Floor Updates

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16 2012 9:31 AM

The Senate Convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

May 16 2012 9:51 AM

  • Today --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and begin up to 6 hours of debate, equally divided, on the Budget Resolutions listed below. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
      1. S. Con. Res. 41, the President's FY 2013 Budget Resolution;
      2. H. Con. Res. 112, the House-Passed FY 2013 Budget Resolution;
      3. S. Con. Res. 37, the Toomey FY 2013 Budget Resolution;
      4. S. Con. Res. 42, the Paul FY 2013 Budget Resolution; and
      5. S. Con. Res. 44, the Lee FY 2013 Budget Resolution.
    • If all time is used, circa 4:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to a series of 5 ROLL CALL VOTES on the Motions to Proceed to the Budget Resolutions. There will be 2 minutes of debate, equally divided, prior to each vote. After the first vote, all remaining votes will be 10 minute votes.
  • On Tuesday, Cloture was filed on:
    1. Executive Calendar #646, Jeremy C. Stein, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; and
    2. Executive Calendar #647, Jerome H. Powell, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Under the rule, the ROLL CALL VOTES on the Motions to Invoke Cloture on the nominations will occur on Thursday.
  • As a reminder, on Tuesday, May 8th, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.

Senator Reid: (9:33 AM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "It's almost universally acknowledged that Republican obstructionism has reached new heights in the Senate. There are separate articles written about it. There are even now books written about it. Democrats would have to break a filibuster, I guess, to declare the sky blue or the earth is round, and passing the most commonsense legislation can take weeks or months. So with a mile-long list to do, we can't afford to waste any time. Yet today Republicans will force the Senate to waste a day on political showboats. We'll spend hours debating and voting on a handful of nonbinding budget resolutions even though we've already had a legally binding budget. If one of the Republicans' budgets passed, which it won't, by law it's nonbinding. The Senate could spend the day passing tax cuts for small businesses that won't hire people or we could be considering the paycheck fairness act, training women to receive equal pay for equal work. We could be debating cyber-security legislation, which the pentagon says is the number-one issue facing this country today, is cyber-insecurity. We could be working on a farm bill that Senator Stabenow and Roberts have done such an outstanding job . Saving the country $23 billion, reducing the debt by that much. We should be on that bill. Or we could be protecting seven million students from rate hikes on their federal loans. We could even move a series of appropriations bill to implement the budget we've already enacted. Instead we'll debate and vote on a series of budgets. Republicans aren't interested in getting anything done this year. They have said so from the very beginning. Their leader, my friend from Kentucky, has said the number-one issue is to defeat President Obama. So they don't mind wasting a day of the Senate's time on useless political showboats."
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Republicans san say over and over they are only forcing votes on Republican budgets today because Democrats failed to pass their own budget. That couldn't be further from the truth. In august Congress passed and President Obama signed a budget that reduces the deficit by more than $2 trillion. It's called the Budget Control Act. 28 Republican senators, including my friend, the Minority leader, voted for the last legally binding budget. But since august those Republicans have dealt the case by measure. Why else would they walk around Washington claiming we don't have a budget. The Senate will waste a day debating; the Budget Control Act has the force of law. If Republicans are serious about reducing the deficit, they wouldn't be working so hard to undo that august law which cuts more than $2 trillion from the deficit. Democrats agree that across-the-board cuts to domestic spending and defense programs in the Budget Control Act aren't the ideal way to solve our nation's fiscal problems but the cuts were designed to be tough, so lawmakers were forced to reach a balanced deal. Unfortunately, Republicans refused to be reasonable. They refused to raise even a penny of new evidence or ask millionaires to contribute their new share to help reduce the deficit. And democrats won't agree to a one-sided solution that lets the super wealthy off the hook while forcing the middle class to bear all the hardship. The American people agree with this. These four stunt budgets all take that one-sided approach which protects healthy special interests at the expense of ordinary Americans, and they clearly illuminate Republicans' priorities, to shower the wealthy with tax breaks paid for by the middle class. All four of the Republican plans cut investments and help middle-class families to get back on their feet. All four plans would double the student loan rate, put college out of reach for many students. All four plans and Medicare as we know it, gutting seniors' health benefits, lavish more tax breaks on millionaires and billionaires Every moment we waste refighting old battles is a time that could be better spent creating jobs. The time for showboats is over. Now is time for the Senate to get back to work putting Americans back to work."

Senator McConnell: (9:40 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "You know, before I was Republican leader, I was probably best known as a lonely warrior against campaign finance reform on the grounds that it violates the first amendment right to free speech. But before that, I was probably best known, at least in some quarters, for an ad that I ran in my first Senate campaign. It featured a pack of blood hands running around looking for my opponent who missed so many votes giving paid speeches around the country we thought we should call him out on it. I can't help but think back on that ad when it comes to Senate Democrats and the federal budget. Where in the world is it? Where is the budget? We've got a nearly $16 trillion debt. We're borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Entitlements are going broke. Millions are out of work. And Senate Democrats can't even put a plan on the - on a piece of paper for a vote. Can't even put a plan on a piece of paper so we can have a vote. What are they doing over there? What are they doing? Isn't anybody over there embarrassed by the fact that they haven't offered a budget in three years? Haven't offered a budget in three years. It's been three years since the Democrat-led Senate felt it needed to put a budget together so the American people can see what their priorities are and what they plan to do to fix this mess. Three years in which they have completely abdicated their responsibility as a majority party to show the American people what they stand for, to put their vision in black and white for all the world to see. The fact is they don't have one, don't have a budget. As far as I can tell, their only plan is to take shots at our plan and hopes nobody notices that they don't have one of their own. They're so unserious, they won't even vote for a budget that was written by a President of their own party. It doesn't get more irresponsible than that We'll give Democrats a choice and see if they have the courage to get behind any of these proposals or none of them, and we'll learn a lot in the process. By the end of the day, we'll know whether there is a budget that Washington Democrats support, and the American people will know without a doubt who is voting for solutions in this town and who isn't. They will know who has got a plan to fix the mess we're in and who doesn't. They will know who would rather spend their time criticizing others than doing the hard work of setting priorities and making choices. Now, Senate Democrats don't want to explain how they will fix the fiscal mess we're in. They don't want to say how they will preserve and strengthen entitlements. What they really want to do is just complain about others. They are putting their desire for campaign material ahead of their responsibility to govern. The tragedy is every year they do so, the problems we face only get worse. The debt gets bigger, entitlements get closer to insolvency and the American people have to go another year wondering when things will ever change. Well, some people up here think it's time to do something now, and we'll know who those people are by their votes."

