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Mr. SESSIONS. I thank the Chair and express my appreciation to Senator Murray for her leadership, her courtesy, and her skill in managing the bill through the committee and on the floor. She is an experienced legislator who has strong convictions, but she is easy to work with, courteous, and effective in what she does every day. I thank Senator Murray, and I enjoy working with her.
Well, our Chair says this is a pro-growth, pro-middle-class budget. I say it is a pro-tax, pro-spend, and pro-debt budget. It is a budget of deep disappointment. It is a budget that comes nowhere near doing the things necessary to put America on a sound path. It is a budget that does, indeed, reflect the stark differences between our parties. It is rather remarkable to me, the extent to which our majority party in the Senate has no interest in producing a budget that actually balances and actually puts America on the right path.
They say they care about growth, and I know they do.
I know they would like to see the economy grow more and more jobs being created because we have had the slowest recovery during this recession since anytime after World War II, at least. It has been very, very slow. But we have done something to a degree we have never done before; that is, borrow and spend to stimulate the economy.
Someone has compared borrowing and spending to stimulate the economy to the idea of someone taking a bucket and scooping up water in one end of the swimming pool and pouring it into the other. We have no net gain. The truth is that we lose some of the water out of the bucket as we walk along the shore. In this case, what we lose is interest on the debt indefinitely because there is no plan to pay down the debt.
So this budget that is before us today does not balance, it does not put us on a sound path, it does not create confidence among the American citizens that the future is going to be sound, that we have gotten this country reoriented in a way that is going to produce long-term growth. Indeed, it is going to do exactly the opposite. It is going to do exactly the opposite. It says, once again, that this Senate is not willing to do the things necessary to put America on a sound course. And it is not that hard. We can do this. It is within our grasp. But our leadership in this Senate, contrary to the House, is not willing to take those good, solid but achievable steps necessary to put this country on a sound path. I just feel that very deeply.
Hopefully, in the context of our debate and a budget being moved through here on a party-line vote, I suppose, as it was in committee, maybe some connection will be made amongst ourselves and our Members and our brains about the real issues facing the country and what we need to do to get on the right path. And maybe even in conference, if not here on the floor, we can have some miraculous agreement that would create the kind of long-term confidence businesspeople and the American people are looking for from the U.S. Congress and the government.
Senator Reid indicated he would like to finish. I would like to finish too. We were under the impression that we could have started this voting process on the budget as early as Monday, if not Tuesday. That could have happened. Apparently, the leadership decided to block amendments. That created, on this side, a number of Senators who felt very strongly that they, in fact, had relevant amendments and they wanted them voted on, and they would not agree to time limits until the majority agreed to give them a vote. Whether I was for or against the amendments is not relevant. I thought they should have been given a vote. They are Senators. A big bill moving forward, several appropriations bills cobbled together to fund the government, and we only have four or five amendments. Serious amendments, such as the Moran amendment with 28 cosponsors, Republicans and Democrats, was blocked. He couldn't get an amendment on a relevant issue involving the health and safety of America.
So that has put us behind in the schedule, not anything we have done. There was not a problem on this side. If they had been given amendments, they would have been done in very short order and could have been completed Monday or early Tuesday.
So here we are. We have under the law 50 hours of debate on the budget, 25 to a side, and an unlimited number of amendments can be offered. So that is going to take time, as it always does, and I am sorry it is getting pushed into the weekend.
I would also just say briefly that as time has gone by, I have been more and more convinced of what I believed from the beginning, which is that this Congress is not capable of producing a massive overhaul of the Federal health care program. I remember the night Senator Reid refers to when the final passage, I guess, occurred or the day that it occurred. But what I remember most is being here Christmas Eve--my birthday--when the bill cleared the Senate on a straight party-line vote, 60 to 40. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts was elected on a promise to block and kill the legislation. The American people were consistently opposing the legislation. They were able to ram it through before he could take office and cast the deciding vote. They got the absolute minimum number of votes--60--to pass this monstrosity.
I am told now the regulations in the bill are 6 feet high when stacked. We still haven't seen them. That legislation has 1,700 references to this section to be effectuated by regulations to be issued by the department. Regulations continue to pour out in record numbers to try to clarify the hundreds and thousands of ambiguities in the bill.
We were told that people's health insurance premiums would go down, that this was going to bend the cost curve to bring health care costs down. We warned that would not happen. Who was correct 3 years ago? Health care costs are surging. They are not through surging yet. We are going to have more increases as the health care bill takes effect in January of next year. The average person's premium has already gone up $2,000-plus a year. Small businesses all over America are telling us they are not hiring because of the health care bill. This has clearly been a deficit and a detriment to job creation.
We had no ability to write this health care law. We didn't know enough about it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: Well, we have to write it to see what is in it. What she meant was that we are just going to pass some vision of health care reform and the bureaucrats will take care of it. Well, they are not taking care of it well. We are not capable of managing it.
We are endangering the greatest health care system the world has ever known. We are going to see fewer and fewer top-quality young people go into medicine. I am hearing that over and over again. Doctors are telling me they don't know what to tell their children about going into medicine.
This is just one example of what happens in this country when people in Washington take on the arrogant view that they know how to fix the health care system--one of the most massive, complex, marvelous systems the world has ever known.
You can go to Alabama and see some of the best doctors in the entire world in our State. People go there from all over the world. Dr. Andrews treated RG3 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, his private practice in Birmingham. People can go to top-quality surgeons in Mobile, Montgomery--throughout the State--Auburn-Opelika, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville. This is true for every State in America.
For people to say our health care is not the best in the world--why do people come here from all over the world? That is one of the most horrible things I have ever heard, really, around here, suggesting we don't. So we have people who die sooner than in some other countries. We have a lot of causes. We have more obesity. We have more smoking. We have fewer people taking care of themselves sometimes. We have a lot of individual problems. We have a higher murder rate. We have high accident rates in automobiles. So we have things that pull down our lifespan, but that doesn't mean our health care isn't good. It doesn't mean our health care is not the best in the world. All of us have seen that.
Mr. President, I wish to ask Chairman Murray where we are now on going through the business of the day. I appreciate the chairman's leadership and suggestions as to going forward.
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Mr. SESSIONS. I would like to start with a motion, yes, and I am prepared to do that, and I thank the chairman.
I offer a motion to recommit this budget that is on the floor today to the committee with instructions that it be altered to produce a balanced budget.
That is what I think this Nation needs. I think that is what the American people want, and that is what we are determined to fight for because it is the right thing for the country, not because it is some green eyeshade goal. I have heard that argument, and that is not what is on our minds when we say: Let's balance the budget. It is not what the American people have on their minds when they say: Why don't you guys balance our budget?
What is it that is necessary here? We believe that if we alter our debt course in a responsible way and we begin to reduce the deficits regularly and steadily in an effective way, we can reach a balanced budget and we can keep on that balanced budget without cutting expenditures. The facts are quite clear that we can increase spending every year, just not as much as we are increasing spending today and just not as much as our Democratic budget increases spending. That is what we believe we should do. I will explain as we go forward how that can create jobs, create growth, will make this country healthier, will create confidence in the world financial community, will see more money come to the United States, and will allow businesses that are sitting on cash to begin to invest and hire people. That is the direction in which we should be going. That is what would be good for America.
But first and foremost, as I explained last night, the Democratic budget on the floor today comes nowhere close to that. It is nowhere close to setting forth a plan that would actually balance the budget. Indeed, the budget never balances under their plan, and it won't balance in the future. Things are only going to get worse. They are going to get worse because it deals in no way with the fundamental, driving forces of the debt this country faces. It does not deal with that. If we don't deal with those issues, then we are not going to get the debt under control. But we can do it. We can do it in a number of ways.
Now, the President has sent a very clear message. Recently on ABC, with George Stephanopoulos, the President said: And so, you know, my goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance.
Who said we are trying to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance? That is not what we are doing. We are trying to put America on a sound debt path. We are trying to put America on a sound financial path that will create confidence and avoid the danger of a fiscal crisis.
We started counting last night. My colleagues, yesterday and last night--I think we stopped counting--used the phrase ``balance'' 24 times: This is a balanced approach. It is a balanced plan. We are seeking primary balance. We are going to have a responsible, balanced plan.
Pretty soon, they will say they have a balanced budget. Well, they don't have a balanced budget. We need to understand that fully.
