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Public Statements

The Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I have been sitting in my office listening to news reports about the Congress and the President arguing about the budget and the debate about what we are going to cut. It is interesting to think back over the last couple of years, because it is hard to put these things together. After 2 years of the largest expansion of government, the biggest increase in debt in our history, now suddenly we are debating what needs to be cut.

I think over the last couple of years as the President proposed a massive spending plan--which we called a stimulus--and Republicans were saying no, that is not the way to improve the economy. But the President insisted it would keep unemployment below 8 percent and get our economy going again.

Republicans said no. We were accused of being the party of no. As it turns out, we were right.

Then it wasn't too long until the President insisted we needed essentially a national takeover of our health care system, and this, he promised, would lower the cost of health insurance. Republicans said no, what we need is more freedom for patients and physicians to work together, and more transparency, more competitiveness in the market. The President said no, that his way of nationalizing health care was better. Republicans were again called the party of no for saying that was not the way to go. But as it turns out, we were right. Insurance premiums are headed straight up. Even the New York Times today talked about skyrocketing insurance premiums and less health care.

Well, it wasn't long after that until the President and our Democratic majority wanted more national control of our whole banking system, with the financial reform that was supposed to loosen credit and help our economy get going again. But I have talked to too many bankers back home to believe that worked. Of course, Republicans said no, that wasn't the direction we needed to go. We were called the party of no. But as it turns out, we were right.

You might say we were the party of no, but you spell it K-N-O-W. We knew this centralization of power, of government control, was not going to stimulate our economy, that it was not going to improve our health care system, and it wasn't going to improve our banking system. It was the time to say no.

Last November, the American people decided it was time to say no. They began to put a stop to what has been going on around here, and we know what happened in the House and the elections over here. The American people were pretty clear. They instinctively knew we couldn't continue to spend more than we were bringing in. They knew when you are borrowing 40 cents on every dollar you spend that sooner or later the country is going to be bankrupt.

But it is amazing that since that election, even with the changes here, our colleagues on the other side the other day killed a proposal to balance the budget--a resolution that called for the balancing of the budget. I think most Americans know if you are not willing to balance your checkbook or balance your budget, sooner or later you are going to be bankrupt. I think that is what a lot of Americans are afraid of right now.

I think we have a different situation going on with our colleagues on the other side. From Wisconsin to here in Washington, as we look at the budget problems and the debate on how to cut spending at the Federal level, we have a party of no show. They are not showing up for the debate in Wisconsin. The Democrats headed across the State line. And in the budget debate, the President, who had pledged to do something about our spending and our deficits and go through the budget line by line, didn't even produce a budget. And regarding the budget he proposed this year--and promised that it would keep us living within our means--even the most liberal commentator said this expands our debt nationally probably more than $10 trillion over the next 10 years.

We are over $14 trillion in debt, we hit our debt ceiling within the next month or 2, and we are debating how much to cut.

I want to talk a little bit about this debate because it shows that even with the astounding election we had in November, very quickly Congress is back to business as usual. The deficit we are looking at this year in America--this is just 1 year--is over $1.5 trillion. That is going to be on top of the $14 trillion that we are already experiencing. The projections are that we will increase our debt over the next 10 years another $1 trillion every year. Last month, in February--which was a short month--over $220 billion of debt was incurred in that 1 month. That is a larger deficit than we have experienced in most years our country has been around. It is crazy, $220 billion in 1 month.

We are facing $1.5 trillion this year. It is amazing how this place can lower our expectations. Do you know what the debate is about right now? The Republican House has proposed $61 billion in cuts against the $1.5 trillion. The Democrats have told us this is completely unacceptable; these are Draconian cuts. The President proposed around $6 billion. I think the Democratic leader is coming out with one that is about $4.5 billion, which some say is too much of a cut.

As we are looking at doubling this $14 trillion deficit over the next 10 years or close to doubling it, and the hard decisions we have to make about how to deal with Social Security and Medicare, the big decisions about how we economize even in areas like our defense, how we possibly deal with this debt, we have a Congress now that instead of addressing the issue of $1.5 trillion is debating between $61 billion and $6 billion. These are fractional. You cannot even see the line here, of what is being proposed by our Democratic colleagues.

