Search Form
Now choose a category »

Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014--Resumed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise to express my disappointment that the budget deal we will soon be voting on reflects just that, a deal--not legislation, a deal. It raises spending above the cap. That is the spending limit we put in place just 2 years ago.

It raises revenue from hard-working Americans to pay for this new spending and promises to cut some spending in the future. We have seen before how that story ends. We have already read that book. We will spend more now, we will grow the government more now, and ultimately the spending cuts will never materialize.

I have a favorite retired truckdriver in Pinedale, WY, who has suggested that we need to quit putting people in the wagon and get more people pulling the wagon. What he, of course, is referring to is the way we are growing government. Every time we grow government we put some more people in this wagon that the private sector has to pull. Yes, everybody in government pays taxes. But not one person in the government pays as much in taxes as they earn, so they become a part of the burden in the wagon.

Yes, even Senators are part of that burden in the wagon. But we are getting less and less people pulling the wagon. They are getting a little tired of pulling the wagon. I am going to show some things that are happening in this budget that are making it even tougher for them to pull the wagon.

So this is not the right path forward. My constituents back home in Wyoming and Americans across this country deserve better. We talk about how we have reduced the deficit. Reduced the deficit? Yes, that means we used to be overspending $1 trillion a year, and now we are only overspending $500 billion, which is one-half trillion. That is still overspending.

Families across America know you cannot keep spending more than you take in. Is there any indication that this causes a problem? We have been experiencing some of the lowest interest rates in the history of the country, which means the Federal Government has been able to borrow its money for less than it ever has before.

A few months ago I went to one of these bond sales. It was $40 billion worth of bond sales, sold in 30 minutes. People in other countries had so much confidence in the United States that they were willing to pay us to take their money. They put in bids of negative interest rates. They paid us to take their money, to keep it, to make sure it was secure. They believed it would be secure. So they paid us a negative interest rate.

At that particular bond sale, the interest rate was .86 percent to borrow $40 billion. That is what it averaged out at. Last week we did bond sales. Last week we sold $30 billion worth of bonds. I do not know how many minutes it took to do that, but it was a relatively short period of time, probably less than 30 minutes as well.

Do you know what the interest rate was? It was 3.90 percent. In just a few months it has gone from .86 to 3.90. Is that factored into this budget? I bet you it is not. If that interest rate keeps going up, if it hits 5 percent, we are not going to be able to do nearly as much as we are now. We have to pay our interest first, otherwise we have bankrupted the United States and proven it.

When we talk about raising the debt ceiling, it is a minor issue compared to being able to pay the interest on the debt. If it keeps going up significantly, we and our kids and our grandkids are not going to be able to pay the debt. That is what I hear across Wyoming. That is what I hear across America. So what are we trying to do? We are trying to come up with a reasonable amount of spending for the United States. This budget does not do it.

Because Members are going to be voting on a deal rather than a bill that had the opportunity to be improved through the committee process with feedback from other Members, we will not have the opportunity to discuss the potential unintended consequences and address them before they become law. I just heard 15 minutes of that discussion from the Senator from Maryland who knows a whole bunch of items that are in this bill that he is upset with, and I, quite frankly, think he ought to be upset with.

But I am on that conference committee. When the deal was made, we read about it in the papers just like everybody else. We did not get any special notice that there had been a deal made. On conference committees, I have seen the deals made before. I have never seen one made by so few people before. In this one there was a Democrat from the Senate and a Republican from the House. The two of them came up with a conclusion that this is what we should have.

That is not too bad, provided it goes through a normal process, which means we get to make some amendments. When we make amendments, some pass, some fail. But at least we get to bring up the unintended consequences that we see. That is why we have so many people in Congress: 100 here and 435 on the other side. That is why we have a whole lot of backgrounds looking at everything that happens around here from a whole lot of perspectives so maybe we can stop the unintended consequences.

But that is only if it goes through a normal process. So far the tree is filled on this bill. What does that mean? That means no amendments allowed. Take it or leave it. No matter what you think of it, forget it. We are going to have some unintended consequences that are going to come out of this and they are going to become law.

