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Public Statements

The Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GREGG. Mr. President, I rise to continue the discussion which was raised by the Senator from Tennessee relative to the letter which has been signed by all the Republican members of the Appropriations Committee. This is a unique event, in my experience. I have had the great honor and privilege of serving on this committee now for 14 years, and I have never participated in this type of an undertaking, which is basically the Appropriations Committee Republicans, at least, stepping up and doing the responsible thing in the area of trying to control the fiscal policy of this country when the Budget Committee has left the field.

The Budget Committee didn't leave the field arbitrarily; it is just that the other side of the aisle decided they did not want to do a budget for some reason. Actually, I know the reason. The reason we are not doing a budget of the country as we are supposed to do is that the budget shows we are in dire straits. We are going to have a $1.4 to $1.6 trillion deficit this year. It looks as if next year we are going to have a deficit in the range of $1.4 trillion. And for the next 10 years, every year under the Obama budget and under the spending plans of the Democratic leadership of this Congress, we are talking an average of $1 trillion a year of deficits. That adds up to a doubling of the debt in 5 years and a tripling of the debt in 10 years. The American people understand that we cannot do this, we cannot continue that type of profligate spending, that type of out-of-control spending.

But, unfortunately, the other party, which now controls with significant majorities both the House and the Senate, is unwilling to step up and produce a budget which brings those numbers down, which makes us more responsible in the area of spending and reduces the debt burden on our children. So the Republican members of the Appropriations Committee have said: Enough. We want to stop this out-of-control spending. We want to have a spending proposal in place that makes sense. And we picked a number that is very reasonable. It is essentially a freeze at last year's levels. It is a number which has been supported, interestingly enough, on this floor when it was offered as the Senator Sessions-Senator McCaskill amendment on four different occasions, by a majority of the Senate, with all of the Republican Members of the Senate voting for this type of essential freeze and with a number--I think between 16 and 18--of Democratic Senators voting for this. That is because there is a full understanding, at least on our side of the aisle and by some Members on the other side of the aisle who did vote for this, that we have to do something about controlling spending around here.

This letter essentially says that before we start marking up any bills in the Appropriations Committee, we have to have an understanding as to how much we are going to spend. Is that an unusual idea? Is it a terribly radical idea, that we should reach a number, an overall agreement on an overall number as to what we are going to spend around here before we start producing spending bills? No, it is not. It is exactly what the budget is supposed to do. But we do not have a budget for the reason I mentioned earlier--people do not want to talk about how big the deficit is around here because they are afraid the American people have already figured this out and will just get more outraged about it.

What we are doing and what we are suggesting in this letter and what we are saying in this letter is that we as Republican members of the Appropriations Committee expect there to be a budget for the Appropriations Committee even though there was not one passed here, with the top-line number being essentially the number in the Sessions-McCaskill, what amounts to a freeze proposal--freezing at 2010 levels, essentially--and that we will test every committee appropriations bill that comes forward on the basis of that number, and we hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, those on the Appropriations Committee and those who are not on the Appropriations Committee, will join us in this effort because it is a sincere effort and a reasonable effort since it was already voted on here with all of our side voting for it and a majority of the Senate voting for it. It is a reasonable number to set forward as the goal.

Yes, it does mean a significant reduction. We have to be forthright about this, and this is what we need to do, quite honestly. It does mean a significant reduction from what the President requested. It means a significant reduction from what the Senate Budget Committee passed in committee, which budget was never brought to the floor of the Senate because they did not want to shine lights even on that budget. There is no question it is a reduction and a fairly significant reduction from those numbers. But it is a reasonable number and it is an important number because it says we are willing to be disciplined about our spending around here and that is what we are going to have to do. We are going to have to make these types of tough choices. This is an effort by the Republican members of the Appropriations Committee to make clear that we are willing to make those types of difficult choices.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I wonder if the Senator from New Hampshire would accept a question?

Mr. GREGG. Yes, I would accept a question from the Senator from Tennessee.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I ask the Senator from New Hampshire, who served as chairman of the Budget Committee of the Senate and is now its ranking member--and there is no one in the Senate more familiar with the numbers in the Senate budget--is it not true that this request by Republican members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, since it comes at a time when many Americans and most Senators believe the level of the Federal debt is at crisis levels and threatens the security of our country and since it comes at a time when the Congress has not produced a budget and it comes at a time when there have been substantial increases over the last year and a half in the 38 percent of the budget that is discretionary spending, would the Senator from New Hampshire, who has long served on the Budget and Appropriations Committees, not agree that the first job of Senate appropriators is not to decide where to spend the money but to decide how much money there is to spend, especially this year when there is no budget?

