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Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 5 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind everybody for a minute as to how we got here. Why are we doing this? What's going on?

When the President was requesting an increase in the debt limit last year, he wanted a blank check. Just increase the debt limit. Borrowing unchecked. Then when that wasn't going to happen, he asked for a big tax increase. That didn't occur.

What occurred out of that was the Budget Control Act. You've got to cut at least a dollar's worth of spending for every dollar of debt-limit increase that occurs.

So Congress passed the Budget Control Act with no tax increases, spending cuts. Half of it, approximately, were the caps on discretionary spending netting about $1 trillion in savings--$917 billion, to be specific. The other half, the $1.2 trillion, was the Select Committee--people call this the supercommittee. That committee failed to produce a result. As a result of that, a sequester occurs. And the sequester, according to people on a bipartisan basis, is not good government. The sequester, according to the Secretary of Defense, the President himself, would hollow out our military when it kicks in on January 2 next year. The sequester will take nondefense discretionary spending down 8 percent and defense down 10 percent.

We believe the purpose of the sequester was to replace the fact that Congress isn't governing. Well, let's have Congress govern. That's why we're doing this. What we're doing is we're bringing a bill to the floor to cut 405 percent of the spending cuts that are in the sequester in the first year. A net deficit reduction of $242.8 billion to set aside the sequester under discretionary for 1 year of $78 billion, we think that's a good tradeoff.

More to the point, we need to get in the habit of doing reconciliation because 61 percent of the Federal budget is off limits, it's autopilot, it's not touched. Congress doesn't deal with it. So we should look at this part of our government that is not being dealt with.

The last time we used reconciliation for its intended purpose--to cut spending, to reduce deficits--was 2005. So rather than just having annual discretionary spending bouts and debates, we should look at the other parts of government that are on autopilot.

Take a look at what we're doing. We basically are doing five things. We're stopping the abuse by ensuring individuals are actually eligible for the taxpayer benefits they receive--novel idea, I know. We're eliminating government slush funds to stop bailouts. We're controlling runaway, unchecked spending. We're putting restraints on government spending by bureaucracies. And we're getting rid of duplicative spending.

I can go through each program, and we will do this in this debate, but what we're simply saying is people should actually be eligible for the benefits that they receive, whether it's a tax credit, whether it's a SNAP benefit, whatever it is. When we take a look at why we're cutting spending, we are doing this with the guise of the fact that we have a spending-driven debt crisis on the horizon. If taxes go back to where they've been for the last 40 years, which is what they are projected to do, there's no way you can fix this problem by raising taxes.

We have a spending-driven debt crisis, and the debt crisis is one in which we have a tidal wave of debt coming to this country just like Europe is experiencing. If we don't get our spending under control and we don't get our deficit under control, the people who need government the most--the poor, the elderly--they're the ones who get hurt the first and the worst.

We need to get spending and, therefore, deficits under control to prevent a debt crisis. That's what this does. It's a downpayment. Instead of saving hundreds of billions of dollars like this bill does, we need to get into the practice of actually saving trillions of dollars, which is what our budget does, in order to prevent a debt crisis from ruining the American Dream for Americans.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. I yield myself 1 minute to say, Mr. Speaker, that the gentleman's substitute raises taxes $85 billion and raises spending $55 billion on the net to achieve simply $30 billion in deficit reduction. This bill achieves $243 billion in deficit reduction without raising taxes.

The ratio of tax increases to spending cuts gross 3 to 1. That's what they think balance is.

Let's look at food stamps. Food stamps went up 270 percent over the last decade. If this passes, it will have gone up 260 percent.

Let's talk about Medicaid and SCHIP. This program has gone up 50 percent over the last 10 years. It's projected to grow 125 percent over the next 10 years. If this passes, it will grow 123 percent over the next 10 years.

If we can't have a civil debate about how to slow the growth of spending around here then we'll never get this under control. Medicaid alone made $15.8 billion in overpayments in 2011 alone. If we can't deal with this waste, if we can't deal with this overspending, we can't fix this problem.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield 7 minutes of my time to Mr. Hensarling of the Financial Services Committee, and ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to yield time.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 1/2 minutes to just address a few of these.

