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Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I rise to make a few remarks and to make a motion. Everyone in this body knows one of the issues, the issue I believe is most holding back our economic recovery and most holding back our ability to sort through so many issues our country faces, is the issue of our debt and deficit. We are like $17 trillion in debt. The debt goes up over $4 billion every night when we go to sleep. This problem is structural in nature. Time alone will not solve this issue.
In the last 4 years, my time in the Senate, there has been no issue on which I have spent more time, spent more effort trying to reach out. I understand many of my colleagues actually try to avoid me in the hallways now because they fear they are going to get a Mark Warner harangue on the debt and deficit.
I also know the only way we are going to get this issue resolved is if both sides are willing to meet each other in the middle. This is a problem that cannot be solved by continuing to cut back on discretionary spending. It will require, yes, more revenues, and it will require entitlement reform. Those are issues where, unfortunately, in many ways our parties have not found agreement.
We have all agreed as well at least that, while we do not have to solve this problem overnight, we need at least $4 trillion in debt reduction over the next 10 years. The good thing is, while we have been lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis, we have gotten halfway to our goal. The good news as well is that this year both the Senate and the House adopted budget resolutions. As I said on the floor in March, I believe the Senate budget was a solid first chapter toward producing a balanced fiscal plan for our country. My vote for the Senate budget--and it was not a budget on which I would agree with every component part--was a vote for progress, a vote for regular order, regular order that so many of my distinguished colleagues who served here much longer than I say is the glue that holds this institution together.
It has now been 46 days since the Senate passed its budget. Unfortunately, there are certain colleagues on the other side of the aisle who seem to block our ability to go to conference. In a few minutes--just 2 minutes--I will ask my colleagues to agree to authorize the Chair to name a conference to the Budget Committee. Unfortunately, I expect that request to be objected to. I find that extremely disappointing. I can only speak at this point for folks from Virginia, but no single other issue is as overriding, as I travel across Virginia and I imagine for most of my colleagues as they travel across their States. At the end of the day, Americans, Virginians, want us to work together and get this issue solved.
We have seen, over the last 2 1/2 years, as we have lurched from manufactured budget crisis to budget crisis, the effects on the stock market, on job creation, and our overall recovery. We have a chance to put this behind us. We need to find the kind of common ground between the House budget proposal and the Senate budget proposal on which so many have called upon us to work.
Again, I am going to make this motion in a moment. I want to add one last point. I appreciate some of the calls we have had from colleagues on the Republican side over the last couple of years for the Senate to pass a budget. I believed we needed to pass that budget. Mr. President, 46 days ago, after 100 amendments and a session that went until 5 o'clock in the morning, we passed such a document. I think it is time now that we allow the Senate to announce its conferees to meet with the House, to get a budget
resolved for the United States of America so we have a framework to make sure we get this issue of debt and deficit behind us; that we allow the economy to recover in a way that it needs.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consideration of Calendar No. 33, H. Con. Res. 25; that the amendment which is at the desk, the text of S. Con. Res. 8, the budget resolution passed by the Senate, be inserted in lieu thereof, and H. Con. Res. 25, as amended, be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; that the Senate insist on its amendment, request a conference with the House on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses; and the Chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of the Senate, all with no intervening action or debate.
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Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, while it is not unexpected, I am disappointed. The nub of this issue, as commentators from left to right, Democrat and Republican, pointed out, is if we are going to avoid the path we are on, the path of sequestration, which was set up to be literally the worst possible option--which right now is seeing cuts made in the most unsophisticated, unplanned, and inefficient way possible, plans that, if we continue on the path we are on, would so dramatically cut back this country's investments in education, infrastructure, research and development, that I don't believe, as a former business person, that America will be able to compete with the kind of economic growth we need to maintain our economy.
If we are going to avoid those kinds of Draconian cuts, if we are going to have a rational business plan for our country, I think most of us, or at least an overwhelming majority of the Senate, would recognize we have to generate both some additional revenues and--while there may be some on my side who disagree--we have to find ways to reform entitlement programs to make sure Medicare and Social Security are going to be there 30 years from now.
The only way to get that done is to take the House product, which focuses particularly on entitlement reform, combine it with the Senate product that makes reasonable increases in revenues and starts us on a path on changes in some of our entitlement programs but also puts in place a more reasonable and balanced approach on cuts. The only way we are going to get to that finish line, particularly for those who have advocated for regular order, is to have a conference.
It is with great distress that we heard opposition raised to regular order, an appeal for regular order, an appeal that was made consistently for the past 2 1/2 years. I don't understand why my colleagues on the other side will not take yes for an answer. They asked for us to pass a budget. We passed that budget. I think it is a good first step in the process and I hope in the coming days there will be a change of heart, that the regular order will be allowed to proceed, conferees will be named for both the House and Senate, and that we can reach agreement on this issue that I think is important, not only to the future of our economy but quite honestly now has taken on the metaphor for whether institutions can actually function in the 21st century.
I see my good friend, the Senator from Virginia, who may want to add some comments to this discussion.
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