Conrad, Sessions, Blunt, Thune

Budget Resolutions

May 16 2012 10:49 AM

Senator Conrad: (9:48 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "This is a consequential discussion today, because it really is a question of the future economic policy of the United States. That's what we're talking about here today. I just heard the Republican leader say there is no budget. I don't know how to say this, but sometimes I wonder if colleagues pay attention to what they're voting on here. Last year in August, we didn't pass a budget resolution. Instead, we passed a budget law. Now, anybody that's had tenth grade civics knows a law is stronger than any resolution. A resolution is purely a congressional document. It never goes to the President for his signature. A law has to pass both bodies and be signed by the president. Last year, instead of a budget resolution, we did a budget law called the Budget Control Act. The Budget Control Act set the budget for the next two years, for this year and next. More than that, it set ten years of spending caps, saving $900 billion. In addition, the Budget Control Act gave a special committee the authority to reform the tax system and the entitlement system of the country, and it said if you come to an agreement, special committee, your action cannot be filibustered. You have to go right to the floor for a vote. And if you don't agree, there will be an additional $1.2 trillion of spending cuts put in place. Now, the special committee didn't agree, and so that additional $1.2 trillion of spending cuts is now the law. In addition to the $900 billion of spending cuts. That's a total spending cut package of more than $2 trillion. That is the biggest spending cut package in the history of the United States. And for our colleagues to say, well, there are no spending limits in place, well, what is the Budget Control Act then? It's a law passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, passed in the House, signed by the President of the United States. Why are they engaged in this diversion? Well, I think I know why. Because the last time our colleagues on the other side were in control, when they had it all, the House, the Senate, the White House from 2001-2006, they had both Houses of Congress. Until 2008, they had the White House. So, of course, nothing could be changed in terms of the policies they put in place until we had a new President. And what happened? What happened when they had total control? Their policies were in place. Republican policies led the United States to the brink of financial collapse. That's what happened. And do you know what they want to do now? They want to go back to those failed policies and do it all over again. We can't let them do that. That would be a disaster for this country. It would be a disaster for the world's economy."
Colloquy: (Senators Sessions, Blunt, Thune)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.

Senator Sessions: (10:19 AM)
  • SUMMARY "We do not have a budget. If we had a budget, why did President Obama comply with the United States code and submit a budget over here this year? If we have a budget, why did the House pass a budget? If we had a budget, why did four different Democratic congressmen and groups of congressmen submit budgets in the House? So if we had a budget, why did Senator Conrad seek to have a budget markup in the committee? He basically said well, we may not bring it up on the floor but the law says we have a budget. I'm going to bring one up in committee, and the day before the committee met, the Democrats met in conference and told him not to do it. So we were expecting to have an actual markup of the budget presented by the Democratic leadership and we didn't get it. Why? Senator Reid said it would be foolish to have a budget, foolish. What did he mean by that? Well, with the Democratic leader attacking Republicans this morning, why would he say it is foolish for us to produce a budget? Well, he said that because he meant it would be foolish politically. It would be not smart politically because the democratic leadership in the Senate would have to lay out a vision for the future, and the vision they wanted to sell or they could agree on was one that the American people wouldn't like. It wouldn't be smart. They would reject it. We would add the numbers up, see how much taxes they actually want to increase, how much debt they are going to increase, how much spending is going to increase. And those are the kind of things that are disappointing. And so that's not leadership. It's an utter failure of leadership, whereas the Republican House, they produced a budget that changes the debt course of America, puts us on a sound financial path. You can agree with it or disagree with it. You will have other budgets offered today from the Republican side that will have substantial support, that would change the debt course we are on, balance the budget in a certain number of years, put us on a sound financial path. And I expect every one of those budgets to be opposed by every member on the other side of the aisle, and it appears again that they will unanimously vote down President Obama's budget and not offer one of their own directly contrary to the law. And I know the Majority leader this morning said well, filibusters are a problem, but you can't filibuster a budget process. This Budget Control Act is designed to ensure that a budget could be passed. The Budget Control Act does not allow a filibuster. Simply 51 votes is needed to pass a budget. So why isn't it being brought forth? Because they prefer to hide under the table, not stand up and be counted, not address the greatest trouble this nation has, which is our debt."

Senator Blunt: (10:27 AM)
  • SUMMARY "I'm embarrassed that we're not serious about this issue. As Senator Thune and I served in the House together while you were league in these budget fights over in the Senate, and we had a budget every year. We didn't always every single year have a budget the House and Senate could agree on with each other, but the House always had a budget, the Senate always had a budget. We always complied with the law, the 1974 Budget Act that says you have to have a budget. It says you have to have a budget by April 15. And frankly, you can't do your work without a budget. You can't get spending under control without a budget. You can't appropriate the way you should without a budget because what the budget does is say here's how much money we're willing to spend on defense and here's how much money we're willing to spend on military construction and here's how much money we're willing to spend on energy, that part of the budget. If you don't have that, you really don't have a starting place. And I have all the respect in the world for our friend from North Dakota, Mr. Conrad, but to be the Budget Chairman and have to come to the floor and all you can talk about is what's wrong with the other budgets that have been produced because your committee hasn't produced one has to be frustrating for him. No matter how effective he sounded like he was in talking about what was wrong with the people that had a plan, it's easy to find out what's wrong with somebody's plan, but particularly when you haven't got any obligation apparently on your own part to come up with a plan. Remember, the White House was asked just a few weeks ago when Senator Reid said the Senate will not have a budget, what their position on that was, and he said we don't have a position on that. Now, the President submitted a budget. Why did the President submit a budget if he doesn't want the Congress to act on a budget? The House voted on his budget this year. It was 414-0. Not a single Democrat or Republican in the House voted for the President's budget. Last year we voted on the President's budget, as I assume we will today. Not a single Democrat or Republican voted on the President's budget last year."

Senator Thune: (10:34 AM)
  • SUMMARY "For the top ranking military official in this country to say the greatest threat to America's national security is its debt speaks volumes about what our priority ought to be. To think we here in the United States Senate now for over 1,100 days have not passed a budget is pretty stunning in light of that reality. And also, to say that somehow because the Budget Control Act last summer passed and we don't need a budget really misses the point. The reason we had the Budget Control Act is because we didn't pass a budget. The Budget Control Act is what you get when you don't pass a budget. You end up at the 11th how, having to come at the last minute to put something together to deal with the issue of the debt limit which is what we were dealing with at that time and it did put caps on spending but it doesn't do anything to deal with the long-term structural challenges facing this country which is what a budget is designed to do. And, you know, the President submitted a budget this year which would suggest that he thought we ought to be working on a budget. The Chairman of the Budget Committee, as my colleagues have mentioned, even called a Budget Committee markup where we went there, said bring amendments. We went and we brought amendments and we gave opening statements, and we gaveled it out and said we're not going to do it. So here we are again on the floor of the United States Senate without a budget, having to vote on other budgets presented by some of our colleagues - the House of representatives which passed a budget this year earlier and the president's budget. And to be fair, the President at least submitted a budget. It was a terrible budget, if you're looking at the issues of spending and debt. In fact, I think the reason it got voted down 414-0 in the House of Representatives is because it added $11 trillion to the debt. It takes our total debt at the end of the ten-year period to $26 trillion. And spends $47 trillion over the next ten years, raises taxes by $2 trillion on a very fragile economy. That was a really bad attempt. But at least it was an attempt, an attempt that yielded zero votes in the House of Representatives. It will be interesting to see if on the floor of the United States Senate today there are any Democrats who will vote for their President's budget proposal. But the point that the senator from Alabama, the senator from Missouri make is a good one, and that's just simply this. We have a responsibility under the law to spell out what we would do to get this country on a more sustainable fiscal path. That's something that's in the budget laws that the senator from Alabama pointed out. And yet here we go on year after year after year, over 1,100 days without the Senate doing its job and passing a budget."

