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Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011-Motion to Proceed-Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Madam President, I wanted to spend some time talking about what is coming forth Saturday morning. As a member of the Gang of 6, I am wanting us to solve our problem. But the best way to solve that problem would be the bill that is going to be voted on Saturday morning. Why is that? We are borrowing $4 billion a day, and I have enough gray hair to know that regardless of all the good intention and regardless of all the statements of the Members on the floor that we will never live within our means in Washington until we are forced to live within our means, and just because a constitutional amendment would take probably 4 years to pass--given what the American people think about it--isn't a reason not to go on and do it no matter what we do about our short-term problem coming up August 2. So the very fact people would say we are not going to pass the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act because it won't happen in a period of time is exactly the same approach that got us $14.3 trillion in debt, that has our credit rating at risk and puts us in the kind of problems we have today.

I have offered a plan I think is even better. I know not many of my colleagues will, but here is a plan to cut $9 trillion over the next 10 years. It is the only plan that specifically states what you would cut, where you would cut it, and why you would cut it. It is backed up with the facts. Nobody else can claim it. You don't have to like all of them, but what we do know is if something doesn't come out of this body between now and August 2 that cuts at least $4 trillion, this country is going to see significantly increased interest rates as a cost of that. What so often happens is you hear wonderful words and wonderful speeches on the Senate floor but nobody putting their name on where you would cut. Well, I put my name on $9 trillion worth of cuts. It pinches everybody in this country. Everybody. But you know what. We are all in this. We have lived for the last 30 years on the backs of those who are going to pay the taxes for the next 30 years. It is time we start paying back. It is time we start giving back.

The Senate is a different place today than when I came to the Senate. When I came to the Senate, the idea was not to block legislation but to discuss legislation, to have the courage and the backbone to vote against something and go home and tell your constituents why you voted against it, to offer amendments you thought would improve legislation and defend those amendments, and to vote for a bill you thought was in the best interest of the country and be able to defend that. What has happened in the last 3 1/2 years in the Senate is we don't vote because the politicians of the Senate don't want to go home and explain their positions. So if you are not voting, you are not accountable and you are not responsible.

That type of behavior is exactly the opposite behavior we need to have. So Saturday morning, when Members of the Senate vote against proceeding to cut, cap, and balance, they will display either courage or cowardice. I am not talking about simple words. There is only one plan that has passed the House of Representatives that raises the debt limit and addresses what is said to be needed by the rating agencies, and that is cut, cap, and balance. And to not allow proceeding to that debate whether you agree with it or not--you can change it through amendments. You have the votes to change it through amendments. But to not allow it to proceed so the American people can see their elected Senators and their real positions and what they know has to be done--you know, what happens around here is we say things so we can protect our political careers. You know what that does? We are not only bankrupting financially, we are bankrupting our country's history and heritage. The heritage of this country was sacrifice, and that means even sacrifice of political careers to do the right thing right now for the country.

I believe if you were to pass something like this, we would lower our debt by at least $2 trillion over the next 10 years, the economy would absolutely boom, and we would quit undermining self-reliance and enforcing dependency. We would hold accountable a Pentagon that is wasteful, we would eliminate duplication of hundreds of programs that all do the same thing with multiple layers of redundancy and administrative bureaucracy. If we were to do that, this proposal will never come to a vote in the Senate nor any of the aspects of it because Senators don't want to make those hard choices, and that is what the debate about cut, cap, and balance is all about. It forces Senators to go back to embrace the heritage of this country and make the hard choices. If you don't pass a balanced budget amendment and you don't force the discipline, the political expediency of this country will continue to run and the problems will not be solved.

I would also say raising the debt limit doesn't have anything to do with our real problems. That is just the symptom of the problem. The problem is not living within our means. Somehow thinking the U.S. Government is different than all the State governments, all the city and county governments, every family in this country, every business in this country, and every other organization in this country that has to live within its means, I refuse to believe the American people will not hold Members of the Senate accountable for not giving them a chance to put those fixed parameters on us and their government for the future.

We are going to hear all sorts of reasons why we can't do that, why we won't do that, or we may not hear many at all. What we will see is voting against the procedure with no comment whatsoever. My plan is if that happens, to be all over this country to make sure every citizen of every State of every Senator who does not allow them to proceed is aware of that. I want to personally make them aware of that. Because what you are doing is denying the liberty and the freedom of this country to hold you accountable to do the right thing. So we are going to see.

