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Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BAUCUS. I appreciate the Senator withdrawing his amendment. Had he not, I would have had to oppose it. It basically waives the Davis-Bacon requirements instruction for the Sandy rehabilitation projects. It is a bad idea, and we shouldn't have been on that road.

Second, it changes the Code with respect to giving rules and also with respect to penalties with respect to withdrawals from IRAs. I don't think that is a good idea.

More importantly, the fancy term is, it makes this bill blue-slipped; that is, because it is a revenue provision the Senator is offering and it did not originate in the other body, the other body would say: I am sorry, under the Constitution, revenue bills have to begin in the other body--in the House. This didn't begin over there. It began here, this provision, and so they would not even take up the bill.

For that reason, I am glad the Senator withdrew his amendment, because it would cause unnecessary problems for people who deserve a lot of help in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I thank the Senator.

Mr. President, might I inquire of the Chair or the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who is managing this bill, whether I might speak on a subject? Now, I don't want to speak out of turn, but I was going to make a brief statement with respect to the fiscal cliff and urging a resolution, showing with the chart I have here that we are not that far apart, but I don't want to get in the way here. Given the managers' preference in how they manage the bill, I defer to the managers because it is their bill.


Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, President Kennedy once said:

There are risks and costs to action, but they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.

Here we are on December 28, just 3 days from what some have termed the ``fiscal cliff''--trillions of dollars in automatic tax increases, across-the-board spending cuts, including cuts in Medicare payments, unemployment benefits, and more.

I rise today to call on the Congress and the President to take immediate action to resolve the year-end fiscal challenges. We can do it. We are very close together. The proposals are not that far part.

I make this call on behalf of the people I work for in Montana. My bosses have given me clear marching orders, three simple words: Get it done. I believe their neighbors all across the country agree. It is about time we listened.

In all the hype and the rhetoric here on Capitol Hill, many have lost sight of our fundamental duty to serve the American people. It is time to put politics aside and remember what is at stake for working families, farmers, and small business owners across our country.

If Congress fails to act by the New Year's deadline, nearly every American will be hit with a tax hike, including 400,000 Montana families. That is approximately $2,000 out of the pockets of America's working families. About 125 million American workers will see smaller paychecks as a result of higher payroll taxes.

More than 2 million Americans will lose the Federal unemployment insurance that helps keep a roof over their heads while they look for work.

About 98,000 Montana parents will see a tax hike of $1,000 if they loose the child tax credit, and thousands more will be hit by the loss of the earned-income and American opportunity tax credits.

As many as 28 million Americans and 52,000 working Montanans will be forced to pay the alternative minimum tax.

Across-the-board mandatory spending cuts mean thousands of Federal employees will lose the jobs that put food on the tables for their families. Agencies in charge of keeping America safe, such as the FBI, Border Patrol, Department of Defense, and others, will be short-staffed.

Families may lose farms and ranches that have been passed down for generations because of the estate tax hike. These aren't wealthy aristocrats. They are honest, hard-working people who get dirt under their nails every day to put food on their tables. All they want in return is to pass the land they work on, on to their kids and on to their grandkids. These are not just numbers on a page. These are people. We work for them. They are our employers.

Montana families sit down together at their kitchen tables every month and make tough choices to make ends meet. They deserve a Congress that could do the same.

Unfortunately, the list of last-minute legislation doesn't stop with the fiscal cliff. Our rural economies will take a big hit if the House fails to pass a farm bill. Make no mistake, the farm bill is a jobs bill. Agriculture supports 60 million jobs nationwide. In Montana, one in five jobs is tied to agriculture, and the Senate farm bill supports those jobs while also cutting spending by $23 billion. This bill is part of a responsible solution.

There is absolutely no excuse for inaction. I call on the House to bring the Senate farm bill up for a vote immediately. Our farmers and ranchers break their backs to put food on their tables every day. At least they deserve an honest, fair, up-or-down vote on their jobs bill.

Failure to reach agreement on these critical year-end issues will certainly cause market volatility and shock the greater economy. Experts predict that failure to reach agreement on the fiscal cliff will cause the economy to contract in the year 2013 by one-half percent, likely causing unemployment to climb to 9.1 percent, pushing our Nation back into recession.

But it doesn't have to be this way. It is only because of stubbornness and stagnation on both sides of the aisle that we find ourselves facing this great challenge at the eleventh hour. The blame game has shifted into full gear, but there will be no winners if both sides continue to play this game of chicken.

The United States is at a critical juncture. We can come together and show the world America is still the leader of a global economy or we can let obstructionism turn this country into a second-rate superpower.

Just last week, I was doing some last-minute holiday shopping for my family. While in one store, I asked the sales clerk how business was going. We got to talking, and she told me how numbers were dramatically down this year. She said people were worried. With so much uncertainty about the future and the fragile economy, she said it was hard to convince people to spend their hard-earned money on gifts.

That word, ``uncertainty'' is one I have heard quite often lately. Whether it is industrial leaders on Wall Street, small business owners on Main Street or farmers and ranchers on country roads, they are worried about the future. They understand confidence matters in our economy.

It is time to act right now, today. We have a chance to earn back the confidence of the people we work for and show the world America is still the safest bet in the world.

To give families and businesses certainty to start down a sustainable fiscal path, Congress and the President must agree on a balanced plan. They must ramp up over time and cut spending, while at the same time asking a little more from those who can afford it. The math will not work any other way. The clock is ticking. It is time to stop campaigning and start listening. It is time to make the tough choices the American people sent us to make.

The President is meeting with congressional leaders at this very moment. My message to them is simple: We can do this. We can get this done, and we must. It is our responsibility.

Here is a comparison of the latest grand bargain proposals made by the President and Speaker Boehner. As you can see, we are not that far apart. There is not a lot of difference. There are compromises that can be made on both sides. We are not far from an agreement on a balanced plan--a plan that will bridge the fiscal cliff.

A balanced plan will encourage businesses to invest, enabling investors to return to the markets with confidence. Most important, a balanced plan will put Americans back to work in a growing economy.

I understand time is short, New Year's Eve fast approaching. But I believe in life we have only two choices: try or do nothing. To ask the question is to answer it: Of course we try. If we try, we have another question to ask ourselves: Do we try our best? Of course, to ask that question is to answer it as well: We try our best.

I choose to try, I choose to try my best, and I ask you to join me in that effort.

Our first choice is a grand bargain that puts this issue to bed once and for all. That is unlikely, to be honest, this late in the game. But it is still my first choice, and we should still try.

At the very least, we owe the American people a plan that addresses the immediate challenges and gives Congress additional time to reach a bigger deal. It will show we can work together across party lines, and it will set the tone for the tougher discussion we need to have to enact a long-term and comprehensive deficit solution.

The American people are calling on us to act. They are calling for compromise, for common sense. It is time to put progress ahead of politics.

As President Kennedy warned, we cannot be lulled into comfortable inaction. We need to face this challenge head on and use it as an opportunity to put our economy back on track. So let's get to work.

I thank the managers of the bill for giving me this time, and I yield the floor.


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