Secondly, the budget that has been produced does not even put us any closer to a balanced budget than we are today. When we add up the taxes that are being increased, when we add the new spending that is in this bill, it doesn't change the debt course at all.
Earlier this year, Mr. Elmendorf, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, testified before our Budget Committee. Mr. Elmendorf is an excellent scholar and a man who has managed the money of the budget well. Mr. Elmendorf is--Mr. President, I am having a little trouble concentrating with the roar going on in my background. I would appreciate it if we could keep it down a little bit.
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Mr. SESSIONS. So Mr. Elmendorf told us at the Budget Committee that we are on an unsustainable path. OK. This is after the Budget Control Act, after we reduced the growth of spending $2.1 trillion, and that includes the sequester. After we did all that, this year he told us we are on an unsustainable debt course. He said this is a danger to America and we have to get off it and we need to make further changes to get on the right course.
So we have looked at this budget, and we thought the committee, which called him, would listen to him, and we wanted to see if the budget that is on the floor now actually helps us get toward a sound financial future. I have to say it does not. It does not change the course we are on. It raises taxes dramatically, but it raises spending and eats up all the new taxes, not altering the amount of debt that will be raised over 10 years.
Isn't that a failed budget plan? Isn't that a failure of leadership? I hate to say that. But the challenge of our time is to deal with our financial crisis. The challenge of our time is to alter the debt course we are on and put us on a sound path, and it has not been met by this budget.
The House budget--we all may have different ideas about some of the things in it--provides for increased spending every single year, but it balances the budget, totally balances the budget, in 10 years. It would balance in 10 years and does it by increasing spending every year, on an average of 3.4 percent a year. So we can increase spending at 3.4 percent a year--increase spending--and balance the budget.
But the problem is the budget the majority sends forth would increase spending at 5.4 percent a year. That does not sound like a lot, but the difference is trillions of dollars. The difference is a plan that puts us on a sound financial path to the future and a plan that leads us on the unsustainable debt course we are now on.
My Democratic colleagues need to look at this. We saw, I guess, in Politico--I had the quote here yesterday that said fundamentally the majority's plan was written by the left of the Democratic conference--the left--and it said explicitly to the left of President Obama. That makes sense if we look at what is in the budget. Look how much they spend, how much they tax, and how they do not reduce the debt we are adding every single year. So that is what we have.
As Chairman Murray said, budgets present a contrast. Budgets lay out your vision for the future. A budget defines who you are because it says how much you want to tax in the next 10 years, it says how much you want to spend in the next 10 years, and it requires you to state how much debt you are going to accumulate for America over the next 10 years.
This plan will add another $7.3 trillion to the debt of America. We are already at almost $17 trillion. That will take us to about $24 trillion in 10 years. Interest on that debt is huge. By their own numbers, interest on their debt would amount to approximately $800 billion in 1 year. Interest on the debt, under their budget, would rise to the point of $800 billion in 1 year. We spend about $100 billion on education. We spend about $40 billion-plus--a little over--on highways, roads, and bridges. That is just an example. We are now surging from $200 billion, $250 billion in interest to $800 billion in interest. As a result of the accounting CBO has provided us, if we follow this path, it is going to crowd out spending for research, it is going to crowd out spending for children, education, health care, and any other program this government wishes to undertake, including defense.
Mr. President, what kind of time limit is there, might I inquire? Is there 30 minutes on this side on this motion?
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Mr. SESSIONS. This motion would simply say this to our colleagues--it will be a defining vote for our Members; and Members need to understand the meaning of this vote--the question will be: Do you favor a balanced budget? Is it important to you? Have you said: I am going to vote for a balanced budget amendment. Have you said in your townhall meetings and in your campaigns and in your debates: I believe in a balanced budget amendment or I believe in a balanced budget, period.
What we are saying is that this country can balance its budget. We can balance the budget in America today if we set forth a plan that allows the spending levels to increase by 3.4 percent a year for the next 10 years. Isn't that great news? We can spend 3.4 percent more each year. According to the data the Congressional Budget Office gives us and we rely on, we can do that and still increase spending over the next decade.
Inflation is going to increase about 2 percent or a little over, according to CBO. Inflation will increase about 25 percent over the next 10 years and about 40 percent if we increase spending each year at 3.4 percent. That puts us on a path to balance. It begins to reduce the debt overhang for our country. It brings down the amount of debt we have in our country and puts us on a sound path. It does all the things we need. It sends a message to the world that we have our financial house in order. I believe good Members of this body--Democrats and Republicans alike--have told their constituents and are sincerely of the belief that we can and should balance our budget. When I say ``balance,'' I mean honest balance, not some balanced approach, not some primary balance, none of that; that when the revenue comes in and the money goes out, it is the same. We are not sending more money out than we are bringing in, in revenue, having to borrow the difference and pay interest on it. Because that is what we have been doing to a degree we have never, ever done before in this country. We have never, ever done before what we are doing now. We have never, ever had 4 consecutive years of trillion-dollar deficits--nothing close to it.
People say President Bush was irresponsible. He should have been more wary of the grand promises that the economy would never have a recession and that things are going to go great. He should have. The next to the last year he was in office, the budget deficit was $167 billion. It had dropped from a higher figure in his time in office. His last year, it was $450 billion or $460 billion.
President Obama has been in office 4 full years, starting his fifth, and his deficits have been averaging $1,200 billion a year. We have never, ever, ever seen anything like this before. The debt of the United States of America has surged, and our Democratic colleagues do not have a plan that will put us on a sustainable path in the future.
If we come back out of the economy and we restrain the spending growth just a little bit, we can balance the budget. That is what we ought to do. Again, the goal of balancing the budget is not some frivolous goal for political reasons. The goal of a balanced budget is that we would put us on a sound
financial course. It will mean we have confronted the challenges of our time. It means we know we cannot continue to spend systemically more than we bring in, that a debt crisis could occur and we could have a decline in wealth in America.
So when we say we want to recommit to the committee, colleagues, you need to know what this means. It simply means this: We are directing the committee, the majority of whom are Democrats--and they can write the budget as they choose, using whatever tax changes they want to make and whatever spending changes they want to make--but the budget that hits this floor would be a budget that balances, that creates growth, confidence, and prosperity for America. That is what we are asking you to cast a vote for, and I believe you should break ranks on this. I believe you should vote your conscience. I believe every Senator should vote the beliefs of their constituents. Poll after poll after poll shows that the American people prefer a balanced budget. They know we cannot continue to do what we are doing.
I think it has potential. We are willing to work with the majority. We may disagree with the results, but, my goodness, wouldn't it be great if the Senate produced a budget that balances--and it has one vision of how to balance the budget, the House produced a budget that balances and they have their vision about how to balance the budget--and we go to conference and we could actually reach some sort of a compromise that would fix the financial future of America? The whole world would be amazed. They would say: My goodness, the United States--look at this--they have gotten themselves together. We thought they were going goofy. We thought they had completely sold out to spending and borrowing and look at this.
There would be more investment. American businesses would feel better. American workers would feel better. We would begin to have more growth that way.
That is the way we believe jobs and growth are best created, not by the sugar high that comes from borrowing and spending money.
Back when we did the stimulus bill--I would like to share this with my colleagues because a very important concept was explained us to by Mr. Elmendorf, the CBO Director. Back when we did the stimulus bill, the $800 billion-and-something that President Obama passed that was going to reduce the unemployment rate dramatically, put the country on a sound path, and stimulate the economy, we asked how were we going to do it? We were going to borrow money--every penny of the $830 billion--now $1 trillion with interest--was borrowed and we spent it.
This is what the Director of the Congressional Budget Office said about that. He said: Yes, it will create growth in the short term. It will enhance the growth in the short term. One financial expert called it a sugar high. We will get that. But once that is over and we have the burden of the debt, it begins to cost us every year and it will cost us as long as that money has been spent, as long as we pay interest on that money, and we are going to pay interest--young people, American people--indefinitely because we have no plan to pay down this debt that we have accumulated. We will be paying interest on that indefinitely.
This is what CBO said back in 2009 when the stimulus bill was passed. They said: Yes, you get a short-term benefit. But CBO said that over 10 years, you will have less net growth than if you did not have the stimulus package at all. Think about that.
