Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Drug Quality and Security and Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, the budget conferees are working to reach agreement on the fiscal 2014 budget, and I compliment Senator Murray for the great work she has done. I want to join those who have expressed strong support for their efforts.

We all know what the consequences will be if they do not reach agreement on a budget. We will have draconian cuts to defense acquisitions and readiness, to social safety net programs, to infrastructure, to public schools, and to police. Every Federal program is going to suffer, and every American in my State and in the other 49 States, will feel the impact.

Having been in the Senate a long time, I know that anything that gets done around here happens as a result of compromise. Nobody gets everything he or she wants. When it comes to a budget agreement, it means you have to have additional savings, but you also need increased revenues. There is no other way. You have to do both.

I think back to the time when we not only had balanced budgets, but we also had a surplus; in the last Democratic administration, for example. We did not have these kinds of specialized tax cuts to those in the highest bracket. Ironically, those in the highest bracket made more money during that time because the whole economy was better.

Those who think it can be done by only cutting spending, or by only closing corporate tax loopholes, but not by doing both together, are legislators in name only. That is simply a recipe for continued gridlock and another year of sequestration, which would be a disaster.

It would allow everybody to go off and give rhetoric but not face reality. They could talk about what they want, but never have to vote on anything. The fact is that if you want to do this, you have to cast some tough votes.

The outcome of this budget conference will determine the extent to which the Congress will play a meaningful role in Federal spending for the rest of this administration, and possibly well beyond.

I would advise my colleagues on both sides of the aisle--I have been here with both Republican and Democratic administrations. If the Congress is going to actually have a voice as an independent third branch of government in how the government is run and what we do, then we have to start facing up and doing real budgets and real appropriations bills; otherwise, just assume there is a top dollar level in there and the administration will do whatever it wants to do, Democratic or Republican. That is not what I believe I was elected to do. As one of 100 Senators, I should have a voice in what comes out of it.

As I said, the outcome of this budget conference will determine the extent to which the Congress can play a meaningful role in Federal spending not only for the rest of this administration but possibly well beyond, but there is no better way to illustrate what is at stake than to use concrete examples. I want to do that by comparing the impact of the fiscal year 2014 House and Senate versions of the bill that funds the Department of State and foreign operations. The choices are stark, and it puts things in perspective.

The House bill provides $40 billion to fund the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and our contributions to the World Bank, U.N. peacekeeping, and countless other organizations and programs that contribute to global security.

In contrast, the Senate bill would provide $50 billion, 25 percent more than the House bill, for these same agencies and programs. But, lest anyone falsely accuse think the Senate of being big spenders, actually the Senate bill responds to the current budget climate--it is $500 million below the fiscal year 2013 continuing resolution after sequestration and across-the-board reductions, and includes many budget reductions and savings.

Unlike the House bill, however, we are selective in how we do it. The Senate bill does not make draconian and reckless cuts that would weaken U.S. influence and cede U.S. leadership to our competitors.

Given the situations in Syria, North Africa, and other areas of conflict--areas of conflict that could evolve and engulf the United States at a moment's notice--as well as the unpredictability of natural disasters, funding for international crisis response and humanitarian relief is a matter of life and death for millions of the world's most vulnerable people who look to the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth.

The current demand for these programs--and certainly my mail shows they are strongly supported by the American people--is unprecedented and growing. Yet the House bill cuts these programs $1.6 billion below the Senate bill, and far below the fiscal year 2013 level.

One of the most troubling cuts in the House bill is for international organizations in which the United States plays a major role in addressing global threats to us and our allies--such as transnational crime, disease epidemics, and climate change--that no country can solve alone. Some of the most feared and most deadly diseases in the world today are not on our shores, but can be on our shores from other parts of the world in a matter of hours.

Aside from a total humanitarian reason, we have a good reason to do something to help combat those diseases. The House would end our support entirely for many of these organizations, create large arrears of money we are obligated by treaty to pay, and erode our influence with other major contributors and shareholders like the Europeans, China, India, and Brazil.

