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Public Statements

Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that speakers on the Republican side be limited to 10 minutes each, with Senator Coburn controlling up to 25 minutes.


Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the two proposals, the Democratic proposal and the Republican proposal from the House known as H.R. 1. I am going to reluctantly support H.R. 1. It reduces government spending by about $61 billion below last year's levels. The reason I am reluctantly supporting it is because I don't think it goes far enough.

We have heard the other side rail that the cuts are too large, but let me bring to the attention of my colleagues a few quotes.

This is from ADM Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff:

I believe that our debt is the greatest threat to our national security.

We know our national debt is over $14 trillion. This year, we are spending, in excess of what we take in, almost $1.6 trillion. All we are talking about in the House bill is reducing that amount by $61 billion--a paltry amount.

A few other quotes.

This is from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on February 17:

It is an excessively high interest burden. It's unsustainable. With the President's plan, even if Congress were to enact it, and even if Congress were to hold to it and reduce those deficits as a percentage of GDP over the next 5 years, we would still be left with a very large interest burden and unsustainable obligations over time.

He also said:

Our deficits are too high. They are unsustainable.

I think everybody agrees.

They are unsustainable and, if left unaddressed, these deficits will hurt economic growth and make us weaker as a nation.

One of the bills before the Senate starts to address it. The other bill virtually ignores the deficit.

This is from the President:

What my budget does is to put forward some tough choices, some significant spending cuts so that by the middle of this decade our annual spending will match our annual revenues. We will not be adding more to the national debt.

It is absolutely incredible that the President could make such a comment when looking at his budget. His budget takes us from $14 trillion in debt to $27 trillion in debt over the next decade, almost doubling the national debt. He says we are going to be living within our means?

Here is a graph. In 2010, we are at about $13.5 trillion. We see that over the decade we go up further, further, and down here in 2021, it is $26.3 trillion. This is virtually a doubling of the national debt.

That is why when Timothy Geithner says it is unsustainable--the Secretary of the Treasury appointed by President Obama--we all agree. So when are we going to get spending under control? We literally have to quit spending money we do not have because we are bankrupting the very future of America.

I wish to quote a few Senators from the other side of the aisle.

Senator Joe Manchin said:

The most powerful person in these negotiations, our President, has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending cuts.

He also said:

[The Democratic bill] utterly ignores our fiscal reality, that our Nation is badly in debt and spending at absolutely unsustainable and out-of-control levels. We must turn our financial ship around. But the Senate proposal continues to sail forward as if there is no storm on the horizon.

That is from one of our Democratic colleagues from West Virginia.

The bill proposed by the Democratic majority fails to understand that there is a fiscal crisis in this country. It is a problem of spending.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said:

I feel strongly that the cuts are not large enough.

Senator Mark Warner said:

At some point we need to send some kind of a shock wave across the Federal Government that this time we really mean it.

He was talking about spending cuts. He was talking about getting serious about deficit reduction.

The House bill doesn't do enough, but at least it is headed more in the right direction for getting spending under control. While I might not agree with every one of the spending cuts in it, it is going in the right direction, and shows what we need to do as a Congress. The bill the majority has put before us shows a lack of understanding as to how serious the deficit and the debt are as an issue for the country.

I wish to put this deficit reduction into some sort of context. This year, the Congressional Budget Office says we will spend $1.5 trillion more than we take in. That is what the deficit is this year. According to the President, it is over $1.6 trillion. Those are their estimates. The bottom line is that we are spending about 40 cents more per dollar than what we take in.

This graph shows the spending proposals before us. This is how much the deficit is. The House bill will reduce that deficit by this tiny slice of the pie. The Democratic majority bill will reduce it by this little tiny slice of the pie right here. So the House bill is a small slice, but at least it is a larger slice than what the Democratic majority has offered. The bottom line is that this is pathetic and will do nothing to actually put us on a sustainable fiscal path where we can start living within our means and quit spending money we do not have.

The House bill itself is actually a 4-percent reduction in the amount of money we are borrowing. If we think about it, this year, since we are borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend, to put that in terms that maybe a family would understand, it would be as if a family making $60,000 a year were going to spend $100,000. Any family would understand that is unsustainable. They could not continue along that path. If that same family were to decrease their spending habits by the same amount the Democrats have proposed, out of that $100,000, they would reduce their spending habits by $168. That is all. That is how pathetic this spending reduction is offered by the other side.

We have to get serious. Recently, Senator Coburn requested a General Accountability Office report that came back and identified over $100 billion in duplicative and wasteful spending programs. This GAO report underscores the negligence of the Federal Government when it comes to managing hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Let me give a couple of facts from that report. It said that the government spends $18 billion on 47 different job-training programs. Yet the President requested another $400 million for a new program that will replicate proven strategies to develop even more job-training programs. Out of the 47 programs, zero are measured for effectiveness. Yet we are going to create more instead of eliminating a lot of the programs and doing the proper oversight this Congress should be doing.

There are 80 programs providing transportation to disadvantaged persons in 8 different departments. The GAO found $2 billion in costs for just 29 of these programs but, with the extent of fragmentation in this area, was unable to identify total costs for the other 51 programs. In other words, they couldn't even identify what the total costs were for these other programs. That is how messed up it is.

The U.S. Government also spends about $63 billion on 18 different domestic food and nutrition programs and about $3 billion on 20 homelessness programs. The report notes:

This can create unnecessary work for both providers and applicants and may result in the use of more administrative resources than needed.

Let me translate. That means we have too much bureaucracy and too much wasteful spending, so the money doesn't actually get to the people it is intended to help. It gets spent in the bureaucracy.

We also have another almost $60 billion spent on over 100 duplicated and fragmented surface transportation programs.

While I am troubled that the $61 billion from the House isn't enough to tackle the problem, I am astounded by what

the other side of the aisle has done. It also continues many of the wasteful programs we have talked about.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has come under fire. Obviously, this morning their CEO resigned. We have seen the controversies there.

Their bill also spends tens of millions of dollars to help unions organize--overseas, not even in America. Helping unions organize overseas--is that what we want to be doing with American taxpayer dollars?

Today's votes are a choice between modest progress and making the problem worse.


Mr. ENSIGN. The House bill needs to be the floor for what we accomplish out of this process. The House bill isn't nearly enough, and we cannot allow this process to capture a modest improvement in the name of compromise by watering it down to a complete abdication of leadership. The stakes are too high.

Today, I will be reluctantly supporting H.R. 1, the House bill, which cuts $61 billion from last year's spending. It is a modest step in the right direction. The other side has put forward a proposal that should be rejected out of hand because it is completely inadequate. It keeps us spending money we do not have.

I yield the floor.


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