So we took the sugar high. We voted to borrow the money. I did not. I opposed it. But it passed to borrow more money, to spend now to try to create a sugar high, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, pour one bucket of water from the pool into another, and this is going to somehow permanently fix our economy.
There were some things that I think would have been legitimate for us to do at that time. I supported a more restrained package that had more infrastructure and actual benefits in it. But, fundamentally, we are almost now at the point where the benefits of that spending have been gone and the detrhttp://thomas.loc.gov/iment is already here. Multiply that. Multiply that by the fact that we now have a total of $17 trillion borrowed from around the world, and we are paying interest on that every day. But we are paying extraordinarily low interest rates, unlike any we have seen in the history of the world, and those low interest rates are not expected to remain.
This is why they project that with this budget we will have a $24 trillion debt by 2022, resulting in $800 billion a year in interest. This would be more than the Defense Department, more than we pay on Social Security today, and more than we pay on Medicare today. This is a huge item.
I would say we want growth. We want prosperity. We want to unleash the natural, inherent, entrepreneurial power of the American spirit, economy, and culture. It is a wonderful thing we have. Our free market infrastructure is magnificent, but it is being handicapped by poor economic financial policies of this country. We need to exit this path and return to a path for a balanced budget amendment.
I thank you for the opportunity to make this motion and hope it will be considered. It would provide the committee with full freedom to produce a balanced budget through any way you choose, through any mix of tax-and-spend policies which would be chosen by the committee. It would then come back to the floor. If we were to vote for it, then it would go to conference and put us in an extraordinarily better position to achieve a bipartisan agreement this year, which could help pull us out of the economic doldrums. This would put us on a path to economic prosperity to eliminate the debt drag which international studies, the IMF, European Central Bank, Bank of International Settlements, and Professor Rogoff and Professor Reinhart have all shown pulls down growth. They are saying our debt is so high it is lowering economic growth right now.
We would change all of this through a balanced budget coming out of committee. It would put us on the right path without having to reduce spending, actually. We could still increase spending every single year.
I submit my motion, and I yield to the Chair.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, we understand what is happening here. The budget produced by the majority does not balance, doesn't come close to balancing, does not change in any measurable way the debt course we are on that the Congressional Budget Office Director said is unsustainable.
This budget taxes more, it spends more, and does not change the debt course we are on; therefore, it is a budget about to bankrupt America because, as Mr. Elmendorf said, our current deficit plan endangers our future.
They have used--we have counted--now over 30 times the word ``balanced.'' We have heard a balanced approach, a balanced plan; a balanced approach, a balanced plan. But it does not balance.
Senator Coons, a great Senator, was a county commissioner. He balanced his budget and gained acclaim for it, and it wasn't a balanced approach--it was a balanced budget.
The Presiding Officer has been a Governor and balanced his budget. All former Governors in this body balanced budgets--real balance.
A balanced approach means nothing, nada, zero. A balanced approach means nothing. It is an excuse to tax and spend and not change the debt course of America. At some point, every Senator is going to have a moral responsibility to decide whether they want to stay on that course.
The Ryan budget is not before us. This motion that I have does not require the committee to have a Ryan budget. This motion would simply say: Committee, go back and look at this budget. Committee, do a budget that balances, and if you want to tax oil companies, if you want to tax rich people more, lay it out. If you want to cut spending in some other area than Ryan wants to cut spending, do so. But remember, Ryan does not cut spending.
We see the chart up here. How much does Ryan cut spending? Ryan's budget doesn't cut spending. Our proposal is not to cut spending. It increases spending every single year. One of the ways this country is going broke is, when they reduce the growth of spending, they say it is a cut. That kind of logic is why we are going broke.
If we change the growth rate from 5.4 percent that we are on now to 3.4 percent, this budget would balance. We can grow spending every year and balance the budget--no net cuts. Some programs ought to be eliminated but no net cuts.
We are glad to have Senator Thune, who has served so ably on the Budget Committee for many years, is thoroughly knowledgeable about these issues and is part of the leadership in our conference and I yield to him on the resolution.
How much time remains on the resolution?
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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I have enjoyed listening to our colleagues discuss the issues, particularly the sequester. I know Senator Kaine and I talked about this previously. I would just like to make a few points that are so important for every Member of this body to understand.
Senator Kaine just said additional deficit reduction is needed. He is exactly correct. But this budget has no additional deficit reduction.
They claim they have a balanced approach. They have used that word now 40-some-odd times, ``balance.'' This budget never balances. It does not balance in 10 years, 15 years, and has no vision that would even lead to balance. It remains unsustainable in terms of adding to the debt every single year, resulting in a 1-year interest payment in 2023 of $800 billion--well more than the defense budget; surging interest from around $250 billion now to $800 billion a year--forever, I suppose. And it would go up with the debt rising and with interest rates that could rise even more.
So we don't have additional deficit reduction in the budget that we are being asked to vote on. Senator Kaine said can we make cuts? Yes. Well, I would say we can make more cuts, but we don't. Yes, there is some reduction in some programs, but, on net, no deficit reduction in the budget. So it doesn't change the debt course. You can't deny that.
What we are saying is, go back to the committee. Write the budget like you want. If you think there ought to be more taxes than I think, that is OK. Bring it up. Let's vote on it. But let's have this budget do what you say, be balanced. They have used this word ``balance''--balance, balance, balance--40 more times. We have been keeping up with it. It is so ridiculous. It is utterly unbalanced. It never balances.
By their own admission, the deficits in 1 year are never lower than $400 billion. So it never balances.
A balanced approach. A balanced plan. Why? Are they guilty of confusing the issue? Do they think the American people will hear their message and think, oh, they have a balanced budget? I suspect that is what they think. Twice I have observed my Democratic colleagues at the committee slip and say they have a balanced budget. They have this in their heads so much, but a balanced plan is what they are really saying.
So what is a balanced plan? The way it has been promoted: $1 trillion in tax increases, $1 trillion in spending cuts, a net $2 trillion in deficit reduction. Not so. It is not so. The tax increases are offset by spending increases.
That is just the way it is. You can spin it any way you want to, but I want to make that point.
One thing I will share about the sequester--and I am so pleased that Senator Rubio is here, and I look forward to yielding to him. I truly think this is an unwise mechanism to reduce spending. It should not happen. It should be fixed.
I totally agree with my colleagues that this is unfairly and disproportionately falling on the military. I know Senator Rubio has military bases in Florida. I have them in Alabama and they have them in Virginia, we almost all do. These are patriotic Americans, and these furloughs are in effect 1 day a week, a 20-percent pay cut out of the blue. It is not necessary, and there are other things that have happened.
So how did it happen? Well, it was proposed by the White House, who said: OK, if this special committee doesn't reach agreement on the details of spending cuts, then we will have a sequester across the board. So it originated from the White House. The political theater we have down here is not correct, and we need to be honest about this.
The Republicans agreed to it. It was part of the Budget Control Act. That is the legislation. And who signed the legislation in blue ink right on the back? The President of the United States, Barack Obama.
So he signed it, it is his document, and we agreed to raise the debt ceiling $2.1 trillion, and we agreed to reduce spending over 10 years by $2.1 trillion.
Before the ink was dry, the President was proposing to eliminate the cuts he agreed to. He has been fighting to eliminate those cuts from the beginning, and they are not really cuts. If they were properly applied, it would reduce the growth of spending and not cut spending at all.
So the committee that was supposed to find other cuts failed. The sequester went into effect. And it is an antimilitary provision. It was designed by Jack Lew, a very liberal member of the President's Cabinet, who was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget at the time.
The President, in my opinion, seemed to be quite happy to see these cuts fall on the Defense Department. He seemed to be happy to have this happen.
Why do I say that? Because he has done nothing to fix it except demand something that he has no right to demand, and that is to violate this agreement to reduce spending and instead raise taxes and spend more. That is not going to happen. Congress is not going to vote to violate the agreement they made with the American people less than 2 years ago. If we give in on that, we might as well quit.
Our colleagues say they want to have a balanced approach to this budget, and they are going to raise taxes. Most people who hear that think the taxes would be used to reduce the deficit, but they are not. The taxes are going to be used to fund more spending over the agreement we have had in place now for about 20 months under the Budget Control Act. They want to increase spending above these levels, and they want to use all the new tax increases they are now proposing to fund it.
