BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I have enjoyed working with Senator Murray. She is a strong leader. She makes clear decisions and sticks by them and executes them. I respect that. She has stayed within the rules as the chair of the committee. We disagreed on a number of things. Our vision for the financial future of America is quite different.
I understand how difficult it is to produce a budget. That is not an easy thing to accomplish. When there is a divergent caucus, it is particularly difficult.
Politico said the budget was written by the left of the Democratic caucus to the left of President Obama. I think that is probably correct. It is a very big spending, big tax budget. It is the wrong thing for America. It is the wrong thing for economic stability. It is the wrong kind of plan if made into law to help us grow our economy, create jobs, create wealth, get people overtime and bonuses and pay raises, the kind of thing we have when the economy is growing.
This budget is the wrong medicine. I have to say I strongly believe it takes us in the wrong direction. What does it do at the bottom? It raises taxes. It raises taxes, according to the chairman, by $1 trillion--$985 billion. That is almost $1 trillion. We think it raises it $1.5 trillion. There is a reserve fund to make it easy to raise more taxes. I asked the chair to close that so it could not be used to raise taxes easily, but she declined, which continued to cause me to believe that is an additional part. Regardless, $1 trillion in new taxes is a huge tax increase.
In January of this year, the President got a $600 billion tax increase on the rich. Plus there is $1 trillion in tax increase in the President's health care bill. So we are already at $1.6 trillion in new taxes, and there is a proposal in this budget for at least another $1 trillion. That is not healthy for the economy.
We all know when we extract more wealth out of the economy, it does have effects. One of them is it weakens the economy and strengthens the central government. The central government is not managing the people's money well. We have no interest, it appears from this budget, in listening to the American people and running their government better, leaner, more productive, get more bang for the buck. What do we do? We ask for more money. We haven't done anything wrong; send us more money.
I have to urge my colleagues to honestly examine what the budget does. In addition to raising taxes, we would think that would help us. They say they have a balanced approach. We started counting how many times my Democratic colleagues used the word ``balance.'' I think it suggests a guilty conscience myself because the budget in no way comes close to balancing a budget. It doesn't pretend to. It explicitly rejects it. There is not an arbitrary date. There is not a date proposed to balance the budget. In fact, because it makes no changes in the drivers of our debt, the big entitlement programs, the big welfare programs, the interest on the debt, none of those are constrained by this budget. We know the next 10 years that are outside the budget window will be even worse. They will be on an unsustainable course, accelerating even off the course we are on today, which is unsustainable. So I am very disappointed.
Everybody who has been involved or who has participated--whether it is the Gang of 6 or the committee of 12, as our chairman did, the super committee--knows that nearly 60 percent of the money the government is now spending, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt, food stamps, those programs are out of control. They are entitlements, which means we set up legal standards that if those standards are met, anyone can walk into a government office and demand the money. They have to give it to them. If they don't, they can sue the government. I am 68 years old, I want my Social Security check.
We can't say we don't have any money.
So this is the kind of thing that needs to be fixed now. It needs to be discussed now. Every expert who is an independent adviser to the government has said: You guys need to get together and fix this.
So what the budget before us today says is, no, we are not going to fix any of that. We have no plans to construct any of that. And any of our Republican colleagues who suggest that these programs have to be changed, we say they don't like old people. We say they don't like poor people. We say they don't want people to have food.
That is what we say--attack, attack, attack, when everybody knows change must occur. We know that. It is not in this budget--nothing in the budget. So they don't change the programs within the budget. I suggest that is not responsible. I suggest that is not a budget worthy of a party that says they want to lead America. The great Democratic Party is absolutely refusing to confront the great financial issues of our time. No, we won't talk about it, and if our Republican colleagues do, we are going to attack Paul Ryan because he has a creative, insightful way to preserve Medicare and make it more healthy in the future and put it on a sound path. We are going to say he is trying to destroy Medicare.
Paul Ryan has a plan to save Medicare, bring it into the 21st century, and make things better. It ought to be discussed openly and fairly, not demonized. That is the level of debate we are in here.
In private when we talk to our colleagues, they say: Yes, we need to make changes. We really do.