If you're eligible for food stamps today, you'll be eligible for food stamps tomorrow under this bill. We're simply saying you have to be eligible for this benefit to actually get the benefit.

The slush fund, which is called the Preventive Services Fund, doesn't fund cervical and breast cancer research. It funded things such as the Pitt County, North Carolina, funds for signage to promote recreational destinations, including public parks, bike lanes, and more. The city of Boston received a $1 million grant for urban gardening. The New York Department of Health used a $3 million taxpayer-funded grant from this fund to lobby for a soda-tax initiative. The Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation granted $3 million to the Seattle and King County Public Health Facility to use taxpayer dollars to ``improve the walking and biking environment.'' This is where our taxpayer dollars are going.

With regard to the child tax credit, one investigation in Indiana said an illegal immigrant is claiming $29,608 as a tax credit for 20 children who live in Mexico and have never visited the United States before.

What we're saying is government spending on these programs should go to the people who they are intended for, not to people who are not eligible and are not intended for. If we're going to do prevention for health care, then do cancer screenings, do cancer research. Don't fund signs for bike paths.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. McKeon.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to make three points.

That line the gentlelady used about Medicare was rated the ``lie of the year'' in 2011 by PolitiFact. Number two, the reason the Democratic substitute is not being considered is because it violates the House rules. What's interesting about that is, it would have violated the House rules that the Democrats had when they were in the majority. The third point is, when it comes to tax loopholes, we're proposing to close those tax loopholes in order to lower tax rates for American families and businesses to create jobs. They want to do it to prevent spending cuts; $3 of tax increases for $1 of spending cuts is the math and the logic that the other side chooses to use. When you have a spending problem, you've got to cut spending.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Lucas), the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, and ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to yield time.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds simply to say that the Social Services Block Grant, according to the Government Accountability Office, is a textbook example of overlap and duplication of Federal programs. It's one of 69 programs to fund early education; it's one of 200 programs serving Americans with disabilities; and it's one of 49 programs providing education and training services. The program demands no accountability for results and provides no means to measure the impact of the programs.

Mr. Speaker, we've got to end duplication and waste in government. We're saying also, on the tax side, close loopholes for tax reform, not to fuel more spending.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Pitts), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to yield time.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Medicaid is projected to grow at 125 percent over the next decade; under this bill, it will grow 123 percent. Food stamps grew 270 percent; under this bill, they would have grown 260 percent. Only in Washington is this considered draconian cuts. Slowing the growth of spending is not cutting; it's slowing the growth of spending.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Franks), a member of the Judiciary Committee, and ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to yield time.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Members of Congress and Federal employees contribute .8 percent to their pensions. According to the CBO, their benefits are 48 percent higher than their average private sector counterparts. We think it's just reasonable and appropriate that they contribute about 5.8 percent to their pensions and contribute their half. It's the least we can ask of ourselves as Members of Congress and of hardworking Federal employees, that we treat ourselves like private sector workers are treated. More to the point, Mr. Speaker, if we want to have the moral authority to get spending under control, we need to ask more of ourselves.

With that, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Camp), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to yield time.


Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

First off, Mr. Speaker, let me thank those six committees that contributed to making this possible.

Over 60 percent of the Federal budget is in a category of spending we call mandatory spending. It's a budget term of art that means that part of spending is on autopilot. Congress does not address or oversee or set the levels of that spending in any given year. Congress does address what we call discretionary spending. That's government agency budgets--about 39 percent of the budget every single year. The last time Congress actually looked at this 60 percent of spending on autopilot for savings was 2005. It's important that we make sure that we're scrutinizing how we're spending hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and it's a shame that we haven't revisited this category of spending since 2005. We're doing that here.

