President Obama and Jack Lew trashed it and politically spent 2 years campaigning against it while the Members of this body refused to bring forth a budget at all--not the Senate Democrats, oh no. Senator Reid said it would be foolish for us to bring forth a budget. Today marks the 1,400th day since this body has passed a budget. Passing a budget in the Congress is required by the United States Code.
Unfortunately, it does not put people in jail if they do not do their duty. But it is in there, and it was not done.
So Mr. Lew has been very loose, made statements that are not justifiable. They are just not justifiable.
For example, on February 15--2 days after this--being interviewed by National Public Radio, he said:
If we're able to reduce the deficit to the point where we can pay for our spending and invest in the future, that is an enormous accomplishment. This budget has specific proposals that would do that.
It does not. It does not bring us to the point where we can pay for our spending and invest in the future. We have nothing but unsustainable deficits each year.
He goes on to say, in a different CNN interview: It takes real actions now so that between now and five years from now, we can get our deficit under control so that we can stabilize things so that we're not adding to the debt anymore.
Again, there is not a single year in Mr. Lew's budget that the deficit was lower than $600 billion.
Oh, later, at ABC, he said:
This budget has a lot of pain--
It did not have much cuts, that is for sure.
[But] it does the job, it cuts the deficit in half by the end of the president's first term.
Give me a break.
The fourth year in President Obama's term, the deficit was $1,200 billion. That is what it averaged all 4 years. President Bush's average deficits were probably $250 billion, $300 billion maybe. The highest he ever had was $450 billion.
So when he says he is going to cut the deficit in half--no, not so. He did not come close to cutting the deficit in half. He went on the say:
It's going to take a lot of hard work just to take us to the point where we're not adding to the debt.
He did a White House blog on February 13--the same day as this:
Like every family, we have to tighten our belts--
That is true-- and live within our means while we are investing in the things that we need to have a strong and secure future. ..... We know that you have to stabilize where we are going before you can move on and solve the rest of the problem. This budget does that.
So I think those descriptions of his budget are stunningly erroneous, and I do not believe it was a mistake. He served in the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton. He was not the boss, but he was one of the top ones. He knew the budget continued to add to the debt every single year in an unprecedented and unsustainable amount.
He produced a budget that made no change in America's debt course of any significance--virtually none--and then announced it solved all our problems. He basically told the American people: Well, don't you worry. Stick with us. We have a plan. You do not have to have all those cuts. You do not have to have those cuts. These people just want to get your money. Follow us. Relax. Cool it. It is OK. We have a plan. Our plan will solve this problem.
It was not true, and I am very unhappy with that. I think we cannot allow that to continue.
He did other things. He served as one of the top people in the OMB during President Clinton's term for a period of time. He knows how the budget process works. He, in my opinion, was totally on board with the majority leader in the Senate, Senator Reid, in his decision not to bring up a budget. They did this jointly. They talked about it. There is no doubt about that. This was all a planned strategy not to expose Senate Democrats to any real reduction in spending but to attack anybody who had the gumption to lay out a real plan that might change the spending in America. That was the campaign strategy. So he worked on that. That is where he was.
So we began--and I was the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee--we had all these young Senators who got elected in 2010. They wanted to be on the Budget Committee. They wanted to be involved in fixing this country's financial problem. They campaigned on it. They talked about it all over their States. It was the most competitive committee here. We had a long list of people who wanted to get on the committee. They all could not get on. But we got some very good, talented people to join the committee and we do not have a budget. We have not had a budget in 1,400 days.
So Mr. Lew was asked: Why doesn't the Senate do a budget? Do you know what he said? This is a quote on CNN.
..... we ..... need to be honest. You can't pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes. .....
Yes, we do need to be honest. Let me read the quote again:
..... we ..... need to be honest. You can't pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes. .....
Surely, he knows we cannot filibuster a budget. Surely, he knows a budget is passed by a simple majority. That is why a budget is so important. That is what the Budget Act did. It said the country needs a budget. It should not be filibustered. You should be able to pass a budget with 51 votes, and it cannot be filibustered. It has been that way since 1974. It is in the United States Code--the Budget Act.
