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Public Statements

Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I come to the floor on the 1,414th day since the Senate has passed a budget and on a day where, amazingly, the President of the United States is reported to have said: ``We don't have an immediate crisis in terms of [our] debt.''

Well, we do have a debt crisis that threatens both future generations--because somebody is going to have to pay that debt back, and thanks to abnormally low interest rates, right now they are not spiraling out of control, but if interests rates were to return to historic norms, I believe for each additional percentage point in interest we would have to pay on our national debt, it would result in roughly $1.7 trillion more we would have to pay back. So in many ways the United States is lucky, even though we are on the brink of what scholars such as Reinhart and Rogoff have said--we are on the precipice of a debt crisis because once interest rates begin to rise, the creditors lose confidence in our ability to repay that debt, and our economy spins out of control, resulting not only in a severe recession or worse but also harm to some of the most vulnerable people in our society who depend on the safety net that government provides.

It is also, in a debt crisis, impossible for the Federal Government to do what it must do in terms of national security. Indeed, that is what led the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, to say that the single greatest threat to our national security is our debt. And it keeps getting worse and worse because the President seems unwilling to deal with the obvious and to enter into what he likes to call the grand bargain but one that can only occur if the President is willing to talk about the entire economy and not just raise taxes.

The President has said that we must embrace a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Of course, reasonable people can disagree on what a balanced approach looks like, but we all know what a balanced budget looks like.

Yesterday morning House Republicans released a plan that balances the Federal budget over the next 10 years. We still do not have the President's proposed budget even though it was due on February 4, and we are now advised that we may not see the President's own proposed budget until sometime in April, which, coincidentally, is after the time that the House and the Senate will act on their proposed budgets. It seems once again that the President has taken to leading from behind.

For that matter, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has told us that the President's proposed budget will not even try to balance the budget but, instead, put us on what he calls a ``fiscally sustainable path.'' But that cannot be true. Unless the Federal Government adopts serious reforms to Medicare and Social Security, mandatory spending programs which occupy roughly 61 percent of all Federal spending--the kinds of reforms the President has constantly rejected--we cannot put our country on a fiscally sustainable path by definition.

As the President knows because his own bipartisan fiscal commission told him so in December 2010, to save Medicare we must make structural changes that ensure the program will be affordable over the long term. I do not know any young person the age of my two daughters--30 and 31--who actually believes Medicare and Social Security are going to be there for them when they retire. They simply do not believe it because they see the irresponsibility of the present generation in not only racking up bills they are going to have to end up paying, they are seeing us do nothing to address the fiscally unsustainable path for Medicare and Social Security.

Any of us who have studied the problem understand what the problem is with the Medicare system. Right now, an average couple will put, let's say, $1 in the Medicare trust fund for every $3 they will ultimately take out of it. This is not a pay-as-you-go system by any means, as opposed to Social Security, where basically you will get $1 out for every $1 you put in Social Security--but not Medicare because of its unique problems.

The current Medicare system incentivizes quantity over quality, and its price controls distort the entire health care market. In my State, in Texas, about one-third of the doctors will not even take a new Medicare patient because of government price controls that basically provide compensation to them roughly one-third less than what private health insurance plans would provide. Expanding those price controls, as the President has proposed, would only make Medicare's problems worse.

For all the challenges Medicare has, Medicaid--which is designed to provide health care to low-income Americans--is even worse in terms of the compensation provided to medical providers, hospitals, and doctors, and so many of them simply will not take Medicaid patients, leaving Medicaid-eligible beneficiaries ``coverage'' but no access in many instances.

By restructuring the Medicare Program and increasing competition, we can hold down cost growth in Medicare and make it available not only to the present generation of seniors but also to future generations of seniors. That is the sort of serious issue that is not going to go away that the Senate budget should deal with.

