Floor Updates

Toomey, Whitehouse, Wicker, Carper

Budget Resolutions

May 16 2012

01:36 PM

Senator Toomey: (12:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "I've submitted a budget for the second consecutive year that puts us on a path to balance. My budget balances within the ten-year historical window of budget resolutions. It actually balances in the eighth year and runs a very modest budget surplus in the ninth year. I do that in part by reducing the total level of spending relative to GDP as compared to the alternative budgets. Specifically, the president's alternative or CBO's. I can't compare it to the Senate Democrat alternative budget because that doesn't exist. We have no idea what the Senate Democrat proposal is. But I've got one and so I'll elaborate on that a little bit. My proposal is that we get spending down to about 18.3% of GDP that is about the same level of revenue has historically been and thereby brings our budget into balance. Now, some of my colleagues have suggested that there are draconian spending cuts that get us here. But let me be very specific about what spending cuts are necessary to achieve this. In 2013, spending in my budget is 2.9% below what it is in 2012, which means the federal government will spend, under my budget, it would spend 97.1% of everything it spent the previous year. People can decide whether that constitutes draconian cuts. Now, here the amazing thing. After that, on average over the ten-year window, my budget calls for federal spending to increases. And, in fact, to increase at about a rate of about 3% per year. Nominally. See, this is my point. This is an eminently solvable problem. All we need to do is cut off some of the excess, restructure certain programs and allow the government spend can go grow, it just can't grow quite as rapidly as it's currently projected to do. And if we get that under control, we can put ourselves on a sustainable path. Another part of this is to have policies that maximize economic growth. I mean, that's an important goal in and of itself but it's also the path to restoring balance because stronger growth generates more revenue for the treasury. Well, my budget could do that without raising taxes. What I would do is have pro-growth tax reform ... I know there is broad bipartisan consensus on the principle that we'd have stronger economic growth if we simplified the code, broaden the base on which we apply taxes and then apply those taxes but at lower marginal rates. That's what my budget calls for. It really shouldn't be all that controversial to move in this direction of tax simplifying, lowering marginal rates and offsetting the reduced revenue by reducing the value of loopholes and write-offs. There are a couple of areas that I think are important areas where there is bipartisan support for elements within my budget. One is the President of the United States suggested in his budget that very wealthy senior citizens contribute a little bit more for the Medicare benefits that they obtain. Some means-testing already occurs within Medicare, but I happen to agree with the president that it's reasonable, especially under these circumstances, to ask the wealthiest members of our society to pay a little more for the benefits they're getting from the government. So my budget adopts the President's proposal of expanding means-testing, expanding the contribution we'd ask from the wealthiest Americans for their Medicare benefits. I also include in my budget a long-term reform for Medicare that makes Medicare viable. Now, this has been much-maligned, despite the fact that one of our Democratic senators Senator Wyden, supports this approach as well. One of the things I want to emphasize is this is a different plan than what it was last year. Last year there was a criticism that any premium support model that establishes the amount of money given to seniors to purchase health care at a fixed dollar amount was a flawed approach because what if health care costs rose more rapidly than that amount could afford pay for? That's valid concern. And so there is a different dynamic, a whole different mechanism in this proposal - that's in the House-pass budget and in my budget - and I think it is part of the reason why the Democratic senator has embraced this."

Senator Whitehouse: (1:07 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "This whole exercise today rests on a false premise and that is that we have no budget. Last summer congress passed and the president signed into law the bipartisan Budget Control Act which set binding discretionary spending levels for a decade and established enforceable budget levels for the current fiscal year and next, which our appropriations committees are now working under, Republicans and Democrats together. You wouldn't know this listening to Senate Republicans. Instead of focusing on real issues where real jobs are at stake, they are wasting a day of floor time on extremist tea party budgets. They also plan to force a vote on what they describe as the Obama budget. I plan to vote against all of the motions to proceed for the simple reason that we already have a budget in place that we voted on and agreed to for next year. Today's votes are nothing more than a Republican attempt to promote a radical and unwelcome agenda of slashing middle-class programs while protecting and even enlarging tax giveaways for the ultra rich. Let's make no mistake about what these proposals would do to middle-class families. The House-passed Republican budget would start by cutting taxes for big corporations and the ultimate rich adding $4.6 trillion, adding $4.6 trillion to our national debt. To pay for these extra tax cuts, Republicans would decimate programs on which regular American families at some point in their lives come to rely. They'd start by ending Medicare as we know it, beginning for workers who retire in 2023, the House Republican budget would make it a voucher system, which according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will add an estimated $6,000 in annual out-of-pocket costs for each retiree by 2050 ... At the same time that they slash Medicare, the House Republican budget gives those making over $1 million, an average tax cut of over $150,000. If you're going to need Medicare one day, if you are a working family, what do you get in an end to Medicare as we know it. If you're making over $1 million, what do you get? An average tax cut of over $150,000. Those are not real priorities ... It doesn't stop there. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act which would reopen the doughnut hole Under the House Republican budget, they'd be stuck paying that full $2,400 out-of-pocket cost to the big drug companies. The radical House budget would slash funding for Pell grants and would increase interest on student loans. We've all heard people say here that they don't want to encourage the increase in student loans that we're facing. They are of course filibustering our effort while they say it. So they speak from two positions. The House budget requires almost $1 trillion in additional and unspecified cuts, and that will be draconian. Senator Paul's budget, which we may take up today, would also slash middle-class programs including Social Security. He includes an eventual 39% cut to Social Security benefits and would end Medicare for all seniors in 2014. So if you want to put an end to Medicare in 2014, the Paul budget looks like a real great opportunity for you. But that's not what I think anybody really wants in this country. I think almost every American wants to see Medicare strengthened and supported."