He said that twice. Mr. Lew has to know better than that. Everybody knows that. We cannot filibuster a budget. And yet he was defending the inaction in the Senate and did not seem to care whether his words were true, I would suggest, and that is not good.
So we get into problems with integrity as it comes to spending in America. Time and time again, we have estimates that underestimate the cost of a program and at the same time overestimating the revenue for the program.
Just 2 days ago, I asked for and received--actually, 1 day ago, yesterday--from the Government Accountability Office an accounting of the President's health care proposal. As you remember, the President said: I will not sign a bill that adds one dime to the national debt--not one dime. Everybody said: How are you going to add all these people into government health care and it not cost money? Oh, we are sure this is not going to happen. Trust us. Trust us. Do it. But we just got back a report. They conclude that there are several parts of the bill that project savings that will not occur, resulting in a shortfall of revenue over the life of the bill. They indicate it would add more than $6.2 trillion to the primary debt of the United States. In other words, with an unfunded liability of that much, it would take $6.2 trillion being deposited today and paying out over 75 years to supplement this program to keep it from failing. It will cost more than a dime. It will cost $6.2 trillion. It is another unsustainable program. It does not have dedicated revenue. It is going to cost more than this, frankly. But this is the latest report that hammers this idea that it is not.
So I guess what I am saying is, this is truly serious. Our total budget today is less than $4 trillion. This is going to add $6 trillion. Our budget this year is about $3.5 trillion. That is how much we spend. We take in about $2.5 trillion. We spend $3.5 trillion. Thirty-six percent of what we spent last year was borrowed money because we do not bring in enough money to pay for our current expenses.
We just got a report yesterday from the Government Accountability Office--an independent group that does good work--saying it is going to add $6.2 trillion to the deficits. That is why we have to have integrity here. This is how we go broke. This is how we are getting this country in a position we do not need to be in.
During my remarks today, I have exhaustively documented the case against the confirmation of Mr. Lew. I do not do it for personal reasons. I do it simply because I think it is the right thing for our country. I have detailed his disastrous budget plans that were rebuked by editorial boards across this country and unanimously rejected by Congress. Remember, his budget was brought up in the House. It got not a single Republican or Democratic vote. It was brought up in the Senate--not a single Republican or Democrat voted for the budget. What a rejection. This is the man we are going to promote to Secretary of Treasury?
I have discussed his repeated, knowing, and deliberate false statements about those budget plans--most notoriously his claim that ``our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we're not adding to the debt anymore. ..... ''
I have discussed his curiously enriching time at a failed division of Citigroup, the bank that had the greatest difficulties, perhaps, of any bank, and he headed the division where some of the worst problems were. He got a big bonus just about the time they got a $310 billion bailout loan guarantee--$310 billion.
As I close my remarks, I would appeal to my colleagues to oppose Mr. Lew. I would appeal to my colleagues to defend the integrity of the Senate, to defend the right of our constituents to hear the truth from government officials through CNN or whatever program they are hearing, and to defend the idea--the very concept--of truth itself as an objective matter.
I would also like to place this in a wider context. Today is the 1,400th day since Senate Democrats have passed a budget. They say we will have one this year. Maybe we will. Why has this gone on so long? Because they decided it would be better to offer no solution, no plan, to help struggling Americans and, instead, tear down anyone who dared offer a plan to solve our Nation's economic problems. This is the heart of the problem in Washington right now. We have one political party that sees the budget debate as an exercise in political warfare, to advance power, not problem solving.
At the center of this strategy is the White House, and at the center of the White House is Mr. Lew. In his campaign for reelection, President Obama repeatedly said he had a plan to ``pay down our debt.'' If he did, he never submitted it to Congress. He did not have one. He even ran a campaign ad, late in the campaign, saying:
I believe the only way to create an economy built to last, is to strengthen the middle class--asking the wealthy to pay a little more so we can pay down our debt in a balanced way. So we can afford to invest--
More, I guess-- in education, manufacturing, and home-grown American energy, and for good middle class jobs.