Mr. GREGG. I think the Senator from Tennessee is absolutely right. How can we run a country and a government of a country if we are not willing to decide on how much we are going to spend and then stick to it? The reason we are so out of control around here in spending is because every week for the last 8 to 10 weeks we have seen a new bill brought to the floor of the Senate which has added to the debt and the deficit of this country.

Interestingly enough, 8 weeks ago we passed a bill on this floor, with great fanfare from the other side of the aisle, called pay-go.

That bill said all the bills that came to the floor of the Senate were going to be subject to a test, which essentially said that before you spent any money, you paid for what you are spending.

Since we passed that bill, over $200 billion--billion--has been proposed or passed by the Senate which violated the very rule we allegedly passed to try to discipline the Senate. So it is very clear that unless you set out some hard parameters, unless you set out some very specific spending limits--and that is what the letter from the Appropriations Republicans does--you are not going to get any discipline around here. We will just bring bill after bill out of committee and we will spend money we do not have.

Where does it all go? Well, it all goes to our children as debt, and we have to borrow it from the Chinese or we have to borrow it from somebody else. Then we have to pay the interest on that. That interest does not do us any good as a nation.

In fact, under the President's own projections, his own budget, the interest on the Federal debt will exceed any other item of spending in the Federal budget on the discretionary side within 7 years. We will spend more on interest, because we are adding all of this deficit and debt, than we spend on national defense. What a waste of money that is. So unless we get some discipline around here on the spending side, this deficit is going to grow, the debt is going to grow.

I saw a most interesting figure. I think the Senator from Tennessee has seen it too. Since President Obama has been President, for every second since he has become President, $56,000 has been added to the debt of the United States--$56,000. That is the mean income of Americans today. So every second he has been in office he has wiped out the income of some American who is working, because that income is all going to have to be spent to pay off that debt.

Granted, not all that debt was his fault. But interestingly enough, as we go further into his administration, a large amount of it is his decisions and the decisions of this Congress, such as the $200 billion in debt that we have been adding or about to add that violates pay-go.

This week we are going to take up another supplemental bill. Does the Senator know how much deficit and debt that bill will add if it is passed in the form the administration and the Democratic leadership have asked, just this week? I think it is somewhere in the vicinity of $20 billion to $30 billion of new deficit and debt.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I wonder if I could ask the Senator another question. The Senator was talking about the increasing debt. Am I correct that it took the first 43 Presidents of the United States and the Congresses they served with about 230 years to run up $5.8 trillion in debt, but President Obama's 10-year proposal, through 2018, would add another $11.8 trillion?

In other words, am I right that the first 43 Presidents piled up $5.8 trillion in debt, and this President's 10-year budget, through 2018, would double that?

Mr. GREGG. Triple it. The Senator was off by 100 percent but close. In the next 5 years, the President will double the national debt under the deficits which he is projecting under his budget. And in the next 10 years he will triple the national debt. As you say, if you take all of the Presidents from George Washington through George W. Bush, put all of the debt they have added on the books of the United States through all of those administrations, cumulatively, add every one together, President Obama will have added more debt than all of the prior Presidents added, the first 43 Presidents of this country, in the first 4 1/2 years of his administration.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I have one other question, if I may, for the Senator from New Hampshire. I know we sometimes hear the American people say, or commentators say: Well, why don't those Senators work across party lines and get a result?

My question to the Senator from New Hampshire, who has years of experience on Appropriations and Budget, is, in the present circumstances where we have a debt crisis, and where we have no budget, no budget for next year, and we will not have, would he not agree that at the beginning of the process, taking a number that has been voted on by a majority of the Senate and has widespread bipartisan support, is a constructive bipartisan approach that ought to be able to gain the respect of Democratic appropriators and Democratic Senators, and that we could work together this year to essentially freeze discretionary spending as a first step toward reining in Federal spending?

In other words, sometimes we see amendments around here that are called message amendments, each side trying to score a point. Is this not a proposal that deserves respect as a serious attempt to restrain the debt and that should earn bipartisan support?

Mr. GREGG. I thank the Senator from Tennessee for his point. That is absolutely valid. This is a bipartisan proposal for all intents and purposes. It has been voted on. I think it got 57 votes once. I think that was the most it got; maybe it got 58. There are only 41 Republicans, so clearly it had a large number of Democratic votes from the other side of the aisle, because the number is reasonable.

``Freeze'' is a reasonable number on the nondefense discretionary side, at a time when we are running deficits that are over $1.4 trillion. You have got to start somewhere. You know, all great journeys begin with a step. So this is the place we should start, right here, by freezing nondefense discretionary spending. We, as Republican appropriators, have said we are willing to do it. I certainly think the Senator from Tennessee is absolutely right; this is an attempt to reach across the aisle and bring in a bipartisan coalition to accomplish this, using a number which has already received significant bipartisan support.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I thank the Senator.

Mr. GREGG. I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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