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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, here in Washington, DC, the budget debate is often discussed in terms of abstract numbers and political winners and losers. But the truth is that budgets are about far more than that. They are about our values and our priorities, and they are about the people across the country whose lives are impacted by the decisions we make.

Today the Senate Budget Committee discussed one approach to tackling our budget challenges, an approach that, while getting our debt and deficits under control, will also create jobs and build a foundation for prosperity from the middle out.

Tomorrow we will continue this discussion and vote on a plan. Then we will move this debate here to the Senate floor, and then, hopefully, work toward a balanced and bipartisan agreement with the House of Representatives, while the American people have a chance to weigh in.

I believe our budget must meet not just one but many pressing challenges of our time. We have come a long way since early 2009 when President Obama entered office facing massive deficits and an economy that was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs per month.

We have made progress toward getting our debt and deficits under control, and we have added back jobs, but the recovery is not as strong or as fast as it needs to be. Millions of workers continue struggling to get back to work, and we still have some very serious challenges when it comes to our medium and long-term deficit and debt challenges.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be asked to make tough choices as we work to tackle these challenges responsibly. This process is not going to be easy. There is a serious difference of opinion about what our government should be doing to keep our economy and our national finances moving in the right direction.

One approach is to follow a path back to the economic policies of the last administration. This is the path to more tax cuts for the rich but less opportunity for the middle class to get ahead. It is a path not to prosperity, which can only truly be built from the middle out, but to the deterioration of our national infrastructure and the decline of our schools and the dismantling of the Medicare promise we have made to our seniors. This approach, in fact, was on the ballot last November. Voters around the country rejected it. Instead, they want an approach that puts the middle class first, that returns our Nation to the fiscal and economic policies that have worked for this country before, by focusing on jobs and the economy, cutting spending responsibly, and calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

The Senate budget--which we put out today--reflects the progrowth, pro-middle class agenda that the American people went to the polls and supported in November.

Our budget is really built on three principles: No. 1, we need to protect our fragile economic recovery, create jobs, and invest in long-term growth. No. 2, we need to tackle our deficit and debt fairly and responsibly. And, No. 3, we need to keep the promises we made to our Nation's seniors and families and our communities.

We believe with an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly high and a middle class that has seen their wages stagnate for far too long, we simply cannot afford any threats to our fragile recovery.

That is why this budget uses equal amounts of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans to fully replace the cuts from sequestration--cuts that, by the way, threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs this year, and cuts that endanger economic growth for years to come, and cuts that are being felt in States such as mine, where military families are losing services, local housing officials are being forced to cut housing vouchers for the homeless, and furloughs are being handed out to those who are cleaning up nuclear waste that threatens our environment.

The budget we are offering invests in infrastructure and job training to get Americans back to work now. It prioritizes education, as well as research and development, so that our workforce of today and tomorrow has the skills to compete in the 21st century global economy.

Our budget puts jobs and the economy first and foremost. But it also builds on the work we have done over the last 2 years to tackle our deficit and debt responsibly.

Since 2010, Congress and the administration have worked together to reduce the deficit by $2.4 trillion--$1.8 trillion coming from spending cuts, $600 billion coming from allowing tax rates to rise on the wealthiest Americans, which we voted on in the year-end deal.

The Senate budget takes us the rest of the way to that $4 trillion goal and beyond. It builds on the $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction already done with an additional $1.85 trillion in new deficit reduction, for a total of $4.25 trillion in deficit reduction since the Simpson-Bowles report.

Our budget reduces the deficit to below 3 percent of GDP by 2015 and keeps it well below that level for the rest of the 10-year window in a responsible way. It pushes down our debt, as a percentage of the economy, moving in the right direction. Our budget tackles the deficit the way the American people have consistently said they want it done, with an equal mix of responsible spending cuts made across the Federal budget and new revenue raised by closing loopholes and cutting wasteful breaks that primarily benefit the rich.

This budget cuts spending responsibly by $975 billion, finding savings across the budget, including health and defense. It matches those responsible spending cuts with $975 billion in new revenue, which is raised by closing loopholes and cutting unfair spending in the Tax Code for those who need it the least, while locking in tax cuts for the middle class and low-income working families and protecting them from having to pay a penny more.

Since we have so far been unable to get a deal because Republicans reject using new revenue from the wealthiest to help us reduce the deficit, I want to emphasize that there is bipartisan support for deficit reduction through making the Tax Code more fair and efficient. During the recent fiscal cliff negotiations Speaker Boehner proposed that we reduce the deficit by $800 billion by closing what he called special interest loopholes and deductions. This budget takes him up on that.

In addition to investing in jobs and economic growth and tackling our deficit and debt responsibly, this budget also keeps the promises we have made to our seniors, our families, our veterans, and our communities. We strongly reject the call to dismantle Medicare by voucherizing it because this critical program that seniors and families support, paid into, and depend on should be protected. This budget takes a responsible, fair approach. It is the one endorsed by bipartisan groups and experts. It is the one supported by the vast majority of the American people.

The House of Representatives is also working on their budget resolution today. I know there are going to be serious differences between the visions and values and priorities within the budgets which will emerge from our Chamber and theirs. But the American people are going to have an opportunity now to examine these budgets side by side. They are going to be able to decide which approach is best for our economy, best for our jobs, and best for the middle class. They will let us know whether they want to go back down the path of the trickle-down policies that decimated the middle class and threw our economy into a tailspin or if they would prefer the approach we have seen work before: to tackle our deficit responsibly, to reinvest in the middle class, to build a strong foundation for growth, and to restore the promise of American opportunity.

