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Public Statements

Limiting Spending

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, something special happened earlier today. An important principle is being established in the Senate, and that principle is that we will adhere to the budget agreement we made with the American people 16 months ago. In other words, we agreed, in at least certain accounts, to have a limit on spending. Spending will still increase every year over 10 years, but not as much as it would have increased. We agreed that we would abide by the limit and we would not spend more than that.

We have had four consecutive bills brought to the floor of this Senate--cavalierly, I would suggest--directly in violation of the spending limits we agreed to just a little over a year ago. As a result, I or some other Member of the Senate made a budget point of order. That budget point of order said that the legislation before us violates the budget limits, it spends too much, and we object.

Each time, our Democratic leadership moved to waive the budget point of order. To forget the budget. To spend above the budget. To not worry about the budget. Just spend the money because this is a good bill, they said. It has good proposals, and anybody who opposes it is against these good proposals.

So we now have had four votes and for all four of those votes, the Senate has said: No, we are not going to waive the budget. We are going to live within the agreement of spending we reached just last year.

There is no reason these bills couldn't have been brought in within the budget. There has been no reason they shouldn't be within the budget. Some were not over the budget spending by much, but we have to adhere to that principle. I have been very proud that Members of this Senate in sufficient numbers have said: No, we are going to honor the promise we made to the American people, and we are going to do that, and we are not going to bust the budget.

So I think it is sending a message, and the message needs to be received.

Initially, the spin in this body has been, Oh, Senator Sessions and his objectors don't want any good legislation to pass. They are just using the Budget Act to block it.

But I think we are changing that now, and I think the American people are going to see what has happened. We have had seven votes on the budget. The last four have been successful in enforcing the budget. I think the American people are going to start asking, why are you, Senator, voting to waive the budget every single time? Didn't you agree to certain spending limits? Every time a bill came up, why did you vote to spend more than you agreed to spend, spend more than you told us you were going to spend?

I think that is the message that ought to be coming out of here. I will go a little further. If somebody has to have legislation passed, don't blame the people who raised the budget point of order; blame yourself if you don't bring it to the floor in a way that does not violate the budget. That is important. I think that is being established now, and that is what I think we should expect of anyone who wants to move legislation in the U.S. Senate. If a Senator wants to get the vote and get the legislation passed, be sure they comply with the agreement we made.

What agreement was that? Sixteen months ago, in August, the debt limit had been reached, and it was put off and delayed, and we got to the very last minute, and they reached this secret agreement--not publicly as it should have been, but we reached an agreement, and the agreement included at least some limits on spending. I didn't like the way it was done, but it did propose certain limits. It exempted 98 percent of Medicare spending from being cut. It exempted the food stamp program. Medicaid was totally exempted from any cuts. But many parts of the budget were controlled, had their spending levels controlled by the budget. As a result, the agreement was passed and the debt ceiling--the limit on the amount of money that can be borrowed by the U.S. Government--was raised by $2.1 trillion.

We are now borrowing about 40 cents of every dollar we spend, and the Congress can limit, as the Constitution provides, how much the U.S. Government can borrow. We had just about reached that limit. Spending was going to have to drop 40 percent--right across the board, perhaps, unless the debt limit was raised. So we raised it so we could continue to borrow. But the promise was that over 10 years, the level of spending would be reduced by the same amount that we raised the debt limit.

So we raised the debt limit by $2.1 trillion, and spending was promised to be reduced over the next 10 years by $2.1 trillion. Now we have already spent that $2.1 trillion. I hate to tell my colleagues but by January and February, this body is going to be right back here dealing with the question of hitting the debt limit again. This year, it looks as though we will have another deficit well over $1 trillion. In fact, the first 2 months of this calendar year were extraordinarily bad--almost $300 billion in debt in the first 2 months. If we continued at this rate, the deficit would be the largest ever in the history of the Republic. So something needs to be done about that.

We made an agreement the last time we increased the debt limit. For us to go back on that, to not follow the budget agreement before the ink is dry on it--before barely a year is gone--to continue bringing up bills that violate that agreement, then the American people would have a right to have no confidence in us and to wonder what is going on: You promised us you were going to reduce the growth of spending, and as soon as the shoe starts getting a little tight or the belt starts squeezing, you cut and run, Senators.

So far, at least in recent weeks, we have been doing rather well on this path of saying we will adhere to the budget agreement. I think on each one of the votes, we have had some Democratic support, but it is mostly Republicans that have held to the budget.

Where are we today? We are talking about the fiscal cliff. The President campaigned around this country, and he said: I have a balanced plan, and that balanced plan is going to have so much in spending cuts and so much in tax increases, and it needs to be balanced. You Republicans have to have more tax increases. Our country needs to get itself on a sound financial path. And I have a deficit reduction plan.

He ran a television advertisement in the last months of his campaign that said: I have a plan to pay down the debt. Earlier this year, his budget director came before the committee and would not disavow the claim that the President has a plan to pay down the debt. I would just say that is one of the greatest financial misrepresentations ever, that the President of the United States would tell the American people: Don't worry, elect me, I have a plan to pay down the debt. He has no such plan--nothing close to it.