But did he have such a plan? Not Mr. Lew's plan, at that point his Chief of Staff, supervising the OMB Director, who followed him. Again, this was the strategy: offer a plan that does nothing to alter our dangerous debt course while pretending it does just the opposite. Then, once you have done that, attack anyone who dares to propose to reduce the size of the bureaucracy, attack anyone who suggests Washington is too powerful--attack, attack, attack, while never offering anything that would actually work to help Americans who are struggling every day. After the White House budget was submitted in 2011, this budget I have referred to that he announced, President Obama, if you remember, spoke at George Washington University in your area, with Congressman Paul Ryan, the House Budget chairman in attendance, sitting right before us.
Congressman Ryan, as you remember, had laid out a plan which would fix the financial future of America, if adopted, and put us on a sound course.
President Obama responded:
One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives. ..... It's a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. ..... But the way this plan achieves [that goal] would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout most of our history. ..... This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone's grandparents who wouldn't be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome. ..... These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves.
This is our level of debate in Washington: when Congressman Ryan deals honestly with the challenges we face to tighten the belts across the board, create mechanisms to enhance American growth and job creation, this is what the President said--with him sitting right there.
Senator Reid produces nothing, brings out no budget, because he says it is foolish to do so? He meant foolish politically. He didn't mean foolish for America not to bring forth a budget. How could it possibly be foolish for America, the United States Senate, to comply with U.S. law that says we should bring up a budget?
Majority Leader Reid said of one Republican reform effort that it was ``a mean-spirited bill that would cut the heart out of the recovery that we have in America today. It goes after little children, poor little boys and girls. We want them to learn to read.''
This is the level of debate we have in this country. This is why we have a sequester that can't be fixed, this kind of ridiculous talk. Somebody needs to stand up and say we are tired of it.
My plan, my view for America, is to help poor people be prosperous, rise out of poverty. We don't judge that by how many checks we send out, how much deficit we run up, and leave our country in danger. The Republicans, candidly, have not done enough to stand up to these egregious attacks. We need to defend ourselves more effectively and aggressively. Voting against Jack Lew would be a vote against dishonest tactics, misrepresentation of facts.
Every Republican ought to ask themselves, should I vote to advance a man to a top position he is not really qualified for, who is loyal to the President's political agenda, and places that above telling the truth?
The painful truth is to some extent this political strategy has been successful up to now. President Obama and his Senate majority have blocked fiscal reform and continued on our path to fiscal disaster. It is time we pointed out that the establishment they are shielding from cuts, the big government apparatus they continually defend, is hurting people every day. It is bloated, it is inefficient, it is duplicative, and fraud occurs every day.
Their policies, their endless support of the bureaucracy has created poverty, joblessness, and dependency. It has created low wages, low growth.
In cities such as Baltimore, Detroit, and Chicago, governed almost exclusively by Democrats and Democratic policy at every level, the good, hard-working people are hurt every day by these leftist policies. They do not work.
In the city of Baltimore, one in three children live in poverty. One in three Baltimore residents are on food stamps. Imagine that, the great city of Baltimore.
In Chicago, where roughly 500 homicides occurred in 2012, 51 percent of the city's children live in a single-parent home.
In Detroit, almost one in three households had not a single person working at any time in the last 12 months. Almost one-third of them hadn't had a single person working. The city's violent crime rate is among the worst in the country. More than one-half of all Detroit children live in poverty.
This should not happen. What is the response? Borrow more money and send out more checks. This is not the way to help people. These are the consequences of leftist policies. We are opposed to those policies. They do not work. They hurt the people, they pretend and assert that they are helping.
We are fighting for policies that create jobs, create rising wages, create opportunity, help more people earn a good living and care for themselves, be independent and prosperous and get on the road to higher wages, supervisory positions, health care and retirement benefits. This can be possible in this country. We are trying to lift people out of poverty and strengthen family and community. We are trying to protect the good and decent people of this country from a debt crisis.
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson told us this Nation has never faced a more predictable financial crisis. They said if we don't get off this course, this unsustainable path, we may have another one, and it may be worse than the 2007 one.
Where does Mr. Lew stand? Where does the White House stand? They did everything they could to defend the bureaucracy, no matter the cost in wasted dollars or lost jobs. Mr. Lew submitted an indefensible budget plan that would have caused further social and economic devastation. They deliberately misled the Nation about that plan, deliberately misled the country about it. He knew this wasn't true, and then he participated in a strategy that shot down any efforts from the Republican side to reform the situation.
