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A Choice of Two Futures

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mrs. Ellmers). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 5, 2011, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Woodall) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I appreciate the time. You know, you and I, Madam Speaker, are freshmen in this House. And I've a learned a few things about coming down to the floor from watching my colleagues, about how to make a good impression. You know, everybody's back in their offices watching the proceedings on TV, or folks back in the district watching it on TV. And I see our colleagues come, and they'll take the podium down to the very lowest level so that when they walk up to the podium they'll be able to drag it all the way up to the top and look big and strong and powerful.

You know, in the 18 months that you and I have served here, Madam Speaker, we've gotten a lot of advice about how to look good. We've gotten a lot of advice about how to tell the good story, how to spin the good tale.

And as I listened to my friend from Virginia make his presentation earlier, I thought, you know what? He and I are looking at exactly the same set of facts and we are drawing exactly the opposite set of conclusions. And that makes it so hard to legislate here, Madam Speaker, because you and I, as part of this freshman class, we don't care two hoots about what looks good. What we care about is what is good.

We don't care about trying to make people believe it's the truth, we care about actually finding the truth, and that's been the challenge up here in the 18 months that you and I have had a voting card.

I have beside me, Madam Speaker, a chart that has been down on this floor a number of times. It's called A Choice of Two Futures, and you've seen it, Madam Speaker. It's the one that shows the red line of current spending promises. It's the one that goes all the way back to 1940, Madam Speaker. It shows debt as a percent of GDP.

It shows back at the end of World War II when we were fighting the Nazis, we were fighting the Japanese, we were fighting to defend freedom and democracy around the global. In the name of ending that world war, we borrowed 100 percent of our economy. Our national debt grew to 100 percent the size of our economy. And that was an investment well made, Madam Speaker, having defended the liberty of citizens around the world.

But we're right back in that same place today, Madam Speaker. This chart goes from 1940 all the way out to 2080. It's 140 years of past policy and projected policy. And what it shows is that today, America is on the verge of carrying that same debt burden.

We're not in the middle of a world war to defend freedom and liberty. We're not in the middle of fighting the Nazis and trying to prevent a hostile takeover of the world. But we've borrowed 100 percent the size of our economy.

But that's not even the most damning part of this chart, Madam Speaker. What we see is, represented by this red line, if we do nothing, Madam Speaker, if our freshman class had never come to this town, if we closed the Congress, if we closed the White House, if we never passed a new law and never made a new promise, this red line represents the promises already made. And what we see is debt rising to 200 percent, 300 percent, 400 percent, 500 percent the size of our economy, levels that economists tell us will never be sustainable. And that's if we don't make one new promise on the floor of this House.

My colleague from Virginia spoke passionately about the need for child care in this country; spoke eloquently about families at home struggling to balance the demands

of work and the demands of child care. You see it in your district, Madam Speaker, I see it in my district. He's absolutely right about the struggles that every single American family faces and, from his words, believes in his heart that the right way to address those challenges in my small town of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, is with a Federal program, a program that comes right down the street here, maybe from the Department of Health and Human Services, maybe from the Department of Education, but that somehow we can create a program here in Washington, D.C., that will be the absolute best and most efficient way to deal with my family's challenges and my neighbors' challenges back in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

Madam Speaker, what I've learned, I serve on the Budget Committee and the Rules Committee and, listening to my colleagues talk, I somehow thought that perhaps there were some dollars here in Washington, D.C., that came from somewhere other than my constituents' pockets. But I've learned that's not the case, that every single dollar that this institution spends, every single commitment that the administration makes, every single project that the Senate wants to fund, every single dollar comes out of the pockets of my constituents back home, and your constituents back home, Madam Speaker.

So when we talk about--I think the phrase my friend from Virginia used was the anti-government forces on Capitol Hill. I don't know who those forces are. I feel like he was talking about me and this freshman class. I don't know of any anti-government forces.

What I know about are folks who talk about what's the right level of government to get the American taxpayer the absolute best value for their tax dollar. And who are those folks who honestly believe that the best value for their tax dollar, back in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, is to take that dollar out of the back pocket of a hardworking taxpayer in Peachtree Corners, move it through the Gwinnett County government, move it through the State of Georgia government, bring it up here to the Federal Government, then send it back down to Federal agency that's going to send it back down to a State agency that's going to send it back over to a county government in order to provide child care.

Who believes that's the absolute best and most efficient way to spend an American tax dollar?

And that's the battle that we have here in this House. It's not about government and anti-government. It's about good government and bad government.

You know, we're here in the Federal Government, Madam Speaker, the Federal Government, and there are responsibilities that we have, making war, one of our responsibilities, defending our border, one of our responsibilities, maintaining the postal roads, one of our responsibilities.

