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Public Statements

Government Shutdown

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, first, I say a special thanks to Senator Corker, not just for what he said about the issues we are facing on the path forward but the nice words he said about his friend from Delaware. It is a pleasure to serve with him. I thank him for introducing the concept of tele-townhall meetings. We do that a lot in Delaware. I learned that from him. The President has been likening the squabble going on here to a family squabble between a husband and wife. He said what husbands and wives usually do is figure out their differences, find middle ground, compromise, and work them out.

One of the things I love to do when I go up and down my State is to talk with people who have been married a long time--I am sure this happens to the Presiding Officer--50 years, 60 years, 70 years. I like to ask them what is the key to being married 50, 60, 70 years. I get some funny answers and some great answers as well. I am sure the Presiding Officer does too.

One of my favorite answers is a couple said to me: Two Cs.

I said: What is that?

They said: Communicate and compromise.

There is a little theme going on here with a former Governor of Virginia, Senator Warner, a former mayor of Chattanooga, Senator Corker, and a former Governor of Delaware. I want to continue with that theme.

I go home at night to Delaware. I take the train home, and I come back the next morning. This morning, I was walking on the platform to catch my train. One person said to me: You all are acting like a State legislature in the Senate.

I said: No, that is not the way we act in Dover, DE. When I was Governor, we had a Democratic senate, as we have here, we had a Republican house, as we have here, and we had a Democratic Governor for those 8 years. Yet we managed to work out our differences, to communicate and compromise and to be able to balance our budget 8 years in a row, cutting taxes 7 out of those 8 years, adding tens of thousands of jobs, which was no mean feat in our State, and to get ourselves a triple A credit rating for the first time in the history of our State. That is what you can do when you communicate and compromise in good faith.

At the end of these negotiations--I think largely taken in good faith. I have a lot of respect certainly for our own leaders and a healthy respect for the Speaker of the House, with whom I served briefly. I think he is an honorable person and a guy who tries to do what is right.

The President said--and I heard this from pretty good sources--the President said to the Speaker of the House: We will take your number. We will agree on the spending cuts. We may think it is a little too much focus on domestic discretionary spending, not enough on defense, not anything on entitlements, nothing on the revenue side. It is not a balanced package, but we will take your number. This ended up not so much a discussion over how we are going to further reduce spending in this fiscal year. The discussion is over things I think we addressed already in this body this week on whether the Environmental Protection Agency should be allowed to comply with the Clean Air Act, as ordered by the Supreme Court, to reduce pollution or are we going to tie their hands with some kind of a special rider on what should be a continuing resolution to fund the government?

We have had four bites out of the apple this week. None of the amendments to tie the hands of EPA and their ability to enforce the Clean Air Act has been adopted. What we are now trying to do with our friends in the other body is somehow put in the legislation as a rider language that would fly in the face of what we already decided here.

A second point. As a former Governor, I was active in the National Governors Association. One issue I worked hard on with George Voinovich from Ohio when he was Governor was legislation that said we do not like Federal mandates. States do not like Federal mandates that say you have to spend money on something or you cannot spend money on something or you have to raise revenues this way or raise them in that way. We did not like that.

Congress actually passed and President Clinton signed legislation on unfunded mandates. We do not do it nearly as much as we used to. One of the riders is to tell the District of Columbia what they can and cannot do with their money--not with Federal money but what they can and cannot do with their money. In my mind it is a violation of the unfunded mandate law, certainly in spirit if not in truth.

One of the issues we appear to be divided on is whether Federal money should be used for family planning. I think we all agree we should work toward having fewer abortions. I think almost everybody agrees we would like to have fewer abortions. One way to make sure we have more abortions is to reduce the money set aside for family planning. It is counterintuitive. If you want fewer abortions, cut funding for family planning. That makes no sense to me. I hope we will walk away from making that bad decision.

Again, I go back to the comments of our friends from Virginia and Tennessee who preceded me. This is a speed bump ahead of us. We are talking about how to come up with $4 billion, $5 billion, $6 billion in savings for the rest of this fiscal year. How about when we are looking for $4 trillion of savings over the next 10 years? That is the tough negotiation. It all has to be on the table. It cannot just be discretionary spending on the domestic side. We can eliminate it entirely, but we will still have a big budget deficit. Defense has to be on the table. Last year, there were $402 billion in cost overruns on major weapons systems. That is up $42 billion from 10 years ago. Defense and entitlements have to be on the table. Revenues have to be on the table.

We have been given a roadmap--not a perfect roadmap, but a roadmap--by the deficit commission, chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.

The last thing I want to say is, coming down on the train today, I read the business section of the New York Times. There is actually some pretty interesting stuff in there. One of the things they reported on was the retail numbers for last month. Most analysts thought they would be down, but they are up.

I was at an auto dealership this past weekend in Milford, DE, talking about car sales. They are not flat. They are up. It was not just that dealership but throughout my State and the Nation. Two years ago, 9 million trucks and vans; last year, up to 11 million; next year, 13 million. Credit is available again and things are moving in the right direction.

Every Thursday, as the Presiding Officer knows, we have a number from the Department of Labor. It is new unemployment filings, how many people have filed a new claim for unemployment. We get it every Thursday. If we go back to the end of 2008, I think the top number in 1 week was 660,000 filings, people filing for unemployment, new claims at the end of 2008. Yesterday, for last week, we are down to 380,000 to 390,000. We saw jobs numbers created, new jobs for March, 220,000 private-sector jobs being created. We are going the right way.

Finally, the economic recovery is beginning and we need to strengthen it. One of the best ways to undermine it--one of the worst things we can do--is to add uncertainty, add unpredictability. I am not sure who said this. Maybe it was John Ensign who said this before. One of the things businesses need and want, that markets need and want is certainty and predictability.

One of the reasons big companies are sitting on the sidelines--a bunch of them still are--and not hiring people, even though they are sitting on cash--is unpredictability. What are we going to do with the budget, not just short-term runup, but for the 10-year plan, the $3 trillion, $4 trillion, $5 trillion in savings? What is the Supreme Court going to do with health care? Are they going to throw it out or fix it and make it even better? What are we going to do about energy policy? What are we going to do about tax policy? What are we going to do about transportation policy? All those are uncertainties.

We can begin to resolve the budgetary uncertainty by agreeing on a reasonable spending reduction plan for the balance of this fiscal year and go to work on the much tougher problem, and that is how to take $4 trillion out of our debt in the years to come.

Last thing I want to say is that a couple of us have been working on this in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. What we are beginning to do is to use our committee's jurisdiction to look into every nook and cranny of this government to ask this question: How do we get better results for less money? How do we get better results in domestic spending, how do we get better results in defense spending, and how do we get better results for less money in entitlement programs? And frankly, with the tax expenditures as well. How do we get better results?

I call it getting rid of a culture of spendthrift and replacing it with a culture of thrift. Above and beyond all the other stuff we are doing, we need to do that as well. Because everything I do, I know I can do better. I think the same is true of all of us. Everything we do, we can do better, and the same is true of Federal programs. The question we have to ask as we look to every one, as we look in every nook and cranny of the Federal Government, is to ask this question: Can we get better results for less money or at least better results for the same amount of money or not much more money? For a lot of them, the answer is: Yes, we can. For us, the challenge is to do that.

With that being said, I yield back my time. I see my friend from Nevada is here, and I am sure he is anxious to agree with everything I have said, and I welcome that.


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