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Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, I rise to speak about the vote we are going to have today at 2:30 regarding sequestration, and I wish to strongly support the notion of giving the executive branch the flexibility it needs over the next 7 months to work through this situation in a more graceful way.
To put this in perspective for the American people, we are going to spend $47 trillion of your money over this next decade. It was incumbent upon a bipartisan group about a year ago to try to come up with about $1.2 trillion in savings over that 10-year period. Believe it or not, that didn't happen. The sequestration was a method to ensure that at least there was some reduction in the growth of spending. I do want to say that there have been a lot of discussions about reductions in spending.
The overall effect of sequester over this 10-year period is not to reduce any spending but to slow the growth of spending over the next 10 years. We are one of the few entities in the world that don't budget off of last year's spending. It is not like your city, your county, your State government, your household, or your business. We budget off of projections and growth.
The task a year or so ago was for six Republicans and six Democrats to come up with $1.2 trillion. It is beyond belief that this did not occur. The sequester was put in place as a mechanism to ensure that there at least was some slowing of growth. The first 7 months of the sequester is the most ham-handed portion of it. It is cut at the PPA level. It is across the board and focused on two important categories. I agree that it is ham-handed, and the only thing worse than sequestration, in my opinion, would be kicking the can down the road on some much needed fiscal discipline here in Washington.
I hope what we will do today is get behind a very thoughtful proposal that would say: Look, we are still going to reduce spending by this amount, but we are going to give the executive branch, because this first 7 months is handled so differently that what happens after that--by the way, appropriators live within a top-line number, but they are able to weigh in on how that money should be spent, again, in two more specific categories than just the overall budget. So it is just this first 7 months.
I was at home last week in Tennessee and spoke with diverse groups of citizens.
Democrats thanked me for being willing to give some flexibility to the President to work through this.
Businesses obviously held this as incredibly intelligent. They need to deal with these kinds of issues right now. Many of them over the last several years have had to do the same kind of thing. Obviously, to them, it is very intelligent to give the executive branch a degree of flexibility where they have some transfer authority to work through this in a more graceful way.
Republicans thanked me because it was a way for us to at least begin turning the curve in a different direction and certainly still having the cuts that are necessary in growth, I might add, not in real spending. That is where we are.
We have a proposal, the Toomey-Inhofe proposal, which gives the executive branch the flexibility to work through this. It is my understanding they don't want that flexibility. I can't imagine being President of the United States and having something that I thought was a little bit ham-handed and having Congress say: Look, we will candidly defer to you to make some transfers.
I have spoken with some of the folks in our security apparatus in this Nation. They said this to me: Corker, look, we understand we are going to have some reductions, but if you would just give us some flexibility, we could work through this gracefully. We could live within these constraints.
Speaking of these constraints, I want to say that there is a number that has been thrown out of $85 billion over the next 7 months. Again, know that this is Washington's language. We are really only talking about half that in real expected outlays. We have budgeted amounts and then we have outlays. We do things very differently than do most people back home. This is not nearly the amount of reduction people are talking about as far as real money flowing out.
I strongly support the Toomey proposal, the Inhofe proposal. I hope others will join in and at least move to debate this issue. I have a sense that is not going to be the case today. Maybe next week when some things happen, some others will be open to doing this.
I can't imagine why anybody in this body, if they think draconian things are happening in a specific area and some judgment could be used to really alleviate that, I can't imagine why anybody in this body would not want to give administrators of these various agencies the ability to have some degree of transfer authority to make it work better. I don't imagine there is a business in our country, whether it is a one-man shop or a large corporation, that wouldn't want that flexibility. I can't imagine a Democrat or a Republican really thinking it is a bad idea to give the administration the ability to be more graceful in dealing with this.
Today it looks as though we might have a partisan vote. It is a shame.
Again, this is ham-handed. We can make it work better. Hopefully, on March 27, if we continue on this course until that time--obviously, to me, the only thing worse than this ham-handed approach is not enacting the $1.2 trillion in cuts. This needs to happen, in my opinion.
Maybe on March 27 when the appropriators come forth with a continuing resolution, they will have shifted this around to a degree that we end up with the same amount of spending reductions. This is the way regular order should work here, the way the Senate should work, the way the House should work. It is not that far down the road.
As a matter of fact, I am understanding that if the Appropriations Committee wanted to, they could pass out an omnibus--not a CR but an omnibus--that has already gone through the checks. I think the two staffs have been working; I am talking about at the House and the Senate. It is my understanding that they could pass something out in a week. I think maybe there are going to be some discussions about this later in the majority leader's office. Hopefully, he will give the green light to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee to move ahead with something like this, which would be very sensible, in my opinion. I think most people around here would love to see something actually happen under regular order.
These reductions are necessary, in my opinion, to get our fiscal house in order. Much more needs to be done beyond this $1.2 trillion--much, much more. I don't think there is anybody who doesn't believe that deficit reduction greater than $1.2 trillion needs to occur. Right now we are focused on the cuts side. We focused on the income side at the end of the year.
As we move ahead and are able to deal with these issues under regular order, where committees have looked at the impact, this is the best way to go forward.
Again, sequester will kick in tomorrow. I think we all understand that. There is a better approach. There is a bill that would allow the executive branch to have the flexibility it needs to work through this in a way that is least harmful to the American people, and if that doesn't work, another step with a continuing resolution in 3 or 4 weeks--there is another way of hitting this in an intelligent way.
I hope we have the opportunity to work this out in a way that is better for the American people. At the same time, I hope we will not back away at all from at least $1.2 trillion in spending reductions. I wish we would move later this year into real tax reform, which is really where all the money is.
To the American people, the reason we are moving to sequester and the reason we are cutting discretionary spending is we don't have the courage in the Senate to deal with entitlements. When the word ``entitlement'' comes up, everybody runs for the hills. They know where the money is--62 percent of our spending, which in 10 years, combined with interest, will be 90 percent of our spending.
The reason we are here today is this body has not come to terms with the fact that we need to reform entitlements for them to be here for future generations and certainly people who are getting ready to retire.
This situation is a shame, and so we are going through this pain again due to a lack of courage in the Senate to address the real issues of the day. That is a shame, and what you are going to see playing out is solely because of that.
I have a bill which would deal with that. Lamar Alexander, my colleague from Tennessee, is a cosponsor. It was based on Bowles-Simpson, Domenici-Rivlin--bipartisan concepts.
For some reason, when it comes to dealing with the real issues of America, this body runs for the hills. Hopefully, soon we will be brought back together and we will deal with this in a mature way, deal with the real issues our Nation is dealing with, solve them, put it in the rearview mirror, and all of us will come together and focus on those things that would make our country stronger.
I ask unanimous consent that all quorum calls before the votes at 2:30 p.m. today be equally divided.
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