But there are so many other levels of government--State government, county government, local government--that can fulfill some of these needs that my colleagues seem to believe only the Federal Government is right to fulfill.

I want to go back to this chart, Madam Speaker. This is the chart of promises already made.

So often I pick up the newspaper, and it sounds like everybody is just complaining up here in Washington, D.C.--that it's all about pointing fingers and that it's not about solving problems. What I am so proud of in the 18 months you and I have been here under the leadership of some senior members, like the gentleman from Indiana, is that we have not only identified the problem, which is a crushing debt burden that threatens the economic security, not just of our children and of our grandchildren, but of our very Republic, but that we've promulgated a solution. It's represented here on the chart by this green line that's labeled ``the path to prosperity.''

I'm just so proud I serve on the Budget Committee. My chairman is Paul
Ryan. This House came together--and you don't hear that a lot on the front pages of newspapers. This House came together in a bipartisan way to pass a budget not just once--we passed it for the first time in 2011--but again in this year, 2012, and we've been waiting on the Senate to act. It's our constitutional obligation to pass that budget each and every year. The President has offered one each and every year, the House has passed one each and every year, but the Senate has failed to act.

We laid out line item by line item as to how we would prevent this most certain destruction of economic liberty and security in our land. It's represented by this green line. It stretches out from 2012 all the way out to 2051. You don't run up trillion-dollar debts like we're running up and solve it overnight. You just can't. You can't run up 100 percent of your GDP in debt and solve it overnight. We don't have that kind of money. We can't levy that kind of tax burden on the American people, but we can solve it over time. We can keep it from getting worse today, and we can make it better tomorrow. That's what our plan is. I think that's so important, Madam Speaker.

Again, when I listen to it and when I read about it in the newspaper, it's finger-pointing. It's who's to blame and whose fault is it and why didn't they do better. I don't care whose fault it was. I don't care who got us here. My knowledge of history tells me there is a lot of blame to go around. I care about who is going to get us out of here, about who is going to solve these problems, about who is going to move us from the precipice of economic disaster back to the robust American economy for which we are known around the globe. This House has passed that plan, Madam Speaker, not once but twice.

What I show here is the budget that the President has introduced. I want to give this President his due. I come down here--and we saw it with the rule that I managed yesterday, and we see it in some of the presentations on the other side of the aisle. You come down here, and it's as if the other side is just evil and that's why nothing works. That's just not true at all. There are honest, hardworking men and women on both sides of this aisle who represent constituents back home who just have very different understandings of who we are as a people, some of whom have different hopes and dreams about where we will go as a people, some of whom have different needs that they're asking the government to meet.

This President got more done in the first 2 years of his term than most Presidents get done in eight. He was incredibly effective. Now, I would argue that he was incredibly effective in doing things that are destroying the very fabric of freedom in this country, but he was incredibly effective. Of course, he won with a majority of the vote here in this Nation, Madam Speaker, and he is campaigning to win again this fall--a smart guy, an effective guy, with a completely different understanding of who we are as a people and where we should go as a Nation than the one that I have, but he is a talented politician nonetheless.

He has honored his legal requirement to submit a budget to this Congress each and every year that he has been in office, and that's important because that distinguishes him from the United States Senate, which also has a legal obligation to submit a budget and has refused to do so for the last 3 years. You wonder why it is we can't come together on funding priorities, Madam Speaker. For 3 years, the Senate has said, We're not going to tell you what we're interested in doing. We're not going to provide you with any ideas, and because we won't move it, the House product can't move, and the President doesn't have anything to work with. So you see the kind of economic turmoil that we're in today, but the President, to his credit, has submitted a budget each and every year with his priorities.

This is the budget that he submitted for 2012. This was just last February. The law required it and he complied with it, but he's running for reelection. He has got his fingers on the pulse of the American people for what they need and what they desire and what they want from the United States Government--again, all attuned towards the election in November--but the budget that he submitted raises taxes, as the gentleman from Virginia advocated, by $2 trillion on the American people.

Now, if you want to know how much a trillion is, Madam Speaker, I speak to a lot of school groups back home, and we try to break those zeros into things that matter. If you began on the day that Jesus Christ was born and if you wasted $1 million a day, 7 days a week from the day Jesus Christ was born through today, you would have to throw away $1 million a day every day, 7 days a week for another 734 years to throw away your first $1 trillion--your first. The President proposes to raise taxes on the American people by $2 trillion.

Folks say, Rob, we have debts. We have bills to pay. We may have to raise taxes to do it, they say. He

raises taxes by $2 trillion, but raises spending by even more. That's what we're talking about here, Madam Speaker.