I urge my colleagues to reject these tactics from the White House. I urge them to stand up for the good and decent people of this country who work hard every day, try to do the right thing, want to get ahead, and want to see their wages rise instead of stagnate. I urge them to vote to hold high government officials accountable by putting politics ahead of policy or sacrificing truth for political gain. I urge them to oppose Mr. Lew.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I will wrap up here with a few thoughts before we vote. I spent a good deal of time today delineating a series of serious, deep problems with this nomination, why I truly believe he should not be confirmed. I suppose maybe there are votes to confirm him. We will see as that goes forward. I do not see any need to delay any further, but it is time for the American people and the Members of this Senate to consider where we are with this nomination.
On February 13 of 2011, a day before the President submitted the budget, the budget Jack Lew wrote, he went on CNN and other TV stations and said these words, words that will live in infamy if we care anything in this body about respectful treatment from the executive branch, if we have any commitment to the plain truth. He said:
Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.
How unbelievable a statement could that be, since his own numbers--not somebody else's, his own numbers when he submitted the budget on Monday, the next day--showed that the lowest single deficit in any one of the 10 years was $600 billion. He would have added $13 trillion to the gross debt of the United States over 10 years and the numbers, the deficits were going up in the last 5 years--a totally unsustainable course.
Erskine Bowles, the head of the fiscal commission, was in shock, I think, when he saw this. He was appointed by President Obama to head the commission. He said this will take them nowhere near where they have to go to avoid the Nation's fiscal nightmare--nowhere near. And he was absolutely right about that.
Then he also said, on CNN on a different day, another interview, the budget ``takes real actions now so that between now and 5 years from now, we can get our deficit under control so that we can stabilize things so we're not adding to the debt anymore.''
It had never come close to that. It is a horrible thing. He said this. I asked him about it before the committee. I read that very quote to him before the committee 3 days later and this is what he said. I asked him, is it an accurate statement, this statement right here? And he said:
It's an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt. .....
He went on to add:
We've stopped spending money that we don't have.
First of all, this Senate, this Congress, should defend the integrity of our process. We should not have high government officials come before our committees and before the American people and misrepresent in such a dramatic way the financial condition of our country. I called it then and I repeat now that this, I believe, was the greatest financial misrepresentation in the history of this Republic. If anybody has one that is bigger, let me hear it, but I don't think they will. I said that earlier today. You tell me--$13 trillion added to the debt and they say we are not going to be adding to the debt anymore.
The budget was a terrible budget. It was a terrible budget. Editorial board after editorial board--the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post, the Dallas Morning News--there must have been 40 editorial boards that hammered this budget for failing to lead--the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Investor's Business Daily--they all hammered this budget because this was early in 2011, after the 2010 elections, after the shellacking of the big spenders, and there was a hope somehow that we would be able then to get the administration to come around and change some things. But they stayed right with their big spending policies. They stayed right with it and they decided not to tell the truth, that we are not backing down, we are going to continue to spend, we are not going to cut spending. They would not say that. This is what they said. Whereas their budget did just the opposite.
I feel strongly about this. This is not right. We in Congress should not have this kind of misrepresentation before us and we should not reward people who participate in such misrepresentation. He is the architect of the administration's calculated plan to misrepresent the budget, to not have a budget in the Senate, to not expose themselves any more than possible, to attack Republicans such as Paul Ryan in the House, who actually laid out a plan that would change the debt course of America. That is what the plan was, and Mr. Lew was the architect of it and he executed it. Boy, what was it like, do you think, for him to be in the Senate, in the White House, and have to be told or asked: Would you go out and say this?
Mr. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury--I ask consent to have 1 additional minute.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Geithner--and this is important, colleagues--Treasury Secretary Geithner came before the committee. He would not repeat these words. I questioned him. Of course he tried to avoid it but eventually when asked directly he honestly said: Senator, this budget will not put us on a sustainable path, exactly opposite of what Mr. Lew was saying.
I ask my colleagues to consider this. I ask them not to award the person who participated in so calculated a plan to misrepresent the financial condition of America and cause the American people to believe we had some sort of time that had the country on a sound path when we remain to this day on an unsustainable path that endangers working Americans.
I yield the floor.
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