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Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005--Continued

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Chair. I thank my colleague and esteemed leader, our ranking member on the Budget Committee.

I rise this evening to oppose the amendment of my friend from Oklahoma, as well as the entire budget resolution that is in front of us.

Together, America can do better than this budget and this amendment. Basically, what the amendment is saying is, if we want to invest in education so every child has the opportunity to succeed in America, we wish to create greater opportunity, it would take 67 votes. If we want to provide another tax cut for those most blessed in this country, those doing most well, the best of anyone in terms of their financial situation, that would take 51 votes. If we want to invest in science and new cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and diabetes, it would take 67 votes. If we wish to give to those most blessed with resources in our country a tax cut, it would take 51 votes.

That is the wrong set of priorities for our country. I support tax cuts certainly. I sponsored and worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to add a new tax cut for manufacturers so if they create jobs in the United States they have a lower tax rate than if the jobs and business go overseas. Certainly, we agree together that the alternative minimum tax needs to be fixed so middle-class families are not impacted by something that was put into play to affect only those who are the most wealthy from avoiding all taxes.

We could go down the list of things that we support on a bipartisan basis. But where we differ is where we have gone in this country under a failed set of values and priorities.

And this amendment only makes that worse. We can do better than that. Our Nation's budget is designed to reflect the values and priorities of our great country. It is essentially our country's values document. I believe this budget does not honor our Nation's values, and it has the wrong priorities for our country.

I believe this amendment does the same, again, saying if we wish to invest in the health of the country, if we wish to help manufacturers who, in my great State, desperately need our help by changing the way we finance health care in this country, that would take 67 votes. But if we wish, instead, to provide another round of tax cuts to those who are most blessed in this country, that takes 51 votes. That is the wrong set of values and the wrong set of priorities, and we can do better than that in America.

As Americans, we believe we should leave a better future for our children and our grandchildren. The American people expect us to make tough choices, just like they do around their kitchen tables every day, trying to balance the budget. In my home State people are not sure if they are going to have a job, what the pay is going to be, are they going to have their pension, are they going to have to pay more for health care. They are having to make the toughest decisions every day. They expect us to be responsible and make the tough decisions we need to make.

We do this because we don't want our children to have to pay for our debts. That is why we make tough decisions. Parents across the country work hard enough to build a nest egg for their children so they can have a better life than we have had as their parents. We want that. My great concern is that we are losing that for our children. I believe we are in a fight for our way of life in this country and nothing less. And the budget documents in front of us only make that worse, only add to the race to the bottom too many of our families are feeling.

This budget we are considering in two separate reconciliation bills will actually increase the deficit, not reduce it--increase it by $31 billion. America expects us to do better than that. Most Americans might wonder why are we increasing the deficit when we already have the largest deficit in the history of the country. We are fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we must help to pay for the rebuilding of the gulf coast for all of those who have lost so much. Since 2001 when we had the largest surplus in history, we have taken a fiscal U-turn, and now we have the largest deficit in history, putting us back in the days of gloomy fiscal policies in the 1980s and early 1990s.

It is important to know there was a choice at that point, as our leader and our side of the aisle has indicated. When I started in the Budget Committee in 2001, we had the largest budget surplus in the history of the country. We had two choices. We could do what we were proposing at the time: take a third of that for stimulating investment in jobs, take a third of that in tax cuts to spur the economy, a third of that for strategic investments to spur the economy through education, innovation, to also spur the economy, and a third of that we wanted to put aside to pay down the debt and to keep Social Security secure. Instead, what happened. Our Republican colleagues rejected our approach, and now we have the largest deficits in the Nation's history due to the fact that all of it was put into a supply-side economics tax cut geared to the wealthiest among us at the expense of all of the rest of America.

Mr. President, these deficits are not free lunches. We have to pay them year by year. And how are we paying for them? Well, we are borrowing billions of dollars from Japan and China. Right now, Japan and China hold almost $1 trillion, $1 trillion of our national debt. And it is growing each and every year. Not only do taxpayers have to pay interest to China and Japan, our Government has refused to crack down on unfair trade practices with these two countries because we are so far in debt to them. I can tell you, coming from the great State of Michigan, our administration's unwillingness to crack down on trade violations, currency manipulation, counterfeit auto parts, and stealing our patents has had a profound impact on our losing jobs in Michigan. They are all related because of our policies in terms of the national debt affecting our inability to, in fact, enforce trade violations.

We can do better than that. Together, America can do better than this. We can get our fiscal house in order and get tough with our trading partners who are not playing by the rules. The reconciliation bill, unfortunately, though, will hurt working families in Michigan. For seniors who have worked hard their entire lives, they will see their most basic services cut. For some working single-parent families, they will see their health insurance cut. For hard-working family farmers, their livelihoods will be put in jeopardy.

With so many working families losing health insurance or paying more for less, is this a good time to be cutting Medicare and Medicaid, our Nation's health insurance programs for seniors and children? We can do better than that.

Also, given all the economic problems hurting our rural communities, including a terrible drought in Michigan, is this a good time to cut programs that help our farmers? Is now the time to force farmers who are struggling into bankruptcy? We can do better that.

This budget's priorities are so different than those of Michigan families. Michigan families want us to fight for good-paying jobs, for affordable health care, and for a secure pension. In essence, they want us to fight to preserve their way of life, the middle class of our country, where they can raise their kids, send them to college, get quality health care, retire with dignity after 30 or 40 years of hard work, and know that pension is going to be there along with Social Security.

Mr. President, America can do better than this document and this amendment. If we make the right budget choices, we can expand health insurance for working families and lower costs. We can create jobs, protect pensions, bring down the deficit if we make better budget choices.

As my colleagues know, our Nation's largest auto parts manufacturer, Delphi, declared bankruptcy 3 weeks ago, threatening 13,000 jobs in Michigan and 35,000 jobs nationwide. Its workers may not only lose their jobs, they will lose their health care and their pension; in other words, everything they have worked for for their entire lives, everything they have earned, everything they are counting on for themselves and their families. Tragically, this budget package does nothing for them. It increases the deficit, which hurts our economy, gives Japan and China the upper hand in trade negotiations, cuts health care, and does nothing to protect people. That is why I intend to vote no on this budget and on the amendment. I will continue to fight for Michigan's families who are struggling every single day, and I believe it is not just Michigan families struggling now but American families all across our great country.

I worry about whether their way of life is going to continue to exist. They want a change. They know we can do better than this.

They know this budget debate really is a proxy for a larger philosophical debate, a larger choice on values and priorities.

The Republican approach to governing is that you are on your own--no matter what the issue.

We believe that all families need jobs, health care, quality schools and a secure pension.

The Republican approach is that you are on your own.

If you lose your job, you are on your own. If your Medicare premiums rise 13 percent, you are on your own. If your schools are not performing well, you get a school voucher. And if your pension is threatened, you can try to get some of it back from the PBGC.

Mr. President, America can do better. Together, we can create good jobs, maintain our middle class way of life and get our country back on track.

But this budget will take us in the wrong direction.

I urge my colleagues to oppose it.

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