I wanted to spend a few minutes saying that the only thing that is possible right now to solve the problems in front of us--even though I have endorsed a $9 trillion plan and $3.7 trillion plan--the only thing is this $6 trillion plan. It has passed the House of Representatives. They voted to increase the debt limit and they put significant cuts into our budget for next year. They put significant caps as we go forward and they said we have to vote to pass a balanced budget amendment. Right now that is the only thing that will get us out of a jam. You know what. That is not hard to do. The first point, we are going to cut another $111 billion at least next year, no matter whether that passes. We are going to cap spending in the years that go forward whether or not that bill passes. But the difference is as soon as we get our balance again, the politicians who don't want to make hard choices will be back to not making hard choices and we will get in trouble again. That is why it is absolutely critical that this country's citizens have the ability to hold us accountable within the parameters of living within our means.

We will hear all sorts of reasons why we can't do that, that it might hurt the poor. Nobody here wants to in any way intend anything other than support for those who cannot help themselves. That is their excuse, we can't do that. Well, let me tell you what is going to happen in our country. The very programs that help the poor are going to be diminished in the future through fiscal necessity when we are mandated to make cuts to be able to borrow more money. So it is a false statement because by not voting for a balanced budget amendment, what you are saying is I want to plan one thing but I know something else is going to happen.

I paraphrase a statement by Martin Luther King that I think describes this place more than anything I have ever known and it was this: Vanity asks the question: Is something popular? Cowardice asks the question: Is it expedient? Character asks the question: Is it true and right? We have tons of vanity. We have tons of cowardice. We limit ourselves on courage and character.

As we listen to the debate over the next 2 days on this motion to proceed on the only thing that will solve the problem in front of us today, I want my colleagues to listen for political expediency, I want my colleagues to listen for vanity, and then I want them to search hard for courage and character because we will see an absence of it from those who oppose this. They know this will solve the problem. They know this is one of the few things that can pass the House of Representatives. Yet we are not going to have it come to the floor for an amendment process, for a full debate, and for a vote. We are not going to allow it to have a vote because we are political cowards. We do not want to truly address the problem because it might affect our political careers. That is a sad commentary on the heritage of this country--a sad commentary--but it is a commentary to be expected; otherwise, we would never have gotten into the position we are in today.

Let me talk about some details of what we can do. We are going to hear all sorts of reasons why we can't do things and all sorts of reasons why we couldn't come up with $9 trillion. But when the American people truly know what is going on--if they go and read about it in ``Back in Black''--when they find out about the background of all the waste, all the duplication, all the stupidity that goes on in our government, all the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility in bureaucratic agencies, all the silly decisions that get made that spend billions of dollars and don't help anything--the Tax Code. Tax earmarks and tax credit and tax expenditures are nothing but, most of the time, corporate welfare or socialism. The greatest tax in the world comes when we allow the Federal Reserve to print money which devalues our assets through inflation and the earnings on those assets. So the greatest tax in the world that is coming in America is we are going to devalue the dollar and inflation is going to go up and what we can earn on our assets is going to be limited by the interest rates, and the differential is that which we actually lose in real value of what we own every day.

The other thing I would point out is, through the tax earmarks and tax credits in our Tax Code, anybody who doesn't get one of those is actually paying for it. So if a person doesn't have an ``in'' up here, if a person doesn't have a lobbyist, if a person doesn't have some special interest looking out for them and they are not getting one of those, they are paying for them through the increased taxes. It is inherently unfair.

Let's look at duplication for a minute. It is interesting to look, as we have gone through the government programs in a detailed fashion, at the GAO report. We have 100 different programs with 100 sets of bureaucracies for surface transportation. Why do we have that? Because Congress has mismanaged. That is why. Because of expediency, because of vanity, because of wanting to get reelected, we create another program, another program, another program. It looks good and sounds good, but nobody ever does the research to see where they overlap. Nobody ever requires us to ask if this program is effective, and nobody ever looks at the Constitution to see if it fits with article I, section 8 of the Constitution--the enumerated powers we are supposed to live by and which we blow by all the time doing things.

Today, the Judiciary Committee passed a bill for State prisons called the Second Chance Act. When we passed it the first time, I finally let it go because it was supposed to be a demonstration and a limited program. It is now going to get reauthorized for 5 more years. It legitimately has zero role for the Federal Government, and we are going to spend $600 million which we don't have. We will borrow. It is well intended, but it is not our role. It is the States' role. We have hundreds of thousands of examples such as that, where we have ignored what the Constitution says so we can look good politically.

