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Public Statements

Governement Shutdown

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, I say hello to my good friend from Delaware. He made some very good comments. I want to follow up and talk about this debate we are having.

The Senator from Tennessee, Senator Corker, talked about the need to forget about whether you are a Republican or a Democrat and think about what is best for the country, and that is what we should be doing right now.

People around the country understand we have a serious debt problem. Spending has been run up under Republicans and Democrats. People can blame whichever party they want, but the reality is we now have a $14 trillion national debt. This year alone, $1.6 trillion is how much more we are going to spend than we take in. That is 40 cents, or a little over 40 cents, out of every dollar we are spending this year we are borrowing from countries like China. That is such a dangerous thing to do, because we are now dependent on other countries and our economy is on very shaky ground. Everyone in this body understands this is completely unsustainable.

Let's look at the path the President has set us on as far as his budget is concerned. If we took up his budget, this year alone we will spend about $250 billion in interest on our national debt. That is kind of like having a credit card and you are spending $250 billion in interest on that credit card. If we follow the President's plan over the next 10 years, that $250 billion will go to almost $900 billion a year. That is more than Social Security, more than Medicare, and more than national defense. That is why this is completely unsustainable.

So now we are in a debate over a few billion dollars compared to trillions of dollars? It is a drop in the bucket. That is why I believe it is important for both sides to get this behind us so we can focus on the much larger issues.

I have a 100-percent pro-life voting record. I believe very strongly that life is precious; that God created each of us in his image, and that life should be protected. But we have to face reality. The Democrats are in control of the Senate and in control of the White House. There is no way they are going to allow Planned Parenthood, which is the largest abortion provider in the United States--and I disagree with what they do--the Democrats will never allow us to defund Planned Parenthood while they are in charge. So we have to look at what we can do. What is achievable?

Right now, I think one of the biggest moral issues we face in this country is the debt. What we are doing to our children and grandchildren is handing them a country they cannot afford. The taxes will have to be too high. We could default on our debt and end in a depression which is worse than the Great Depression simply because this body, the body on the other side of the Capitol, and the White House have spent too much money for too long. We have spent money we do not have.

Next year's budget and the debt ceiling are much bigger issues than we are dealing with here. We don't need to shut down the government. We just need to sit down, make the compromises necessary so we can move this process forward and get to the much larger issues on spending and debt.

We have seen in the news that Portugal, Greece, and Ireland have had serious problems. They have actually had their debt downgraded to almost junk status. One of the countries is actually considered junk bond status. The others have now had their bonds seriously downgraded. What does that mean? That means they are paying higher interest rates.

Yesterday, the EU raised their interest rates. The European Union raised their interest rates because of fears of inflation. Here in the United States, our Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low. But we know inflation is coming, and eventually they are going to have to raise interest rates because of inflation and overspending by the United States. What does a rise in interest rates mean to the average American? It means that the home mortgage is going to go up.

Remember, a lot of Americans have these adjustable rate mortgages. So the next time they refinance those mortgages, their payments will be higher. They are already having trouble meeting these payments.

What does that mean for job creation? The small business owner who wants to get a loan will have to pay higher interest rates. That affects the cost of capital and whether they may be able to even start a business in the first place. It will hurt job creation right in the middle of this very little, very delicate bit of job recovery that we are having in the United States.

This spending and the debt is not some esoteric argument. It is real and it affects real people's lives. It isn't something we can put off for another 3, 4, 5 years. We must deal with it now. We know that entitlements are the biggest part of the budget. Yes, discretionary is important. We have to deal with discretionary and we have to deal with defense. We overspend in defense in so many wasteful programs, but the big issue is going to be entitlement spending.

Congressman Ryan put out a very bold budget the other day--the first person to come forward with a bold proposal to deal with entitlement spending in this country. The President's debt commission put out a proposal, but the President, unfortunately, ignored his own debt commission and didn't put any of their recommendations in his budget. But both Republicans and Democrats are going to have to deal with this spending problem--this spending binge we have been on--otherwise we are not going to have the same United States of America we have all been enjoying our entire lives. We are literally going to become an economy that cannot exist the way we exist today because we cannot afford it. Our debt will literally collapse the economy of the United States.

A recent study came out, done by two incredible economists named Rogoff and Reinhart. These are viewed by both sides of the aisle as well-respected studies. They studied sovereign debt over the last 200 years of about 64 countries. What they found is any time the debt reaches 90 percent of the economy, or 90 percent of the GDP, it causes a net decrease of about 30 percent of economic growth going forward.

Those are numbers. But what does it mean? It means a loss of jobs. In the United States, we have over a million jobs that will be lost, that would otherwise be created. So this is real stuff. Where are we in the United States? Currently, we are about 94 percent of GDP. So we are already there, and it is going to get worse and worse.

That is why this debate we are having over spending is so critical, and critical that we get it under control. We need to forget about which party is going to have a political advantage. I am one of those Senators--and there are quite a few of us--who is not running for reelection. Everybody in this body needs to forget about whether they get reelected and do what is right for the country. It is so critical right now that we put our country first.

House Republicans have sent over a proposal that would do a couple of things. One, it would fund the troops. Let's not let our military come to work and not get paid. That would be ridiculous. Let's at least fund the troops and pass this 1-week spending proposal that would fund the government. It does cut $12 billion out. The only significant rider in there is the DC abortion rider that says DC can have funds to provide abortions. This is something that was in law and that President Obama signed, in a bill that many Democrats on the other side have signed, so it should not be that controversial.

In the meantime, since we have agreed on the spending number, we can work out some of these other controversial things in the next week. I believe that is the right thing to do to keep the government open, so people can continue to get their paychecks, so people can continue to visit national parks, and on and on and on. I think we all know the problems if the government shuts down.

I think it is critical that we start doing what is right for the country instead of what is right for somebody's reelection. Let's sit down and make the serious and tough choices so we can put this country on the right path.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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