For example, I applaud the proposal that would limit access to Social Security's Death Master File to prevent identity theft, and individuals from fraudulently claiming government benefits and tax refunds associated with those who have passed away. That is a good idea. However, I am concerned that certain organizations that use that same Death Master File for legitimate business purposes that benefit consumers may have their access restricted.

If we discussed these issues in committee, we might have been able to address them, perhaps with a sensible solution, perhaps in a way that would have protected the identity and still protected the benefits to the consumer.

The budget deal makes a permanent provision that would require States to pay a 2-percent administrative fee to the Federal Government for the collection of mineral royalties. This only affects a few States, particularly Wyoming. The negotiators and the administration see this as an easy pot of money. We saw the same situation play out last year when the Federal Government saw a pot of money associated with the abandoned mine lands, that primarily go to Wyoming, and spent it on an unrelated highway bill.

When the Federal Government first started to withhold the mineral royalty money owed to States, I introduced legislation with Senator Barrasso and Representative Lummis and a bipartisan group of legislators from affected States to stop it. Each of those States is fully capable of collecting its own share of the mineral revenues without help from the Federal Government. We should not have to pay for that. We will continue to reverse this unjust practice.

Another fascinating little item was when we did the sequester, the money that comes in from Federal mineral royalties to the Federal Government was considered to be revenue. The money that went out, which is by law to the States, was considered to be revenue to the States that passed through the Federal Government. The Federal Government took 5.3 percent out of it until, of course, we started having a lot of success at reversing both this 2 percent that I just talked about and the stealing of the Federal mineral royalties. Suddenly the Federal Government said: Oh, that was a mistake. You are going to get your full half of the Federal mineral royalties less, of course, the 2 percent.

Another little problem is the deal raises premiums private companies pay the Federal Government to guarantee their pension benefits. That is something we have also insisted on. We have said companies need to pay a fee so if they go out of business, the people they promised a pension to will get at least 60 percent of what they were promised. That is supposed to be a trust fund, a trust fund to be able to pay those people if the company goes out of business.

We have addressed that a number of times. We have held that sacrosanct until a couple of years ago. This raises the premium. That is gentle for a new tax. A premium is a tax. If every company has to pay another $200 per employee who receives a pension, that is a tax.

If it goes into the trust fund, maybe it is a fee. But here is the real kicker: This money we raise does not go to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, so it is a tax increase. It does not shore up this trust fund. It will be spent on discretionary programs, and it will be spent this year.

But it will be collected for 10 years. How many people in America get to take 10 years of revenue, spend it this year, and then not worry about it? Nobody that I know of.

Employers are still in the process of implementing and paying for a $9 billion tax increase called for in the highway bill last year. That, again, is a 10-year tax to build highways for 2 years. When that highway bill comes up, where are we going to steal the money next time?

There is always the Social Security trust fund and a whole bunch of other trust funds. I can hear the yelling about that, and I will join the yelling about that if it is even considered. If we can tap it in the private sector, undoubtedly we can tap it in the government sector as well.

A $9 billion increase, that was for the highway bill. We have another $200 per employee, so we have another $900 billion increase that is put on the backs of private industry, the ones pulling the wagon that I talked about. To put it simply, over 2 years the flat-rate premium will have increased 40 percent, and over 3 years the variable-rate premium--which is a tax if it doesn't go where it is supposed to--will have increased over 100 percent. That is a huge tax.

I guarantee that will end the willingness of some companies to continue pensions. Pensions are voluntary.

If the cost to continue them goes up, the companies will reevaluate.

In fact, I can state that they are reevaluating right now. When we are looking at $200 per year per employee, we have to take a look at how that affects this. Pensions will change drastically because of this agreement.

A few of the concerns I have just raised could be addressed, if not in committee, then on the Senate floor. Once again, the majority leader has decided that no amendments will be allowed. They won't be allowed to be offered, and they won't be allowed to be voted on.

I filed two amendments to the budget deal that are relevant to this discussion. One was with Senator Murphy regarding the need to follow congressional intent and to clarify that the funding of the accounting standards-setting bodies is not subject to sequestration.