Well, when? And when the paper is printed, when the budget is printed, it is not there. It is not there. So there is no reform of the fundamental drivers of our debt.
We also know that last year we spent $750 billion on 83 government welfare programs, means-tested programs; that is, if a person's income is below a certain level, the government deems that person worthy of some subsidy of some kind. Many of these 83 programs are duplicative. There is not a coherent focus on them that endeavors to help the people, really, other than giving them money, giving them aid. There is not a sufficient focus in all of these programs in actually helping that struggling mother with children who is out of work, who lost her job, who can no longer get overtime or bonus pay, and young people who are struggling to get up on the ladder of work and prosperity. This is not helping them. And these programs are just temporary. We have billions going out for unemployment insurance, food stamps, temporary assistance to needy families, earned-income tax credit, all of these programs.
It is time for us to begin a massive overhaul, review all of these programs, and several things can happen. One thing that can happen is we can make them better, and we can actually create programs that allow each person in their time of need to get temporary assistance, to be able to refocus their life, to move into the workforce, help them find the training they need to get into areas that need jobs right now, and help them move forward. But do my colleagues know what we have in our Senate and among a lot of the Members of the House? We have a goal to see how many more workers we can bring in without effectively helping American workers who are unemployed.
We have an immigration policy that says we have jobs but we don't have enough workers. That is what the businesses are telling us. We don't have enough workers. They all ought to add--when they send us that message, they ought to say: And by the way, you need to give more welfare and more aid to people who don't have jobs. Now, what is the disconnect there?
We need to be protecting American citizens who are here, out of work, and hurting today--minorities, Blacks and Whites and all colors and races that are hurting today with high unemployment, but we seem to be more focused on how we can ram through this Senate a bill that would legalize millions and create an even more robust guest worker program. There are not enough jobs now. Give me a break.
So we are talking about $750 billion going out now for these 83 programs, projected to go up 80 percent in the next decade--the total of those programs--go up 80 percent in the next decade. We have calculated those numbers, and if it went up 60 percent, it would save $1 trillion. I think we can make those programs more effective, more helpful, and organized in a way that really advances the needs of poor people and save $1 trillion. That ought to be our goal. We will let it grow as much as we have to allow it grow to take care of people in need. We are going to make sure people have their needs met in America who are struggling out there, but at the same time, it can be done better, and every American knows it. They will talk to us when we ask them about it. They are uneasy about the easy money and the feeling that this system isn't working when it comes to government assistance, and I think they are right. I would ask my colleagues if they think they are right. I really think so. So what does that mean? That means we should be having hearings and doing work to fix it, which we are not doing.
The challenge of our time is the unsustainable debt course this country is on. The challenge of our time is for us to demonstrate that we made the changes necessary to place this economy on a sound footing.
I believe the great minds of our time are not as smart as they think they are. In 2001 Chairman Greenspan of the Fed came before the Budget Committee and talked about what we were going to do when the entire debt of the United States was paid down, and he worried we wouldn't know what to do with the money. Of course, we were in a recession within a few months, and now we see demographically that we are on an unsustainable debt course. The new Fed Chairman, Mr. Bernanke, as the Wall Street Journal documented, at the time was promoting Mr. Greenspan to spend more money and keep losing money before the housing crisis--just exactly the wrong advice. He didn't see it coming. So we are not so smart around here.
I am worried about the future. What do I think responsible government policymakers should do? They should provide a good, solid framework for the vibrant, free market economy in this country to flourish. We can't be the kind of off and on again faucet for money and taxes and spending and not spending and bouncing around here trying to pass laws every few months to meet what is perceived as the financial goal of somebody on Wall Street at that moment. We are not able to do that.
What we should do is lay out a strong, clear policy, adhere to it, and let the businesspeople risk their money with some ability to ascertain what those risks are, not expecting the government to come in and alter the situation and the rules of the game a few months down the road. That is what we should do--create a sound framework. We are not doing that. I am concerned about it.
Finally, this budget increases spending. It increases spending very dramatically at a time when we don't need to be increasing spending at this rate. We are increasing spending above the rate we are currently set to operate by--the Budget Control Act line-- which allows for increasing spending every year. But this budget spends more than that, and it raises $1 trillion in taxes, at least, and it expends all of those new taxes, eats that up with new spending. If it called for us to stay on the current baseline of spending, growth that is going up, and we raised $1 trillion in taxes, we would have $1 trillion in reduced deficit over the next 10 years. But it spends more money, and it eats up the new taxes with new spending. It really does.
