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Mr. KAINE. Mr. President, I rise to say a few words to applaud the Senate bipartisan leadership for the ongoing negotiation to do what the American public wants us to do, to reopen our government, affirm the fiscal soundness of the United States, and finally begin a true dialog of a budget conference to find a path forward for 2014.
This is what America wants us to do. They want us to work together in the Senate--Democrats and Republicans. They want the Senate and the House to work together. They want us to stop the foolish shutdown that has needlessly hurt individuals, our communities, our economy, and our prestige. Now is the time to do that and then begin the repair work that is ahead.
The deal that has been worked on by Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, and others is a bipartisan deal. As the Presiding Officer knows, that is necessary. The American public has provided a divided Congress--one House with a Democratic majority and one House with a Republican majority. If we are to get over this short-term hump--and indeed, if we are to get over the next hump through a budget negotiation--it is not going to be just one side dictating the terms. Those who thought they would shut down the government and dictate terms were wrong. Those who thought they could threaten default on the debt and dictate terms were wrong. When the American public has put one party in control of each House, the only way to find an agreement and come forward is for people to listen to each other and find compromise.
Again, we are not there yet. We hope we will be voting later in the day, but I think it is appropriate to say we appreciate the leadership of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell and finding--in a very challenging time--a path forward to do what is right for the country. We encourage those efforts and look forward to being on the floor later today to have a vote and send the appropriate signal, that the U.S. Government is open and the full faith and credit of this wonderful Nation stands unblemished.
If we do that today, the real work, in some ways, now begins. This whole exercise in brinkmanship could have been avoided if Congress had, in March, done what we in the Senate have been asking them to do and started a budget conference.
I have spoken about this many times on the floor--probably with a little bit of extra passion because I serve on the Budget Committee. Being on the Budget Committee has been an education for this naive freshman Senator. After working with others to pass a budget at 5 a.m. in the morning on March 23, I sort of believed that somehow government 101 would next say we would then take the Senate budget and the House budget--that indeed were very different documents--and put them immediately into a conference where we could find a compromise and move forward. That is what was contemplated by the 1974 Budget Act under which Congress operates.
What was odd is that after we did all of that work to pass the budget again and again and again, an effort to begin a budget conference was blocked. That was surprising. We would not be in a shutdown if we had done it in March. Nevertheless, we are at a place where we are going to fix the brinkmanship and then engage in the kind of dialog between the House and Senate so we can move forward.
Again, if there is to be a deal--and budget deals have proven to be elusive in this body in recent years--make no mistake. It is going to have to be a bipartisan deal. I feel very strongly about some issues, but the deal will certainly not be to my liking in all particulars. The House may feel strongly about some issues. They can't expect a deal that will be--in all particulars--to their liking. A divided government means we have to listen to each other, negotiate, find common ground, and that is what the American public has sent us to do.
In conclusion, I am proud of the Senate budget. What a budget conference will be is essentially an opportunity for each House to put their best document on the table and say: This is a budget that will be good for America. Having worked with my colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee in January, February, and March, I am proud of the budget we have passed.
I have done a lot of budgets. I did many budgets as a city councilman and a mayor in Richmond.
I worked on budgets as the Governor of Virginia. We won some awards in our State for our fiscal acumen, and I think I know something about budgets.
What I know about the Senate budget and believe very strongly is this: If that Senate budget were to be put in place today, without changing one comma, without changing one apostrophe, it would be good for the Nation. The Senate budget we passed--fully aware there would be a conference, fully aware there would be negotiation and compromise--nevertheless, the Senate budget we passed does a lot of good. It is a budget that is focused primarily on economic growth--growing our economy, adding jobs. The best anti-deficit strategy is a growing economy. In putting our budget together, we focused on issues such as infrastructure and educational investments that would help grow the economy.
We focused on the protection of key services, recognizing we have to deal with expense items. There are key services Americans depend on, so we reject the across-the-board, slash-and-burn of the sequester and instead find targeted ways where we can find savings that would nevertheless protect key services. The budget expresses a willingness to reform--to reform the way we spend, to reform programs such as Medicare, where cost growth has been so significant, to reform Defense spending in smart ways that will keep our Nation safe, as well as, yes, to reform tax policy, the tax expenditures, which is the polite way of saying loopholes, deductions, credits, exemptions--all of those tax expenditures that turn our revenue collection system into a kind of swiss cheese. We need to do tax reforms as well. If we are going to reform on the spending side, we need to reform tax expenditures as well.
Finally, the Senate budget offers us a path forward to credibly reduce the deficit and to replace the foolish, nonstrategic, across-the-board sequester cuts that have harmed Virginia and have harmed the Nation. That is not to say there will not be cuts. But if we are going to have cuts, they should be done with a strategic sense. Any CEO, any Governor would say that cuts should be strategic rather than across the board.
So I am very proud of our Senate budget, and I look forward to having an intense dialogue between Senate and House Members where we put the two budgets on the table, where finally a conference can begin, where the American public can see the different choices the House and Senate make, and thereby be educated about the choices. I think that if we sit in a conference and we have the two budgets on the table, folks will see the many virtues of the Senate approach. But all Senators involved in those discussions--and we don't know yet who they will be--as proud as they are, as proud as I am about the Senate budget--we will have to go into this with the full knowledge that we will not find the kind of deal going forward without being willing to listen, dialogue, and compromise.
I will conclude by saying it seems as though compromise is sort of a dirty word these days. Yet we have to reflect back that our very form of government depends upon it. The three branches, the checks and balances between the branches, assume a degree of dialogue and compromise. The legislative branch itself, with two Houses--it would have been easier with one--but with two Houses, on matters such as these, the need to get bills and legislation and budgets through both Houses requires compromise.
So I am glad we are finally entering that stage of a true budget conference--an opportunity to dialogue and compromise, which we should have done last spring. We can enter into it with pride that the Senate budget is a strong document that will help the economy, but also enter into it fully realizing that this short-term deal is not going to be solved by a House or a Senate plan that just had the support of one party. It had to get solved with a bipartisan deal that originated, thankfully, in the Senate. We will have to be willing, in order to find a long-term budget solution, to bring that same spirit to the table.
With that, Mr. President, I note the absence of a quorum.
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