We have a system where there are rules set up to have generally accepted accounting principles, and we have a body that is supposed to be very independent that is supposed to come up with those rules.

We do force the companies that are in the accounting business to pay for that body, to standardize the accounting process. It comes directly from the accountants, and it is supposed to go directly to this accounting board. We have decided that sequestration should take a little chunk out of that. That should not happen. That is stealing money again. That is one of the amendments.

Another one was to strike the language making it permanent for the Federal Government to withhold 2 percent of mineral royalty owed to the States for administrative expenses. We should have the opportunity to discuss, debate, and vote on them on the Senate floor.

There are a lot of others, but those are the two primary ones. We have to stop dealmaking and we have to start legislating.

Our constituents sent us here to legislate. They deserve better than a deal agreed to behind closed doors without input and improvements from the rest of the legislators, not even the committee to which it was assigned. Even though I am disappointed in the process that has led to this point today, I am even more disappointed in the product that resulted from the dealmaking.

This budget deal breaks the promise we made to our constituents in 2011--as part of the Budget Control Act--that we would reduce spending. It has worked. It hasn't worked the way a lot of people would like for it to work because it has been across-the-board. But for the first time since the Korean War, it has reduced spending 2 consecutive years.

We were close. After 2014, overall discretionary spending would have increased even with the sequester. Yes, we were almost at the end of the part of taking down the spending, but we couldn't find the will to prioritize spending this year under the current spending levels and, instead, decided to ask Americans to send in more of their hard-earned money to Washington so the Federal Government could spend it the same way we always have--promise the cuts in the end and take more money in the beginning.

I think my constituents in Wyoming know best how to spend their money. Of course, this penalizes them for their principled budgeting which they have been doing and makes it look as if they have money. Every State could have money if they were as careful as Wyoming has been.

Washington, DC, has a spending problem. We don't have a revenue problem. We can think of all kinds of things we would like to spend money on, things that we think would be a good deal and probably that would buy some votes out there. That is wrong. We need to get things under control before that 3.9 percent interest rate goes to 5 percent, 10 percent--or it has been as high as, I think, 18 percent before.

The budget deal increases spending and shows the one thing that some Democrats and Republicans can agree on, and that is putting off our decisions. This plan spends more than the current law. It charges people and States for more and uses the money to increase spending in nonrelated areas.

Spending cuts are scheduled for outlying years, and so the so-called savings are used right away. Yes, just shift that money from out there and put it into the current spending. That isn't real. Nobody else gets to do it. It is only a government trick.

We cannot spend our way to prosperity. We need to prioritize spending
cuts. We need to find the spending cuts that will do the least harm, start there, and go through an appropriations process that works. We have been doing omnibus bills around here for a long time. I have constituents who will start coming in January, and they will want me to take a look at their program and add only a few dollars there. I have to tell them the last time I had a look at a line on appropriations was about 5 years ago. We just take one whole lump of $1 trillion and vote it up or down one time. That is not doing our job. Our main job is spending the money. We need to prioritize those cuts.

I will tell us how Wyoming did it. Wyoming was facing an 8-percent cut, they thought. We are talking about 2.03 percent for the Federal Government. If we compress it down to only a few months, we are talking about 5.3 percent. But the true amount of that sequestration was 2.3 percent.

Wyoming thought they were going to get hit for 8 percent, mostly because of some of the regulations on energy that reduced some of the energy production in Wyoming.

How did they go about doing this? The Governor said to every single agency: I wish to see from you how you would spend it if you have to cut 2 percent, if you have to cut 4 percent, if you have to cut 6 percent, and if you have to cut 8 percent.

Do you know what he did when he got those four lists from all of the agencies? He looked to see if the items at 2 percent, 4 percent, 6 percent, and 8 percent were the same.

That is the way we find out what the agency thinks they can get rid of. That is a simple way of prioritizing spending. Did we ever do that around here? No. We do have a process by which the President can have his agencies say what they intend to get done and then tell what they got done and how well they were doing.