This is a failed plan that has been produced by the majority party in the Senate. When people heard this--this is what is being said to the American people, and we all know it: The Democratic leadership is saying, we have a budget that is balanced. What does that mean? It means we are going to pay down the debt, but it is not all going to be cutting spending. We are going to pay down the debt by raising taxes and cutting spending--raise taxes $1 trillion, cut spending $1 trillion, so we have a $2 trillion reduction in the deficit. Doesn't that sound good? That is the kind of thing the American people would like to hear. It is not enough. We could do more, and we don't have to do a lot more, and we will have a balanced budget.
But it doesn't do that, I say to my colleagues. It doesn't. It raises taxes $1 trillion, but it raises spending $1 trillion. It doesn't cut spending by $1 trillion, it raises spending. Therefore, we have no deficit reduction at all, but we have a new $1 trillion tax.
The government is saying to the American people: We need more money. We don't have any way to cut any spending, and if anybody proposes there are abuses in the food stamp program or there are abuses in other programs out there or that we are wasting money on energy loans by the billions--Solyndra and A123s and those kinds of companies--they are saying all of that, but we can't save any money. There is no money to be saved. You just send us more money, and then we will pass it around, and this will stimulate the economy.
I will conclude. I see we have some colleagues who are here. I would just say this: The debt we have today I have become absolutely convinced is too high. The gross debt of the United States is 104 percent of our economy. It is above our GDP, which is almost $17 trillion--that debt is almost $17 trillion now.
What we have seen from the Rogoff and Reinhart study and from recent reports by the International Monetary Fund and a report by the European Central Bank and a report by the Bank for International Settlements--they all say that when debt is as high as it is today in the United States, that begins to pull down growth.
So my colleagues claim they have a budget that will help create jobs. I would say with all respect that we have a disagreement. Democrats believe they can tax more and spend more and borrow more and that will somehow create growth and prosperity. I believe we have had 4 years of that experiment, which I fundamentally doubted and opposed from the beginning, and it hasn't worked. We can't take a bucket of water from one end of the pool and pour it in the other and gain from it, especially when the bucket is going to leak--a good bit of it--in the process.
So what I would say is that the debt now is so high--according to all of those reports, the debt of the United States is in the zone that they craft, that they have analyzed--when debt gets into that zone, we lose growth. All of those reports--Rogoff and Reinhart, IMF, European Central Bank, the Bank of International Settlements--say we are in that zone.
So if we want to have growth, we are going to have to make our government leaner. We are going to have to begin to get our budget under control and balanced. And if we balance it by allowing growth to occur at 3.4 percent, without having to cut over 10 years--but if we allow our growth to increase at 3.4 percent instead of 5.4 percent, the budget balances. So we don't have to slash and burn, but we do have to get off the course we are on. It isn't easy, but that is what we are paid to do--to be responsible.
So if we get off that course and begin to see our debt-to-GDP go down, which a balanced budget--even over a 10-year, responsible period--would do, then we will be able to actually honestly say we have strengthened America, we have put us on a sound path, and we have allowed the economy to grow again.
There is no doubt in my mind, I say to my colleagues--and I doubt in theirs--that if the world were to see that the United States was on a path to a balanced budget, wow, they would say: Really? This debt spiral the United States and all of these big, fat Western nations have been on--maybe others can do this too. Maybe this is the place to invest our money.
I believe it would help growth, help investment, help put the country on a sound path. I am disappointed that this budget doesn't do it.
I respect my colleagues. We had a great time in the committee. We have had a good time on the floor. Senator Murray is a good chair. But I guess the left of the Democratic caucus has produced a budget that won't work. It does not meet the challenge of our time. It is deeply disappointing.
I guess there is still some chance something might happen in conference. But from the looks of this budget, the chances are not very great, I have to say.
