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Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I am proud to rise tonight and follow, first of all, Senator Sessions. He has come to the floor many times on this issue and talked about the crisis that is building in our Nation relative to the spending and the debt. He always speaks with such eloquence.
I also want to say thank you to my colleague, Senator Coburn, for giving me an opportunity to come down tonight and offer a few thoughts in the
time that we have. I appreciate it immensely.
Senator Coburn puts himself in a very difficult situation by standing on principle because, of course, he makes himself a target of somebody who wants to say he is not caring about the people who are out there and looking for work. I know him and very much that is the opposite. But here is the point. Here is what we are facing in this Nation. We are literally getting to a stage in our history where the cascading amount of debt is like a huge snowball that now is gaining enormous momentum as it comes down the mountain. It is just growing bigger and bigger.
I am going to head back home to Nebraska tomorrow. I am going to have an opportunity to get across the State. I have some--we call them community coffees but townhall meetings. I am going to talk to the people of Nebraska. I will guarantee that one of the first things on their agenda will be to raise concern about the spending and the debt they see going on here in Washington.
Let me, if I might, take a moment and talk about the ethic of the State that I come from because I think it is enormously important in terms of what we are doing. I might add, I have had an opportunity as county commissioner, as city council member, a mayor, and a Governor to represent this great State.
In my job as mayor of Lincoln, I was a strong mayor, so I was the guy responsible for the budget. Here is how we did it. There was only so much money that was available, and what we would do is we would put a list down, page after page, of very important priorities for the community. At some point on this list there would be a line drawn and my budget director would say to me: Mayor, if you want to go below that line and fund some of these other important priorities, you are going to have to look above that line and figure out what you can live without because it is at this line that we have to quit spending. Otherwise, our bond rating will be in jeopardy. Otherwise, the economic stability of this community will be in jeopardy.
You know what. We made some very hard choices. We had some things we would have loved to have done, but we began to realize we just couldn't fit them into the budget.
Then I had the good fortune of becoming the Governor of the State of Nebraska, and it didn't change anything. The Nebraska Constitution says we can only borrow $50,000. Maybe at some point in our State's history that was a handsome sum of money, but in effect what the constitution says is we cannot borrow money.
While other Governors were balancing budgets by issuing bonds and debt, we did not have that alternative. I had really three choices: raise taxes, which I did not like and opposed, cut spending, or do both. And I cut spending.
You could look at many places in that budget and say, well, MIKE, why did you choose this versus that? And you could have a great debate about why this priority versus that priority. But in the end, what we were doing was trying to choose the priorities for our State without borrowing money, without putting our State in debt, while maintaining economic stability.
I want to share that our State has fared as well as any State in the country during this very tough economic time. Our unemployment rate is about 4 1/2 percent. We value our businesses, we create jobs, and we do not spend money we do not have.
I came out here a year ago--a little more than a year ago--to join the Senate. I am as proud today as I was then to be here on the Senate floor. But here is what I will tell you: I am worried about where we are headed with this budget. You see, this $9 billion is very manageable. We want to provide unemployment insurance to the people who need it. We all do. We want to help these people. But we have a multitrillion-dollar budget here, and in effect what we are saying to the American people is that we cannot find $9 billion to offset the cost of that.
We can do better than that because, if that is what we are acknowledging, that we cannot find $9 billion to offset the cost of that important priority, then, my goodness, how will we ever deal with a budget deficit that is over $1 trillion annually--annually--as far as the eye can see.
I see I am running out of time, but I want to end with this thought. I had a wonderful group of schoolkids from Nebraska in today, from Superior, NE. I have been to Superior many times. It is a great community. And these kids are great kids. As I was talking about the various things that had happened here, I said something to them that I hope made the point of the need to take responsible action on this budget. I said this year I will celebrate my 60th birthday. God will not keep me on this Earth long enough to pay the debt that has been incurred.
It is no consolation to Nebraskans that I go home and say to them: I have been here over a year, and I figured out who is at fault, because, you know what, they are not caring about who is at fault. They are saying: MIKE, we elected you to go back there and lend your voice to try to fix these problems.
It will be of no consolation for me to go home and say, well, it was the Democrats or it was the Republicans. It will be no consolation.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Cantwell.) The Senator has used the time that has been yielded to him.
Mr. COBURN. I continue to yield.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator may continue.
Mr. JOHANNS. I said to those kids: I will not be on Earth long enough to pay this debt. I said to them: That means that will fall to you.
Do you know what I am saying to those kids? I am saying that the quality of their lives will be impacted by the fact that we could not take responsible action to deal with this debt.
I would like to say to them: You will not have any more wars. But they will have their own wars to fight. They will have their own pandemics to deal with. They will have their own recessions they have to somehow fund and finance. And they will have their own challenges they will have to deal with. You know what. If we do not start coming to grips with this debt, they will not have the resources to manage their way through those challenges.
You see, tonight is not about unemployment insurance. We want to help those people. Tonight is about making the statement that we have to take control of this because it is taking control of the future of those young people.
I yield the floor and the remainder of my time to Senator Coburn.
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