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Concurrent Budget Resolution on the Budget, Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WARNER. I commend my friend, the Senator from Oklahoma, who has made this a passion. I would acknowledge this is a challenge that transfers between administrations.

When I was Governor of Virginia, under the previous administration, we tried to consolidate workforce training programs. We still had those 47 programs and were not able at the State level to consolidate into a more meaningful approach.
I recall when I first came to this body, I thought let's at least find the low-hanging fruit, and we found those programs that both the Bush administration and the Obama administration had agreed were duplicative and unnecessary--16 programs, $1 billion; but a billion here and a billion there and you are talking about real money.

I am happy to report 11 of those 16 programs have been eliminated. But the fact that there are those that both administrations agreed upon that have not been eliminated means there is more work to be done. I would simply point out to my friend from Oklahoma there has been legislation that he and the ranking member, the Senator from Delaware, who has also worked hard on these issues, supported 2 years back called the GPRMA bill, the Government Performance Results Modernization Act. In that bill for the first time ever, starting this year, there is a requirement that each agency of the Federal Government identify not only those programs that are the most successful, but those programs that are the least successful.

So regardless of which administration, Republican or Democratic, there will at least be some--beyond just OMB putting forward information that says where the actual agencies themselves think they are not getting good value for the dollar.

Mr. COBURN. Would the Senator, through the Chair, take a question? Does the Senator know the number of agencies in the Federal Government that actually know how many programs they have in their agency?

Mr. WARNER. I know the answer to this because we have talked about this in the past. We do not have a complete list of all of the various programs.

Mr. COBURN. There is one agency in the Federal Government that knows all its programs. Only one. The Department of Education. They actually publish it every year. They actually have done a great job. I compliment them. Not one other Federal agency actually knows all of the programs that run under their auspices.

Mr. WARNER. I turn now to my good friend, the Senator from Delaware. This has been an extraordinary passion of his. I know as chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, along with the ranking member from Oklahoma, this will be an area of great interest and focus.

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Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, let me thank the Chair for her good work and putting this budget together, which I

believe is the first step as we try to resolve this issue.

The Senator from Washington has mentioned this has become my passion in this body. I absolutely believe getting our debt and deficit under control, getting the country's balance sheet right has almost become a proxy for whether our democratic institutions such as Congress may actually work in the 21st century. This debate we are going through is an important step in that direction.

We are about to proceed to the section of debate where a host of amendments will be put up, debated, and decided. It is my hope sometime later tonight or early tomorrow morning we will be able to conclude this process and move on to the next steps.

As I listen to my colleagues, particularly from the other side, I do wish to make three quick, brief points because there are actually a lot of agreements between us. I think we all realize that in addition to trying to get our tax policies and spending policies right--I agree with the Senator from Oklahoma--there are areas of duplication which could be improved upon.

I would point out one amendment this Budget Committee put together in a bipartisan fashion--the majority and minority were working together--was looking at the area of workforce training programs for further consolidation. We are able, not just in workforce training but across government, to find better ways to combine our programs and obtain more effective use of our tax dollars. I look forward to working with Members on both sides of the aisle to do that.

I would also say while we have this problem about how we are going to raise our revenues and how we are going to spend, an important component of all of this is how we grow our economy. One of the challenges I find--and the proposal mostly from the House, which appears to be the proposal endorsed by many of our colleagues on the other side--I am not sure their budget proposal puts forth a growth agenda.

At the end of the day, countries, just as private companies--and I spent 20 years in business, longer than I have in public life--need a business plan. Any good business plan invests in three things: people, plant and equipment, and an investment plan to stay ahead of the competition. Companies do the same thing; namely, invest in education, infrastructure, and R&D.

Unfortunately, the proposal which has been put out by the other side of the House would cut our government's investment in domestic discretionary spending from what is already at a very meager rate, closer to the Eisenhower administration rates. We currently spend about 16 cents on every Federal tax dollar on all of our domestic discretionary budgets combined. Over a period of time their plan would take that 16 cents to less than 5 cents.

I spent 20 years investing in business. I would never invest in a business which spent less than 5 percent of its revenues on its workforce, its plant and equipment, staying ahead of the competition. No country can stay competitive against emerging nations such as China, India, and Brazil. And Europe, facing financial crises, is trying to reset itself as well. Any of those nations are spending a larger percentage of their Federal revenues or their national revenues on training the workforce, building their roads, airports, broadband, and ports. They are trying to do research and development, which creates the intellectual capital which will drive our economy in the 21st century. Every other nation in the world with which we compete has a much more aggressive business plan than the business plan that would have been put forward by the House. Unfortunately, it would be put forward by many of our colleagues on the other side if they were allowed to cut domestic discretionary spending at the levels they propose.

We have often heard a lot of discussion on this floor about revenues. I don't think anyone on either side wants to be taxed more than is necessary.

The other side says we have a spending problem but refuses to look at the other side of the balance sheet. As a business guy, I find that troubling. I agree there are a number of areas where we need to cut back spending.

Look at revenues on a historic basis, look at revenues on the basis of when America had the fastest growth rate in recent time. During the 1990s, with President Clinton, our Nation added jobs at a record level. Our Nation made innovative grants, innovation and discovery of great new intellectual property at an unprecedented level. In the 1980s America was considered to have seen our best days. We came roaring back in the 1990s.

I didn't hear many complaints about our Tax Code in the 1990s during those periods of enormous growth because of those investments and because of that growth early in the beginning of this century. Around 2003, I think this body, and both parties, were part of it and made a mistake on assuming that the roaring good times were going to last forever. We cut $4.5 trillion over a 10-year period out of the revenue side.

Anybody who runs a business knows you must look at spending and you must look at revenues. We took $4.5 trillion out of our revenue stream at the very same time we doubled defense spending and increased spending on homeland security. We went to war twice entirely on the credit card. We provided new benefits for our seniors with prescription drugs, and seniors were going through the normal aging process.

Many of those spending initiatives, again, were supported by both sides. But when the music stopped, we realized we had a structural budget deficit that now accounts for $16.5 trillion in debt and it goes up by $3 billion a night. While we have to take steps to rein in spending, we also have to realize not to grow government but, just to pay our bills, we have to put some of those revenues back into the revenue stream if we are ever going to get to some level of balance.

Well, what does this side of aisle propose? Have they said, You know, we need to go willy-nilly and go out and dramatically increase taxes even beyond what was proposed in the 1990s? No. Do the folks in this budget on the Democratic side say we at least ought to put 70 cents of that $4.5 trillion back into the revenue stream? No. Do we say we ought to put half of the revenues back into the revenue stream that we took out? Again, the answer is no. This budget, combined with what we did on New Year's Eve, puts approximately $1.575 trillion over a 10-year period back into the revenue stream--literally only one-third of the revenues that were taken out under the so-called Bush tax cuts back into the revenue stream.

Yet to hear what folks on the other side say, it sounds as though this is apocalyptic. Well, I have to tell you, as somebody, again, who will match my business credentials against anybody in this body, you have to look at both sides of the balance sheet. We have to find ways to rein in spending but we also, finally, have to find ways to make sure we have a revenue stream to allow us to meet our obligations.

A final point I wish to make--because I know my colleague, my good friend from Oklahoma, wants to rise to speak as well--is that I believe very strongly we have to get a handle on our entitlement programs. Medicare and Social Security are the two most successful programs our government and, for that matter, probably any government around the world, has ever implemented and we need to make sure the promise of Medicare and Social Security is going to be here for our kids and our grandkids.

Around some of those programs some of the basic math has changed. When I was a young person, there were 16 people working for every 1 person who was on Medicare and Social Security. Today, it is 3. In 15 years, it will only be 2. So we do have to make changes. And this budget starts us down that path--$275 billion in entitlement changes, on top of $700 billion in entitlement changes that were part of the Affordable Care Act.

If we are going to make comparisons, apples to apples--and this gets a little bit technical, and I will again try to be very brief--I have not heard a lot of my colleagues acknowledge this. When this debate around debt and deficit really picked up steam--it started back in 2010 with a lot of very good bipartisan work done by the Simpson-Bowles Commission that pointed out we were on an unsustainable path and if we didn't take action we would send our Nation over a fiscal cliff. In the Simpson-Bowles report, they pointed out we needed to make substantial changes, for example, in Medicare and Medicaid. Well, they had some proposed changes that would have amounted to roughly over $400 billion in savings over a 10-year period.

What is remarkable, and is not mentioned, is that because--whether it is recession or the Affordable Care Act--the rate of increase of our health care programs and our entitlement programs over the last 3 years has dropped dramatically, and independent of the $275 billion of entitlement savings in this budget, based upon the assumptions that were made in 2010, based upon the Center for Budget Priorities, in 2020, because of the declining rate of increase of cost, we will have an additional $500 billion in health care savings that are already built into this proposal.

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Mr. WARNER. I would simply say that I want to commend this debate we are having and commend Members on both sides of the aisle. As I said at the outset, no budget is going to be perfect for every Member, but this is a credible, important first step in this process, and one of which I think we can all be proud. I look forward to finishing this debate and moving on to the next stage to make sure we put this question of our Nation's balance sheet in order and then move on to the other important issues our country faces.

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SEC. 4__. SENATE POINT OF ORDER AGAINST BUDGET PROVIDING OUTLAYS FOR INTEREST ON THE DEBT IN EXCESS OF OUTLAYS FOR NATIONAL DEFENSE.

(a) In General.--In the Senate, it shall not be in order to consider a concurrent resolution on the budget for the budget year or any amendment, amendment between Houses, motion, or conference report thereon that includes outlays for function 900 in any fiscal year that exceed outlays for function 050 in the same fiscal year.

(b) Supermajority Waiver and Appeal in the Senate.--

(1) WAIVER.--This section may be waived or suspended in the Senate only by an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Members, duly chosen and sworn.

(2) APPEAL.--An affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Members of the Senate, duly chosen and sworn, shall be required in the Senate to sustain an appeal of the ruling of the Chair on a point of order raised under this section.

AMENDMENT NO. 693

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there will now be 2 minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote in relation to amendment No. 693, offered by the Senator from Virginia, Mr. Warner.

The Senator from Virginia.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, in the spirit of what our leader said about us trying to move along, I think while we may have a variety of views, we all know we are $16.5 trillion in debt--a debt that goes up by $3 billion every night. The last thing we should do is dig this hole any deeper.

This amendment is paired actually with an amendment that will be offered by the Senator from South Dakota, Mr. Thune. The Thune amendment would repeal the estate tax without the ability to offset with additional revenue.

I believe the estate tax is actually a meaningful part of our Tax Code. We put in place appropriate exemptions: $5 million a person, $10 million a couple. That means the estate tax right now only applies to about 3,800 people a year. Yet, if we were to repeal the estate tax without any offset, that would add $600 billion to our debt.

We have spent a lot of time over these last number of months talking about the dramatic cuts in defense from sequester--$550 billion.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I urge my colleagues, if we want to repeal the estate tax and pay for it, to vote for the Warner amendment No. 693.

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The amendment (No. 693) was agreed to.

Mrs. MURRAY. I move to reconsider the vote, and I move to lay that motion on the table.

The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.

AMENDMENT NO. 307

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there now will be 2 minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote in relation to amendment No. 307, offered by the Senator from South Dakota, Mr. Thune.

The Senator from South Dakota.

Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, this amendment will create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to completely--completely--eliminate the Federal estate tax burden that is facing America's family farmers and small businesses. There are lots of reasons to support elimination of this destructive and inefficient tax, but for me the issue comes down to being able to tell the farmers and ranchers I represent that I am doing everything I can to make sure they can pass on their family farm to the next generation without a double tax imposed from Washington, DC.

Behind me is a chart. This is data selected from the latest Agriculture Department report on farmland values. Farmers in the States represented on this chart truly are land rich and cash poor. These farmers literally have to sell off land or spend large sums in financial planning solely because of the estate tax--all of that to bring in less than one-half of 1 percent of all Federal revenue.

Next year the estate tax will generate $15 billion--that is all--relative to all the harm that it causes to farms, ranches, and small businesses in this country. It is time to end this tax. It is time to put a stake through the heart of this tax. I ask my colleagues to support the repeal with this amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

Who yields time in opposition?

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I yield to the Senator from Virginia.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Virginia.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, there are strong feelings of opinion in this body about the estate tax. I personally believe the current estate tax--with a very generous $5 million-per-person exemption, and $10 million per family; an estate tax that only applies to 3,800 families per year--is a fair part of our Tax Code. Others may disagree.

But in our previous amendment, Warner amendment No. 693, we said if you are going to replace the estate tax, you have to pay for it. The unfortunate thing about the Senator's amendment is it says if you repeal the estate tax, you cannot use revenues to replace that. It will only have to be replaced with additional cuts.

The problem we have at this point--$16.5 trillion in debt--is because we have not recognized to get a budget balanced you have to look at both sides of the balance sheet, revenue and spending. You cannot just keep taking revenue away on every item. So I would urge my colleagues to oppose the Thune amendment.

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