Mr. President, I thank the Chair for this opportunity and yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. As we consider the budget which is before us today, I would call my colleagues' attention to the fact that the Democratic budget, the Murray budget, was voted down in the House of Representatives 2 days ago by 107 votes. One-fifth of the Democrats, one out of five, 20 percent, voted against this budget. No Republicans voted for it.
This may be because, as Politico said, ``to win over her caucus, Murray begins from the left of Obama himself.'' With regard to independent evaluations of the budget, the United States USA Today editorial on March 15 said this:
The plan produced by the Senate Budget Committee Chair, Patty Murray, D-Wash, is a disappointing document. It is a namby-pamby plan that underwhelms at every turn.
The Murray budget neither balances the budget nor reigns in entitlements.
It would help the Nation's Democrats if they were to embrace the goal of a Ryan budget.
This is the view of USA Today, the largest print in the country.
The Washington Post said on March 15: ``This document, gives voters no reason to believe that Democrats have a viable plan for--or even a responsible public assessment of--the country's long-term fiscal predicament.''
The Wall Street Journal, Investment Business Daily, The Hill, all of these have comments in somewhat the same vein.
What is our problem? Our problem is spending.
People say: Sessions, this is just what Republicans say, and we say it is not taxing the rich enough.
There is a fundamental issue about spending. I dealt with and asked questions of Mr. Elmendorf, our CBO Director, on this very subject. It went to this point: Colleagues, we need to understand it. The American people need to understand it. Taxes, whatever rate they are, tend to grow with the economy. If the economy is going up 2 percent, more people make a little more money and taxes tend to go up 2 percent.
If the economy is growing at 2 percent and your spending is going up 5.4 percent, then you have a problem. You could raise taxes.
I asked Mr. Elmendorf about this. Even though we had a trillion-dollar deficit last year, a 1,000-plus billion-dollar deficit last year--unbelievable debt--almost 35 percent of the money we spent last year was borrowed. We will pay interest on that for decades to come. There is no plan to pay it down in any significant way.
I asked Mr. Elmendorf, if we raise taxes, instead of $650 billion as we did in January, if we raised them enough to balance the budget, would we stay in balance.
He acknowledged, if the economy continues to grow at 2 percent and growth of spending is at 5 percent, we will immediately be back into a problem area.
In one sense, this is the very definition of unsustainability. This is the very definition of the problem we have that spending is growing faster than the economy. It cannot maintain itself at that rate.
We can spend, and we can say we have a balanced plan, a balanced program, a balanced approach, as my colleagues have done. They know this budget never balances, not in 1 year, not in 10 years, not in 50 years. It will become worse in the second 10 years. It absolutely will be worse.
This is the path which, as Senator Cruz just indicated, Greece, Spain, and Italy have followed. This is why they are in trouble.
My colleagues say the economy isn't growing well, and it is not. We had virtually zero growth last quarter, zero. We are supposed to be moving out of the recession. As I pointed out last night, the CBO, for the last several years, has been predicting 4 percent growth but not this year. After missing about 2 percentage points for the last several years, they are predicting low growth this year.
What do our colleagues say? They say they have a balanced approach. They keep stating this.
I grew up in the country, where I went to a great little school. There were 30 in my senior class. I am proud of my classmates. My classmate is now president of the University of Alabama--out of our little class.
I know what a balanced approach means. It means nothing. A balanced approach is an unaccountable statement. It provides no ability for the American people to ascertain whether we are doing anything they promise because they don't promise anything. We promised a balanced approach. What does that mean?
Does it mean we raise taxes and cut spending by the same amount, $1 trillion each or does it mean we raise taxes by $1 trillion and raise spending by $1 trillion? They want us to believe they raise taxes by $1 trillion, they cut spending $1 trillion, and reduce the deficit $2 trillion.
That is what they are suggesting to the American people. They are using the word ``balance'' and they hope people will hear it and think this means we have a balanced budget. They know they do not have a balanced budget. They won't tell the American people they do not have one, they just use the word. But it is not in their document.
Where and when do we hold people accountable in this Senate for an accurate statement of legislation? It is wrong. We have counted so far--this is pretty incredible--I think they have used the word ``balance'' 191 times. Does that reflect a guilty conscience or something, that they want people to think we have a balanced budget? We think we have a plan to get to a balanced budget. Oh, we have a balanced approach. But what does that mean? It means zero. The American people need to know this plan has no vision for America and it misrepresents what it does.