Senator Wicker: (1:16 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "This is not a real debate about a budget resolution. These are show votes. These are messaging votes that we will have today. You can argue all you want to that we have a budget that's in place that we passed last year. There's just no getting around to USC 631, which is the budget law of the United States of America passed back in 1974, and that budget law requires Congress each year to pass a budget resolution. As a matter of fact, it says on or before April 15 of each year, Congress completes action on a concurrent resolution on the budget. Now the last time this Senate did that was 2009. We missed that April 15 deadline in 2010. The leadership of this body missed that deadline in 2011. And they missed it again this year. It has been that long since this body, under the leadership of my friends across the aisle, have complied with the explicit terms of the federal statute and brought a budget to have full consideration on the floor. Now what we'll have today is debate on five concepts. And I'm happy to vote for some of them and will certainly vote against others. But make no mistake about it, this is not the process called for by the federal statute. And it doesn't serve the law, doesn't comply with the law. It doesn't serve the purposes of advancing public policy in the United States of America. So we're long overdue for real budget debate that puts something in place. As I mentioned just a moment ago, we passed the three-year mark now. 1,100 days since the Senate democrats fulfilled one of their basic obligations, as I mentioned, in federal statute That's one thing that we're not seeing today, is a proposal by the Democratic majority. It only takes 51 votes to pass a budget. There's no two-thirds rule on a budget resolution. There's no filibuster on a budget resolution. My Democratic colleagues, many of whom are dear friends of mine, have 53 members in this caucus. They've got the votes. We know that a budget is required every year, and yet with the 53-vote majority and with only 51 votes required, they do not bring a budget to the floor for us to consider so that we could know what their budget priorities are. There are plenty of excuses from across the aisle for not complying with a clear mandate, but there really is no excuse. It is inexcusable that the Majority party in this chamber refuses to fulfill the statutory responsibility when the warning signs of fiscal calamity are at our doorstep."

Senator Carper: (1:26 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The President used his executive powers to say we're going to have a deficit commission and who did he ask to head it up? Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, former deficit hawk from Wyoming. People went to work on a real deficit-reduction plan. 11 out of the 18 of them ended up voting for this kind of plan. Not a 50-50 deal on deficit reduction, but $3 on the spending side for every $1 on the revenue side. $4 trillion to $5 trillion in deficit reduction over a ten-year period of time. That, my friend, we've seen a lot of different ideas. We've got a bunch of them here on the floor. The administration submitted their budget as well. Frankly, none of them come close to being as good as Bowles-Simpson. Alice Rivlin has done good work, Pete Domenici, our former senator from New Mexico, has done good work. Bowles-Simpson says we're going to raise $1 revenue for every dollar on the spending side. The grand compromise is Democrats agree to an entitlement reform to make sure they are going to be around for our grandchildren and grandchildren. On the revenue side we reduce rates for the individual side and corporate side. We eliminate it by half the so-called tax expenditures in the tax code. Tax credits, tax deductions, tax loopholes, tax breaks. Get rid of about half of them. That, the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission plan enjoys the support of almost half the Senate. Almost half the Senate. Pretty much an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. When we get through this election - we have a budget in place right now. We have a budget in place for 2012. We have a budget that's going to be effective in 2013. Right now, we're seeing deficit defense spending implemented over a ten-year period of time. Right now we're seeing a $600 billion reduction in domestic spending implemented over a ten-year period of time. If we don't come up with an agreement like the Simpson-Bowles at the end of this year, we'll see $600 billion more on the defense side, $600 billion on the nondefense side and some entitlement changes as well. A much better plan than doing that. Even though that adds up to about $2 trillion worth of deficit reduction for this year and the coming fiscal year, a much better plan is a kind of comprehensive, balanced plan that we have been given by the deficit commission."