We have teacher quality programs. Teacher quality programs--82 different programs by the Federal Government to improve the quality of our teachers. Thomas Jefferson was truly the father of education in our country. He worked for years to establish the University of Virginia. He was committed to the fact that a great education will produce great benefits, not only for the individual with the education but for their family and our country as a whole. Here is what he said: For the Federal Government to become involved in education would require a change to the U.S. Constitution, and he happened to be one of the people who wrote it.

What have we done since the beginning of the Department of Education? We have spent $2.6 trillion on education in this country at the Federal level and every parameter measuring a metric on the progression of our kids in school is worse or the same after that $2.6 trillion. Hey, it is not working. The reason it is not working is a person can be a teacher at home and the Federal Government looks at that person and they don't know what to do, but we can hire that person to do the work in Washington and all of a sudden that person knows what they need to do. So we have this massive bureaucracy that has ruined our education because we spend all our money filling out forms and requirements and meeting mandates and we have taken the power and control of education away from the parents and teachers, the very people who care most about the success of the kids. So $2.6 trillion with nothing to show for it, other than for the politicians to feel good about themselves and to say we were doing something.

We have 88 different economic development programs, with $6 billion just in four of them. Not for 1 of those 88 programs is there a metric anywhere that says it is money well spent that gets a positive result for the country. There is anecdotal evidence that says it worked here or it worked there, but we don't know what we are doing. We are throwing money we don't have at things we don't know are working and when we go to vote for them to eliminate them, the Senate votes against it because it might bother their political position. It might bother their next election. We don't do it. We don't address it and do our job.

I will never forget in one of the committees I was on last year, two separate times bills were brought up in committee that were doing identical things that we were already doing in the agencies. The Senators and their staffs didn't know it. Had I not raised objections, we would have created more agencies.

Eighty programs for transportation assistance--80. If it is our role, why do we need 80? Oh, by the way, has anybody measured to see if any of the 80 actually work? The answer is no. We have none that have a report on whether they are effective to the goals of what they were set out to do because there is no oversight carried out by Congress. We were so busy earmarking for so many years, everybody forgot to check to see if what we intended to do is working, and we still aren't doing it.

We have 56 different programs to teach the American people to become financially literate--56. The Federal Government is teaching financial literacy when we can't balance our budget. We have multiple programs. We don't live within a confined budget. The first principle of financial literacy is living within your means. Yet we have this many programs--56--to teach American citizens to be financially literate.

Job training. Here is one of the best. This is great. We have 47 job training programs that cost $16 billion a year. All but three overlap one another. That is what the GAO says, and there is not a metric on one of them to see if they are working. When we talk to the people who go through the program, half of them say it is a waste, it is a joke. I have actually talked to them. Yet we are spending that kind of money, in excess of $15 billion a year, on job training programs. There is no question we need job training programs, but we need job training programs that work. Why would we need 47? So when somebody tells you we can't balance our budget, you ought to blow a hole right through them with your thought that says you obviously don't know what is going on in the Federal Government.

Homeless prevention/assistance, 20 different Federal programs. We should be helping people who need our help. I

am not denying that. But how we help and the mechanisms of the way we help ought to be frugal, efficient, and effective.

I have served in Congress--I am in my 13th year, 6 years as a Congressman, 4 years out of here to get a breath of fresh air, and now my seventh year in the Senate. What I know is, we don't know what we are doing, and it is obvious looking at our budget. It is also obvious looking at the dysfunction of the Senate and the leadership in the Senate, that we--we haven't had a budget in 2 years. The one thing any financial counselor will tell you is the first thing you have to know is where you are and set up a plan. We have had no attempt to bring a budget to this body in well over 2 1/2 years--no attempt. What does that tell us? It goes back to vanity. It goes back to cowardice. It goes back to us not doing what we are intended to do because we care more about our position than we care about the country.

There are 18 programs to feed the hungry. We have 17 disaster response/preparedness, just in FEMA--17 different programs, of which 11 overlap. FEMA didn't set those up. The bureaucracy didn't create those; we did. Every one of these programs was created by a Member of Congress. So we can't blame administrations and we can't blame Presidents. What we have to do is blame Congress.