It does not change the debt course of America, which Mr. Elmendorf, the CBO Director, told us in committee is an unsustainable path that we are on even after the Budget Control Act was passed in August 2011. So we need to work on it.
I am prepared to offer solutions. The House of Representatives has twice passed legislation that would alter the Budget Control Act so that the cuts don't fall so hard on defense. In fact, they eliminated the additional defense cuts, the second phase of defense cuts, and found cuts elsewhere in the budget and smoothed it out fairly. That is what should happen, and that is where we need to be.
So I would encourage all our citizens, all our Members of Congress, all our military leaders by saying if you want to fix the sequester then address your request to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Address your request to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, who has an absolute duty--a responsibility--to ensure that these reductions are done in a fair way.
We have voted and fought for flexibility on this side of the aisle, and we believe in finding, and will vote for, other reductions in spending to prevent this happening the way it is set to occur under current law.
It seems to me they wanted it to happen this way, so they could come to the floor and make a point somehow that we are dramatically and disastrously hammering the budget, when it is not necessary for it to be done this way. That is the way I see it, and I believe we can reach agreement on this. I think somehow we will because it is not right the way the military--representing one-sixth of all Federal spending--is taking half of the cuts. That is the way it falls right now. It is not right and it is too damaging.
It is great to see Senator Rubio. I believe he is next up. I yield to him and thank him for his contribution to our discussion.
Madam President, I ask that time be counted against the resolution.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I will be yielding to Senator Thune, one of the experienced former members of the Budget Committee. He will be sharing his thoughts. I would say to my colleagues, we have been hearing that the Democratic plan is a balanced approach. It is balanced, but it is not a balanced budget. What we need is a balanced budget. That means the amount of money that comes in is the same as the amount of money that goes out.
We can do that and increase spending every single year by 3.4 percent. This is very doable. It does not require the slashing of spending on every important account that we care about in Washington. That is what we are here for, and the administration, the Cabinet Secretaries and so forth, they will make sure the limited amount of money any government has is wisely spent. Therefore, we are not talking about devastating cuts. We are talking about better management and working with how to grow spending over the next 10 years--growing spending over the next 10 years by 3.4 percent, not at 5.4 percent. That balances the budget even under the assumption of 2.5 percent inflation. It can be done. That is what the experts tell us, and that is the best estimate we have today.
The motion to recommit the budget is now on the floor--recommit to the committee, with instructions that they decide what to do to alter it so that when it comes back it is balanced, a real balanced budget--not a balanced plan, not a balanced approach, not some balanced theory--but a real balanced budget. Presumably our colleagues think balance is important because they have mentioned the word about 40 times. We have been counting them since we have been on the floor. I think when we get to that vote we will be asking our colleagues: Do you really want to achieve a balanced budget?
Senator Sanders said: We think you do not tax the rich enough. You need to tax the rich more and more--as if taxing and punishing them will fix the problem of growth in this economy that is truly too slow. We are having the slowest recovery in our Nation's history, at least since World War II. So we do not have a good recovery coming on. We need to be talking about that.
But I guess my final statement is we do not need a balanced approach, we need a balanced budget. There is a gulf of difference between the two.
The plan before us today raises taxes $1 trillion. They claim it cuts spending nearly $1 trillion and that it is a balanced approach: tax increases, spending cuts, and deficit reduction. That is the message that has been coming from the other side. Except it is not accurate. This budget increases taxes by $1.5 trillion. It also increases spending. That is what it does.
We are concerned about that. The net result is there is no change, it seems to me--no change, a good analysis shows, in the debt course we are on.
I see my colleague, Senator Thune. It is now time to yield to him. I yield to Senator Thune.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Senator Portman is such a valuable member of the Budget Committee. He served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He knows how this situation works.
But that dotted line on the chart, it is just spending, isn't it? It is spending as a percentage of the American economy. So in some sense that surging upward line of spending is even worse than at first glance it might appear.
Mr. PORTMAN. That is true. This chart is as a percent of the GDP. So, look, we all want the economy to grow. Actually, they projected it will grow under the Congressional Budget Office analysis. Even so, that growth in the economy cannot keep up with this great surge in spending.
So other folks have said on the floor over the last 24 hours: Well, gosh, let's go back to the Simpson-Bowles 3-to-1 ratio, where you have $3 in spending cuts for every $1 of revenue. That is what Erskine Bowles testified before the supercommittee on, that that was what their revenue was, $1 of revenue for every $3 in spending cuts.
That is also not what this budget does, this underlying budget, because it actually increases taxes dramatically. Even under their own calculus, again, it is 1 to 1. We have looked at it. We think the tax increase is between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion in this budget. So it is the biggest tax increase in the history of the country.
What does $1 trillion mean--or $1.5 trillion? Well, it means that you are going to have to tax a lot of people other than rich people. I would refer you to an economic expert on this, a guy named Gene Sperling, who is down at the White House, who talks about these economic issues a lot. Here is what Gene Sperling said about raising $1 trillion. He said you cannot do it without hurting middle-class families. This is his quote:
[A] careful look at the math of these types of caps and limits [on tax preferences] shows that, once one takes into account the reality of their impact on the middle-class families and on charitable donation, plausible limits raise only a fraction of the $1 trillion or more some have suggested.
It is just too much to raise without going to the folks who are making less than $200,000 a year, less than $100,000, less than $50,000. So I would just suggest today that we have a problem in this country. It is a spending problem. Yes, we want to get the economy moving, and that will create more revenue. But we have to address that issue and, unfortunately, the budget before us does not do it.
In addition to having these huge tax increases--the biggest in the history of our country--this budget also has huge spending. The spending is actually an increase. When you wipe away the gimmicks that are in the budget that they have proposed--and we have talked a lot about OCO. That just means the spending in Afghanistan. They project that all this spending is going to occur that nobody expects is going to occur, so because it does not, they say, well, that is a savings. Then you are going to be able to spend more to make up for that.
Well, we are going to spend some more in Afghanistan. We all understand that. But we are not going to spend as much as the CBO projects. So those savings are not real, unfortunately. That is in their budget. That is a gimmick.
They also say: Let's do away with this so-called sequester. This is the thing that the Budget Control Act put in place. The Budget Control Act said: Let's find these savings of $1.2 trillion in spending. Yet in this budget, they say: No, let's replace that. So you have to add that as well because instead of $1.2 trillion, they are saying half of that is going to be new taxes. So that is less spending cuts.
So when you add all that up, and when you wipe all that away, it looks like the spending increases are about $900 billion over the next decade. So despite all these problems, we are talking about a huge spending increase.
Now, let's just talk for a second about what the spending increase is on. Here is the debt chart I have in the Chamber that shows the debt climbing to $24 trillion over the next 10 years, under the Murray budget, under the Democratic budget we are talking about today. But what is the problem? Well, we are starting to do more to get the discretionary spending under control. That means the spending that Congress appropriates every year.
But when you think about the budget as kind of a pie, 62 percent of that budget--the biggest piece of that pie--is not spending that Congress appropriates every year. Congress does not do it because it is on autopilot. That is interest on the debt that you have to spend; and then it is the very important, vital entitlement programs--Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security--but that are not sustainable in their current form.
By the way, everybody agrees with that. The President talks about it publicly. Everybody talks about it privately. But the fact is, these programs are incredibly important. We want to ensure that they can continue into the future. That is why we need reform--to preserve and protect them. Yet, unbelievably, this budget before us does absolutely nothing there. In fact, when you add up the changes on the entitlement programs over the next 10 years--which, again, is the biggest reason for these huge spending increases; in fact, as a percent of GDP, it is the only reason--all of the spending increases are because of those entitlement programs and interest on the debt, all of them as a percent of the GDP, all of them. Yet this budget does not touch it. In fact, it slightly increases spending as compared to the CBO baseline, as compared to what we are going to do anyway that the Congressional Budget Office just told us about.
That, to me, is the most amazing part of the budget. It is the responsible thing to do. Again, the President has talked about it. Members of both parties acknowledge this. We have to deal with this issue. If we do not, we are not going to be able to have these programs going forward.
Under their budget, the disability fund in Social Security--and a lot of people rely on disability--runs out of money in 2016.
Under their budget, the Medicare trust fund itself goes bankrupt in 2024.
Under their budget, Social Security's fund for senior citizens would go bankrupt in 2033, to the point that under law--remember this is just 20 years from now--a 25-percent benefit cut would be put in place.
