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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2006--Conference Report

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise to speak about the budget resolution. I think that the budget process is one of those issues that doesn't translate too well outside of Washington. Most Americans know it involves a lot of fighting over a lot of numbers, but other than that what goes on here is largely obscured from public view.

Sometimes I think that is why Washington gets away with passing a budget like this one.

See, a budget is fundamentally about choices--not just choosing where to allocate funding--but where to place our most important values and priorities. And there are no free lunches here either.

We must choose--do we want to run up our debt with tax cuts and give the bill to our children, or do we want to get our fiscal house back in order? Do we want to hand more corporate tax breaks to companies with record profits while handing our veterans higher health care bills, or do we want to keep our promise to those willing to sacrifice in defense of our freedom?

These are the very real choices a budget asks us to make. And they have equally real consequences on people's lives.

When we cut $10 billion from Medicaid, what does that say to the 53 million Americans--25 million of whom are children--who rely on this program as their only source of health care? The thousands of seniors and kids in Illinois who will be turned away from a doctor's office when they get sick because we chose to end their coverage, what does that say to those Americans?

When we cut out a proposal to increase Pell grants that will send more kids to college, what does that say to the 220,000 who didn't attend last year for the simple reason that they couldn't afford it? What does it say to our kids who will have to compete with kids in India and China for jobs when we cut out proposals to provide new math and science teachers?

When we cut $351 million in funding for veterans' nursing homes and eliminate $100 million in State grants for VA facilities, what does that say to the veterans who have sacrificed for this Nation but who cannot seem to get this Nation to sacrifice anything for them? What does it say to these veterans when we provide only around 100 new employees to deal with a backlog of 480,000 compensation and pension claims that haven't even been looked at yet? And what does it say to the men and women who are willing to fight and die for this country when we are not doing much about the nearly 300,000 veterans who go to sleep without a roof over their heads every single night? What does that say to them? What do we say to them?

Maybe we tell them that the budget process is complicated; that we are in some tough times and have tough decisions to make; that we are not happy about the choices, but we have a huge deficit and no money left to spend.

Or maybe we tell them that we couldn't afford to do anything about these important problems because we chose to give out over $100 billion in tax breaks. $100 billion on top of the trillions in tax cuts we have already given out most of which have gone to those few who already have so much.

These tax cuts have driven us into the deepest debt in America's history and squandered our opportunity to deal with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the true costs of the war in Iraq. And yet when we try to do something fiscally responsible like pass an amendment that forces Congress to pay as it goes, we get rejected by those who want to keep borrowing and spending.

Right now, there are millions of middle-class families who are deeply in debt and struggling to pay the bills. This body couldn't wait to pass a bankruptcy bill to make sure they paid every penny of that debt, and yet it has now maxed out the country's credit card many times over. What does this say to Americans about taking responsibility for themselves?

A budget is about choices, and I believe the choices we have made here are just plain wrong.

In this budget, we should be meeting our responsibilities to our fellow Americans while still paying down the debt so we can meet our responsibilities to our children too. It doesn't have to be either-or--we can do both as long as we get our priorities in order. Many of us--Democrats and Republicans--have been trying to do this during the budget process. Unfortunately, the final product does not reflect those efforts. In the future, I hope that both parties can find a way to come together and make sure that America's budget reflects Americans' priorities.


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