I am afraid that President Obama and Democrats, like we see in Wisconsin, are not showing up for this debate. Instead of proposing realistic ways to tighten our belts at the Federal level and look at how we can balance our checkbook, as so many Americans have to do every month in their homes, the President has decided to sit on the sidelines and criticize things that have to be trimmed or cut or changed.

It is amazing. The Democratic leader has called Republicans ``mean spirited'' because they are proposing to cut funding for a cowboy poetry festival. I love poetry and cowboys as much as anyone else, but we are looking at bankrupting our Nation, destroying the future that was given to us by our predecessors, and we cannot even get close to a realistic debate on how we can stop this rampage toward bankruptcy in America. There is not enough there. Even what the House Republicans have done is not enough. I realize that politics is sometimes the art of the possible, but I am hoping it can become the promotion of the principles that make this country great and can secure our future.

We all have to decide today how we are going to vote. Obviously, this $6 billion is not a serious proposal by our Democratic colleagues. But I think those of us who realize we are up against a mountain of debt--how do we deal with even the highest proposal now that is coming through Congress? My point is this: There are some hard decisions that have to be made in Washington, some very hard decisions. There is a new reality that we have to face as a Congress. We have to tell the truth. Americans just want the truth. They want fact-based budgeting. They want us to do what we need to do to save our country. Obviously, no one wants anything that is coming to them to be cut, but I have talked to too many Americans who have said: Keep fighting. Do what has to be done to leave this country as good as we found it. I think that is a reasonable request for us to consider.

What we are doing is not even within the realm of reality of what has to be done to leave America better than we found it. This is not about partisan politics anymore, this is about the survival of America. This is about avoiding bankruptcy not just for our country, but this country has been the bastion of freedom and the model for democracy and freedom for centuries. The other countries even today are looking to us and wanting to be free as violence erupts around the world. They want to overthrow authoritarian regimes so their people can live in freedom. But at the time other countries strive to be like America, America seems to be determined, at least at the political level, to push our way toward being a Third World country that is so in debt and so dependent that we can no longer determine our destiny.

Today America is literally on its knees to China and other countries for the credit we need to run our economy. We are also on our knees to the Middle East, which is very unstable right now, for the energy we need to run our country, to even take our food to market, the essentials at home. But instead of addressing the real issues, knowing this budget is in front of us, over the last couple of weeks, when we knew we just had this 2-week funding bill to get us through, instead of debating what we are really up against we have been dealing with a patent bill.

I think it is good to improve our patent system, but the party that is leading the Senate has been a no-show on the issue that is really threatening our country. And unless they show up, it is very difficult for Republicans--who are not in the White House; they are not controlling the Senate--to actually take the steps that are needed to move our country back in the right direction.

My invitation today is to my Democratic colleagues, that after listening to them call us the party of no, I will say that we were right, and our hope is they will listen to what we are saying and show up for the debate on our budget and do what we need to do to change the role of the Federal Government, to devolve functions back to the States and back to individuals so this country can continue to survive and thrive and succeed in the future.

This is within our grasp. It is something we can do. This is not a doomsday scenario because many of the solutions are not in what the Federal Government can do but what the Federal Government can let go of. As we look at the problems we have, it is not a matter that freedom has failed. The problem is we have failed to let freedom work. We have tried to take control of education, of health care, of transportation, of energy, of retirement programs. The fact is, we have not done it well and now we are spending so much that our country is threatened with bankruptcy. There are good solutions if we are willing to look at letting things go.

As we consider this massive debt hill we have to climb, we need to realize we can and we must balance the budget. That is probably what I would consider the No. 1 goal of the Republicans right now is to produce a budget that shows within 5 years that we can balance the budget and leave America better off than before we started. I believe with real freedom solutions we can do that.

We need to go back to where we started. This political system, this Washington establishment has brought America to the brink of bankruptcy. The debt in 1 year--even 1 month--and we are talking about not even addressing for maybe a few days and we cannot even agree on this $61 billion.

I hope the American people who were so instrumental in changing things in November will rise up and let Washington know that it is time to get serious about reforming the way we spend money in Washington. We have had reports in the last week that show over $100 billion of outright waste that we could cut immediately if we would just address it. But when one party will not show up for the debate it is very difficult to do.

Let's make this more than partisan politics. Let's cooperate. Let's look at the real problem and let's address it. I believe we can succeed.

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


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