S. CON. RES. 21 -- (Senate - March 27, 2007)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the budget resolution that the U.S. Senate adopted last Friday.
Every year, Congress considers a budget resolution, setting the Government's priorities for the coming year. For the past 2 years since my election to the Senate, I have been compelled to vote against budget resolutions that I believed were out of touch with our fiscal realities and national priorities. This year, I was proud to support the resolution.
I commend the outstanding leadership of Chairman Conrad, who helped to produce a resolution that makes great progress getting our Nation's priorities back on track. Instead of deepening our fiscal hole with irresponsible tax giveaways to the wealthy, this budget makes an important departure from the Republican budgets of the recent past and brings our budget back into balance. Instead of gutting programs that help our most vulnerable citizens and communities, this budget allows these programs--like the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Medicare, COPS, and others--to keep serving those who rely on the important moral commitments our Nation has made. Instead of budget gimmicks and deferred responsibility, this budget brings greater transparency and responsibility back to Washington.
It does so first by reinstating pay-go. In a Democratic Senate, new mandatory spending, just like new tax cuts, must be paid for by offsetting spending reductions or revenue increases. Pay-go will require tough choices and difficult tradeoffs. We will not be able simply to pass along the debt to future generations for the choices we make today. We will have to be accountable for paying our own bills and collecting our own revenue. Pay-go by itself will not bring our budget back to balance, but it will prevent deficits from getting worse. Pay-go by itself cannot resolve our Nation's long-term liabilities, but it will restore the budget discipline that has been lacking in Washington for too long.
When I travel around the country or talk to families in Illinois, I hear about the same priorities again and again. People from all walks of life--farmers and small businesspeople, teachers and veterans, salespeople and service workers, doctors and senior citizens, people prospering and those struggling at the margins--all share a common set of concerns and aspirations. They want affordable health care for themselves and their children. They want a quality education for their children. They want to retire with dignity. They are concerned about our national security and our domestic security.
Unfortunately, many Americans are not convinced that their voices are heard here in Washington. They are not convinced because the President
proposed a budget that ignores their priorities. They are not convinced because they don't see enough serious efforts to reduce their health care costs or to improve educational opportunities. They are not convinced because it appears that for too long no one in Government has been held accountable for incompetent leadership and neglect of the public interest.
Fortunately, the budget resolution we adopted last week responds to their voices. It demonstrates to families across the Nation that we are once again paying attention to their concerns. They have a reason to start once again to have confidence in their Government.
Let me give a few reasons, why I supported this resolution.
The failure of our Nation to guarantee access to affordable health care for children is shameful, and the President's budget threatened to worsen the situation for children in working families. This budget rejects the President's proposed cuts to the State Children's Health Insurance Program, extends care to 6 million additional eligible children, and makes children's healthcare a priority for Congress.
This budget also makes progress to ensure that preschool children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive quality care and education; that children, no matter where they go to school, will have an equal opportunity for quality education; and will make college more affordable so that our children can compete in a global marketplace. By rejecting the President's proposed cuts in education and training, this budget shores up the Federal end of the bargain to support No Child Left Behind and support programs that educate individuals with disabilities.
This budget also includes $100 million for grants to establish summer learning programs in local school districts through the Summer Term Education Program. I thank Chairman Conrad for his assistance in getting my amendment to fund these programs included in the final resolution. These grants will help students in early elementary grades by supporting their participation in 6 weeks of summer school. Teachers tell us that students return to school each September at levels below their successes of the previous spring. Educators know this as ``summer learning loss,'' and research has shown that students, on average, lose more than 1 month of reading skills and 2 months of math skills during the summer. The impact of summer learning loss is greatest for children living in poverty, children with learning disabilities, and children who do not speak English at home. The achievement gap in education begins early in life and remains a burden for too many throughout their time in school. The Summer Term Education Program funded by this resolution will help to bridge this gap through structured summer learning opportunities.
The security of our Nation at home and abroad is also a critical priority, and honoring our veterans should be considered a sacred obligation. This budget fully funds our defense and homeland security funding needs and respects our duty to support our veterans. These brave men and women have sacrificed so much for us and for our Nation. Sadly, as uncovered by the Walter Reed scandal, our Government is failing them. This budget makes it possible to provide the quality health care and services that our veterans deserve. We cannot ignore the reality that there are financial and human costs to war. This budget recognizes that reality.
I am also pleased that the budget resolution includes an important bipartisan amendment that I offered with my colleagues, Senators BUNNING, BINGAMAN, LUGAR, and BOXER, to triple the administration's recommendation for carbon sequestration. This amendment provides an additional $200 million for Department of Energy efforts on carbon sequestration, for a total of $279 million in that account. Both environmental groups and the coal industry acknowledge the importance of better technology for carbon sequestration and control. The International Panel on Climate Change, environmental groups like NRDC, and the mining industry all are on record that the long-term deep geological storage of carbon is possible and is happening now on a small scale. But for it to occur on a far larger scale, we must redouble Federal efforts to make technologies widespread and economical in the next 15 years. A recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommended a $5 billion program over the next 10 years to achieve that goal. My amendment today provides a significant increase down that path.
Too many Americans say they lack confidence in our tax system because they hear about well-connected individuals and corporations getting away without paying their fair share. I believe this budget will begin to restore the confidence necessary for a fair and effective tax system. Instead of reaching deeper into the pockets of hard-working Americans, this budget will collect taxes where taxes are due. This budget calls for strong new measures to close the tax gap, shut down tax scams, and address offshore tax havens. I am proud of my efforts with Senator Levin and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to stop tax haven abuses, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 110th Congress to improve the fairness of our Tax Code.
The budget resolution we passed last week demonstrates that we can rise above ideology and gimmicks and begin tackling the serious challenges we face as a nation. It demonstrates that vision matters and leadership matters. I am grateful for Chairman Conrad's extraordinary leadership and the terrific work of his talented, dedicated, and hard-working staff. They worked well in committee and on the floor to help assemble a budget resolution that a majority of us in the Senate could vote for in good conscience and with confidence that America's fiscal policies have a chance, at long last, to get back on track.
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