That is what this budget would lead to. So it is hard for me to take it very seriously as a budget. It is, I guess, more of a political document.
The final thing I will say is, if we do this, if we go down this path of more spending next year, more spending the next year, huge increases in spending and taxes over the next 10 years, we will not only have a budget that is out of control--and, as I said earlier, risk us having a meltdown in terms of our economy because of a potential crisis we could have, like has happened in southern Europe; Greece is a country people talk about--but think about what it does to our economy.
This huge overhang of debt and deficits everybody now acknowledges is bad for the economy. Some people think it is worse than others think. But if you look at these studies--the Rogoff-Reinhart study has been talked about on the floor. I know that is the one that says, when you get to the level we are at now, you lose about 1 million jobs per year.
Well, something is happening in our economy, and I think a lot of it--the negative part of it--is because of this debt and deficit. We are living through the worst economic recovery since the 1940s. All of us are discouraged by it, Democrats and Republicans alike. The average growth rate was less than 1 percent over the last 4 years, and that is not acceptable to any of us. We have to deal with this issue because it is the right thing to do for our kids and our grandkids, as we have talked about, the right thing to do for these programs so they are viable and their trust funds do not go insolvent, but also for today's economy. If we do not deal with this issue we are not going to have people taking the risk, making the investment.
There are companies making money out there. Do you know what they are doing with it? They are keeping it on the sidelines because they are afraid of this, because they see this coming. They are worried about making the investments. That is how we are going to create the jobs.
Right now, in the weakest economy we have had in a long time--and the worst economic recovery since the 1940s--we are looking at unemployment numbers that are unacceptably high. We are looking at a place such as Ohio where we have a struggle with manufacturing. We are trying to get back on our feet. We are looking for economic growth again. We are not going to get it unless we deal with this issue.
The Heritage Foundation has looked at this budget, and they have done an analysis of it in terms of its impact on jobs, on the economy. They have said the budget will result in losing 800,000 jobs in our country. In my State of Ohio, they said we will lose 40,000 jobs. We cannot afford to lose 40,000 more jobs.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office--which I mentioned earlier and is the group in Congress that advises us on the economy--has said this new debt will reduce long-term economic growth and cost jobs.
So, ultimately, this is about a choice. Do we want to expand government or do we want to expand the economy? Do we want to create the opportunity to get the private economy moving or do we want to grow the size and scope of government?
We have a fundamental choice to make in this Chamber with regard to this budget today. I am hopeful we will be able to amend the budget so we can take out some of the taxes and the spending and the borrowing, so that it is better for the economy. Even if we cannot prevail--and if this budget passes over the next couple days here--I still hope, as a Congress, working with the President, we can address this issue.
Once this budget debate is behind us on the floor, I hope we can sit down as Republicans and Democrats alike, as Americans, acknowledging that if we do not deal with spending, we cannot get this economy back on track, acknowledging that trying to tax, spend, and borrow your way to prosperity does not work. We tried it. We have seen the results.
We have also seen the opposite, over time, through the great history of this country. The time-honored principles that have made us this cutting-edge economy, that have made us the envy of the world, relied on entrepreneurship, innovation, keeping taxes low, keeping government spending under control, and encouraging the private sector to do what they do best, which is, to create jobs. This is why I oppose this budget. This is why I also support a better way, to bring back the jobs and get our country back on track.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I appreciated Senator Tester's remarks and his belief that Montanans believe they should live within their means, and he supports a plan to reduce the deficit. But I just want to share with my colleagues that the budget that is before us today is not balanced. It does not reduce the deficit. It taxes a lot more, but its spending increases at the same level, and there is no net change in the unsustainable debt course we are on.
He said it reduces the deficit by $2 trillion. I want you to know that is what the Budget Committee claims for that budget, but it is not accurate. It does not reduce the deficit $2 trillion. It does not. It keeps us on the same path.
It is not a balanced deficit reduction plan, because it doesn't reduce the deficit. It increases taxes and increases spending, if you call that balance. It is not the right kind of plan. I wish we could get together on fundamentals of numbers in that budget.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, my colleague, Senator Murray, has questioned the $1.5 trillion in tax increases that we have contended in this legislation. I think it is there because there are two separate reserve funds that would allow taxes to be increased by $500 billion without legislation and would go through without a supermajority, to be passed on a simple vote.
But our colleagues say that is not there, so I would offer into the Record, Mr. President, a number of documents that support our view that it is $1.5 trillion. Others can agree, disagree about it, as it is presently written. I would offer that for the Record and our explanation and why we think that is accurate. I ask unanimous consent to have that material printed in the Record.
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Mr. SESSIONS. I would like to say this to my chairman: I am willing to concede the point if the chair would agree to amend the two reserve funds so that they cannot be used to advance tax increases, and I would cease making that argument and accept the fact that you have already almost $1 trillion in new taxes.
So I would ask through the chair, is the Senator willing to amend those two reserve fund languages so they cannot be used to add another $500 billion in new taxes?
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, let me just respond again. As the Washington Post said in giving this concoction two Pinocchios, the reserve funds the Senator refers to lie within there in order to provide the $975 billion in revenues. So essentially what he is doing is double-counting. So I would just say to the Senator through the Chair that there is no need to have any kind of agreement here. That is what our budget does. It is clear. It is what every expert has said.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank the chair, and I assume, then, that she refuses to clarify the ambiguity, the certain option to increase taxes by another $500 billion. That could be eliminated simply by making the suggestion I just announced. She is rejecting that. So I think it is legitimate to assume that the intent of this reserve fund is to raise taxes another $500 billion.
Secondly, with regard to the situation we have been discussing concerning the sequester, I know the Senator said just a few moments ago that the sequester is not deficit reduction. We can disagree about that, but that was her opinion, apparently. I think it is inaccurate.
But my question to the Senator is, does your budget as now presented on the floor eliminate the spending limits that are in current law under the Budget Control Act and specifically the sequester portion?
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Mr. SESSIONS. Well, I wouldn't misconstrue it. So it does eliminate the sequester.
So then the next question would be, did you score the allowed increase in spending of $1.2 trillion in your budget as increased spending?
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Mr. SESSIONS. Well, your staff indicated that you could not double-count that money, and if you eliminated the $1.2 trillion in sequester limit and allowed $1.2 trillion more to be spent, you would not save $1.85 trillion but approximately $700 billion on that decision alone. Do you agree with your staff in their analysis?
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Mr. SESSIONS. One more question, then. Do you still stand by the promotional material that went with the budget--and in the budget document itself--that you have reduced the deficit over current law by $1.85 trillion or isn't it a fact that eliminating the sequester reduces that to approximately $700 billion in savings?
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I would just say that the Associated Press disagrees. It is plainly inaccurate. Plainly, I asked that question, over current law, did they count the sequester increase in spending? And the staff admitted in our Budget Committee mark up that it did not--that increased spending--and therefore we reduce the deficit savings from $1.85 trillion to about $700 billion. There is another $700 billion in gimmicks, so there is no reduction in the deficit in this budget.
The AP reported:
..... because Democrats want to restore $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts .....--cuts imposed by [the] failure to strike a ..... budget pact--Murray's blueprint increases spending slightly when compared with current policies.
The Hill says:
The Murray budget does not contain net spending cuts with the sequester turned off.
So I will say this is a serious issue. We need to understand that the sequester is law. It is not just a policy, it is in law. It is taking effect right now. The deficit reduction proposed by this bill is not $1.8 trillion but, in fact, zero.
I thank the Chair and would now recognize Senator Barrasso for 10 minutes, I believe, and Senator Alexander for 10 minutes. I thank them for their patience.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, it is good to be considering a budget again. It has been 4 years since one has been brought to the floor. It is important that we do so because the Nation has never, ever faced a more systemic debt threat to our country.
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson both told us before the Budget Committee that this Nation has never faced a more predictable financial crisis. What they meant was that if we don't change course, we are going to have a crisis.
I would say one of the things that would make our economy grow better, create jobs, confidence, and productivity gains would be for this Nation to commit itself in a responsible way over a decade of effort to balance the budget. We can do that with increasing spending every year by 3.4 percent. It does not even require a net reduction in spending each year. It will be hard. It will require us to change some course because we are on a path now to increase spending 5.4 percent a year, and that is the difference in an unsustainable path and a sustainable path.
We have the budget of the majority before us, Senator Murray's budget. It is not the kind of budget we should pass. It is the kind of budget--it requires alteration, in my view, and it needs to be placed on a path to balance. I think my Democratic colleagues implicitly agree with that, because they have been talking about balance all week. We started keeping a tally on it.
Look at this chart. We made this chart not too long ago. We determined the word ``balance'' had been mentioned by the Democrats 120 times. We kept on counting and now it is up to 165 times. Maybe that indicates they believe a balanced budget is important. They say, however, that when they say balance they mean we balance deficit-reduction spending cuts with deficit-reduction tax increases, and that totals $1.9 trillion in net deficit reduction. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I hate to say that. It is unbelievable to me that in the Senate we have legislation on the floor that is being counted $1 trillion--really $2 trillion off--and fundamentally, indisputably, that is correct.
At the Budget Committee hearing last week, I asked a staffer for the Democratic majority:
Can you honestly say that under this budget you can achieve $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction and eliminate the sequester with only $975 billion in new taxes?
The answer: ``No.''
When I pressed him: Well, what does that mean? He said it would be $700 billion. And what he was talking about was $700 billion under current law.
The way the confusion has occurred is our colleagues are switching around in the way they compare spending cuts.
This is the true situation: Under current law--that is the Budget Control Act and the tax increases we had in January--that is current law--we are projecting to continue deficits throughout the entire 10-year period and increase interest charges by dramatic amounts, placing this country in a very serious predicament.
So what do we say about it? Mr. Elmendorf, the Director of CBO, testified a couple of weeks ago before the Budget Committee and I asked him: Under the current law that we are operating under, including the full cuts in the sequester, including the tax increases in January, were we still on an unsustainable course? He said we were.
What I want my colleagues to know with every fiber in my being is: Please know that if you take out the sequester, you increase spending. You do not have $1.9 trillion in deficit reduction. You have only $700 billion. And then if you add other gimmicks in the budget, including not scoring the doc fix, misscoring war costs, and misscoring the stimulus spending, we end up with hardly any deficit reduction at all.
We raise taxes in this budget almost $1 trillion. We have no deficit reduction because we increase spending as much as we increase taxes. So, apparently, my colleagues should know and think about this: A ``balanced'' plan that has been mentioned 165 times means we raise taxes $1 trillion and we increase spending $1 trillion, and there is no net deficit reduction in the course of this 10-year budget.
So we are asking that this budget go back to the committee and give them full authority to produce a balanced budget in any way they wish to. They can raise taxes, they can cut spending, but we are saying we have to get off the unsustainable debt course. The choice is to have a balanced budget because it will create confidence, it will create business certainty, it will electrify the world, it will help people see that we are on a sound path and not on a dangerous path that could lead to fiscal crisis.
It is so important for my colleagues to know one more thing, and that is experts have told us--Carmen Reinhart with the Reinhart-Rogoff study has told us that when debt reaches 90 percent of the value of our GDP, growth begins to decline in the country. We are now at 104 percent, and the debt factor is the gross debt of the United States is what they used in that study. This is confirmed by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the Bank for International Settlements, all of which have done studies of developed nations with high debt, and they say it cuts growth. Reinhart and Rogoff says 1 to 2 percent. A 1-percent reduction in growth amounts to a million jobs.
For the last 3 years, our growth has substantially fallen below what CBO projected. I believe the debt is already pulling down our growth.
I ask my colleagues one more thing: All of us have traveled our States. We have talked to our constituents. We have answered their questions. They ask: Are you going to do anything about the budget? Are you going to balance the budget? Why aren't you bringing up a budget? Don't you, colleagues, say we should have a balanced budget? Don't you say we should be moving toward a balanced budget, at least?
Many of you--at least half of our Democratic colleagues--have said they favor a balanced budget constitutional amendment so we have this country on a right path. You validated your promises back home. You should support moving this bill back to conference and letting the chairman write a budget that balances. It would make this economy much better.
I thank the Chair and yield the floor.
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Mr. SESSIONS. There are a lot of problems with the country and the way we manage business. Frankly, President Bush became engaged in a war which used up so much of his time and effort. President Obama is not trained as a manager. He has never been a manager, Governor or managed a business. He has too little tough, serious management of the taxpayer's money in this country. It is time for us to get under control the spending which goes on.
In my humble opinion, the American people are tired of sending more money to Washington just because we run out. We say it is not our fault; it is the way things are. We can't have any reduction in spending. There are people who are hurt and in pain, hungry, women, elderly, singles, and married. They need to have more money. Any change in our policy whatsoever means somebody is not getting something they are entitled to.
The truth is many of our programs serve many good people in need, but almost all those programs have serious management problems which could be run effectively and efficiently, and the program would cost substantially less without any significant diminishment of the effective aid which is rendered by that program. I believe the American people understand this absolutely and fully.
As we have done, as an amendment or idea comes forward to confront wasteful spending, somebody in this body, particularly in the Senate, always objects. They raise the specter of meanness and unkindness and that sort of thing. In truth, we all ought to identify serious problems and fix them.
For example, in our energy policy, we have had some of the most amazing failures and losses of Federal money I can imagine, beyond anything which is logical and absolutely should not have happened.
Most people have heard of the Solyndra company. They had political connections to the White House and received $528 million in Federal loans, went bankrupt and left Uncle Sam holding the bag.
There was another company, Abound Solar. It declared bankruptcy after receiving $400 million in Federal loan guarantees. Failing to deliver on the promises they made, somebody at the Department of Energy, apparently, was not checking very well. Maybe they were more interested in a press release, a big announcement, going to some solar factory and saying how we are going to create jobs, grow the economy and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into a program which sank.
Beacon Power received $43 million in Federal loan guarantees before it shut down.
Fisker, an electric car maker, is not making any cars now due to production problems. It received more than $190 million from the Department of Energy.
A123 Systems, a battery maker, also received substantial Federal loans. It is bankrupt.
The President emulates the failing energy programs of Europe. His policies were designed to promote an energy theory which is not ready economically. It is one thing to invest in research to try to create a new battery; it is another thing to try to loan hundreds of millions of dollars to a company to produce a product which is not competitive and not ready for prime time. This is the mistake we made.
Mr. Lomborg, from Europe, who wrote the book ``Cool It'' and is, in my opinion, an expert on these issues, pointed out a number of years ago in his book the best way to handle this is for the government to subsidize where it can and direct money to try to reach technological breakthroughs, but you should not mandate the people of the United States, or use any kind of program which will not work, cost a lot more money, and have little benefit on the environment.
Back in 2008, President Obama made this statement: ``Will America watch as the clean energy jobs and industry of the future flourish in countries like Spain, Japan, or Germany?''
That is what he said. We need to emulate Spain, Japan, and Germany.
Spain right now is having to cut back dramatically on its forward-leaning green mandates. They went probably further or as far as any country in Europe. It has been a total disappointment. They are reducing their subsidies. Their economy is in shambles, and they are not doing well.
The Financial Times in February of this year wrote:
The Spanish government's latest bid to cut its growing debts to the country's energy sector is expected to slash profits at renewable energy companies as Madrid continues to grapple with a $37 billion deficit built up through years of subsidies.
Shares in Acciona, Spain's largest wind power operator, have tumbled almost 20 percent, with Analysts expecting Acciona's earnings per share to drop by 40 percent, while Abengoa's EPS are forecast to drop by 12 percent.
Germany is also cutting back. According to Reuters in January of this year:
[The German energy company] RWE is delaying investments. SIAG filed for insolvency. REpower Systems is cutting temporary staff. All show how German Chancellor Angela Merkel's $734 billion plan to replace nuclear reactors with renewable sources is stalling.
Former Secretary of Treasury, under President Obama, Larry Summers said this: ``Government is a crappy venture capitalist.''
This is exactly correct. We have no business trying to pick and throw American taxpayers' money into risky ventures. We are not good at it. Spain and Germany are not good at it--governments aren't.
When it is your money and you are putting up $100 million, then you are at a point where you need to be very serious about that investment.
These are some points I wanted to make because I think the American people are tired of hearing Washington say send more money.
No, we are not going to cut spending in Washington. We can't do that in the budget which is on the floor. It does not cut spending, actually does not reduce the deficit. It increases spending, increases the deficit, and increases taxes by $1 trillion.
