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Public Statements

The Fiscal Cliff

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I am not going to linger because there is much to be discussed on the Defense authorization. What I wish to talk about for a few minutes is about the safety and security of the United States of America, meaning our solvency and the demonstration of our ability to govern.

We need a sense of urgency about solving the fiscal cliff problem. We need to end the culture of delay in this institution. I am very concerned that as we talk about solving the problems of the fiscal cliff, there is this whole dynamic going on. There is this whole patter going on, from staff level to Senators. It is, oh, we are going to be here until Christmas Eve.

I think that is a disaster. I think it is a disaster for our economy, I think it is a disaster for the demonstration of our ability to govern, and I think it is a disaster for our standing in the world. We need to show we can govern ourselves, and we can put ourselves on a sound fiscal path with the right combination of growth, frugality, and ensuring a safety net for the most vulnerable of our citizens. I am here to say to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the dome, and even the White House: Let's get the job done. I propose let's really conscientiously work hard to make sure we have a framework that we could vote on by the weekend of December 15.

Why do I want December 15 as a deadline? It is Saturday. Mr. President, you, yourself, have tweeted about--Oh, let's have Saturday as Small Business Week. We have had cyber Mondays. Let's have a strong economy closing of the week before Christmas.

I can tell you, Mr. President, if we show that we can govern and actually pass a bill by Saturday, December 15, that does exactly what I said. It shows that we have a sense of frugality and are on a path where we are solving our issues around debt, but we also have the elements that promote growth and ensure a safety net for the most vulnerable. We could do three things: We could show that we can govern. That would be very big in the mind of the public, that we could govern ourselves. It would be important to the public, and it would be important to the world, particularly those who lend us money.

It would be an enormous sense of boosting consumer confidence 10 days before Christmas. We would show that we are on the way to solving our problems. For those who benefit from either Federal employment or contracts with the Federal Government, there would be stability in their employment.

I can also say as to the stock market we could have a floor under the stock market, and we might even have a jump in the stock market. Just one-third of Americans believe Congress can be counted on to behave like responsible adults--only one-third. They have seen no compromise or cooperation. They have seen lip service. We don't need to be trading pet rocks over what we need to do, and we should not throw them either. We have to come together, both sides of the aisle, both sides of the dome, with the White House.

We do not lack in ideas. The content for a solution is not new. We have had excellent people working on this. We have seen Simpson-Bowles in a report, Domenici-Rivlin, wise heads giving us good ideas. We have had the supercommittee that fleshed out a lot of these issues and knows where the disagreements are. We have had the Gang of 6, the Gang of 8. Let's get to the Gang of 100 and pass this bill. I would be happy with the Gang of 51.

I want to be sure we know, because we do know, the ideas. We do not lack in ideas. What we lack is will and momentum to get this job done. My principles are simple and straightforward: No. 1, let's have a sense of urgency. No. 2, make sure when we look at cuts that we count the cuts that we have already done. For example, the $900 billion we have done in the Budget Control Act because that would also include the $450 billion that we have done in defense spending--the kinds of issues we have talked about. Let's also count the $550 billion that we did in reforming Medicare during health care reform.

We have had good words, now we need good deeds and swift action. Just think what it would mean to reach an agreement by December 15. Americans could see that we can work together. Think about the energy this would unlock to avoid a sequester.

Think about what a signal this would be to middle-class people on Main Street as well as the people on Wall Street because business would have certainty, we would have consumer confidence, and we could have a new self-confidence about ourselves that we could govern.

The Presiding Officer and I represent a great State. We represent a State that has an innovative economy, from both the Federal Government and its great Federal labs, such as NIH, to its great national security areas, such as the Cyber Command at Fort Meade. Yes, they would be devastated by a sequester. So would our contractors, both defense and civilians. Great iconic institutions such as Hopkins would take a huge hit in not only research and development but in providing care to the needy, care to the desperate who come from all over the country to get help for a sick child or an aging relative or to get eyesight restored at the Wilmer Eye Institute. Sure, I am for jobs in Maryland, but I am here trying to stand for America.

We need to show we can govern, and we cannot wait until December 24, that somehow or another this is going to be Santa Claus, because if we don't act soon, we are going to get rocks in our socks, and I think they would be well deserved.

I yield the floor.


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