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Public Statements

America's Financial Future

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of hyperactive rhetoric about the fiscal cliff and the trouble ahead. The fact is that people should just take a deep breath and focus on where we are and where we need to go.

First of all, it's not a fiscal cliff but a slope. There are many opportunities for us in the weeks ahead to be able to change the unsustainable trajectory of America's financial future. There are many efforts already evident and people taking steps to try to cope with it.

The President campaigned very explicitly on raising the top tax rates. It was something that was embraced by Democrats running for the Senate and virtually all of them running for the House. The President won. The Senate actually increased in Democratic numbers. There were more Democrats added to the House. And more Americans voted for the President and his vision, for the Senate Democrats, and for Democrats in the House than my Republican friends on the other side of the aisle.

It's encouraging that the President has decided that he's no longer going to negotiate with himself. He's laid out his positions and has encouraged a response. I, for one, was pleased that there was a proposal offered up by my Republican friends, signed not just by the Speaker but the entire Republican leadership. While it still does not have the specifics about what those elusive tax loopholes that they want to close are, which will raise sufficient revenue, I find this an encouraging sign that there is an effort, for the first time, to put something back, and I think there are opportunities for people to flesh out the details. There is an opportunity for tax reform; our system now is not efficient. It's chaotic. It's expensive. It's unfair and perplexing. There is an opportunity for us going forward to add a little more rationality to it while it raises more revenue.

There are countless opportunities in the Department of Defense to save money, starting with $250 billion in the nuclear arsenal for weapons that we will never use and don't need. There are opportunities for agricultural reform. And it's been my pleasure to work on bipartisan reform efforts with Senator-elect Jeff Flake of Arizona and my friend from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. And there are real opportunities in health care.

Now I hope my Republican friends will stop the charade we went through this last 2 years repealing ObamaCare some 37 times. That train has left the station. The President was reelected. It's not going to be repealed. The Supreme Court has decided that it's constitutional. And most of the major health care players are busy at work implementing health care reform. But we have barely scratched the surface of the ability to squeeze more value out of the health care system.

The United States does not have to spend nearly twice as much as all the other developed countries and actually have health care results that, on average, are worse than our European and Japanese friends.

We have the best health care in the world for some Americans. But too many are denied regular health care, and others are paying too much for results that aren't good enough.

We know what to do: embedded in the health care reform act are elements of reform that used to have bipartisan support, starting with the mandate that was cosponsored by 16 Republican Senators, elements of reform that were implemented by Republican and Democratic Governors alike, including Governor Romney. It's time for us to act on those elements, to accelerate the reform.

I note with no small amount of irony that the $716 billion that the Republican ticket, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, used to campaign against the President, Paul Ryan's budget included the same reductions, and it's likely that they will be in his budget that's coming forward.

Let's act on things that we agree. Let's rebuild and renew America and find ways to save money and put us on the path to fiscal responsibility that the American public needs and demands.

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