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Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise today with my colleagues to talk about something I think is an issue that without a solution will affect every single aspect of life in our country. I am speaking about our debt crisis, the impending fiscal cliff, and the lack of a budget to address those issues. As I said, I am very pleased to be joined by my colleagues to talk about this issue.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Senate has lacked the will and the leadership to fulfill what I consider its most basic legislative function: writing and adopting a budget resolution. That has gone on for more than 3 years.

While I understand we are rapidly approaching the time where Presidential politics will consume the entire agenda, the U.S. national debt is also rapidly approaching a significant milestone: $16 trillion worth of debt. We should look no further than Greece or Spain to see what this level of debt would do to an economy if it goes unchecked.

There are so many frightening statistics, but here is one: America's per capita national debt already significantly outpaces that of Greece or Spain. So as we watch them spiral further into crisis, we should be jolted into action by the very suggestion that our debt is equally as alarming. Yet we are unable to pass a basic budget resolution to get our spending in check. That constitutes a lack of leadership.

As I said, I have many colleagues here today who can talk about a better approach. I would like to start today with Senator Johnny Isakson.

Senator Isakson has spent his career working on budget issues.

I say to Senator Isakson, what is the impact of no budget resolution for 3 years? Is there a better way? Is there a better way to approach the budgeting process than what we are dealing with now?


Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I thank Senator Isakson.

Senator Isakson referenced my time as Governor of Nebraska. But I speak on behalf of all Governors. The Governor has to deliver a budget. In Nebraska, we used a 2-year budget, and that is what makes me proud to cosponsor the Senator's idea. It is the right approach. It simply says we are going to do our very best to get a budget passed and do the oversight necessary to make sure that budget is working.

So I compliment the Senator on his idea. It is definitely a better way forward.

Let me, if I might, now turn to Senator Kyl.

I say to Senator Kyl, when I was Governor I always had the first shot at delivering a budget. I would deliver it. I would do the State of the State Address. It was not that much different from the way it is done in Washington, with the President's February budget proposal. The State of the Union Address coincides with that.

With my budget--and I think most Governors would say this--even when there was real arm wrestling with the legislative process, I always believed I would get about 90 to 95 percent of my budget proposals across the finish line. It was a serious proposal. There were no gimmicks. It was a balanced budget. It did not borrow money to balance the budget.

I say to the Senator, how do you regard the President's budget submission these last years, and why isn't it getting more support in a bipartisan sort of way?


Mr. JOHANNS. Very clearly this body is saying, the Senate and the House of Representatives, when they vote on the President's budget, they are saying very clearly: The President's budget spends too much, it taxes too much, and it borrows too much. It does not solve any problems.

I think actually that is the very clear unanimous message at this point from these bodies. This is not a serious budget proposal.

Mr. KYL. If I could add one other item to what my colleague said, we all know the big problem is spending on entitlements, the so-called mandatory spending. Well, the only thing mandatory about it is that it has to be spent unless we say something different. But we do not have the courage around here to reform our entitlement programs to the point that they are going to be available for at least our kids by the time they retire, and in some cases they may not even be available for some of us.

The other thing I would want to say about the President's budget is it continues this glidepath to insolvency for Medicare, which the recent Trustees Report says has an unfunded liability of $26.4 trillion. So in addition to spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much, it does not do anything about the biggest problem we have, which is the broken entitlement programs that are not going to work for the people who are currently anticipating they will be there for them when they retire.

Mr. JOHANNS. Senator Kyl makes an excellent point. If I could call on my colleague, Senator Coburn, who, as much as any Member of the Senate, has been the watchdog when it comes to spending and programs that duplicate each other, he has been the person who oftentimes has stood on the Senate floor alone and pointed out to everybody how much waste there is in the Federal Government.

Senator Coburn has been a great leader. He was on the fiscal commission, a member of the original Gang of 6. I would like to hear his views on the budgetary mess we find ourselves in now.


Mr. JOHANNS. I thank the Senator. We look at those charts and reach the conclusion, inescapably, if we do not start doing oversight and start figuring this out, we are not going to solve this problem. My colleague's reputation as a watchdog of the Federal Government is well earned.

Let me now turn to my colleague, Senator Heller. Senator Heller brings great experience. He might be the newest Member of the Senate--I think he is--but he has great experience on the House side. He has seen how the budget process works there. He now has some experience on the Senate side. The Senator sees the lack of a budget process.

I would like him to offer some thoughts on what is broken and what we might do to fix this.


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