They are saying: OK, we agreed to pay this, but, sorry, we are the United States and we don't have to keep our word. I don't think most Americans want to hear that. Ask any of our international corporations, ask any of our organizations in this country--medical facilities or anything else that has to work around the world--if they really want the United States to give up its influence.

The House bill provides no funding--not one single dollar--for U.S. voluntary contributions to the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, or the Montreal Protocol, which protects the ozone layer. The Senate bill includes $355 million for this account, which is about the same level as five years ago. I would like more, but I don't want to go to the House level, which is nothing.

So while the House would end our participation in UNICEF and many other U.N. agencies, the Senate bill freezes spending for these organizations at the 2009 level.

The House bill provides $746 million, which is nearly 50 percent less than the Senate bill, for assessed contributions--these are contributions we are required to pay--to international organizations such as NATO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and many others.

What we are saying is that if some disease breaks out in the world and comes across our borders, well, gosh, that would be terrible, but we can't give any money to the World Health Organization to try to stop it. What if there is a question of nuclear proliferation? Sorry,

we can't give the money we are required to give to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Senate bill is $72 million below the fiscal year 2009 level, and the House bill is $783 million below the fiscal year 2009 level.

Does anybody actually believe that the needs of NATO or the International Atomic Energy Agency or the World Health Organization are less today than they were five years ago? All you have to do is watch the news. All you have to do is read some of the reports, some of the intelligence briefs every Senator can read, and you are not going to say: Well, the threat is less today than it was five years ago. You are going to say, as I do, as I read these reports: The threat is a great deal worse than it was five years ago. It defies logic, and it is dangerous. It is dangerous not to be involved in these organizations.

In fact, the House bill provides no funding not one dollar--for most of the international financial institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, or the International Fund for Agricultural Development. This would put us hundreds of millions of dollars in arrears, forfeiting our leadership in those institutions.

So they can say to us: OK, debtor nation--OK, United States--you agreed to these, but you are not paying your bill. We can't trust the United States, so we are not going to let you have any say in this. We are not going to let you have the leadership you have had in these institutions.

In fact, the House bill provides not even one dollar for the key multilateral environmental funds that support clean energy technology and protect forests and water resources, including the Global Environment Facility, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Strategic Climate Fund. It is bad enough that here in the Senate we have frozen these agencies at last year's level, but at least we have some money for them. The House has nothing. They do not provide a single dollar for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The Senate bill provides $135 million for this program--the same level as last year's continuing resolution--to help the poorest countries prevent chronic malnutrition and famine.

Mr. President, we all ask: Why can't we have countries developed so that they are not open to some of these terrorist organizations or fundamentalist organizations that step in? Well, we have a stake in helping them. It doesn't require much money; a tiny fraction--1 percent of our budget. To just walk away from them makes no sense from our strategic interest, but more than that, what does it say about our moral interest as the wealthiest, most powerful Nation on Earth? We have to speak to what is the moral value of the United States.

Frankly, what they have done in the other body does not speak well to our moral core--not the moral core of the America I know in my State from both Republicans and Democrats alike. We all understand the need for Federal departments and agencies to reduce costs and eliminate waste and find efficiencies. We do this. The Senate bill is $500 million below the fiscal 2013 continuing resolution. But what we try to do is to say that at least the United States has to keep its word. At least the United States ought to show involvement in parts of the world where it counts.

Unfortunately, the House bill may make great sound bites, nice bumper-sticker politics, but it endangers the United States, endangers our security, and it gives the image that the United States is a country that cannot keep its word. We can't do that. It will end up costing taxpayers more in the long run and cause lasting damage to the country.

Let's move forward, get our budget resolution, and pass our appropriations bills, because right now everybody gets to vote maybe. Nobody has to vote yes or no. I have been here long enough to know that the people of my State expect me to vote yes or no, not maybe.

Mr. President, what is the parliamentary situation?

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top