Now, the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Speaker of the House, the minority leader of the House, they've all said that this sequester is a mistake; it's bad, it's going to hurt. Not only does it hollow out defense, according to the Defense Secretary, but it also creates an 8 percent across-the-board cut to domestic discretionary spending, like the National Institutes of Health. We think we should prevent that. On a bipartisan basis, we think we should prevent that. That's what we're doing. This is the only plan that says, Prevent that from happening, and here's how you pay for it. Here's our plan to stop that from happening, this event that everybody says should be stopped.

Now, when we take a look at what this package does, I think we want to
look at, is our government working the way it ought to be?

In particular, we're hearing lots of comments about how this hurts people, how this hurts the poor. Let's take a look at our poverty-fighting efforts. And should we measure our poverty-fighting efforts based on inputs or based on outcomes? Should we measure our poverty-fighting efforts based on how much money we're spending and how many programs we're creating? Or should we think about how many people are we getting out of poverty?

Here's the problem: These efforts aren't working. One out of six Americans today are in poverty. We have the highest poverty rates we've had in a generation. These programs aren't working. Let's fix them. Let's pass reforms that instead decrease the poverty rate, which is happening these days, and get people back into lives of self-sufficiency.

Let's go back to the American idea of an opportunity society with a safety net that doesn't keep people in poverty but gets people out of poverty into lives of self-sufficiency. And we're not going to be able to achieve that if we don't grow our economy. We're not going to be able to achieve that if we don't have more opportunities in society so that people who are on the bottom rung of the economic ladder can't climb up and out.

We shouldn't be defining success as how many people we have on these benefit programs. We should be defining success as to how many people we are graduating from these benefit programs into lives of self-sufficiency, into jobs. That's the American idea.

So when you take a look at whether these programs are working well or not, we need to reform them. We haven't touched these programs for decades. Food stamps, we've gone from 17 million people to 45 million people in a decade, a 270 percent spending increase--$1.8 billion in overpayments last year alone. We're just saying you need to qualify for the benefit to get the benefit.

Medicaid. If we think this is such a success, then why are half the doctors filling out surveys saying they're not going to take any new Medicaid patients. If this program is working so well, then why was $15.8 billion in overpayments made just last year? Does this devastate Medicaid? Instead of increasing Medicaid by 125 percent over the next decade, this proposal increases it by 123 percent over the next decade--hardly draconian.

What we're saying is we need to make these programs work to achieve their intended results. Give States more flexibility to customize their benefits to meet the needs of the people in their States. That's what these Medicaid reforms are all about.

When we hear the other side talk about no spending cuts but more tax increases, that's going to slow down job creation. We're the first ones who came to this floor saying, ``Close these tax loopholes, but close these tax loopholes to create economic growth by reforming the Tax Code.'' Treat people fairly in the Tax Code so that a company or a person who makes the same amount of money pays the same level of tax. You do that by getting rid of tax shelters and tax loopholes, not to raise spending, but to lower tax rates so American businesses can survive, can thrive, and create jobs. Upward mobility. Economic opportunity. That's what we're trying to achieve here.

Mr. Speaker, we should not be talking to each other in this society as if we're stuck in some class, as if this person's middle class, that person's lower class, and that person's upper class. Our ancestors left those class-based societies to form this country, which should not be a class-based society. It should be a society of upward mobility, where we can make the most of our lives, based on our own God-given talent and our own effort. We should not be speaking to people as if they're stuck in their current station in life and the government is here to help them cope with it.

We need to get ourselves out of this debt crisis because, if we have a debt crisis, if we keep on this path where we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, we're going to have a debt crisis. Europe is in a debt crisis.

And what happens when you're in a debt crisis? Immediate austerity, cutting benefits to seniors, cutting benefits to people in the safety net, raising taxes. That slows down the economy, especially for the youth.

Look what we're doing right now. Half of our Nation's college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed--half.

It's not working. We need to change these policies. We need to grow the economy. And if we have a debt crisis because of this spending, then the people who need government the most, they're the ones who get hurt the first and the worst.

We're leading. The President, no plan to fix this. The Senate, no budget since 2009. And our friends on the other side of the aisle, tax increases, spending increases, no spending cuts.

Mr. Speaker, this is a small step in the right direction. It's something Congress should do every day. I urge passage of this bill.


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