Senator Sessions: (10:41 AM)
  • SUMMARY "I would just note the reason we're here today is because a budget was not produced. The parliamentarian of the Senate ruled that a budget has not been produced. And, therefore, under the rules of the Budget Act, budgets that have been filed can be brought to the floor. That's how we were able to force the vote today What happened with the Budget Control Act is we spent so much money, we'd reached the spending limit of America, the debt ceiling, and we had to have a last-minute effort to reach an agreement. And the Republicans insisted that we had to reduce spending. And we got a reduction in spending from $47 trillion over the next ten years to $45 trillion. And you would have thought that's going to bankrupt America. We would spend $45 trillion instead of $47 trillion. And that's not a budget. It just was a limit on spending. And it was done because Republicans said we're not going to raise the debt limit until you at least cut some spending. And that's all that can be accomplished. We avoided a crisis. But it was a pretty tense time."

Conrad, Stabenow, Sessions

Budget Resolutions

May 16 2012 11:23 AM

Senator Conrad: (10:50 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "I want to go back to the point my colleagues have made. It's fascinating to me, you didn't hear them talk for one moment about the substance of their proposals. Not a moment. Did you notice that? I wonder why that would be. I think I know. Because their proposals would take us right back to the failed policies that brought this country to the brink of economic collapse. That's what happened the last time they were in charge. They controlled both bodies from 2001-2006. The White House to 2008. So none of those policies they put in place when they controlled both chambers could be changed. And where were we at the end of 2008? Where were we? We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and the economy was shrinking at a rate of 9%. And the proposals that they have, the substantive proposals they are making here today, take us right back to those same failed policies. So it's no wonder you don't hear them saying one word about the budget proposals we're going to be voting on, because they are the same failed policies that put this country in the ditch. Instead, what you hear them say is we on our side have no budget fascinating. Well, let me just put up again what we passed last year, a law called the Budget Control Act. And let me again read from that law. It says "the allocations, aggregates and levels, spending levels, in subsection shall apply in the senate in the same manner as for a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2012." In the next clause, it makes the exact same statement for 2013. That the Budget Control Act that was passed last year will serve in the same manner as a budget resolution. And earlier this year, pursuant to that law, I gave the appropriators, which I am required to do under the law, what they could spend."

Senator Stabenow: (10:56 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "We passed a Budget Control Act by 74 votes in the United States Senate. 74 votes, bipartisan vote. On August 2 of 2011. It put in place the spending caps that the Chairman talked about. It laid out something that frankly in my time since being here starting in 2001 has been done differently and frankly has a stronger basis for it, because instead of just having something passed by the House and the Senate, it actually was signed by the President. It's law. It has the face of law, the force of law, and it is in a situation where it has even more impact than it would normally do. Yes, we didn't do the normal process. What we did was one better than the normal process, which is the Budget Control Act. And it did pass and it did put in place the spending caps, and in fact set up, as we know, a deficit reduction commission, a requirement on cuts that will take place in January, and it's also true that what we don't have is a long-term plan. As the Chairman has talked about over and over again, we have got to come together on a long-term deficit reduction plan. So we agree on that, and there are many people that have talked about that and worked on various proposals. The President has led negotiations. Members in this body have. And certainly the Chairman of the committee has continued to lead those efforts. And we need to get that done. But in terms of what we have on a budget resolution that puts in place limits on caps, that has been done I think this goes to the values represented in these budgets. Do we want to say that retirees, that older people in our country have opportunity to live long lives? Social Security and Medicare are great American success stories. They've literally brought a generation out of poverty to live in dignity Those are good things. Those are good values in America. Not bad values. Those are good values. And all four of these budgets, the Paul budget would end Medicare in 2014. The Lee budget would end it in 2017. The Ryan budget in 2023 and the Toomey budget in 2023. I cannot imagine that Americans want to go back to that system where seniors can't count on the ability to see a doctor, get their medicine and have the dignity of a long and healthy life."

Senator Sessions: (11:08 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "We need to lie out a plan for the future of this country. That's what this is all about. My colleague just said just vote no on all of them and keep us going. Don't go back. When I hear that to be said, and no ambiguity about it, let's just keep on the path we're on. This is good enough. Let's be happy. We're in Washington, here's the letter, you know, we're in Washington, we're having fun, I caught a fish, we had a party, send more money. Isn't that what it's all about? Isn't that would were hearing from the other side? Send more money. And we'll take care of things for you. We don't have to cut anything. We don't have to reduce spending. We're not really on an unsustainable path, actually we cut spending over the next ten years from $47 billion to $45 billion, aren't we great? Which is a huge increase over current level of spending, increases spending every year under the Budget Control Act, not nearly enough to change the debt course of the country, but that's okay. And, by the way, do you know what President Obama's budget does? President Obama's budget wipes out the sequester. That's before the ink is dry on the Budget Control Act agreement at the 11th hour to reduce spending over the next decade, $2 trillion, President Obama submits a budget in February, January, proposing to wipe out the sequester. All $1.1 trillion of it. What kind of commitment do we have to control spending? Just send more money. That's the solution. Tax, spend. Tax, spend. I wish it weren't so. I wish I could say differently. Well, let me ask this question: do my colleagues not feel a responsibility to tell the American people what their financial plan for the future of America is? Do they have no responsibility? Do they feel no sense of obligation, no duty? And all they want to do is just attack anybody else's plan who's trying to save this republic from financial disaster, attack them, because they might want to reduce spending somewhere, and somebody might not like it because they didn't get quite as much from the government as they got before. Are there no programs we're not prepared to reduce or eliminate that are wasteful and aren't worthwhile? Is there nothing in this government? The Budget Control Act's not close to what we need to be doing to put our country on a sound path. Not close. And I have to say the President's budget undoes half of that. It adds, actually, when I said the Budget Control Act took spending down from $47 trillion to $45 trillion, President Obama's budget he submitted just a few weeks ago would add $1.6 trillion back, so that would make it go from 45 to 46 trillion in spending over ten years. This is the way they propose to operate this government. That's what their plan is. And why won't they lay it out? Because they know the American people will look at it and say good grief. That's not what we want for this country. You guys got to get your house in order. We expect you to cut some spending there. We know there's waste, fraud, and abuse in this capital. You better get busy. But all we hear from my Democratic colleagues is send more money. And what is particularly troubling is a theme and a suggestion that it's okay. We don't have to make any changes. But we do. We do have to make changes."