I know it is hard to write a budget with the Democratic Conference, which Politico says is being written from the left--by President Obama himself. I think that is probably accurate. The President's plan is irresponsible also. He has no real plan to do any of this, and he has publicly stated he does not think a balanced budget is important.
May I ask the Chair--we are moving along here, and I know there are other speakers coming, probably on both sides--to clarify our time situation and what the status is?
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Well, the Ryan budget is not going to get rid of Pell grants. Is that the level of debate we have degenerated to here? The Ryan budget says we are not going to try to balance the budget too quickly. We are going to do it over 10 years. We will reach a balance.
We have calculated--and it is not disputed--that you can increase spending every year 3.4 percent and the budget will balance. You don't have to cut spending. When they talk about cuts, they are talking about reducing the projected rate of growth, and that is why we are going broke. That is why this country is losing its moorings. We have defined cutting spending as reducing the rate of growth.
You cannot sustain 5-percent growth--5.4-percent growth--when your economy is growing at 2 percent. And the experts tell us we are at a new normal and we are not going to see 5-percent growth in the future--not likely. We might have a year or two of it. Bill Gross and his group at PIMCO, the great bond company, coined the phrase ``the new normal,'' and the new normal is that a mature economy such as ours, with an aging population, is not going to sustain some of the 9- and 10-percent growth rates that new and developing nations that are down here can achieve. I think that is probably something we have to accommodate, but we need to have policies that create as much growth as possible. That is absolutely true.
We had no growth last quarter--zero. The Congressional Budget Office has been predicting 3- and 4-percent growth the last 3 years. It is not there. It is not happening. The reason it is not happening is we have too much debt. The studies of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Bank of International Settlements, and the magnificent ``This Time It's Different'' by Rogoff and Reinhart demonstrate that statistically, empirically, when nations have this high a debt--we are at 104 percent of GDP, and Rogoff and Reinhart used the gross debt of America, which is almost $17 trillion now, comparing the gross debt to the size of our economy--that the debt we are carrying is larger than our economy and we have to pay interest on that.
There are a lot of other ramifications and instabilities and concerns that ripple through businesses and foreign investors who are going to create jobs in America, but all sorts of people lose confidence in the country when the debt reaches that high. They say, from their studies of over 200 years of every country that has gone into fiscal crisis, that the debt began to pull them down. They conclude--these Harvard professors--that we could lose 1 to 2 percent of growth.
We are not growing. This is the slowest recovery from a recession since World War II, and I don't think this debt has been recognized in and of itself as a detriment to the economy. But what do our colleagues say the answer is? Tax more on the economy and borrow more. Don't reduce our debt. Get the sugar high now, as Mr. Gross at PIMCO said. All this borrowing and spending creates a sugar high and you have a hangover later.
This is so simple. You can't create something from nothing. You know, Julie Andrews had that great, great song in the ``Sound of Music,'' ``Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.''
I met a man in Evergreen, AL, in a townhall meeting, who said: My daddy always said that you cannot borrow your way out of debt.
We need to listen to that kind of logic. I don't know who these people are who say that Paul Krugman said we can borrow, borrow, borrow. The other day, he said he didn't care--even if the Defense Department had a wasteful program. He said that we should not cut those programs. How ridiculous is that? I think that kind of thinking is the drive behind this budget, that we have to keep spending even if we keep running up the debt and somehow that is going to make America better and create economic growth.
I am worried about our working people. They are not doing well. Wages have not gone up in a decade. They are slipping below inflation. It is an absolute fact that has happened. The smart people in high-tech companies are doing well. A lot of them are making money. There are certain sectors of the economy that are doing well, but the economy itself is not moving, and I believe the net reason is revealed in the Rogoff-Reinhart analysis, which says that higher debt pulls down growth. So we have to do what families do and States have done and cities have done, and that is to tighten our belts a little bit.
We are proud of the food stamp program, also known as the SNAP program, but we find that it has all kinds of fraud and abuse in it, and it needs to be tightened up. I reject the idea that it is bad for the economy or will hurt people who are legitimately in need of food. We have not done anything like that since the 1996 welfare reform. We need to be doing that throughout the government.