We never pay attention to that. So the ones that come out rated very badly on this continue spending money as they always did. We need to have a prioritization process. We need to have a way that we can look at some of the details of the spending bills. Putting off spending forever and forever, and then coming in after the fact and saying: OK, this is how much we spent, how much we are going to spend, then we get to vote yes or no, is wrong. That again is dealmaking, not legislating, and it won't rein in the out-of-control spending.

I have talked a little bit about the prioritization we have to start doing around here. When we do the sequestration, the complaints are the agencies will always make it hurt. I watched this when I was in the Wyoming legislature. If we only told them how much of a cut to make and didn't tell them specifically where to take it, they always did something that was very visual that their constituents would notice. Their constituents would complain about, and their constituents would make us put it back into the spending.

They didn't have to do that. There isn't any business, there isn't government agency that doesn't have some waste. That is what ought to go first.

Then the duplication ought to go--and there is about $900 billion a year in duplication around here, but we ought to take a look at that.

Another thing we can do is the government shutdown legislation. That is the one that needs to tell those spending committees they need to get the leader to bring up their bill and get it finished with the amendments in the appropriate time. If they don't, then they will have to cut another 1 percent off their spending every quarter until they get their work done. Then we don't have a shutdown, but we have a reduction in spending; there is some incentive for them to do that.

We need to do tax reform. I agree with Senator Cardin. I think that could make a huge difference in how we are doing our revenue.

I also have a penny plan. The penny plan just takes 1 cent off of every Federal dollar the Federal Government spends. When I first started looking at this, the Congressional Budget Office said that it would balance the budget in 7 years. If we did that for 7 consecutive years with 1 percent off every year, it would balance it in 7 years.

The newer valuation is that with the sequestration it balances the budget in 2 years--only 2 years. When I talk to my constituents about it, that it would be 3.3 percent over 2 years, and it comes to almost 7 percent over 3 years--I think that we could do that, and we could do it with so little pain--people would say: Please continue that another couple of years and pay down some of the debt.

Just getting rid of part of the deficit means we are still overspending, but we ought to at some point start paying down that debt so we don't have to pay the interest on the debt.

When we pay down a little bit of the debt so we don't have to pay as much interest, we ought to use that interest that we saved to pay down the debt some more. That is how we pay off things. People who have credit card problems know that is the way to go about it.

I would also like to go to biennial budgeting. We supposedly spend $1 trillion in discretionary spending and the military every year--$1 trillion. That is so much money that nobody can look at it, and we don't.

If we divided those 12 spending bills up into two packages of six, and we allowed them to have spending worth 2 years each time, they could plan ahead much better. We would do the six toughest bills right after the election, the year right after the election and we would do the six easy bills just before election. We could get through those.

Then we could do what my constituents think that we are doing, which is to look at every one of those expenditures and decide whether they ought to go up or down--allowing amendments on bills, allowing the spending bills to go through one at a time, maybe a week at a time. We could have them all done before October, and then there wouldn't be any government shutdown anyway.

There are a lot of ideas out there on what we could do. I sit up nights worrying about the Nation's debt and how it will affect the children of Wyoming, how it will affect my children, and how it will affect my grandchildren. This budget conference was an opportunity to apply reasonable constraints to impossibly high future spending, but instead we got more spending and no real plan to solve the problem. Yes, we said, we got some savings from out there in the future. We will spend that now, and we will make those cuts later. It never happens.

For all of those reasons, I cannot support the budget deal. I hope our next fiscal deadline dealing with the debt limit early next year will provide an opportunity for my colleagues and me to have a real conversation about the spending problems our country faces. The spending issue isn't going away. The longer we put it off, the worse it will become. That is the reality our country faces.

I hope that we continue on the bill that says, no budget, no pay, and actually get that done so that we have the emphasis to actually finish a budget much earlier. Yes, there is blame, blame enough to go around on the budget process. We are actually too late for the budget process to have an impact. We are at the spending part. We are not getting to address that with amendments, and I am deeply disappointed we are not legislating.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top