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Public Statements

The Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HATCH. Madam President, I thank my colleague, and I thank Senator Toomey for his work.

Early this year, along with every one of my Republican colleagues, I introduced a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

The people of Utah want this amendment. The polls show that if Congress were to pass it and send it to the States for ratification, it would have significant support across the country.

From my perspective, the debate we have been having over the fiscal year 2012 budget this week--if you can even call it a debate--exemplifies yet again the need for a balanced budget amendment. It seems like a simple thing, but the balanced budget amendment would require the President to submit and Congress to pass a balanced budget. Given the budget process over the last few years, this simple requirement takes on added significance.

The fact is it has been 756 days since Democrats passed any budget, the most basic of Congress's constitutional responsibilities. And the fact is that absent a balanced budget amendment, Congress will never adopt the spending restraint necessary to restore constitutional limits on the Federal Government and the Nation's fiscal integrity.

The consequences of this ineptitude reached a new low on the Senate floor yesterday. To recap for those who missed it, Democrats took to the Senate floor and accused Republicans who are attempting to right our fiscal ship by reforming programs for the poor and elderly of seeking to harm women, children, and other vulnerable members of our society. This verbal assault was deliberate and premeditated. I actually thank my colleagues on the other side who declined to participate in those attacks. Those attacks might make for good politics, but they are terrible for this country.

People here might wish to deny it, but the fiscal crisis we face is real. They might wish to say that Social Security's finances are just dandy, but the fact is the disability trust fund will be exhausted by 2018 and the overall trust fund will be exhausted in 2036, a year earlier than we previously thought.

As bad as Social Security is, the situation with Medicare is even worse. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare will be insolvent in 2020. According to the Medicare trustees, Medicare's unfunded liability is $38.4 trillion. And what is the Democratic response to this? All is well. Nothing to see here. Please move along. This is what the Democratic candidate in New York's special election had to say about her opponent's claim that reforms to Medicare were necessary to restore the solvency of this program:

That's simply a scare tactic to tell our seniors that there will be nothing for them. ..... That's not the truth.

Republicans are trying to scare seniors? That is rich. A liberal surrogate for the Democrats is currently running an advertisement that shows House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan pushing an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff. Talk about a new low. The head of the Democratic National Committee--fresh from lecturing conservatives about civility in politics--described the House budget as a tornado through nursing homes.

Yesterday we were treated to claims on the Senate floor that stopped short of these attacks, but not that far short. Yet it is Republicans who are trying to scare seniors? Give me a break. Still, as bad as yesterday's display was, I ended my day positive about the future. Last night, I attended a dinner celebrating the centennial of President Ronald Reagan's birth and at that dinner I had the honor of introducing Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland, who helped to roll back the Iron Curtain and liberate a continent.

When Ronald Reagan became President, the Soviets were on the march. It was not a foregone conclusion that Communists would wind up in the ash heap of history. When Lech Walesa mounted the fence at the Gdansk shipyards, the only thing he could be certain of was prosecution by Communist authorities. But Reagan and Walesa understood something. They understood that communism was a lie, played out on a world historical stage. And to borrow from Shakespeare, Reagan, and Walesa, that the truth will out.

The fundamental truth we face today--one that cannot be denied--is that our Nation faces a spending crisis that no amount of additional taxes can fix. So let's talk about this budget process in a serious way. Unfortunately, doing so will not reflect well on this Chamber.

Borrowing from another one of Shakespeare's plays, in Hamlet the character Marcellus observed that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. One might say the same about the Senate's action on the budget resolution. A budget is not law, but it is an important document that installs the guardrails for the operation of fiscal policy.

Under the Congressional Budget Act, each body is to report a resolution by April 15 of each year. President Obama submitted his budget, and the House met the April 15 deadline. But Senate Democrats have no budget of their own. Here is the Senate Democratic budget resolution: Just one big laid goose egg.

So here we are today talking about the House-passed budget. The simple truth is my colleagues on the other side don't want to vote on a Senate Democratic budget. Instead, they are determined to vote on a budget that everyone knows will not pass this body. Why is this? With all of their hard-edged partisan fury, and not even a thin reed of fiscal governance, like Marcellus, it is reasonable to conclude that something is rotten in the Senate. And if we follow the scent with our noses, we will find it comes down to numbers.

The magic number is 50. There are 100 Members of this body and 53 of those Members caucus with the Democrats. So why aren't there 50 votes for a single Democratic budget? We have heard Senate Democrats won't support the President's budget. The stated reason is that the President's do-over budget was nothing more than a speech that was so vague that our friends on the other side refuse to treat it as a budget. I believe there is a bigger problem holding up the Democratic caucus. The heart and soul of the Democratic caucus is liberal, and I respect that. But a healthy number of my friends on the other side are not entirely in that camp. And many more realize a pure liberal fiscal position might not be politically palatable. After all, the voters sent a message last fall to get spending under control and not to hike taxes.

So because Senate Democrats are jammed up, unable to get their act together, their leadership proposes no budget of their own. We are engaged in a Senate budget debate, but there is no substantive Senate Democratic budget before us, and we don't have one because at least 50 members of this body do not agree on one, even though they have 53 on their side. So how then do we define the majority's fiscal position?