One of the ways to create economic growth is to make American Government more productive and lean. Wouldn't that help? Let's ask this question: Is Mr. Krugman right? Should the government just spend regardless of whether the program is any good? Shouldn't we say to ourselves: Isn't it clear without any real dispute that if our government spent its money on things that are productive for America, this would make America stronger? We have to eliminate every single wasteful program. We don't have a single dollar to waste.
Our colleagues here are saying to the American people that there is nothing wrong. Our government is fine. We cannot cut any program. If we do, we will deny kids the right to go to college.
There is no reason Pell grants have to be salvaged, but maybe they need to be constricted a little bit. Maybe there are some abuses in those programs.
The growth of spending can increase every year at 3.4 percent. We are not required to damage, savage, or devastate the American economy to get the budget balanced. I appreciate the opportunity to share these remarks. I really believe the budget process is a bit messy and frustrating, but it is a good one. It has allowed us all to talk honestly about the great choices we face.
I am pleased to see Senator Thune, a supporter of the leadership on the Republican side, an outstanding Senator and longtime member of the Budget Committee who has been engaged in the financial issues of our time for quite a number of years.
I yield to Senator Thune at this time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. I thank Senator Cornyn for his remarks. I think it is a cautionary tale that when you pass a bill with the very stated idea from the Democratic leader in the House that ``We will find out what is in it after we pass it'' then you know we are in trouble.
ObamaCare is a monstrosity of a bill that has 1,700 references that say we will execute this legislation pursuant to regulations to be issued by some nameless, faceless government operative somewhere. It will bind and affect the very health care of millions of Americans. I have become more and more convinced it will not work.
The budget that has been presented to us today fails to meet the challenge of our time. It does not alter, confront, or reform and put on a safe path our important Social Security and Medicare Programs, both of which are heading to deficit and disaster. They need to be fixed now. The sooner we fix them, the better off we will all be. And it can be done. It just requires some willingness to stand up and be counted and do the right thing.
There is no reform of the wasteful government duplicative spending that goes on. Senator Coburn just went through a whole litany of duplicative programs: 47 job-training programs, many education programs, huge duplication in highway programs throughout different agencies and departments of the government. We know those exist, and nothing has been done about it. It does not alter the debt course we are on and, in fact, keeps it at the same rate.
It says we are going to raise $1 trillion in taxes and we are going to cut spending $1 trillion, and this is the balanced approach. We have been told that over and over: This is a balanced approach.
But that is not what the budget does. It does indeed raise taxes--at least $1 trillion actually--and it increases spending. So the net result of this budget over 10 years is to have no effect on the deficit even though it raises taxes $1 trillion. A balanced approach, in the terms of my Democratic colleagues, is to raise taxes $1 trillion and raise spending $1 trillion. This is irresponsible.
I am baffled by the willingness of my colleagues to proceed in that fashion, representing the budget to be something it is not. I think they have a guilty conscience, perhaps. We have been trying to keep up with how many times they have used the word ``balanced.'' How many times in the last 2 days have the Democratic speakers all across the board--who have their poll-tested language used the word ``balanced,'' when in fact they have an unbalanced budget that does not change the debt course and leaves us on a financial path that the CBO Director said is unsustainable. But you know the American people want a balanced budget, so you say: We have got a balanced approach, a balanced plan, a balanced priority, and you use that word over and over, with the idea that it sinks into somebody's mind and they begin to believe that you have a balanced budget. I can hear an ad agency explaining how this works.
But we don't have a balanced budget. It never balances. It has no goal of balancing. It is no closer to balancing than the current baseline and current law we are spending on.
So we have calculated--and the numbers have gone up every hour--201 references on the floor of the Senate to ``balanced.''
It just now begins to highlight the fact of how unbalanced this is, how unbalanced this budget is, how it does not do what we need it to do.