What did they say in the budget? We are not going to cut spending. There is nothing we can cut. The government is working. Every dollar we receive, every dollar we distribute is absolutely critical and cannot be contained. Send more money. Just send more money and don't complain, American people.
I think people are getting tired of that. They have a right to be tired of that. They should not send another dime until we are on the right path.
I see my friend Senator Enzi, and I would be pleased to yield the floor.
I would note Senator Enzi is the senior member of the Budget Committee and is a successful businessman who has a proven record in his State. He understands these issues, and he is trained as an accountant. I am sure when he sees what we do in the budget process around here, he must wonder what world we are connected to.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, we talked about a number of challenges our Nation faces and the debt course we are on. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Mr. Elmendorf, testified just a few weeks ago before our Budget Committee and declared that we remain on an unsustainable financial course even after the Budget Control Act that reduced spending and even after the tax increase in January, and that this does not get us out of the danger zone.
We have hundreds of billions of dollars in deficits every year, and he is projecting that interest on our debt in the 10th year will rise to $800 billion, which is about what the score of the Murray budget that is on the floor today would add to our debt.
Fundamentally, this budget that is before us today did not change the debt course we are on. It does not have $2 trillion in spending reductions, and it leaves us on the same dangerous course as Mr. Elmendorf said we are on, so we have to get off of it.
I want to share a few things that drive home the danger we are in. Now, we have a strong economy. We have a great entrepreneurial spirit. We have a tremendous infrastructure compared to most places. We have a rule of law that helps us tremendously in terms of managerial efficiency and contracts and complex documents that can be entered into. If there is a dispute over it, you can go to a Federal or State court and have a pretty good chance of a fair decision being reached even in the most complex matters involving high finance. That is not true in most places in the world, so it gives us an advantage.
We have an educated workforce. We have a lot of people who are willing to work and hustle. So we have some advantages. We have a history of trade and freedom. But I want to show this chart, because we may not be doing as well as we think we are, and the debt that we are facing may be more serious than a lot of people will acknowledge.
This is a chart that shows the debt per person in the Eurozone compared to the United States. It is a stunning chart. Some people have explained it somewhat by saying, well, our economy in the United States is bigger than other economies in the world. Therefore, individual Americans normally make more money and, therefore, they can carry more debt. But anybody who sees this chart has to begin to understand and worry that the needle of our debt is in the red zone--the danger zone.
Look at this. This includes spending for Federal, State, and local government. These are 2012 projections of general government expenditures in nominally U.S. dollars--all converted to U.S. dollars by the
International Monetary Fund. This is not the United States. This is the world's economic outlook according to the International Monetary Fund. This is the way they score our debt compared to the rest of the world in comparable U.S. dollars.
Look at this: In dollars, Spain's debt per person is $24,000. Spain is in serious financial difficulty now. Its debt has caused the interest on their debt to surge. They are paying a large amount. They have tried to bring that under control, but their unemployment is high, and the net result has been the economy is stagnating dangerously. It is a sad thing.
Italy has more, with $26,000; Portugal, $39,000 per person; Greece, $42,000 per person; but the debt per person in the United States, according to the International Monetary Fund, is $53,400--higher than all those countries.
I would say to my colleagues, we are not in a position of safety. I would say to my colleagues that this is a kind of debtload that we need not to underestimate. We might find that this economy is more unpredictable than we think.
As I said last night, I remember Alan Greenspan being before the Budget Committee in 2001 and telling us we had to worry. And the worry was that we had so much money that we would pay down all the debt in the United States and then--he worried--what we would do with the extra money when we paid the whole debt down. This is the maestro, Alan Greenspan.
I say that just to indicate that if he misses it that badly, maybe Mr. Bernanke will miss it. Actually, the Wall Street Journal documented that when Mr. Bernanke was advising Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Chairman, about the bank mortgage situation in the mid-2000s--2003, 2004, 2005--he was advising Mr. Greenspan to keep pouring the low money out, keep encouraging banks to lend, lend, lend, and he rejected the idea we were in danger. Then, whammo, we had this horrible recession of 2007.
So I would just say this chart shows us that we need to get our house in order. The American people know that. They tell me that everywhere I go. So why won't Congress respond?
Well, the House has responded. I know my Democratic friends don't like to hear that, but this budget that Paul Ryan produced, while not a perfect document, it changes the debt course of America. It balances the budget, and we could do the same thing if we wanted to, and do it in a different way. Let's do it a different way, but we should have a balanced budget. And we don't, and there is no plan to get there--not even close.
One of the things that is happening in America today is the growth in our economy is not where it should be. This chart is a vivid indicator that the Congressional Budget Office, our top adviser, has been consistently wrong about its projections in the last several years. This is CBO forecasts 2 years before an event. OK? So in 2008, what was CBO projecting the growth rate to be in 2010?
They projected it would be 3.1 percent, but it came in at 2.4 percent. In 2009, what did they project we would have as growth in 2011? They projected we would have 4 percent growth in 2011.
We had less than half of that--1.8 percent. That is a huge difference.
Now Christina Romer, who served President Obama as his top adviser on economic matters, has estimated that the difference in 1 and 2 percent growth is 1 million jobs. So what do we have here? We have more than 2 million less jobs being created in 2011 than were projected by the experts that we relied on in 2009.
And look at this. It is even worse in 2012. They projected back in 2010 that growth in 2012--just 2 years in advance--would be at 4.4 percent, and it came in at 2.2 percent. So these 1.8 and 2.2 percent growth figures are really not growth. That is not a job-creating factor. You need to have more growth than that to create real jobs and hiring and wage improvements and raises.
So I just would ask my colleagues: What is causing that? What is causing that? Professors Rogoff and Reinhart did the fabulous book, ``This Time It's Different,'' and they did an empirical actual study of the economies of over 200 years of nations who ran up too much debt.
They studied what happened and the ones that had debt crises. What did they conclude? And not based on theory, not some ideal formula reached in academic situations, but what actually happened in these countries? What they concluded was that when the gross debt exceeds 90 percent of GDP, 90 percent of the size of the economy, then growth begins to slow. They found that the growth was slowed by 1 to 2 percent.
In 2010, the gross debt of the United States exceeded 90 percent of the economy and CBO's forecast was off. The next year, we were still way above 90 percent. In 2012, we were way above 90 percent of GDP. The debt is so high that it impacts economic growth, it would appear to me. I think this is a fact not being fully considered by CBO and it is impacting our economy, and it argues against any idea that we have no responsibility to start confronting our debt situation now.
In addition to Rogoff and Reinhart--perhaps stimulated by Rogoff and Reinhart, in the last couple of years, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the Bank for International Settlements have studied these very issues because it is a big deal in Europe. Many of the countries in Europe are deeply in debt, their economies are stagnating, and they have studied this issue. And what did they conclude? They concluded basically the same thing. Every one of those studies shows that when a country reaches a high level of debt--in the range of the 90 percent--they begin to suffer economic growth reduction. One of the studies went as low as 60 percent of your GDP in debt begins to slow the economy.
They have various factors in how it is done and the studies are constructed in different ways, but the net result is that when our debt situation is applied to each of those three studies, our economy is projected to be suffering as a result of the high debt we have. So I would say those three studies validate the concerns of Rogoff and Reinhart. Those three studies indicate we are already in America suffering growth loss because of the debt we have.
As we wrestle with how to deal with our economy, I would challenge all of our Members and challenge commentators in the media to ask tough questions: Can we continue to borrow more, run up more debt, and attempt to create a stimulus effect in our economy today? How much can we do that?
The Congressional Budget Office early this year concluded in a thorough report that if we were to balance the budget and bring our debt down to the level--as Congressman Ryan proposed and as we proposed in the committee, and as I proposed in my amendment tonight--and balanced the budget, what would happen? They predict this economy in 10 years would be stronger than it is if we hadn't done that, if we used two other scenarios that had less reduction and allowed more debt to accumulate.
Did you hear that? The economy over the long term will be healthier in this country, according to our own CBO, if we get our debt under control and balance our budget. It is in their report in January of this year. We need to listen to that. The American people know you can't get something for nothing. They know you can't borrow your way out of debt. As one of my citizens in Evergreen told me several years ago at a town meeting, My daddy said you can't borrow your way out of debt. Isn't that true? That is what we have been doing. We are going to borrow somehow and create a false high, a sugar high, and that is going to fix our problems. It has proven not to be the case.