Menendez, Conrad, Paul

Budget Resolutions

May 16 2012 12:02 PM

Senator Menendez: (11:22 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Last year the Budget Control Act became the law of the land, and it sets discretionary spending limits for security and non-security spending for not just one year but for two years. And it puts us on a path to reduce the deficit by more than $2 trillion over the next ten years. So now we hear from our friends on the other side of the aisle who continue to try to make claims that we don't have a budget. I guess if you say it often enough, people may believe it. But it seems that our Republican colleagues have selective amnesia about the Budget Control Act. We have a budget. It's called the budget control act. And it has the force of law which is more than we can say for any of the proposals before us today. So today's debate makes me wonder if we're on a dance floor instead of the Senate floor because we've already taken one step forward and now it's two steps back. These Republican proposals call for extreme cuts on the backs of seniors, students and the most vulnerable in our society without asking any contributions from millionaires and corporations. And that's just not fair. It is not balanced. And it doesn't reflect the priorities of New Jersey's middle-class families. I strongly believe that we must get our nation's fiscal house in order, and I have always supported a fair and balanced approach to reducing our deficits. But I cannot in good conscience support proposals in which working families, seniors, and students must endure billions in cuts while oil companies making $1 trillion in profit over the next decade, and billionaires are not asked to pay their fair share. Supporters of the House Republican budget introduced by Congressman Ryan justify radical changes to Medicare and other programs by saying we can't afford it. But in the very same Republican budget in which we can't afford that, we see an average tax cut of over a quarter of a million dollars to millionaires. And that's on top of the six-figure tax break they are receiving from the Bush tax cuts. And at the same time Republicans propose to add thousands of dollars of increased costs on the backs of middle-class seniors, they somehow find the money for another tax cut for millionaires that's worth more than four times the entire average household income of an American family. Now people who have worked hard and build personal wealth should be applauded for their success. At the same time many of them are willing to contribute to help the nation in this tough economic time if we ask, and we know from experience that asking a fair share from the wealthiest and most successful, as we did during the Clinton era of prosperity, will not break our economy. It just comes down to a matter of fairness. What we're seeing today is our friends on the other side of the aisle taking yet another run at shifting our nation's financial burden on to middle-class families, seniors and students all while defending special breaks for their special interests. How is that fair? How is that balanced? It's not. And we can't let it stand."

Senator Conrad: (11:31 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The truth is, on the larger issue, we're not all that far apart. The larger issue is, as a nation, we're on an unsustainable course. It's as clear as it can be. And we have to deal with it. We have a different deal with respect to what we have right now. I believe we do have a budget in place for this year and next year. The place where I would agree with the gentleman is we don't have the longer-term plan. The problem is, are we really going to get all sides to get off their fixed positions right before a national election? And that's a matter of judgment. I don't believe that it's going to happen. I was part of the Simpson-Bowles Commission. Senator Gregg and I were the ones who got a commission appointed. He and I were part of the gang of six. That would have reduced the debt from what it would otherwise be by more than $4 trillion, depending on what baseline you use, even more than that. And that's the minimum we need to do. I actually tried to convince the commission to do $5.6 trillion. That was my proposal with the commission. The $5.6 trillion package of deficit reduction and debt reduction. Why did I pick that? Because we could balance the budget in ten years if we did."

Senator Paul: (11:36 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "We're currently borrowing $50,000 a second. We borrow $4 billion a day, and we're borrowing over $1 trillion every year. The situation has gotten out of control, and I think the situation of our deficit in our country threatens our country, and in fact I think it is the number-one threat to our national security and our security as a nation is this overwhelming burden of debt. Many economists have said that this burden of debt is actually causing us to lose a million jocks a year. It crowds out private investment because we've got to take care of financing this enormous debt. Amidst all of this, we have rules in place. There's a Budget Act that we've had in place since the 1970's that requires that this body put forward a budget. The problem is that we have no budget and had no budget for three years. Now, you would say, how can this be when we have a law that says that the majority party has to have a budget? And yet we have no budget. They are in defiance of the law. Then if you come to us and you say, well, we want money spent on "X" item, we can't even do anything about it because there are no appropriation bills. If you don't have a budget, you don't have appropriation bills, you can't alter up or down the Appropriations bills because we don't have a budget to go by. In fact, every bit of spending that we do up here is in defiance of our own rules, because we're supposed to compare the spending bills to the budget, and we have no budget. Now, many of us have been promoting something new. This would be a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. Because we don't seem to be doing a very good job balancing a budget. Now, you in your families, when you have less money coming in you spend less every American family has to do this. Why can't Washington simply spend what comes in? Shouldn't be that complicated. But they aren't obeying their own rules, so I think we need stronger rules. That would be an amendment to the is that you says you must balance the budget. We had a vote on it. 47 of us on our side of the aisle voted for it, and no one on the other side voted for it. Our balanced budget amendment to the constitution would require that the budget balance within five years. In that vein, what our office has done is put together a budget that does balance in five years, and it actually over a ten-year period would reduce the deficit by $2 trillion. Ours is the only budget that will balance in five years and begin paying down the debt over ten years."

Senator Conrad: (11:50 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Senator Paul's plan is truly a radical plan. He didn't mention a lot of the elements, but he has massive tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. He scraps the entire tax system, goes to a 17% flat tax. That is a massive tax cut for those of us who have higher income. Massive tax cut. I can tell you, it would be a massive tax cut for my family. He also cuts discretionary spending, education, energy, by huge amounts. I'll go into that. He cuts health care almost $4 trillion. Let's go to the next slide, if we can in the interest of time. He replaces the current progressive system with a 17% flat tax, he eliminates the estate tax, eliminates it. He eliminates taxes on capital gains and dividends. Eliminates them. My goodness. You think about what that would mean. People like Warren Buffett wouldn't pay almost anything in taxes. The richest people among us because he eliminates taxes on capital gains and dividends. But he's not so generous when it comes to lower-income people. He raises taxes on lower-income people by ending the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, eliminates it. Let's go to the next slide just quickly. Perhaps most stunning, his answer to saving Social Security, not a dime of revenue. Cut the benefits 39%. That's what Senator Paul has got before this body. Really? Is that what we should do? Massive tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and make up for it by cutting Social Security benefits 39%. That's the Paul plan. He increases the retirement age three times faster than the fiscal commission plan. And he shifts to something he calls progressive indexing for those earning above $33,000, which cuts their benefits even more deeply over time. Now, people, I respect his desire to do something about deficits and debt. But the answer is not massive tax cuts, eliminate the estate tax, eliminate capital gains taxation. No taxes. Wow. Warren Buffett should send him a thank-you letter. And cut social security 39%? He cuts energy dramatically, he cuts education Massive cuts. So that we can have more tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. Trillions of dollars. And then cut Social Security 39%. Wow. That is breathtaking."

