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Increasing The Statutory Limit On The Public Debt - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, I acknowledge my colleague, Senator Sessions from Alabama, and welcome the opportunity to join him in an attempt to restore some sanity in Congress about spending.

I come from a State where there is a requirement of a balanced budget, although, over the last couple years, I am not sure how they would have done that without incredible pain if it hadn't been for the help the Federal Government sent them. There is no question that the fact that we don't have to balance the budget in Washington has led to some very bad habits.

I was thinking about spending over the weekend, as this week there are a number of provisions we will debate that I have sponsored or am a big supporter of, including the fiscal task force amendment which went down this morning by a narrow vote, and obviously pay-go, which I have been the lead Senate sponsor on over the last several months. These are all things with which we are trying to fight something that you encounter all the time as a parent. How much easier it is to say yes than no. My kids hate when I give them that lecture because they are always wanting me to say yes. I always say the easiest thing to do is to say yes--yes, you can have that outfit; yes, you can take my car; yes, you can go see your friends, even though I am not sure you finished whatever chores you had around the house. It is always easier to say I will go along with it, it is a good cause.

That is what happens around here. It is not like we are spending on evil stuff. We are spending on stuff we believe in--education, highways, our parks, our military--and we are spending on things that make it even harder to say no.

The time has come that we all have to feel the pain of saying no. We all have to be willing to suffer the political consequences of saying no. That is why this amendment is such an important step in the right direction.

I want to be honest about this because we have a tendency to make things bigger than they are. This isn't going to make a dramatic change in the deficit or the debt. I am not sure how many Americans have focused on the difference between the two, but they are two different things, and it will not make a huge difference. People need to remember that if we took out all discretionary spending and decided we were not going to spend another dime on education, highways or any of the things we decide on spending every year, we will still have a massive deficit problem. We don't fix the deficit by passing this amendment. We don't fix the deficit by saying we are not going to even do discretionary domestic spending anymore. So this is not a fix-all. Do you know what it does? It begins to get us well. It is a little like earmarking. Is earmarking the huge problem? No. But it is similar to a fever; it is a symptom of a disease. This will help us get well.

It will be a step toward recovery if we can pass this amendment to freeze our discretionary spending. I am so pleased the White House has called for a freeze. I think this is a wonderful bipartisan moment. I think we are all hankering for a good bipartisan moment right now. I hope we are all hankering for a good bipartisan moment. I got worried this morning on the vote on the fiscal task force because it seemed like there might have been some political games being played. I don't know about anybody else, but I am hankering for a good bipartisan moment. This ought to be one, where Republicans and Democrats set aside who looks good and who looks bad, who gets credit and who gets the blame, and do something we need to do.

We used to have a freeze and we used to have pay-go. They were both allowed to expire in 2002. I wasn't here. I am not sure why they were allowed to expire. Did Congress all of a sudden think we don't need pay-go anymore or we don't need limits on discretionary spending anymore because we are out of the woods when it comes to the deficit or debt? I am not sure why that happened. I know most of the folks who let those things expire wish they could take it back. I bet most of the folks who did voting for major entitlement programs without paying for them during that time--I bet they wish they could take it back because now we are in a real mess.

The first and most important step to get out of this mess is to vote to control our spending. I am hopeful this will be passed by a wide margin. Some of my friends on the left have said the last thing in the world we should do now is limit spending, that government is the answer in this difficult recession. I voted for the stimulus, and I think the tax cuts in the stimulus, which don't get talked about enough, and the help to the States, which doesn't get talked about enough, and the jobs that will be created this year are very important to the progress we have made in terms of climbing out of the economic hole we found ourselves in a year ago.

But we will not get out of this recession on the back of government spending. If we decide it is just about government spending during this recession, we are dealing a very bad hand to our grandchildren.

I hope this amendment passes. I hope it is not even controversial. I am so pleased the President is on board, and I am pleased that so many members of the Republican party are on board. Let's take this important step, and then let's live up to it during the appropriations process. Let's realize that pet project at home that we know we can get because we can get an earmark--maybe this is the year to say no and push back from the table and say all those pet projects, those earmarks, are not the right signal we need to send to the American people this year.

I thank my colleague from Alabama and Senator Kyl, who were cosponsors on this. I look forward to wide bipartisan support. I look forward to enthusiastic applause tomorrow night in the President's State of the Union Address, when he lays out his freeze on spending. We are all on board now. Let's make it happen.

I yield the floor.


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