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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2008--Conference Report

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I appreciate the kind words of the chairman. It has been a pleasure working with him and knowing that, given what he has had to deal with, in terms of the lack of budget resolutions and the deficit that has been created, he has done an extraordinary job of putting the fiscal ship of state back in order. It has been a pleasure to work with somebody who is grounded in what is important to the American people.

I find it so interesting; first, there is all of the rhetoric that is thrown around about Government, about tax and spend. What we have seen in the last few years has been a borrow-and-spend mentality--basically not paying for what we are spending. We had a $5.6 trillion surplus when I came into the Budget Committee in 2001, with President Bush coming into office. He was handed a $5.6 trillion surplus--a pretty nice gift for somebody coming into office. We debated what ought to be done with that. Unfortunately, a more balanced approach to focus on middle-class tax cuts, to grow the economy, investments in science, health care, education, and jobs, and putting some money aside for Social Security, for the long term, was rejected. That was our plan, but it was rejected by the majority at the time. Instead, a plan was put into place that has borrowed and spent us into the largest deficits in the history of the country.

When you look at the total debt right now, we are looking at a debt that is estimated to be $9 trillion by the end of this year. What concerns me as well about that is, who is buying that debt? Half of our foreign debt is owned by two countries, China and Japan. They turn around and don't follow the rules on trade. They manipulate their currency, which means their products come in with big discounts and compete unfairly against American workers and businesses. When we ask the administration to get tough, they don't do it. Why? Because it is pretty tough to try to enforce it.

This huge deficit that has been created is not only something we need to be concerned about from a fiscal standpoint, but jobs and what is happening in the global economy and our ability to fully enforce our trade laws--that is also impacted. That is why I am so pleased at what we are seeing with this budget resolution.

We have not had a budget resolution for a few years. When our colleagues were in charge, there wasn't one put together for a number of years. But now we have made a commitment to put together a budget resolution that is based on a couple of very important principles: first, a return to fiscal discipline. We are going to stop digging that hole that has put us into a deficit, and now we are going to work our way back out to fiscal responsibility. In fact, our budget comes into balance within 5 years. I am proud of that.

Secondly, we are putting middle-class families first. Throughout this budget, whether it be tax cuts or investments in education, or whether it be health care for our children, or making sure we fund law enforcement, or whether we are fully funding the military or homeland security, we are focusing on Americans and middle-class families--the folks who are working hard every day, who have been saying, hey, what about us? We have seen jobs go offshore and more and more dollars going to fewer and fewer people, in terms of spending. We have turned that around.

This is a new direction. I am very proud of the work that has been done with the House and the Senate. I am proud of our leader, Senator Reid, and our leader on the budget, Senator Conrad, who has done such an extraordinary job.

What are the elements we have put together relating to the budget? There are many pieces. We basically reversed what the President has done in terms of cuts in investments in Medicare and Medicaid and the COPS Program and a variety of others. Start with this. Basically, there are six areas we have focused on:

First, a return to fiscal responsibility. We put into place something called pay-as-you-go. At my house, it was called common sense, paying the bills and not spending more than you had coming in. That process has been put back into play so we can, in fact, balance the budget and return to fiscal responsibility.

We also have made investing in education and innovation a top priority. We know we are in a global economy and we are in a time and place where it is harder and harder for families to be able to afford college. Yet college is needed more than ever for advanced skills, for people who are going back to work, or for those who need to train for another type of job; and education from preschool and Head Start all the way up to college is a critical part of investing in the future of our country. America's young people are competing with students from around the world. We are competing in a global economy. Higher skills and focusing on education and opportunity are essential. So is innovation, because we know we have been the engine of great ideas. We have to keep that up, whether it is the National Institutes of Health or whether it is the advanced technology program relating to manufacturing technology--all kinds of ways in which America has been the leader. To maintain that, we have to make an investment, as any individual business makes an investment in the future, in innovation and ideas to be able to create more jobs. Our budget says we are going to return to fiscal responsibility and put education and innovation at the top for our families and for our future.