Under the score of the Congressional Budget Office, over the next 10 years, we will add $9 trillion in debt to the deficit of the United States.

That is almost $1 trillion a year for 10 years in additional debt. It goes down some in the midyears, but in years 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, the deficits go up every year. That is not what I thought the President was talking about or, I think, the American people thought he was talking about when he said: I want a plan that will pay down the debt. I am going to raise taxes and we are going to pay down the debt and we will have spending cuts also.

What is it we now know about his plan? This is the essence of it, as shown on this chart I have in the Chamber. This chart is an outline of the President's deficit reduction plan. This is what the President is proposing to do. He started off a few weeks ago at $1.6 trillion in new taxes. Now he is talking about $1.4 trillion, I understand. That is the latest iteration of the tax increases: $1,400 billion in tax increases.

Where will that money go? Will it change the debt course of America? Will it put us on a sound path? Can we go home at night and say: Wow. I am glad they finally got their act together.

Let's examine what they are proposing. They are proposing to spend above the BCA, Budget Control Act, limits I just talked about that we agreed to only 16 months ago. Those limits include the sequestration of $1.2 trillion in spending. Those limits are in law. The law would have to be changed to avoid these cuts. The President proposes to change the law and to eliminate $1,200 billion of those cuts--$1.2 trillion off the table--that is 60 percent of the cuts that were agreed to when we raised the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion. It would wipe out 60 percent of it just like that. That is new spending above the law in effect today, busting the limits I just mentioned. Busting the limits that we have been successfully enforcing.

In addition to that, he has no funds to pay for the doc fix, also known as the sustainable growth rate for doctor payments. If we do not fix the sustainable growth rate, physicians will have a 25 percent or so cut in their reimbursement rates for doing Medicare work. For many of them, it is half the work they do. Such a reduction could not be tolerated, so it has to be fixed and the President knows that. It costs about $400 billion to fix it but the President provides no money for that. That cost must be added to the spending in his plan.

The Social Security contribution holiday, or payroll holiday, is another is more spending he doesn't include, that has to be accounted for. If we do not pay as much into Social Security as we would otherwise, then the U.S. Treasury has to borrow that money and put it into the Social Security trust fund. People get more money in their paycheck but less money goes into Social Security. That is another $110 billion in spending in the President's plan.

The Administration wants to spend $50 billion more on transportation and $30 billion more on an unemployment insurance extension.

Overall that totals $1,790 billion in new spending in the President's plan. Do they have any reductions in spending? Yes. They are talking about $400 billion in mandatory spending reductions. Most of that, apparently, will be reducing--maybe $300 billion of it--payments to providers in Medicare and Medicaid--providers: that is your doctor and your hospital--cut them some more. They were already cut deeply when the President's health care law passed. Whether that will ever stick, I have my doubts.

But let's assume it does stick. That would mean the President's plan results in $1,390 billion in higher spending--$1.39 trillion. Remember he wants new higher taxes of $1,400 billion. Recall, under the current path, under the current spending limits in the Budget Control Act, we are increasing the debt by $9 trillion over the next ten years. Under the President's plan, whereby he raises taxes $1.4 trillion and raises spending $1.39 trillion, we would add to the debt $8.99 trillion. What does it mean? It means we are going to have a major tax increase and virtually the same amount of new spending--no net cut in spending but a major new increase in spending of $1.39 trillion. That is a fact, and it is a very troubling fact.

I would add one more thing. I see my colleague is here. I believe the President of the United States should not lull the American people into believing that he has a plan that is going to pay down our debt or get us on a sound financial course. He has two goals, it seems to me: raise taxes and raise spending. That is exactly what this plan does. It has no reform of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid or food stamps--the largest and fastest growing entitlement programs we have--no plans to fix any of that. He refuses to talk about that, saying anybody who talks about that just does not like old people and does not care about America.

We need some leadership. We need some honesty. We need a President of the United States who will look the American people in the eye and explain to them we are living beyond our means. We do not have the money to continue to borrow 40 cents of every $1 we spend. We cannot continue on this path, as expert after expert has warned us.

I will just say, I am proud that, again, today this Senate--at least a good, solid minority--stood firm--and said: No, we are not going to waive the budget. We are going to stand by the limits on spending that were part of the Budget Control Act.

But I am not pleased how this whole process is going right now with Speaker Boehner and the President. It looks like it is not likely to lead to any changes in our debt course. Even after raising taxes $1.4 trillion, if the President had his way, we will still be on basically the same debt course. How can we allow this opportunity to get away from us? We are going to raise taxes big time yet not use any of it, in effect, to pay down debt. The question is, will we reduce the annual deficits that will average almost $1 trillion a year for the next 10 years and get worse in the outer years?

We have to deal with that. There is no escape from that. There is no way we can get around it. Any mature person who loves this country knows we have to confront it. It cannot just be done by raising taxes. We are going to have to reduce spending in this country. Cutting spending is not going to hammer the economy. We do not have to throw people in the streets, but we need a sustained effort to reduce the growth in spending in this country. If we just do that, we would surprise ourselves that we could get on a sound course before too many years.

I thank the Presiding Officer and yield the floor.

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