Here is the chart of the promises we've already made, the unsustainable path of spending that we have already committed to as a Nation. It is spending that has to be reduced. It is spending that has to be cut. They are priorities that have to be reset and reorganized. The President in his budget this year said, not only are we going to spend all of that, but we're going to spend $2 trillion more such that we're going to tax the American people an additional $2 trillion, but we're going to raise the debt faster than if we hadn't passed a budget at all.

There are 2 trillion new dollars coming into the Treasury but so much more new spending going out the door that the debt actually rises faster under the President's plan for 2013 and '14 and '15 and '16. It rises faster under the President's plan in 2017 and '18 and '19 and '20. You have to go all the way out to 2021. I blew it up here on the chart because I know folks won't be able to see it back in their offices. Here is 2021, which is represented by this sliver of green way out there at the end of this chart. It says, if we agree to the President's budget and if we raise taxes by $2 trillion on the American people--with all of this new spending that he would like to do as well way out in 2021--we'll borrow just a little bit less money than if we'd done nothing at all.

I say that, Madam Speaker, because folks aren't here bickering over nothing. Folks are up here advocating at the top of their lungs for their vision of America. It's the greatest experiment in the history of the world, where people would govern themselves, a Republic as never before seen in world history. We started that Republic here. We are maintaining that Republic here. I would tell you we are dutybound to pass that Republic on, not just to our children and to our grandchildren, but for generations to come; but we have come to a nexus in our history where we disagree on who we are as a people.

The President--incredibly effective, incredibly talented in running for reelection, in trying to enunciate those hopes and dreams that the American people will respond to and endorse and reelect him based on--believes and advocates, even with this crushing burden of debt which every single economist agrees is unsustainable going into the future, that over the next 10 years we do not one thing about it. In fact, we raise taxes by $2 trillion. We exacerbate it and we make it worse.

That's not who this House is, Madam Speaker. That's not why you and I ran for Congress. That's not why folks left their families. That's not why folks got off the sidelines and said, I've got to stay at home and complain about it or I can run for Congress and do something about it. We elected 99 new Members in this House last fall--99 new Members, Republicans and Democrats, coming from all walks of life--to say that we can do better, that we can be a part of the solution. We don't have to point the finger of blame. We can actually put forward solutions--and we have. Again, you don't read that in the newspaper, Madam Speaker. It's no wonder folks are so disgusted with what happens in this town because, when you read about what's happening in this town, it's pretty disgusting.

I want to talk about some of the good news. I have four bars here, Madam Speaker. Fiscal year 2010, Federal Government discretionary spending, fiscal year 2011, fiscal year 2012, and fiscal year 2013. This fiscal year 2010, Madam
Speaker, that was money that was spent before you and I came to Congress. That was money that was spent while my Republican colleagues were in the minority, while we had Democrats running the White House and the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. There was one-party control. We had one-party Republican control from 2000 to 2006. We had one-party Democratic control from 2008 to 2010. Spending levels, discretionary spending--folks say, ``Rob, doesn't all spending begin in the House?'' No, it does not. For the most part, two-thirds of the budget is comprised of mandatory spending, spending that does not come through the House each and every year, but discretionary spending comes through the House. This $1.27 trillion comes through the House for us to make a decision on each and every year.

Mr. Speaker, you know the story, the decisions we've been making. When you and I arrived, we joined our senior Republican colleagues here, we created a new Republican majority here in this House. For FY 2011, the first year in which you and I served, we reduced spending. I'm not talking about Washington, D.C., funny math. I'm not talking about where you raise spending by $10 and call it a cut. I'm talking about actual U.S. dollars going out the door in discretionary spending.

When we came into this Congress and we took on FY 2011 appropriations, we reduced it from $1.27 trillion to $1.21 trillion, $64 billion less--not inflation adjusted, actual dollars--$64 billion less in 2011 than in 2012. You say, ``Rob, that's not enough.'' You're absolutely right, it's not enough. We only have a small amount of control over the budget here. We're going to do what we can, when we can. We went on to 2012, reduced it again down to $1.18 trillion. That's another $31 billion reduction, and $31 billion is not enough. No, of course it's not enough. Is the history in the country that we raise it and raise it and raise it? Yes, it is. Have we changed that history for the first time since World War II, Madam Speaker? You better believe it.

It has not happened in this land since the end of World War II that a Congress year after year after year, and now after year, reduces the discretionary spending going out the door because it wasn't just that we spent less in 2011 than we spent in 2010, we spent less in 2012 than we spent in 2011, and with the bill that we passed on the floor of this House yesterday, we are now on track to spend less in 2013 than we spent in 2012.