May 16 2012 12:57 PM

Senator Durbin: (11:55 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Senator Conrad and I were on the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission and 18 of us sat there for a year plus and listen to all this testimony about everything. And here is where we came down: he and I both voted for it. We believe that the premise of the Simpson-Bowles Commission is the right premise. Everything must be on the table. Everything. What do you mean by everything? Spending cuts must be on the table, both in the defense side and the nondefense side. In addition to that, we have to put the entitlement programs on the table. My friends, we can't ignore this conversation. We're, what, 11 years, 12 years away from Medicare going bankrupt. We've got to have a serious conversation about this. And we have to look seriously at the question of revenue. We cannot ignore the fact that we have seen a decline of the revenue coming into the federal government since we last had our budget in balance. And so we have to put all that on the table. And I add in other part that fits right into the revenue conversation, the tax code. This is not holy writ. The tax code is a compilation of laws passed over a long period of time that take about $1.2 trillion out of the treasury every year for deductions and credits and exclusions and special treatment. They asked us in one of these meetings on the tax code, what do you think is the most expensive provision in the tax code, takes the most money out of the treasury? And I said, mortgage interest, for sure. Wrong. The most expensive is the employers' exclusion of health insurance premiums. So imagine when we get into the debate about tax reform and the first item is the biggest item up, employers' exclusion of health insurance premiums, imagine that conversation. If we say your employer can no longer take the full deduction, what does it mean to you as an employee, in terms of your out-of-pocket expense, in terms of your health insurance coverage? So I'm not going to suggest tax reform is an easy exercise. It's hard. But it has to be part of the conversation here. So here's where we come down. We're having an exercise today which is not invaluable - I mean, I shouldn't say not worthless, it is important. It is an exercise in discussing the budget. What Senator Conrad has spelled out are different visions of things. What you find coming from the other side of the aisle, primarily talk about more tax cuts, particularly to higher-income people in the belief that that's how you spark an economy and get it to go. I disagree with the premise. I think the way this economy moves forward is when working families and middle-income families have more spending power. I don't believe you can give more money to the richest people in America and expect the economy to take off."

Senator Wyden: (12:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "I've been working to get bipartisan Medicare reform ready, teed up for enactment at the first possible opportunity Here's what it's going to take. First and foremost it will take protecting the most vulnerable seniors, what are called the dual-eligible, seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The protections for those dual-eligible must be ironclad. Unfortunately, a number of the offerings that we're going to see from colleagues on the other side not only don't ensure ironclad protections for these vulnerable seniors, the dual-eligible, but by block granting Medicaid, they put at risk the most vulnerable seniors, the seniors who need nursing home care that's paid for by Medicaid, and since Medicaid is a federal-state program, by block granting it, you put at risk the most vulnerable seniors, and that's certainly not in line with what you'll see at my web site that outlines bipartisan approaches that Democrats and Republicans can come together on for Medicare reform. The second part of Medicare reform is to ensure that you protect traditional Medicare. Traditional Medicare where the government pays doctors and other providers for services, as well as private-sector choices that have to offer at least as good coverage as traditional Medicare. And by doing that, you force traditional Medicare and the private choices to hold each other accountable. It's going to be pretty hard to protect traditional Medicare and its purchasing power with some of what we're going to see later this afternoon that actually proposes to end traditional Medicare within the space of two years. Third, Medicare reform is going to require comprehensive consumer protection. And having been involved in this since the days when senior citizens when I come to visit them would bring out a shoe box full of health insurance policies, weren't worth the paper they were written on. It was a scandal we finally fixed I've seen how these rip-off people try to rip off seniors. We were able to talk about comprehensive protections and specifically ensuring that any Medicare reform would have to have a strong risk adjustment program so that if, for example, any network of health care providers or an insurer took mostly healthy people, their contribution from the government would be far less than the contribution that would be afforded for a program that took a greater number of older people with health challenges."

Senator Lautenberg: (12:21 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The budget that the Republicans put forward today again confirms their true priorities. What are they? They really are pushing, working hard to make sure that people who make millions can get tax breaks. It's a little hard to understand why it is that with the shortages that we have and being able to invest in important programs that we're worried about those who make more than $1 million a year What they don't seem to care about in their budgeting - seniors, children, middle-class Americans. At a time when our economy is fighting against strong head winds and too many Americans are out of work, the Republicans are offering the same, old prescriptions - tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else. Now, I've seen this country of ours through adversity many times, and I've seen it come out stronger on the other side. But our recoveries have never been spurred by starving the middle class while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. Prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy few. Prosperity has always grown up from a broad middle class. You can't build a building starting with a chimney, and you can't build a society's strength by starting from the top. It has to have a foundation at the bottom that has strength and has the ability to support the needs of our total society. But a strong middle class depends on a first-rate educational system What we need is a society with affordable and accessible health care, and a tax system where everyone pays their fair share. The Republican budgets include vicious cuts to the middle class. Just look at what they do to education. It slashes funding for education by $19 billion. Now when we desperately need the skills and knowledge that education brings and the opportunity for invention and creation, take away $19 billion. That's not going to help us get out of the hole that we're in."

Senator Alexander: (12:40 PM)
  • Spoke on legislation that pins a green card on the lapel of any foreign student involved in science, engineering, and technology graduate programs, who gets a degree and wants to stay in the United States and work.
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The President has proposed a budget that raises taxes by $1.9 trillion over the next ten years and still spends more than it takes in every year instead of endorsing the fiscal commission's recommendations or any other plan to address our nation's fiscal crisis. According to the Congressional Budget Office under the President's budget interest on our debt will triple over the next ten years and by 2022 we'll be spending more in interest than we spend on national defense. This is, an irresponsible proposal, and instead of playing politics we should be working together on a plan to address the debt which is the most urgent problem facing our country and according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the biggest threat to our national security. The Simpsons-Bowles Fiscal Commission plan, the Domenici-Rivlin plan, the gang of six proposal offer bipartisan blueprints for how to address it. It would restructure entitlement spending the main source of our dangerous federal debt. Do those reforms so seniors can count on Medicare and Social Security and taxpayers can afford them. Mandatory entitlement spending which is 58% of the federal budget is growing at nearly three times inflation and bankrupting our country. Discretionary spending which funds our national defense, our highways, our national defense and parks and national laboratories is only 36% of the federal budget and is growing at the rate of inflation. Focusing our budget cutting on discretionary spending is just a way for Congress to use the President's words, to kick the can down the road. The real work is reducing the growth of mandatory spending. Although the senate's not debating its own budget resolution going 113 dates without passing a budget, we're debating several proposals, I do support the House-passed budget because it a serious budget to cut out-of-control spending and solve our fiscal crisis. I will support the proposal offered by Senator Toomey. Even though it cuts nondefense discretionary spending to 2006 levels, which I believe is too low, it reforms mandatory five-minute spending, it closes tax loopholes, lowers tax rates, save Medicare for future generations."

Senator Reed: (12:45 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "In 46 days, the interest rate on student loans will be doubled, and zeroing in on these budgets that are before us, all of them seem to support the essence of the Ryan budget which is to allow this to happen. In fact, the Ryan budget in the house not only allowed a doubling of student interest rates, it also would eliminate the in-school interest subsidy for student loans, putting middle-class families at a particularly severe disadvantage. We have 46 days to limit this increase on the interest charges to middle-income families and we've got to act. Now, we have seen denial, delay, disruption. We haven't seen cooperation that we need to help these families throughout this country. The budget before us not only allows this interest rate to double but also through its tax policy favors the wealthiest and not those that are struggling in the middle to just simply get ahead or simply stay where they are. One of the other interesting aspects of the proposal is that, as you look at this student rate interest doubling, my colleagues on the other side say well, we'll do it, we're for it. But again, ask yourself, if they're for it, why are they voting for several budgets today that would, in fact, support the doubling? It seems to be an incongruity I can't understand ... The final point about these budgets. As I read them, they, by and large, echo the Ryan budget which is to say double the interest rate on students, do other things that will harm middle-income and middle-class people all to benefit the wealth east through additional tax cuts. That's not good fiscal policy. It's not good educational policy. It's not good policy for growth for this country, because we have to invest in education. And it's not fair. And I would hope we'll reject them."

