This week, the Senate debated the House-passed H.R.325, the No Budget, No Pay Act, a measure to suspend the debt limit until May 19, 2013, and then raise the current ceiling to match any newly accumulated debt.
Several amendments to this legislation were submitted aimed at cutting spending in exchange for raising the debt limit and ending haphazard last-minute budget deals that threaten our economy. I co-sponsored and voted in favor of, the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act and the End Government Shutdowns Act, which were both introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and offered as amendments to H.R.325. Unfortunately, the amendments were tabled by votes of 54 to 44 and 52 to 46, respectively.
The Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act, S.43, promotes spending reform by preventing Congress from raising the debt limit unless legislation also cuts commensurate spending over the next decade. The entire amount would have to be offset within federal programs, allowing the interest savings on the national debt to provide additional savings above the debt limit increase amount.
The End Government Shutdowns Act, S.29, seeks to prevent last-minute budget deals that fail to address our out-of-control spending, and also seeks to end the threat to cut off essential federal government services. The End Government Shutdowns Act creates an automatic continuing resolution (CR) for any regular appropriations bill, lessening the chance of last-minute, budget-busting bills being forced through against the threat of a government shutdown.
I also co-sponsored and voted for S.46, the Ensuring the Full Faith and Credit of the United States and Protecting America's Soldiers and Seniors Act, which was offered as an amendment by Sen. Toomey, R-Penn., to H.R.325. This amendment was tabled by a vote of 53 to 45. The bill provides that if the U.S. government reaches its statutory debt limit, three items will be given priority over all other obligations: principal and interest payments on the debt; Social Security payments; pay for active duty armed service members.
It is critically important that we get our nation's fiscal house in order and make meaningful spending cuts so we do not continue to mortgage our children's and grandchildren's futures. The American people are extremely frustrated with Congress and President Obama's routine of kicking the can down the road and then ramming through haphazard deals at the eleventh hour to avert a government shutdown or fiscal cliff. I was proud to co-sponsor and vote in favor of these amendments because they are thoughtful solutions that will help lead us to a path of fiscal sanity and avoid political "showdowns' that damage our economy.
This week, a bipartisan group of eight senators proposed a general framework for comprehensive immigration. The bipartisan framework outlines four broad legislative pillars: create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required; reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families; create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and, establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
As I have stated in the past, when it comes to illegal immigration, it is absolutely critical to our state and to this nation that we first secure the borders, honor those who have come here legally by not offering amnesty, and restore credibility to our broken immigration system. While I believe that immigration reform is an important issue that needs to be addressed, I will reserve judgment until I see this latest proposal put into legislative form with more specific details. I do not believe in offering amnesty or any special pathway to citizenship for individuals who are here illegally, and I believe that all immigrants should pursue citizenship by getting in line and complying with the same rules that are already in place.
Unfortunately, Price Middle School in Atlanta, Ga., yesterday experienced a school shooting in which a 14-year-old boy was shot by a fellow student. My heart and prayers are with the families, teachers, administrators and students. It appears that the school administrators took the appropriate precautions following the attack.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on gun violence this week, and the chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he would like to have legislation before the end of February. The legislation may include an updated version of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban by Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., that expired in 2004.
I do not believe that bans on assault weapons or cartridges are the answer to ending mass acts of violence, nor will such measures pass Congress. As history shows us, the 10-year ban on assault weapons that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 failed to prevent the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The common threads running through these shootings are mental health issues. I believe that more effective and sensible solutions are those that focus on background checks and mental health care, rather than restrictions on our Second Amendment right to bear arms. I look forward to working for commonsense solutions that keep our children safe without infringing upon our Constitutional rights.
In Other News
Severe weather, accompanied by tornadoes and flooding unfortunately came through Georgia on Wednesday, prompting Gov. Nathan Deal to declare a state of emergency for Bartow and Gordon counties. My condolences go out to the victims of these dangerous storms. On Thursday, I spoke to Tim Bryant on WGAU-1340 AM in Athens regarding disaster aid funding, Secretary John Kerry's confirmation to Secretary of State, former Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination to the position of Secretary of Defense, Senator Chambliss' retirement announcement and the nation's debt and deficit problems. Please feel free to listen live online, beginning at the 41:36 mark.
I was also pleased to hold my regular telephone town hall meeting on Monday night. The topics covered were wide-ranging and I learned a great deal on the call myself.
What's on Tap?
Next week, the Senate will begin consideration of a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, S.47, for five years.