It should also provide a framework for sensible Tax Code reform. We all know the Tax Code is way too complicated. We also know it is riddled with tax credits, deductions, credits--what the Simpson-Bowles Commission called tax expenditures. Yet the President does not want to eliminate those tax deductions, credits, and expenditures for the purpose of reforming the Tax Code, bringing down marginal tax rates not only for businesses and individuals, he wants to use it to raise taxes again.

There is a bipartisan consensus, however, that tax reform should lower the rates and broaden the base. Indeed, those are the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the Domenici-Rivlin panel as well. But, as I said, the President wants to use what he calls tax reform as a Trojan horse to raise taxes again. He argues that we will not have a balanced approach to deficit reduction unless we pass another massive tax hike, and that is after the President raised taxes by $600 billion in January.

From what I understand, our friends across the aisle--Senator Murray, as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee--are about to unveil a budget proposal that would raise taxes again by at least $1 trillion.

I realize that if you think government is the answer to almost every question that comes up in America today, you are going to need bigger government, more intrusive government, funded by higher tax revenue. But they seem to be forgetting a few things. First of all, the Congressional Budget Office tells us that Federal tax revenues in 2014 are already projected to exceed the historical average. Secondly, the President's health care law, ObamaCare, already contains another trillion-dollar tax increase that is discouraging job creation and hurting our economy. Finally, as I pointed out, Democrats in this body already got a $600 billion tax increase earlier this year, while hard-working Americans--the middle class in America--got a tax increase with the return of the payroll tax.

By my view, no one should be talking about another tax increase until the Federal Government quits wasting so much taxpayer money. My colleague from Oklahoma, Senator Coburn, who was just on the Senate floor, has singlehandedly worked tirelessly to expose frivolous and unnecessary spending, and the numbers are remarkable. For example, when Senator Coburn asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate how much Federal spending was duplicative, the Government Accountability Office found that more than $364 billion of duplicative spending existed. And the President wants to close down tours at the White House because of the budget sequester. Give me a break.

How can anyone support another massive tax increase when the Federal Government is literally spending hundreds of billions of dollars on redundant services? For that matter, how can anyone support another massive tax increase when we are spending nearly $15 million each year to give millionaires unemployment checks? How can anyone support another massive tax increase when we are spending $ 1/2 million on shampoo products for dogs and cats? That is your Federal Government at work for you. How can anyone support another massive tax increase when we are spending $181,000 studying the effects of cocaine on Japanese quail? I know these sound ridiculous to the extreme, but that is the whole point. The Federal Government is littered with spending that we simply do not need, and yet, rather than do something about that, our friends across the aisle want to raise taxes once again, along with the President of the United States.

No one said cutting spending or reforming entitlement programs or overhauling our Tax Code would be easy. But if the President truly wants a balanced approach to our fiscal and economic challenges, he will stop leading from behind and start leading from the front.

I am shocked the President would say in an interview with Jon Karl, ABC News, that there is no immediate crisis in terms of the debt. What he might be forgetting is what economists tell us: When the debt gets so large, it retards economic growth. Forget the debt crisis part. That has an immediate impact on job creation in America.

We are all wondering why the recovery from the recession of 2008 has been the slowest since the Great Depression. Well, one reason is people are worried about tax rates going up because they see debt upon debt being piled up. They are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what is going to happen. They are also experiencing additional costs in terms of health care, when they were told by the President back in 2008-2009 if we passed ObamaCare, the average family would see a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500. They were also told a lot of other things, such as if you like what you have, you can keep it. That did not end up being true either.

The President needs to listen to his own experts, such as the bipartisan fiscal commission he himself appointed. Not only do we risk a debt crisis if we do not deal with the $16.5 trillion debt we have if interest rates were to go up, it is having an immediate impact on unemployment. More than 20 million people in this country are either out of work or working part time and want to work full time. That ought to be enough to get the President to act.

Should he choose to act, should he choose to lead, we will be happy to meet him halfway to deal with the single most important issue facing the country today. But it starts with passing a budget, something Senate Democrats have not done for 1,414 days.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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