Senator Coons: (12:50 PM)
  • Spoke on legislation that pins a green card on the lapel of any foreign student involved in science, engineering, and technology graduate programs, who gets a degree and wants to stay in the United States and work.

May 16 2012 1:36 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."

May 16 2012 2:25 PM

Senator Grassley: (1:35 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "In February, President Obama released his budget, the President's 2013 budget would expand the scope of government by spending more money, increasing taxes on job creators and continue on the path of enormous debt and record - enormous deficit and record debt. While President Obama claims that his budget will create an America built to last, the only thing his budget builds, it seems like, are higher deficits and debt. A bigger and more intrusive government and economic decline for future generations. During the past 60 years, spending has averaged about 21% of GDP over the ten-year window of President Obama's budget, spending never gets below 22%. In dollar terms, spending goes up from the present $3.8 trillion to $5.8 trillion in the year 2022. So it's very clear President Obama is built to spend. President Obama's budget is also harmful to our fragile economy bus it would impose $1.9 trillion tax increase. Maybe the President's proposing imposing this huge tax increase is an effort to reduce the nation's debt. Unfortunately, that's not what he has planned in his budget. He wants to spend every dollar. His budget runs deficits totaling $6.4 trillion over the next ten years. Debt held by the public increases from 74.2% of our economy today to 76.3% in 2022. And of course you need to remember that the historical average since world war ii has been around 43% of the economy. If people believe that President Obama is putting us on a path to fiscal sustainability, I'd suggest that they look at the annual deficits over the next ten years. They never dropped below $575 billion and actually go up the end of his budget, rising to $704 billion in 2022. President Obama's budget puts America on the course of deficits and debts as far as the eye can see into the future. The President also took a pass on proposing any real changes to our entitlement programs which are a real driver of future deficits and debt. Again, he is absent from the discussion. He has no solution. He has chosen not to lead."

Senator Cardin: (1:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The budget document is a very important document. It speaks to the priorities of our nation, and it gives instructions to our committees to report out legislation consistent with that budget resolution. It gives instructions to the Appropriations Committee to pass Appropriation bills and to other committees as it may affect revenues or mandatory spending. We have that budget document for the fiscal year that begins October 1 of this year. That was included in the Budget Control Act which passed this body by 74 votes. It has the force and effect of law. So our Appropriations Committees know the numbers for the appropriation bills for the year that begins October 1, and the other committees know what the requirements will be. The question is whether we should have a longer term commitment on dealing with our budget problems, and we do need a bipartisan, credible program that involves not only the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate but also the Democrats and Republicans in the House and the President of the United States. We need to avoid sequestration and we need the predictability for our economy and for those who act upon our actions to know what the rules will be. We need to have a responsible plan to deal with the long-term deficit that's balanced and fair ... and is bipartisan."

Senator Crapo: (1:50 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Let's look at the budgets that we will be voting on today. First we have the President's budget. At a time when our national debt is more than $15.6 trillion, well more than 100% of our gross domestic product, the President's budget seemingly makes no acknowledgment of the dramatic and predictable fiscal crisis that we face. Instead of embracing the comprehensive work of his own fiscal commission, the Bowles-Simpsons Commission which I served on or any of the key bipartisan proposals that are available like the Ryan or the Domenici-Rivlin plan or coming up with a reform plan of his own, the President's budget regrettably remains within the old discredited framework of trying to tax and spend our way into prosperity. The President's budget would raise taxes by $2 trillion. And this is in addition to the $1.2 trillion of tax increases in the health care law which are just beginning to take effect and will continue to roll out over the next few years. Perhaps even more remarkable, the president's budget actually increases spending by $1.2 trillion more than current law. So another $1.2 trillion in new spending, another $2 to $3 trillion in new taxes, no structural entitlement reform and no discretionary spending reform. Even though it is widely acknowledged that the current path of our entitlement programs is unsustainable, and that they are on track to soon become insolvent, the president's budget has no comprehensive reforms to our entitlement programs. None. The modest amount of health care savings he does propose would not even be enough to offset the extension of the doc fix or the other increases in the health care spending that he proposes. This is a dangerous approach and it should be noted that this budget failed by a vote of zero to 414 in the House. Yet we have no other pending proposal from the other side to consider. Today the Senate will also have an opportunity to reject the President's approach to the federal budget, and I expect that it will do so just as it did last time. And because the Democratic majority here in the Senate has failed to produce their own budget, we will also have the opportunity to vote on some important budget proposals offered by the House budget committee chairman and by our own colleagues here in the Senate, Senators Toomey and Paul and Lee. Each of these proposals would include true comprehensive reforms to our entitlement programs, to prevent the pending insolvency and to protect the programs for current and future generations. And would put us on a sustained pathway to balancing our federal budget. These budgets also call for comprehensive tax reform which take us out of the old paradigm of Congress debating whether to raise or cut taxes and instead these proposals would reach in their own way dramatically streamline the tax code, reduce the tax rates and unleash significant economic growth in our economy. A by-product of this growth would be an increase in revenue to deal with our impending debt crisis."

Senator Murray: (2:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "At the end of last week, republicans in the House of Representatives passed legislation that continues their mad dash away from the bipartisan Budget Control Act and really reflects the up upside-down priorities that are guiding their party and stands absolutely no chance of passage here in the Senate. I think it would be very helpful at this point to remind my colleagues of the recent history that has brought us to this point. In August of last year, Democrats and Republicans same together and we agreed to the Budget Control Act to cut spending and put in place a process for additional deficit reduction. The purpose of that bipartisan agreement was to move towards serious deficit reduction and to give some consistency to the federal budget so the American people would not be threatened with a government shutdown every few months. That bipartisan deal sets the levels for next year's discretionary spending which allows us in congress to do our jobs and work to allocate federal resources towards investments in jobs and infrastructure and innovation and maintaining our commitment to our service members and their families and protecting and supporting middle-class families and so much more. That was the agreement we came to. Senator Boehner shook on it. Minority leader McConnell shook on it. Majority leader Reid signed it. And joined many of my colleagues in voting for it. And then President Obama signed it into law. It became the law of the land. A law that I would add is binding, that replaces and carries more weight than a budget resolution and that makes the budget resolutions we are debating today nothing more than political theater. Senate Democrats fully intend to honor our word and stick to the bipartisan budget levels for next year. And Senate Republicans in our Appropriations Committee, including the Minority leader, recently voted to stick to those levels as well. But I was really disappointed that less than nine months after we shook hands on that deal, House Republicans turned right around and broke it. They put appeasing their extreme base ahead of the word they gave to us and the American people and they demonstrated clearly that a deal with them isn't worth the paper it's printed on. But despite House Republicans' reneging on the deal, the Budget Control Act is the law, it is signed and we have so many challenges ahead of us as a nation, we cannot afford to relitigate bipartisan deals every time members of the extreme end of the Republican Party make some noise at a meeting."