What budget would the majority of Senate Democrats support if they could? That budget is lurking in the background of this debate. It is the budget the party's liberals would enact if they could. It is the budget the President, in his heart of hearts, supports. It is certainly the budget the folks at MSNBC support. It is the House Progressive Caucus's budget--an intellectually honest presentation of the liberal fiscal policy position. For interested folks, take a look at pages H2362 through H2870 of the Congressional Record of April 15, 2011. There you will find the House Progressive Caucus budget's fine print and the debate over it.

The Progressive Caucus budget is real and it is ambitious. It is also politically risky. Similar to the House budget developed by Chairman Ryan, it took political courage. It is a statement of policy principles and numbers. With a goose egg as the stated Senate Democratic budget, from my perspective, the best place to look for the Democrat's position is the budget of the House progressives. There is no doubt that is where the sentiments of a majority of the Senate Democrat caucus truly are.

I also think the House progressive budget offers a valuable contrast to the House-passed budget. Last time I checked, there are two major parties in Congress, and both parties should be accountable for what they would do about our perilous fiscal situation.

So let's hold them to account. The House progressives aim to balance the budget by 2021. They aim to reduce public debt as a percentage of GDP to 64.1 percent by 2021. They aim for both taxes and spending to grow significantly but to equal 22.3 percent of GDP by 2021. House progressives advocate a fulsome growth in the role of the Federal Government, with new domestic spending rising by $1.7 trillion--new domestic spending.

How do they propose to pay for all this? While the Democrats play ``hide the ball'' on this issue, the House progressives are refreshingly frank. The short answer is, tax hikes and cuts in defense spending. They propose $4 trillion in new taxes.

Let's take a look at these new taxes: raise marginal tax rates by 17 percent to 24 percent for single taxpayers. Look at that chart. There is an increase in the top marginal rates by 17 percent to 24 percent. There is a brandnew ``millionaire'' surtax, with rates reaching as high as 47 percent. There is a new record-high death tax rate of 65 percent.

They treat capital gains and dividends as ordinary income. That means, in some cases, the marginal rate on capital gains and dividends would more than triple. They tax all overseas business income currently. That would mean, with respect to growing global markets, U.S. businesses would be subject to uniquely high levels of taxation.

They create new taxes on banks and financial transactions. I will remind folks that the CBO told us last year this kind of tax would be passed through to bank customers and depositors.

House progressives look to reform Social Security by raising the base of the payroll tax on both employers and employees.

Look at this. My goodness. On health care, House progressives' transparency is breathtaking for its honesty.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has used 10 minutes.

Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I tell my distinguished colleague that we only have a few minutes left, and the Senator from Utah is waiting. So if the Senator could wrap up briefly. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Senator's remarks.

Mr. HATCH. All right. I thank my colleague.

Their budget anticipates taking ObamaCare to the next level with a government-run plan. Progressives would impose government negotiation of prescription drug payments.

Where are the spending cuts? One word, ``defense.'' Defense will be cut by $2.3 trillion. This is the progressive budget. The hearts of the Democratic Party would love to proceed down this path: ever higher spending and ever higher taxes to pay for it. But the heads of the party realize that this would be politically disastrous. And so, like Hamlet, they are paralyzed when action is demanded.

The failure of the Senate Democratic leadership to produce and vote on a budget of their own cannot be allowed to mask a simple fact. The Democrats might not like the solutions in the House budget, but their own failure to offer a proposal is a vote for the status quo. And a vote for the status quo is a vote for the destruction of Social Security and Medicare. And that is the true threat to America's elderly.

Serious times deserve serious measures. For that reason, I will be voting for the motion to proceed on the House-passed budget, as well as the budgets proposed by my colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Toomey, and my colleague from Kentucky, Senator Paul.

We have entitlement programs with unfunded liabilities in the tens of trillions. And the Democrats' response? Don't reform those programs to make them sustainable. Instead let's scare up $21 billion by attacking tax breaks for oil companies.

If my Democratic colleagues want to have a tax reform debate, I am open to that. But let's not pretend that increasing taxes on oil companies will make one iota's worth of difference in making the country's entitlement programs solvent. Let's not pretend that this is a remotely serious solution to the country's fiscal problems.

Instead of offering a serious budget proposal and debating it, Democrats chose to engage in the basest of politics, smearing Republicans as hostile to women and the elderly.

I wish it were not so, but Marcellus' observation is compelling today. Something is rotten in the U.S. Senate. Nonetheless, and in spite of these antics, I am optimistic about the future.

The truth will out, and the truth is that this country is racing toward a fiscal crisis. This fiscal crisis is still avoidable, if we take courageous actions.

Chairman Ryan, in proposing his budget, and the House leadership for voting on it, have done just that. And fortune favors the bold.

I thank my colleague for that little extra time. I intend to vote for three of these budgets today because the three of them make sense. They are not crazy, they are not phony, and each of the three would save Medicare and other matters in the Federal Government.

I thank my colleague.


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