Then we are making a major commitment to cover health care for children. In fact, this budget puts a major commitment forward for the next 5 years of this budget resolution to cover every child with health insurance. We are talking about children of parents who are working. They may be working one or two jobs or three jobs, and we know the average single parent--the average mom today, to make ends meet, has to figure out how to work three different minimum wage jobs, and they probably don't have health care. We don't think it is right that in the greatest country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, moms and dads are going to bed at night saying, please, God, don't let the kids get sick. Please help our son not break his arm and have to go to the hospital because he has been playing sports or don't let our daughter get sick or hurt playing in sports and break a leg.

We want to make sure every child in America has health insurance. We make that commitment in this budget to fully fund SCHIP, the children's health care program. That is a downpayment on making sure we provide health care for everybody.

In this budget, we start with children, making sure every child in America has access to health care. Then I hope we take the next step within the next couple of years to do what needs to happen, which is to fundamentally say health care is a right and not a privilege in the greatest country in the world, and fully provide access to health care for every American. So we have education and health care as an investment.

Then we do something incredibly important, which I think every American agrees with and, frankly, is shocked hasn't been done in previous budgets in the last 6 years under the previous majority and this President, and that is we are going to keep our promises to our veterans. We have 50 different veterans organizations, service organizations, supporting what we are doing because we are taking their numbers about what is needed. They put together a budget called the independent budget, and they estimate how many new veterans are coming home from the war and how many current veterans are going to need help. For the first time, we are meeting that number on health care and in other areas, which is critical. We are saying we are going to keep our promises to our veterans, and the American people want us to keep our promises.

By the way, all of these things are not ``Washington'' or ``Government.'' It is all of us together. It is what we do in a civilized society, the greatest democracy in the world. We come together and decide how to allocate the precious resources. That is what we are doing. How do we invest these in a way that keeps our promises to veterans and creates opportunity for the future, for the American dream and for people in this country? We have a very important provision; we have middle-class tax cuts. We make sure the middle-class tax cuts that have been passed and are in place under the child credit and the marriage penalty and the tax cuts that affect middle-class families are extended.

We make sure that we put our focus where it ought to be--on middle-income families--because those are the folks being squeezed, those are the folks who are seeing their college costs go up, their health care costs go up, if they have it at all; their wages go down, if they have a job; their gas prices go up, and Lord knows they are going up and up and up. So it is our working families, our middle-class families, those who are barely scrimping by who are seeing all these costs descend on them.

When we look at that, we say we ought to make sure they are the ones who get the break. That is what our budget does.

Finally, we make sure we reverse the President's continual assault on the COPS Program and on other key investments in health care and technology, areas where every year the President has tried to eliminate, cut back. We have now in Michigan, since 2001, 1,600 fewer police officers on the streets. People can't believe that since 9/11 we actually have fewer police officers--and that number has been going up--on our streets in our communities than we had before 9/11.

We reject the President's further cuts in law enforcement. We restore those dollars. We put back dollars, we increase dollars for homeland security.

That is the picture. This is a picture of responsibility. We want to be fiscally responsible and, at the same time, we want to focus on putting middle-class families first. That is what our budget is all about.

Also, it is true there are some areas of the budget where we are raising revenue, and that comes in the category of closing outrageous tax loopholes for businesses and individuals who owe taxes, which is estimated anywhere up to $345 billion, folks who decided to take the money offshore, take the jobs offshore.

Our chairman has shown so many times the picture of the building in the Cayman Islands with over 12,000 businesses saying that is their business location. Obviously, it is not. We don't think they ought to get away with that.

Middle-class families, the majority of the people in this country, have a right to know if they are following the law, if they are paying their taxes, that we are making sure everybody is following the law and paying their taxes.

So, it is true, we do take some dollars from those folks who cheat, who leave the country, who too many times take jobs with them, and we say: You know what. You need to follow the law like everybody else. We take those dollars, and we put them back into making sure that education is available, health care for every child, police officers, firefighters in our communities, paying for our armed services, keeping our promises to our veterans. I call that setting the record straight, turning things around, and creating the right kind of priorities for our country. The budget is always about values and priorities. That is what it is, it is about values and priorities.

I am very proud of the values and priorities reflected in this budget.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. McCaskill). The Senator has used 15 minutes.

Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I urge my colleagues to join with us in this new direction set by this budget for the families of America.

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