Senator Boxer: (2:10 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to say that it is stunning to see the Republican Party running away from a bill that they supported, from the deal that they cut, a deficit-reduction deal that was led by Senator Conrad, the Budget Control Act, which is the law of the land. And instead they're offering up a series of budgets that I believe will destroy this country. Why do I say that? Because they destroy the middle class and they give to the millionaires and the billionaires. That is a recipe for a third world nation. The haves and the have notes. And I hope the American people wake up and pay attention, because a budget really is a statement of who we are as a people Some of them don't even make any sense. But I have to tell you, this is serious business because one of them did pass the House, and they not only passed the House but then they passed another law - we call it reconciliation - which is dangerous in what they did. So let me tell you what they did and let me be clear, because it is not difficult to explain. What they did is stand up with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their power and their fervor to fight for the 1%. They are fighting for the millionaires, the multimillionaires, the billionaires, the trillionaires. You name it, that's who they're fighting for. They're giving them back an average of $150,000 a year. And over the ten-year period, that average millionaire can write a big kiss to the Republicans if this ever became law because they would get back $1.5 million over the ten-year period. And how do they pay for this largess? How do they pay for this warm, fuzzy hug to the people that have everything? They cut the heart out of the middle class."

May 16 2012 3:13 PM

Senator Sessions: (2:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "One of my colleagues said the Republicans are running away from the budget control act, and I would suggest that's not accurate. In truth, the budget control act was a cap on spending, and the Republicans have proposed that we spend less than that. As any economist would tell us we need to do, because it wasn't sufficient. And the difficulty arises when you consider what President Obama proposed with regards to the Budget Control Act. It is amazing. The President signed in august a Budget Control Act about $2.1 trillion in exchanges for reducing spending by $1.2 trillion and he signed that and it went into effect and it is the current law today. But when he proposed his budget in January of this year that we'll vote on later today - I suspect it will not get a single vote and it should not - President Obama's budget wiped out half of that savings, $1 trillion. Those savings were wiped out and he replaced it with almost - and he added more spending."

Senator Enzi: (2:21 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "For the third year in a row, it looks like the Senate Majority will refuse pass a plan to help fix the fiscal crisis we face. In the three years since the senate majority passed a budget, our country has spent approximately $10.4 trillion. We've accumulated around $4.5 trillion in gross debt, which translates to an additional $15,000 for every man, woman, and child. $15,000 for every man, woman, and child, which brings it up to about $49,000 total for every man, woman, and child. Since we last adopted a budget, we've spent more than $626 billion on net interest payments to service the debt alone. These are unsustainable levels of spending, and yet the Majority continues to ignore the problem and refuses to take these numbers seriously and consider much less pass a budget. The Majority argues that we have a budget in place because of the passage of the Budget Control Act which also governed our spending in fiscal year 25011. If that truly govern what had we're doing, why did the President even submit a budget to us? If that was the budget, he shouldn't have gone to all the effort to put his own budget together. But he felt that he needed to put a budget together. In fiscal year 2011 the government brought in slightly more than $2.3 trillion in revenue. At the same time that we collected $2.3 trillion, we spent $3.6 trillion. In other words, we overspent by $1.3 trillion. That's more than 50% of the revenue that we were expecting. We're on pace for another $1 trillion deficit this year. The Budget Control Act may include some spending limits, but with record trillion-dollar deficits, the Budget Control Act cannot replace an actual budget that puts in place long-term spending cuts and helps get our country back on the path to balance. Again, if that Budget Control Act really took care of everything, the President would not have needed to submit a budget. He did I want to commend my Republican colleagues for making tough choices and putting forth solutions. While they have been doing that, President Obama and the Senate Majority has ignored the problem and refused to acknowledge the need to cut spending. They've demonized republicans and suggested it's our intention to harm seniors, poor people and children without a budget and without a fiscal plan to get our nation's debt and deficit in check. I don't know about you, but it's keeping me up nights. Some of my colleagues have offered plans to make that happen. Those who control the Senate appear content to sit on the sidelines and criticize. While that happens, we continue to add trillions of dollars to our national debt. I'd encourage my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to think about what it means to future generations and join us in finding a plan to fix our fiscal woes. And I know that's what they're thinking about because I've been in meetings off of the hill where they've talked about the same thing. But we've got to solve it. We can't just talk about it. And we can't give it lip service when we're off of the floor and excuse it when we're on the floor."

Senator Lieberman: (2:41 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Look, basically we know what we've got to do to make this happen. To state it bluntly, it's got to be a combination of tax reform and entitlement reform. We've got to raise revenues so they get back up to 18%, 19%, 20%. And we've got to bring spending down, and most of the spending increases are coming from entitlements, about 18% to 19% of GDP so we can be in balance. It's not very mysterious how we're going to do this. But the political will is not there now to make those tough decisions. And so today is a classic moment. We've got these budget resolutions that are before us as a matter of privilege ... We all know that the Bowles-Simpson model is the one that we're going to eventually get to, and the question is how close do we get to the fiscal cliff or is our country going over the cliff falling down and finally we rush in here and in a panic rescue it with something like Simpson-Bowles. The closest Senate proposal that would do what we need to do is the one that my friend from North Dakota has tabled in the budget committee. I wish we could vote on it. I don't know how many votes we would get, but I wish we could at least start the process. I know everybody says we're going to come back after the election and there is going to be a burst of courage, I guess, because the election is over and we're going to do the Simpson-Bowles tax reform, entitlement reform. What I'm sort of hearing in the wind around here is don't count on it. I hope so. Senator Conrad and I, it's going to be our last couple of months on this particular stage, and there is nothing I know he would like more to be part of and i can tell you nothing I would like more to be part of than doing a bipartisan long-term deficit reduction program. But I'm fearful that it's asking an awful lot of this system in a short period of time, and the tendency will be to protect us from falling off the cliff by extending everything that's going to expire at the end of the year. Stopping the sequestering, stopping the end of the bush tax cuts. I hope I'm wrong But our country's future is at stake. The future of the greatest economy in the history of the world. Because of our responsibilities is the only thing I can say, and we have all been part of it. I take blame for part of it. We're not doing what the country needs us to do. So I'm going to vote against the motions to proceed because each of them, the proposals before us doesn't really achieve anything near what we need to do in terms of a balance."

Senator Sessions: (2:50 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Our colleagues on the Democratic side have said they want more taxes. They have not told us what taxes, how much and where they would be, but they have told us that. Senator Conrad has said that. He has also been open and bold about the need to cut spending, so he would like more tax increases than I would like and he would like substantial spending cuts. But that's his view. He stated it publicly. But I would just have to say that's not the position on the Democratic Majority in the United States Senate because they have refused to put it on paper. Senator Conrad was going to have a Budget Committee hearing. We were going to mark up a budget, he was going to lay out a plan. I guess it would be somewhat Simpson-Bowles-ish, but it wasn't offered because the leadership and I suppose the members of the Democratic conference agreed that they didn't want to be on record. They would rather do like last year, and what happened last year? They voted against the Toomey budget, they voted against the Ryan budget, they voted against the Rand Paul budget and voted against the President's budget. Wiped their hands. They didn't vote for anything that caused any pain to anybody, and presumably they thought that was better than actually being engaged in leading and telling the American people what they plan to do to change the debt course we're on. That's the deal. I would say a couple of things. Talking to a group of American citizens today, I would say this - don't send one more dime to Washington, DC, until they show you a budget how they're going to spend it. I mean, why should they? We get in trouble, we overspend, we place the nation at risk, and all we want to say is send more money? You can't cut. We're going to throw people into the streets and push older folks off the cliff in a wheelchair. I don't think so. I think the American people need to hold this Congress, this government to account. They need to say we're not sending you any more money until you get your House in order, and we're not paying for hot tubs in Las Vegas. We're not throwing away $500 million on a Solyndra loan project that never had a chance to succeed and was benefiting cronies of the white house. We're not going to pay for the TSA to have warehouses filled with millions of dollars in equipment not being used. You don't have your act together. We want to you get your act together. We want to see some management, we want to see some leadership. And who is the top manager in America? It's not the Chairman of the Budget Committee or the Ranking member of the Budget Committee. It's the Chief Executive. The President is head of the executive branch."

