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Public Statements

The Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I would like to speak for a few minutes today about the importance of getting a budget done today, all the way through the process. Senator Reid, our majority leader, last evening spoke again about the fact that we have had 15 days now of trying to just come together to create a conference committee to work out differences between the House and the Senate on a budget. For some reason, after talk for the last 3 years that I can remember from colleagues on the other side of the aisle saying that we need regular order, we need regular order, we need to get a budget done, they now are objecting to getting a budget done, which is extraordinary. The fact is that we cannot get a budget done if the House and the Senate do not appoint conferees and sit down and negotiate differences.

There are huge differences, I might add, between the House and the Senate. It is true that we will not accept, in the Senate, eliminating Medicare as an insurance plan for seniors and the disabled in this country, which the House does in their plan, turning it into a government voucher, putting seniors back into the private sector to try to find insurance. We certainly will not accept that, it is true. There are other areas of that budget we absolutely will not accept, but we know the first step in coming together to find something we can accept is to sit down and talk. I mean, I am very proud of what we were able to do in March. We had 110 amendments. We all remember. We were here until the wee hours of the morning. We got a budget done in regular order.

We have been hearing from colleagues across the aisle that we need to have regular order. I support that. In fact, I was proud of the fact that last year we did a farm bill in regular order and plowed through 73 amendments and worked together and passed a bipartisan bill. We hope we are going to be bringing a bill to the floor very soon as well to do it again.

I am a huge supporter of giving people an opportunity to state their differences, to be able to work out amendments, and to be able to get a bill done. We did that with 50 hours of debate on the budget, 110 amendments that we took up. We got it done. Now, all of a sudden, colleagues on the other side of the aisle do not want regular order anymore. They have decided somehow that actively blocking us from actually getting a budget for the Nation is more advantageous to them for some reason or something that appeals to them more than actually getting the budget done.

I urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to take another look at this, to look at their own words over the last number of years. Our colleague from Texas who objected to the majority leader's motion to actually do the next step and get a budget done said back in January on national television: We have a crisis. Well, what was the crisis he was talking about?

There is no doubt the Senate has not done its job. The Senate should pass a budget.

Well, we did. We passed a budget. It may not be something my colleague from Texas supported. That is the democratic process. The majority of people agreed in this body, and we passed a budget. He may be more inclined to support the House budget, which eliminates Medicare as an insurance plan and does a number of other things that I think go right to the heart of middle-class families and so on. That is his right. That is a right we all have, to have a position as to which budget we support. But we also know that in the democratic process under our Constitution--and we all talk about the Constitution and the democratic process--the way we actually get to a final budget is to get folks in a room to talk, to negotiate, and to see if there is some way to work issues out. We are now being blocked from being able to get in the room to talk to each other.

The American people want us to talk, want us to negotiate, want us to work things out. That is what we ought to be doing. So I would strongly urge that we move to conference. I do not know why in the world anyone would be objecting to putting together a group of people, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans in the House, to sit down and work out the priorities for our country.

Will we have different perspectives on Medicare, whether we should have Medicare? Yes, we will. Will we have different perspectives on where the brunt of the cutbacks should be and whether middle-class families have been hit enough, which I believe they have? Yes, we will have a disagreement on how to balance the budget. But we all know that we need to get the job done. We have done our part in passing a Senate budget. The House passed a House budget. It is a very different vision of the world, different vision of what should happen in terms of innovation, education, and investing in the future of our country--very different views. But those views deserve to be aired sitting around a conference table to try to work out some way to come together to pass a budget.

I urge colleagues to stop obstructing, stop stalling, allow us to move forward in a balanced way, and give us the opportunity to do what everyone in the country wants us to do, which is to come up with a bipartisan, balanced, fair budget for the country.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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