Back when I opposed the nomination of Jack Lew, who was Chief of Staff and OMB Director, to be Secretary of the Treasury, we talked about his first budget. It was the same way. They decided in early 2011, after the 2010 shellacking, to produce a budget that did not come close to balance. They had a little problem because the American people had just whacked the big spenders in the 2000 election. So what did they decide to do? They just said it would balance. They said we are only spending money we have. We have a budget that does not add to the debt. We have a budget that begins to pay down the debt. All three of those things were utterly false. The lowest single deficit, in his own numbers he submitted to us, was $600 billion. That was the least that he had in his entire 10-year budget of what the deficit would be that year--$600 billion deficit. Yet he said we have a budget that pays down the debt, we have a budget that only spends money we have, and a budget you can be proud of.
That is what we have here. I hate to say it. My colleagues have produced a budget that utterly fails to alter the debt course we are on. It raises taxes, but it does not use the taxes to reduce the deficit. It uses the taxes to fund new spending. It truly does.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. That is the concern we have today. We will head now into the votes. I thank Senator Murray for allowing us to have free ability to speak and debate. We do not agree on these issues, but we will head into an afternoon that hopefully will allow our Members a full opportunity to get a vote on amendments, if they believe strongly in them. We hope we do not have needless amendments, that Members are looking and understand the needs of our time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I thank Senator Murray. She has been a great person to work with. She is firm, clear, and tough, and has moved us forward. I always felt that when she made a decision, it was justified. She kept us under control and let us fuss and complain a bit. The content of the plan that the majority has moved forward I think explains why they have had difficulty revealing it from the beginning. It is because it is not the kind of budget that can be defended effectively. Honest people can disagree on policy, but there can be no disagreement, I believe, on the need to change our Nation's debt course. A singular truth that no one can escape is that the House budget changes our debt course while the Senate budget does not.
The Senate budget increases taxes, increases spending, and during that 10-year period another $7.3 trillion will be added to the debt. There will be no real deficit reduction, and it never balances. Republicans have given opportunity after opportunity, through votes, to produce a balanced budget, but that has been rejected.
The massive debt we racked up to finance our wasteful government is pulling down economic growth today. This is so important for us to understand. Gross debt--over 90 percent of GDP--weakens growth; not tomorrow, it is weakening growth today. In other words, continuing to borrow to bail out the government, and keep checks flowing, creates debt that pulls down wages, jobs, and job creation. It is time to stop shielding the government bureaucracy, which is hurting people today.
There is nothing virtuous about defending a broken welfare state that is trapping millions in poverty. Every time our colleagues raise taxes instead of reforming the government, they are enriching that bureaucracy at the expense of the people. When they demand more money, they are saying that reform is not important, just send us more money; we are not at fault.
I will conclude and say, we have to move away from a budget and a plan that enriches the bureaucracy at the expense of the American people.
I thank Senator Murray for her courtesy.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Reserving the right to object, I think this is a good list. I look forward to moving on. I will try to work with Senator Murray and others. Perhaps we may avoid the gaps we have been experiencing. We have a lot of Senators here, a lot of things to do. There is an anxiousness we shouldn't be having so much downtime, and we will be working toward that.
I thank the Chair and would not object.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. I request Senators be recognized to speak at this moment.
Mr. President, I believe, as I indicated last night, Mr. Lomborg of Europe, who has done a lot of research on these issues--energy research is preferable to mandating requirements which would utilize inefficient sources and oversubsidizing. Breakthroughs might happen. This is a paid-for amendment. I would suggest we take it by voice vote.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, unless there are any Senators who wish to speak in opposition to this amendment, I know we are all in very strong support of veterans. This amendment would make it easier to pass legislation, but that legislation would be required to be deficit neutral. I think we have to know that nothing comes from nothing. If we start new programs, they have to be paid for. But we certainly support the goal of this amendment. I suggest we could take it by voice vote.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I believe this is a good list, and I support this list. I would advise that a number of Senators have amendments that they have waited patiently on and that they are entitled to get votes on, so we need to move forward. The more effectively we can do so, the sooner we can finish. There are some very serious matters that have not yet been put on this list that will need to be voted on.