What do we need to do? We need to do the same thing responsible people all over the world do. We need to do the same thing families do, the same thing States do that are well managed--and many are very well managed--and that counties and cities do; that is, operate within our means. Let's have a budget that actually balances, and all of the other factors will come into play. Debt as a percentage of GDP and these arguments about primary debt, and debt as a percentage of the economy, that is not where we need to be.
If we balance the budget over a period of time--carefully, so it doesn't do damage to the economy--and do this in the right way, we will make this economy better, and we will have people working who are now on unemployment. We will have people working and bringing home paychecks who are now on food stamps and TANF and other welfare programs. They will have jobs and they will be able to get pay raises and they will be able to work longer hours and get some overtime, and be able to pay down the house payment or the car payment. People are hurting out there. We have fewer people working today than we did in 2000. The average wage has declined--not increased--in the last 10 years. This economy is not growing. My Democratic colleagues are correct about that. People are hurting.
So how do you fix it? Do you borrow more so we can spend more? Is the government going to lift people out of poverty by giving them more checks that we taxed more and passed out more money? Is that compassion? I don't think so.
I have worked with working people. I have worked construction. I grew up in the country. I know people who didn't have money and how they can live and take care of their families on modest means, and they were independent, with pride and self-respect. We have an award being given in North Carolina to a food stamp office employee who talked people into taking food stamps who said they didn't need them. The award was given to her for overcoming mountain pride. So is this the status of the American economy today, that we are talking people into not being independent, we encourage them to take benefits from the government when they say they don't need them? That is what they gave her the award for.
We have got food stamp promoters in foreign embassies, in the consulate offices all over. They are meeting and promoting new residents to America--legal, presumably--to get on food stamps and other benefits programs. But you are not supposed to be admitted to the United States if you are going to be a charge on the State, so we checked on that. Do you know what we found? That about two-tenths of 1 percent--not 1 percent, but two-tenths of 1 percent of the people who apply to enter the United States are turned down because they might not be financially able to support themselves. One study said at least 36 percent of lawful immigrants in our country today are on some sort of welfare benefit program.
If they have to have health care to survive and go to the hospital, they need to get it, and we want to help people who are in need. But doesn't anybody follow common sense? Doesn't anybody understand we have a reasonable law that says, If you are going to come to America, we need to know you are going to be able to take care of yourself? You shouldn't be coming to America to get on a benefit program. We are not checking. Nobody is checking. Nobody is worried.
So what will they do? They will get Uncle Sam to ask the taxpayers to send more money, and we will keep spending more. It is a bottomless pit, you know. We will just tax the rich. How about that? Because shouldn't the rich pay more because somebody immigrated to America and their income was low? And so we will just give them money.
Do you know they did the same thing, the Department of Agriculture,
with people who entered the country? They had a soap opera series of videos, and this is what they did: A lady speaks to another lady and she says something about food stamps. The other lady says, Well, my husband has a good job. I don't need food stamps. That is the first scene. The first lady says, Well, you don't understand.
After two or three of these videos, the first lady convinces the second lady that she should ask for these benefits when she said she didn't want them. She was a lady of pride and dignity. She didn't think she had to have this and wasn't asking for it. But our government overcame her resistance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was promoting this and paid money to buy these ads: Don't worry, we will ask the American people to send more money. But we won't ask you to send more, we will ask the rich to send more money.
I remember years ago George Wallace used to want to tax the power company. He always wanted to tax the power companies. I was looking at my electric bill the other day and they list your charges, and one of them is the State tax. So they taxed the power company, and the power company passes it on to the person who buys the electricity. Give me a break. A tax on the economy is a tax on the economy. It is a weak argument that you can have an unlimited amount of money by taxing the rich. At some point it becomes not correct, not fair, and not right if the money is being thrown away on Solyndras and A-123 battery companies that go bankrupt. But nobody worries about it: Send more money.
We are having abuses in the SNAP program, and I proposed an amendment that would eliminate an abusive part of the food stamp program a year ago. In 2001, we spent $20 billion a year on SNAP. Last year, we spent $80 billion. It has gone up, from 20 to 80, four times. We identified a categorical eligibility gimmick that was allowing people to get food stamps who did not qualify and should not have received them. I said, Let's close that loophole. Over 10 years we were projected to spend $800 billion on the food stamp program. This would have reduced it by 11, so we would have been spending $789 billion instead of $800 billion. And do you know what they said? Sessions wants to take food out of the mouths of babies. People are going to starve. He is uncompassionate. He is unkind. He wants to chop the budget so we can hurt people. It was voted down. And we had reports showing that this was an abusive practice that should have been fixed.
Now we want to ask the American people, Send more money. We want to tax you more. Well, what about the abuse in the food stamp program? There is no abuse. The Department of Agriculture said we have less fraud than we have ever had in history. And I used to prosecute that as a Federal prosecutor. I know there is fraud in there. We established without any doubt that their claim that they have minimal fraud is only in the computer part of the program.
Nobody is checking to see if somebody who qualified for any of these government programs later gets a job and doesn't meet the qualifications. They still are getting benefits all over the country, unless they self-report. All kinds of things such as this are going on. No one is checking to see if somebody goes into two food stamp offices, two other benefit offices of various kinds and asks for them under different names at each place and produces some sort of ID. There is all kinds of abuse in this system and I hear it all the time.
Most people who get food stamps need it, they qualify for it, and they would get it under any kind of reasonable reform that would occur. But to suggest that we aren't wasting money through practices that allow unqualified individuals to gain access to multiple programs of this kind is a mistake. It absolutely happens every day.
I tried cases to a jury of stores selling food stamps, manipulating the program, dealing with corrupt individuals who brought the food stamps in to sell because they had obtained them fraudulently and never needed the food at all.
This idea that there is no fraud in this program is ludicrous. That is what the leaders of the Department of Agriculture are saying: We have no problem. It is OK. Just send us more money. We will keep expanding and growing every year--maybe double the thing again, I guess.
These are the kinds of things that I believe this budget does not address. This budget allows spending to continue at its current rate, it allows the debt to continue at its current rate. Spending goes up and taxes go up. That is what this budget does. Spending goes up and taxes go up and the deficit is not reduced.
I hope that somehow we will come to our senses, go back home, and talk to our constituents. We will listen to them when they plead with us to do something about the debt course we are on. They tell us they are disgusted with the way things are going in Washington, and we say: We cannot do anything about it. They said there is not a problem. You don't understand the challenge we face. We really have to have more money. That is what we have to have. We can't get by on the money we have been having. We have to increase the money you give us.
Do you know that if we increase spending every year 3.4 percent--and these figures are not disputed--if we increase spending each year 3.4 percent, we could balance the budget? The problem is that our spending is increasing at 5.4 percent. It is hard to believe that difference would cause as many billion dollars in debt as it does, but it does. Each year, we add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt. In fact, the last 4 years we have averaged adding $1,100 billion to the debt each year. As those dollars are added to the debt, we pay interest on them, and interest is surging.
We are going to find, according to the CBO, on the course we are on and on the course we would stay on if this budget passes, that we would not do anything different than where we are today, which means we would be paying about $800 billion in 1 year in interest. The road bill is $40 billion, education is about $100 billion--it is going to crowd out spending for every agency in our government. For research and development--we are just going to keep raising taxes now?
When we talk about a $650 billion tax increase in January this year on the rich, that passed. That went through. That will be $65 billion a year in extra revenue. I am saying to you that the Congressional Budget Office tells us that in 10 years from now, we will be paying $800 billion a year in interest. You are not going to tax the rich out of that. It is just not going to happen.
We are at a point where the debate today and the last week in the Budget Committee has put us in a position to confront the choices we have. Forgive me if I am passionate about this. We have waited 4 years to even see a budget brought to the floor when the law of the United States of America says a budget should be brought every year to the floor and every year before the committee and the President is required to produce a budget every year. For the first time since the Budget Act has been passed, the President has not produced a budget this year. But the Senate has begun to act, so I guess we are supposed to be happy for that. And I am happy for that, but I think we would be a lot better off, the country would be a lot better off--we may be in a better position to reach some sort of compromise on some of the great issues had we been publicly wrestling with these issues for the last 4 years instead of sweeping them under the table.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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