We have 130 overlapping programs in the Department of Agriculture; 18 overlapping programs in the Department of Commerce; 230 overlapping programs in the Department of Education; 17 in the Department of Energy; 36 in the Department of Human Services; 32 in the Department of Homeland Security; 60 in the Department of Housing and Urban Development; 40 in the Department of the Interior; 53 in the Department of Justice; 35 in the Department of Labor; 6 in the Department of State; and 180 governmentwide if we look at all economic development programs. We just listed the 88 that run through 4 of the agencies.

Is it any wonder we are going belly up? The problem is us. The problem is we have a solution now that has come to us from the House and we are not going to let that solution go forward because politically--politically--it is uncomfortable. Politically, we don't want to allow the people of this country to decide whether we ought to live within our means and put a bridle with a bit in our mouth that says, whoa, you are not going to continue to destroy the future of this country and the prospects for our children anymore.

When I came to the Senate, I came after having read a book called ``Running On Empty.'' It was written by a man by the name of Pete Peterson. He was bipartisan in his criticism of both parties, and he was absolutely accurate. We are in trouble because parties matter more than the country, because control matters more than the country, because political careers matter more than our children or our grandchildren.

So I go back to talk about what is possible. A lot of people would disagree with what is in here; this $9 trillion of what the House has sent us would take about 60 percent of it. But here is what I say to my colleagues who don't want to vote on a balanced budget amendment, don't want to vote on cut, cap, and balance. Where is your plan? I have listed 625 pages of specific cuts, elimination of duplication, elimination of waste, elimination of fraud, and 3,000 footnotes that looked at every program throughout the Federal programs--looked at every CRS report, looked at every OIG report, looked at every GAO report, looked at every OMB report, and looked at every other outside report we could find.

The fact is, we could solve our problems tomorrow, America. We could solve them tomorrow, with good old-fashioned common sense that the vast majority of Americans have and is sorely lacking here.

We do not have a fiscal crisis. We have a commonsense crisis in this body and in the leadership in Congress. We lack common sense, we lack sound judgment, and we need the hard bit of a bridle put on us through a balanced budget amendment to control us. Because human nature is human nature in whatever we do today, we will be back to our bad habits tomorrow. Even if we pass cuts, even if we cap spending, if we do not have a balanced budget amendment that forces us to live within the constraints of our revenue, we will be back here again.

What does that mean? That means the future of America is suspect. It does not have to be. We do not have to go the way of every other republic. We do not have to fail over fiscal issues. We can cheat history. The American people are the greatest people in the world because they are a blend of all the people in the world and they desire freedom and opportunity and that is limited because we have limited it.

We, through our profligate spending, our inattention to detail, our failure to do oversight, have undercut the potential of our country. Let's restore it. Let's restore it Saturday morning by moving on to this bill and allowing ourselves to have a debate, offer amendments, and truly debate--have what the Senate has not had in a year and a half: a real debate about the issues of our day and the reasons behind it.

But I would caution the American people. Remember what Martin Luther King said as you hear that debate: Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? But conscience and right and good asks, is it right?

I tell you, it is not right to have multiple programs doing the same thing, wasting our kids' future. It is not right for the Congress not to do oversight and eliminate programs. It is not right for us to spend money we do not have on things we do not absolutely need. It is not right for us to take the control of our children's education from the parents and teachers who have their best interests at heart and place it in a bureaucracy that has no compassion whatsoever, even though it feigns that it does. It is not right. It may be politically expedient, it may be popular to some people, but it does not make it right.

As you look at this, here is how you get $9 trillion, and you can pick any part of that to meet this cut, cap, and balance or you can come up with your own. But the fact is, nobody wants to lay on the table what they think. I have already been roundly criticized in the press for certain aspects of this by people who disagree. That is fine. I am planning on defending everything I put in here. With the best of my knowledge and a great staff that spent thousands upon thousands of hours on this, we came up with a way to solve America's problems, and we can do it.

America can be bright, can be growing, can be developing jobs, if we get the government out of the way and limit the role of the Federal Government.

I see my colleague from Delaware, one of my great friends. We hear that said a lot here, but he is a great friend. It is not the conventional, common greeting. I believe I am over my time. I will be back to the floor to finish this conversation.

But America needs to know we do not have any problem we cannot fix. What we lack are leaders who will fix it. That is our deficit. It is a deficit of courage. It is a deficit of will.

With that, I yield the floor.


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