Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, something really remarkable happened in the Senate last night. It was sort of late in the day, so for those who missed it, here is a little recap.
Late yesterday afternoon the majority leader handed us a hastily crafted bill and then asked if we could pass it before anybody had seen it. Apparently, someone on the other side realized they had no good explanation for why they hadn't prevented the delays we have seen at airports across the country this week, so they threw together a bill in a feeble attempt to cover for it. It is pretty embarrassing.
It actually proposes to replace the President's sequester cuts with what is known around here as OCO. I know this isn't something that will be familiar to most viewers, so let me borrow an explanation provided by Senator Joe Lieberman in a letter he signed with Dr. Coburn last year. Here is what Senator Lieberman said about OCO:
The funds allocated for OCO or "war savings'' are not real, and every member of Congress knows this. The funds specified for Overseas Contingency Operations in future budgets are mere estimates of what our nation's wars cost may be in the future. And since it is likely that future OCO costs will be significantly less than the placeholders in the Congressional Budget Office's estimates, it is the height of fiscal irresponsibility to treat the difference between the assumed and actual OCO costs as a "savings'' to be spent on other programs.
Let me read that last part again.
It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility to treat the difference between the assumed and actual OCO costs as a "savings'' to be spent on other programs.
This is from the man who was once the Democratic nominee to be Vice President.
There is bipartisan consensus that this thing we call OCO is a fiscally irresponsible gimmick. The director of the Concord Coalition has called it ``the mother of all ..... gimmicks.'' The president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget called it a ``glaring gimmick.'' Whether OCO is the mother of all gimmicks or just a glaring one, everybody other than the majority leader evidently agrees on one thing: It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.
Now, just as important as what the majority leader's proposal is, however, is what it isn't. It isn't a tax increase. That is actually news. The majority leader is clearly ditching the President on this issue. As you may recall, the President has said he would only consider replacing the sequester with a tax hike. Whatever you want to say about OCO, it is not a tax hike--it is borrowed money that will have to be repaid later.
Still, it doesn't punish small businesses the way the President's proposals would. So this is, in a sense, big news. It represents a significant break from the President's favored approach on this issue.
As I said yesterday, the President rejected the flexibility we proposed on the sequester for obvious political reasons. He wanted these cuts to be as painful as possible for folks across the country and to provide an excuse to raise taxes to turn them off. Well, it is simply not working. Even his own party is starting to abandon him on this issue.
The broader point is this: Even without the flexibility we propose, he already has the flexibility he needs to make these cuts less painful. He has it right now. He should exercise it.
I also think we should all acknowledge that there is now a bipartisan agreement that tax hikes won't be a replacement for the sequester. The real solution, as I said, is for the administration to accept the additional flexibility we would like to give them to make these cuts in a smarter way and to get rid of wasteful spending first.
Surely, in the $3.6 trillion we are spending this year, we could find a way to reduce the spending we promised the
American people we would reduce a year and a half ago when the Budget Control Act was passed and do that in a sensible way. This is what we have consistently said. There is more flexibility in the law right now. We would be happy to give the President even more to achieve the cuts we promised the American people we would achieve.
I yield the floor.
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