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Public Statements

Fiscal Cliff

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I appreciate Senator Kyl's comments, and I share them. We are going to miss the most knowledgeable fiscal tax expert in the Senate, and his long career includes time on the Finance Committee. I thank Senator Kyl.

I want to express some reservations about the negotiations that have been going on, as I understand it from reading the paper, involving the fiscal cliff.

Over the last 2 years, Congress and the President have held an endless series of negotiations. There have been Gangs of 6 and 8, a supercommittee of 12, talks at the Blair House and the White House. But the only thing these secret talks have produced is a government that skips from one crisis to the next. Everything has been tried but open production of a 10-year plan from this Senate that is required by law, that would allow us to openly debate and discuss concretely the financial challenges we face today.

All of this secrecy allows the President to position himself as being in favor of a balanced plan--which is what he says: I favor a balanced plan--while the only comprehensive proposal, to my knowledge, he has actually laid out was in January or February of this year when he laid out his budget. Of course, it was voted down unanimously. In both the House and the Senate not a single person voted for it. But he did lay out a financial plan for the country. He put it on paper.

Basically, it increases taxes to fuel more spending. That is what the plan did. It increased taxes $1.8 trillion and increased spending $1.4 trillion over the agreement we just reached under the Budget Control Act in August, a year ago.

So we reached agreement on 10 years of spending limits in August, a year ago. Then January, 6 months later, he proposes a budget that would increase taxes $1.8 trillion and spending that would increase another $1.4 trillion over that BCA baseline: tax and spend. Not taxes to reduce deficits but taxes to fund new spending. That is why the budget puts us on track to have $25 trillion in total debt at the end of 10 years--another almost $10 trillion in debt added to the current debt level.

Insofar as I can see, that tax-and-spend policy remains his goal today. The White House isn't planning to raise taxes to reduce the deficit. It raises taxes, under their plan, to expand government. That is not acceptable. I don't believe Congress will accept such a deal if that is what is going on in these secret negotiations.

President Obama campaigned on tax increases just on the wealthy, just on raising their rates, just only $800 billion in tax increases. But now the White House is demanding $1.6 trillion in tax increases. Don't the American people have a right to see where those taxes fall, who they will impact, and how much they are?

Shouldn't the President lay out his plan? He is the President of the United States and the only person who represents everybody in the country. Will that remain a secret? Will it just be revealed to us on the eve of Christmas or the eve of the new calendar year? We will be asked to vote for or to ratify like lemmings, I suppose.

The White House has repeatedly asserted they believe in $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes, which does not reflect sufficient spending cuts. But if the White House now wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes, where are the $4 trillion in spending cuts? Have those been laid out? Do we know what they would be? And this is over 10 years. These spending cuts would be very achievable if we put our minds to it.


Mr. SESSIONS. I thank my colleagues for their courtesy.

In fact, the President has given speeches calling for more spending. On Tuesday, he gave a speech in which he said he wants to use the tax hikes to ``invest in training, education, science, and research.''

When you are in a deep hole and you are borrowing almost 40 cents of every dollar you spend, shouldn't you constrain yourself and not start new programs? Or if you start a new, needed program, shouldn't you reduce some less valuable program to pay for it instead of just taxing to create more programs?

Not once in the speech did he discuss entitlements. That is the largest item in our government, entitlements. Not once did the President of the United States discuss with the American people the problem that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are on an unsustainable path and are at great risk. Shouldn't the President honestly talk to the American people about that?

He didn't discuss our $16 trillion debt and how the Debt Commission he appointed indicates that we are on an unsustainable path, heading to a fiscal crisis. He did not discuss the economic catastrophe that could occur if we don't get off this unsustainable path.

The President should lead on these things. I don't think this is a partisan complaint. I am saying the President of the United States should be discussing with the American people the great danger of our time: the debt.

The President will go out to the press and use the buzz words that say he has a balanced plan or a responsible path to deficit reduction. But where are the spending reductions? What is the plan?

It seems to me the plan is to talk in general, to meet in secret day after day, week after week, the deadlines getting closer, the fiscal cliff getting closer. Then, under threat of panic, force through some deal that maintains the status quo: more taxes, more spending, more debt. And it will be presented to the Senate in a way that, if it is not adopted immediately, the country will be in great fiscal danger.

This process needs to be taken out of the shadows. We need public debate, and then people would know the facts that are now being hidden from us, hidden from Members of Congress. We don't know what is going on. The latest article in Politico today said the deal--the so-called deal has been negotiated by the Speaker of the House and the President. Not even Harry Reid is in the meetings, apparently--certainly not the Members of the Senate or the Members of the House of Representatives.

If we had a public debate, people would discover that according to the CBO, mandatory spending is going to increase nearly 90 percent over the next 10 years. To get the country under control requires some real tough focus, but it does not mean we are going to have to cut spending dramatically, just reduce the growth of spending. Expenses on welfare are particularly interesting. Mandatory spending, that is, the entitlement programs of all kinds, is set to automatically increase 90 percent over the next decade. That is over half of our budget. We already spend $2.3 trillion on mandatory costs today in our budget--this year we will spend 2.3 trillion--but we will spend $4.12 trillion in the 10th year from now. Those are the projected growth patterns we are on. This is a huge increase, and we do not have the money.

People would also learn from public debate that welfare costs are now the single largest item in the budget, exceeding Medicare--larger than Medicare, larger than Social Security, larger than the defense budget. We spend enough on these poverty programs to send every household beneath the poverty line in America a check for $60,000, each family. That is how much we are spending. The President's plan apparently would not deal with that at all. Indeed, the Budget Control Act of 15 months ago that was passed explicitly failed to address some of the biggest items in that budget.

I do not see how we can support a plan that does not at least begin to reform these programs and improve their operation. Is this going on in the secret talks? Are they talking about it or, like the Budget Control Act, is this off- limits, not to be discussed? Will welfare reform be a part of the framework of the settlement that will be dropped on the Senate? We do not know.

Meanwhile, the President demands more taxes and refuses to do anything about waste, really. I have not seen any strong management leadership from this White House that gives me confidence that we should send more money. There are lavish conferences, duplicative programs, billions in refundable tax credits being mailed every year to illegal aliens or children not even in the United States--billions from their own department, the reports tell us. No one is managing this government effectively. Why should the American people send one more dime in taxes to Washington when we will not reform and manage the money we are already getting from them? The American people should not send more money to this dysfunctional government. They should insist that we fix what is going on here first.


Mr. SESSIONS. I thank my colleagues.

I would say I am concerned about the nature of these secret talks, the fact that the Senate is really not participating. From the reports, it is only the Speaker and the President of the United States discussing it, and that appears to be--from what I picked up--to be true. Apparently, the majority leader is not intimately involved, the chairman of the Budget Committee is not involved, and the chairman of the Finance Committee is not involved. These are Democratic leaders in the Senate, certainly not Republican leaders in the Senate.

The Senate is a great institution. We ought to be engaged, and the engagement of the Senate allows the American people to know what is happening. They are entitled to that. I really believe we can do better. We must do better.

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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