Just to be clear, Madam Speaker, we talked so much about what goes on here on the House floor. When I show you the path of fiscal despair that is ahead of us with this redline, the current path if we do nothing, and I show you the green line, the solution that we proposed in this House, it's important to note that the green line is just what we've proposed. We've passed it in a bipartisan way. We've passed it twice in a bipartisan way, but the Senate has never taken it up. The President has promised he would never implement it. It is something that we see as a vision of prosperity for this country, but we cannot get agreement from the Senate or the White House to implement.

That idea is distinguished from what we've done with discretionary spending, where these bills have passed the House, have passed sometimes a kicking and screaming Senate, and have been signed into law by the President of the United States. This is not an aspirational goal that I have here, Madam Speaker. This is the law of the land.

Madam Speaker, all the easy choices are gone. They were gone before you and I got here. They may well have been gone before my colleague from Indiana got here. The easy choices have all been made already. The only thing that is left are the hard choices.

Madam Speaker, you know as well as I do when we talk about cutting spending, when we talk about reducing the size and scope of the Federal Government, every dollar we spend comes from back home. Every dollar we spend comes out of the wallets of our constituents back home. We get to choose where we want to spend that money. As a voter back home, I can choose to send it to my city government, I can send it to my county government, I can send it to my State government, I can send it to my Federal Government. But who back home around the water cooler or the coffee pot says, Golly, what we need in this country is efficiency and thrift? We want it done really well and really fast, and we want it done for the lowest possible price. Let's see. Let's send it to Washington, D.C., let them do it, and I bet they'll get it right. Who says that? Nobody says that. Here we are trying to nationalize the entire health care system in this country in the name of efficiency and lower costs. No, we're not going to get it right. I say let's keep it in the hands of the private sector. Some folks may say give it to our city government, some folks may say give it to our county government. Nobody says let's send it to Washington, D.C.

So when we're making these reductions, when we're trying to be thrifty with the dollars that we have seized from American taxpayers out of their paychecks each and every month, there's not one anti-government advocate in this town, but there are good government advocates in this town. Whether you sit on the Republican side of the aisle or the Democratic side of the aisle, one thing on which we can all agree is that the Federal Government has let us down.

The gentleman from Virginia made a passionate case for why it is we need to fund green energy. I happen to have the largest manufacturer of high-efficiency solar panels in America in my district, and I believe in green energy. What I don't believe in is crony capitalism. That's what we saw in Solyndra, crony capitalism where the political contributors get the taxpayer dollars, where hundreds of millions of dollars can be wasted with no accountability whatsoever. That's not good for anyone. That's not good for the left, that's not good for the right, and that is not good for a single American

taxpayer. We're talking about good government here.

Madam Speaker, I daresay as I look at this chart to my left of decreasing Federal spending, actual dollars going down, not just for 1 year, not just for 2 years, but now for 3 years in a row, that that would not have happened but for the American people speaking out in the 2010 election and sending 99 new Members to this Congress. We had lots of Members here who believe in thrift, who believe in efficiency, who believe in making sure the taxpayer gets their maximum value out of every tax dollar, but there were not enough. There were not enough. I can't tell you how many times from back home I watched the gentleman from Indiana alone as he advocated for good government, alone on the floor of the House trying to make a difference. The American people sent 99 new faces here, new minds, new ideas, and it's made this difference.

Madam Speaker, I don't have any idea how the next election is going to turn out, but I'm absolutely certain with every fiber of my being that we're going to have the largest voter turnout in American history come November 6. I know this: If there's one thing I trust in this country beyond the United States Constitution and the King James Bible, it's the American people. When more Americans turn out in November than ever before to make a decision about who we are as a Nation, where we're going as a Nation, and who shall lead this Nation, we're going to get it right. I don't have any idea which direction that's going to go, but I trust the American people.

Madam Speaker, Newt Gingrich said it best when he was down in Georgia speaking during the presidential campaign. He said:

This year, we do not need a presidential candidate we can believe in. We need candidates who believe in us.

It's one of the distinguishing features on the floor of this House, Madam Speaker. Do you believe in the American people? Do you trust the American people? Do you know in your heart that the American people left to their own devices will get it right every time? Or do you believe they just can't handle it, and it's up to Washington, D.C., to solve those issues for them?

We're going to find out on November 6 where the hearts and minds of the American people are, Madam Speaker. But you see on these charts behind us the kind of success that we can have as a Nation, as a people in turning the good ship America when the American people turn out to the polls and send back to Washington those folks who care more about the future of this country than they care about themselves.

With that, Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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