With that, I withdraw my objection.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. We look forward to working hard as we go forward and take up new amendments. It is unfortunate that we are coming to the end of the week as we have. We still would have a week when we come back--the week of April 8--but I know the majority leader wants to finish. So we are going to try to cooperate, and I know he will cooperate with us as we seek to get as many amendments done and as many people satisfied with the issues they are concerned about as is possible.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. I thank the Senator and his cosponsors for their work on this amendment. I note it would double the budget number for the weatherization program. Also, the Recovery Act of a few years ago, the stimulus bill, provided $5 billion for the weatherization program. While I am dubious about the wisdom of the doubling of this program, it is offset. Therefore, I would accept a voice vote.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. This is a budget-neutral reserve fund, and it essentially says, using that language, if the authorizing committee can pay for this bill, it will not be subject to a budget point of order. It should be offset to avoid that. This is certainly a worthy goal. We would like to see if this can be done. It would be a challenge for the authorizers because nothing comes from nothing. It could well end up cutting other veterans benefits. But I think this is a worthy goal. I think the Senator would suggest we take it by a voice vote.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I hope all of us begin to think a little bit here. We have a lot of votes that have gone forward. Each one seems to be an attempt to spend more money. It sets deficit-neutral reserve funds that require offsets. In my view, we are really thinking too much with a mindset that we have money, and I believe we are in denial about the financial condition of our country. Truly, we should be looking to have more amendments that save some money and use that money to pay down the debt rather than fund some new spending program.
This country is on an unsustainable debt path. We have to get off of it, and it cannot be done all by tax increases. Trust me, we have to have some spending reductions. Our spending rate of growth is more than two times the rate of economic growth, and that really--
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I agree that the Senator's amendment restates current law. I have no objection to that. I would accept that. But the question is and what has been suggested in the paper from what I have seen is that if a person is in our country illegally and they are rewarded with some legal status, do they then immediately become eligible for Federal health care benefits? It is a different situation than somebody who came legally and has legal status.
So I would say I would accept a voice vote on this.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, under current law, if a person is here unlawfully and becomes ``lawfulized,'' in some fashion, they then become qualified for this program. That is what we are talking about. So the question is, Should they then become qualified for ObamaCare or Medicaid? I think the answer is no. I think that is what people have said they believe.
My amendment would simply say that if you are here illegally, did not enter legally, and you get a lawful status in the United States, you then do not qualify for the Federal programs of ObamaCare and Medicaid.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, there may be someone else here, but I have prosecuted banks before and big institutions and put some people in jail. But we have--this is serious. I don't think the deficit reserve fund is the way to go about it, frankly, but it is an issue worthy of discussion. It should be brought up in the authorizing committee--the Judiciary Committee--and considered. And I am very inclined to believe we have had too little prosecution in these cases. But I think the right thing to do is to take this by voice vote. People can decide how they want to vote on it.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. I think we can accept this by a voice vote.
I would note that the House has nonreserved funds. The Senate now has about 50 we have adopted already. We have reserve funds adopted for education, clean energy, infrastructure, farm payments, food stamps, health care, pensions, housing, tooth decay, and now homeowners. So these create 50 ways to pass taxes more easily. It turns the budget discipline, if we don't watch it, into mush and makes it difficult to maintain the integrity of the Budget Act and avoids really in some ways the hard work of setting priorities.
So I think we should do this by voice vote, but I did want to call the attention of my colleagues to the fact that reserve funds too readily used can undermine the integrity of the budget process.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank Chairman Murray for her leadership and for her fairness in helping us move a lot of amendments fairly and equitably tonight. We are in a situation where--no need to debate it into the night--I wish we had not been in a position where the majority leader was determined to finish this weekend. I wish we could have started earlier in the week or to come back on April 8, but that is not possible.
We have gone 4 years without a budget, and Members have been constricted in the filing of amendments this year more than any other time in probably the history of the Senate. One has to ask or beg permission to be allowed to have an amendment. Senator Ayotte is one of those. Senator Moran and others had amendments. So they are frustrated, and they want their votes.
So I would just say, let's keep going. Let's keep in good humor. Let's try to get as many of these votes in as possible. I have had several Members suggest that we might vote from our chairs and not leave the Chamber and cut these rollcall votes down to a much shorter period of time. Maybe we could discuss that. But I think the list needs to be continued to be produced. A number of Senators haven't had amendments, and they really feel as though they have a right to. And this may be their only opportunity, the way things are going this year, to even get a vote on something they care about.
So that is my observation.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT