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Providing for Consideration of S. 627, Budget Control Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, this rule provides for consideration of the Budget Control Act of 2011. It provides for 2 hours of debate, as the Reading Clerk just said. One hour is equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Rules. That'll be yours truly and Ms. Slaughter, and 30 minutes will be equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Ways and Means, and 30 minutes will be equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, since 1962, there have been 74 increases in the debt ceiling. At this moment, we begin what is clearly the single most historic debate on any measure that addresses increasing the debt ceiling. Why? Because for the first time we are working to get at the root cause of why it is that the debt ceiling needs to be increased.

As the debate negotiations over the looming debt ceiling limit have proceeded over the last weeks and months, people across this country are asking: How did we get to this point? How was the crisis created and how do we resolve it? As is often the case, we can't hope to reach a solution without understanding the fundamental problem.

At the very start of this process several months ago, many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle advocated strongly and worked very, very hard for an increase in the debt ceiling that had no strings attached to it at all; had nothing attached to it at all. They argued that the debt ceiling had been increased 10 times over the last decade, and it was just a perfunctory legislative act that should be done without any broader debate or accompanying policy changes.

Mr. Speaker, that approach is precisely the fundamental problem. And that approach is one that has, throughout the past several decades, led to what for all intents and purposes was little more than a blind increase in the debt ceiling itself. For years and years and years, the Federal Government has spent money that it does not have, expanding the size and scope of government and its reach without regard to the long-term fiscal consequences.

When the tax dollars ran out, Mr. Speaker, it turned to borrowing voraciously. Each and every time the borrowed money ran out, the Federal Government just borrowed more. It was always clear that catastrophic consequences would ensue if the U.S. Government defaulted on its obligations. So Congress took the path of least resistance and simply raised the debt ceiling. But sometimes, Mr. Speaker, the path of least resistance is, in fact, the road to ruin.

Raising the debt ceiling, without taking measures to address the underlying issues merely put off the crisis for a short time, making it larger and more entrenched in the process. That's how we got to the point where we are today.

And that's why from the very outset Republicans have insisted that this time would be different. We refused to contemplate yet another debt ceiling increase without addressing the underlying cycle of reckless, unaccountable spending and borrowing.

Yes, we absolutely must avert the looming crisis that could force the United States Government to default and put our ailing economy into a tailspin. But, Mr. Speaker, we cannot and will not do so in a way that creates an even bigger crisis down the road.

Republicans put Washington on notice that the era of unchecked spending was coming to an end at the start of this Congress with the passage of H.R. 1, which dramatically cut spending for the current fiscal year. We continued the process of imposing new levels of fiscal discipline with the passage of our budget resolution for the coming fiscal year. This measure outlined not just spending cuts but long-term reforms that would help to prevent entitlement programs from collapsing into insolvency and dragging the rest of the economy along with them.

In May of this year, at the Economic Club of New York, Speaker Boehner once again outlined the Republican agenda for creating growth and opportunity, creating jobs and opportunity for our fellow Americans through greater fiscal discipline and more rigorous accountability for the size and scope of government.

From the very start of this new majority, Mr. Speaker, and at every step of the way since, Republicans have been fighting for real solutions to the fiscal mess that the country finds itself in. We promised that we would start a new course, and it is with a great deal of pride, Mr. Speaker, that I stand here and say we have done just that.

Today's underlying legislation, this underlying measure is a dramatic stride forward in our ongoing quest. While we have steadily laid the groundwork over the last 6 months, this plan represents the single most significant, most fundamental reform to our fiscal situation in the modern era.

It makes immediate, enormous cuts in Federal spending. These cuts are greater than the corresponding increase in the debt ceiling, ensuring that action taken to avert an immediate crisis is coupled with a massive down payment on dealing with the long-term crisis.

It sets caps on spending in order to impose discipline and accountability on the process going forward. It establishes a joint select committee that will be directed to identify at least $1.8 trillion in additional cuts and guarantee an expedited vote on those cuts later this year.

This is a critical component to the long-term solution.

Mr. Speaker, you know very well that we've had countless commissions over the years that have proposed ideas for cutting deficits. Some ideas have had more merit than others, but their merit has been immaterial because no serious proposal has been afforded congressional consideration. This measure before us ensures that Congress will address the proposals that we receive.

Now, for the last 6 months, the House of Representatives has taken a number of key steps to rein in spending and ensure greater accountability and discipline in the use of taxpayer dollars. Yet they have been held up indefinitely by our friends in the other body. Today's underlying measure would eliminate the challenge by guaranteeing a clean up-or-down vote in both Chambers of the work product that emerges from this Joint Select Committee. The entire Congress, Mr. Speaker, will have no choice but to consider real solutions. Each and every Member of the House and the Senate will have to go on record. No deficit commission, Mr. Speaker, no deficit commission, no plan, no proposal that has come before has had that kind of guarantee, the kind of guarantee that is included in this measure that's before us.

Today's underlying measure also moves the process forward on a balanced budget amendment. Taken together, these proposals represent a radical departure from the status quo. Mr. Speaker, they fundamentally alter our Federal spending process in order not just to avert an immediate crisis but to diffuse the ticking timebomb of our $14.3 trillion national debt.

Mr. Speaker, global markets, U.S. job creators, and, most importantly, the American people are watching what we do here today. They want to see bold and credible action that restores confidence in our economy now and in the future.

This legislation, Mr. Speaker, delivers that very action that the American people, that U.S. markets and the global markets are seeking. It's a plan for the short, medium, and long term. It fundamentally alters the current landscape and helps to ensure that we never get back to where we are right now, and that is, as we all know, on the brink of a fiscal and economic catastrophe.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues--and I hope very much that we will be able to enjoy bipartisan support. I urge them to support both the rule that allows for consideration of this measure and the underlying legislation.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


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