The Senate budget is a balanced and responsible approach to taking us down that second path. I am hopeful the House of Representatives will join us at the bargaining table so we can end this gridlock and work together toward a responsible and bipartisan budget deal that the American people expect and deserve.

I yield the floor.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, before the Senator leaves the floor, the chair of the Budget Committee--first of all, I want to compliment her on the work she has done on the Budget Committee. It is indeed impressive. I want to compliment her because she is headed for a balanced approach, really. Increased revenue. We are not talking about rates, we are talking about getting rid of tax break earmarks, earmarks that go on not for one group for 1 year but go on indefinitely, such as subsidies for corporate jets and sending jobs overseas.

But the other areas she is looking at are how we can be more frugal in our spending, and then a rigorous review of mandatory spending. We have to review it to see how we can get more value for our dollar.

The Senator has championed veteran's health care. She and I know we can get more value there. I compliment the Senator on that.

I am going to ask the Senator a question about timing and process. Does the Senator have a time mandate that has been assigned to her to complete her bill?

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Maryland. First of all, let me just say it is truly a pleasure to be on the floor with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. I just remember when the Senator and I were here back in 1992, the Year of the Woman, and now here we are managing these critical financial bills.

Ms. MIKULSKI. It is the economic framework for the United States of America.

Mrs. MURRAY. Exactly. Families across the country should be grateful for the work the Senator is doing on the appropriations side of the committee, which focuses on making sure their kids can go to school, that they have the research and investment they need for their health care, and so many transportation infrastructure projects that allow them to go to work and raise their families in a responsible way.

I respect and admire the work the Senator is doing right now on a very difficult and challenging budget CR that no one wishes looked like it does, but we recognize the reality of the task the Senator has been given. She is managing it in the best way possible.

To answer the question, I would tell the Senator that we are in a very short timeframe. Our Budget Committee will proceed through the amendment process, and tomorrow night pass out our budget after many amendments. At that time, our staff will work over the few short days they have to have the paperwork ready to lay down our bill on the floor of the Senate, hopefully, Monday night. We are under a very constricted timeframe. It is the one piece of legislation that comes before this body like that with 50 hours of debate and multiple amendments. We need to finish that before we can leave for the April break.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Well, I want to share the Senator's sense of urgency to get her bill done. In order for her to get her bill done, I need to get my bill done. I want to pledge my cooperation, and I believe that of my vice chairman, Senator Shelby. We have a sense of urgency to move our bill because we must take it over to the House. There, we have a deadline that is a Draconian one: If we do not have a continuing funding resolution passed before the

Easter-Passover break, we will face a government shutdown. That is horrific in terms of our economy and the people who want the U.S. Government to govern itself. It is also one more sign that we have a problem governing. I say that because, while the Senator is marking up her bill tomorrow, we want to move through here so that we are done.

I would like to have this bill done tomorrow. There are those who have obligations in their States and even at an international conference. I would like to support that, but Senator Shelby and I need support too. So we do not doubt people offering amendments, we do not question their content or their policy, but we have timing and process.

Our bill is not meant to be ``pin the tail on the donkey.'' It is not meant to solve every problem the U.S. Government has. Our job is to keep the continuing resolution.

I want to say to the Senator, while, speaking to a much larger audience, I know there is pent frustration not to be able to offer amendments and debate. We are doing that. You win some, you lose some. That is called the Senate. I want the Senator to know we want to work with her so that we do not interfere in her work. But I believe one of the ways we can get to the budget, which is the real framework for how we can even vitiate sequester, is to get out our bill, meaning the continuing funding resolution.

So I want to compliment the Senator on her work. I pledge to support it, but I ask the support of all of the other 98 of our colleagues. Let's look at what we need to get done on the continuing funding resolution, not what we would like to get done.

Mrs. MURRAY. If the Senator from Maryland, the chairman of our Appropriations Committee, would yield for a minute, I want to back her up on that. I know there are probably 8,000 amendments that can be offered to this because nobody is happy with the fact that we are faced with a continuing resolution that does not reflect the needs of all of our communities. I know she did not come here to debate process or to be the mother of Senators and get them over here to offer amendments. I know where her passion is. It is fitting for her kids and families and communities in Maryland. That is what she wants to get back to.

If we can get past this and put the CR in place, swallow hard and then get our budget done and work toward a process of a bipartisan budget, we need to do that so we can then give the Senator the ability to put the Appropriations Committee bills together. They will come out here and we will be able to offer amendments and people will have their say about the spending of the future. We cannot get to that unless we get that work done.

Ms. MIKULSKI. That is right. An open and transparent process in that legislation that we put together over a weekend, 571 pages. Senators McCain and Coburn were right, but I could not do any more because I did not get it from the House until Thursday. So, again, I am not here to debate process, but I am the prodder of the process. So I am out here prodding and pleading: Please, let's get a simple, contained order of amendments. We thank the other side of the aisle. They are working with us.

In terms of the floor staff who is working on this, we need the cooperation of the Senators.

Mrs. MURRAY. I would back up the Senator and urge Senators to, please, finish this product, move on to our budget next week, and get that done. Then we can get to the point that America will respect the work of this body and not lurch from crisis to crisis as the Senator has outlined and get back to focusing on the policies those families she cares about and represents so well want her here for.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Absolutely. I see my colleague from Maryland, such an able and active Member, a member of the Finance Committee that is known to make a contribution. We want him to make a couple of trillion dollars' worth of contributions, as a matter of fact.

I yield the floor.


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