Senator Lee: (3:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The Saving the American Dream Plan which I've proposed puts us on a sustainable and affordable path toward economic growth. It reforms our tax code to make paying taxes a simple, transparent and equitable process that regular people can perform on their own. It empowers families to save by making savings tax free which in turn lowers their tax burden in a way that helps them and our economy. It establishes a single tax you rate. It eliminates the payroll tax, helping all Americans, especially those at the lowest income levels, and it abolishes the death tax permanently. Under this plan, Americans will no longer be forced to navigate the complex web of countless loopholes for people who don't need them, contained within a tax code longer than the works of Shakespeare. In addition to placing an enormous burden and imposing immense uncertainty on our people, such a tax system hides the true cost of government. This plan is simple and it provides certainty for individuals and for businesses. Opponents of reform will play petty politics and prey on false fears about the government's ability to help the helpless. They claim that any course correction in entitlement or social service spending will damage the social safety net. The truth is doing nothing will absolutely and completely destroy the safety net. If we do not change course, the collapse of safety net services for our most vulnerable Americans is certain, and it is certain to hurt most those who have the least. This plan saves Social Security by transitioning to a real insurance plan that provides income security for seniors and prevents sudden poverty as a result of unforeseen events. The affluent elderly such as Warren Buffett will see a decrease in benefits. This plan thus allows people like Mr. Buffett to help in a way that is actually good for our economy and for job creators. The saving the american dream plan also ends the government takeover of health care and puts dollars and decisions back into the hands of families and individuals and their doctors. Just like school choice allows parents to make sure their kids don't get stuck in a failing school system, this plan ensures families don't get stuck in a failing health care system. Finally, this plan acknowledges that we have a spending problem and works to reduce the size of government to eliminate waste, lower the future burden on taxpayers, encourage productive economic activity, and enhance individual liberty and choice. It reins in spending by $9.6 trillion over ten years compared to President Obama's budget and by $7.1 trillion as against the CBO base line."

May 16 2012 3:55 PM

Senator Harkin: (3:11 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "I want to discuss these budgets proposals in one context, just one context. First of all we have to dismiss the so-called Sessions budget that is supposedly the Obama budget. It's not even serious. Beyond that we have four Republican budgets. Here's the one thing people have to keep in mind especially now. Each one of those budgets will double the interest rates on student loans beginning on July 1 of this year. Every single one of them. We were here last couple weeks trying to bring up a bill to prevent those interest rates from going up, to keep it at 3.4% rather than going to 6.8%. Republicans filibustered it. We couldn't even bring it up for discussion. Debate. Amending. But the Republicans kept saying they want to keep the interest rates at 3.4%. They want to keep them at 3.4%. Well, quite frankly, I don't see how they can say that and vote for each one of these budgets because each one of these budgets we'll be voting on here in about another hour, hour and a half, if they pass, double, double, double the interest rates on student loans on July 1. At the same time they continue to filibuster our bill to even bring it on the floor. My friends on the other side of the aisle are telling students across the country they don't want to see the interest rates double. But their budget has it. Their budget has it."

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:16 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "I would like to talk a little bit about my friend, Senator Lee's, budget and the things I like about it. One of the things I like to do is actually take a look at history here and point out I know a a lot of us say we don't have a tax problem. We don't. It's not that we tax too little from the American public, it's because we spend too much. And I think this is some pretty proof From 1992-2000, the federal government spent a total of $16 trillion over that ten-year period. Over the last ten years, from 2002-2011, the federal government spent $28 trillion. Now the debate moving forward is, according to President Obama's just released budget, he would like to spend $47 trillion over the next ten years. The how budget would spend $40 trillion and I guess what I like about Senator Lee's budget is he would come in and spend about $37 trillion and put ourselves on a more aggressive path toward fiscal sanity. Now, we hear about draconian cuts all the time. You don't have to be a math major to realize that $37 trillion, $40 trillion or $47 trillion is not a cut from $28 trillion. All we're trying to do is reduce the rate of growth. Another thing I like about Senator Lee's budget can be illustrated in terms of our chart that shows total federal debt. I start this chart in 1987, the tail end of Ronald Reagan's administration when our total debt was $2.3 trillion of I'd like to put out that it took us 200 years to incur $2.3 trillion. And of course in last year's debt ceiling agreements. And last year we gave the President to increase the debt limit $2.3 trillion. We'll go through that in less than two years. That's a problem. If you take a look at President Obama's budget and you can see how quickly our national debt has increased, but according to President Obama's budget, in the year 2022, our total federal debt would be $25.9 trillion. Up $10 trillion from what it is today. Senator Lee's budget would result in total debt of about $19.1 trillion. Even more importantly, he stabilizes and then reduces - a very important metric - our overall debt to GDP. ratio. That is what investors take a look at in terms of our creditworthiness. The other thing I like about Senator Lee's budget is that by 2022, it will reduce federal spending to 17.8% of the size of our economy."

Senator Leahy: (3:23 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Last month when the Senate came together and we passed the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012. Now, our legislation took some much-needed steps to help the most vulnerable victims of domestic and sexual violence and it was passed with significant bipartisan support. The Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Act was an example of what we accomplish when we put politics aside, when we work to find real solutions to real problems facing real Americans. I'm alarmed that the other body, the House, has chosen a different path. This afternoon, House Republican leadership brought a much different bill before that body and is forcing a vote while blocking any attempts to modify the legislation in response to the concerns raised by victims' service providers around the country. Their legislation not only fails to include the critical improvements in the bill that could protections for gay and lesbian victims, battered immigrant women, and victims on college campuses or victims in subsidized housing. It actually rolls back existing protection and that would leave many victims more vulnerable to domestic and sexual abuse. House Republicans have headed down the wrong path."

Senator Schumer: (3:27 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "All afternoon I've heard my colleagues from the other side of the aisle repeat over and over again that we haven't passed a budget. As my friend from North Dakota knows, that is clearly not the case. Last August; President Obama signed a budget for this year that reduces the deficit by $2 trillion. It's called the Budget Control Act. It was passed 74-26, bipartisan. Many Republicans voted for it. On August 2, 2011. Despite what you hear on the floor today after the budget control act passed, several Senate Republicans, including Senators Grassley, Alexander and Collins, admitted it constitutes a budget. So watching this debate on the floor is a sort of looking through-the-glass experience. We're watching our colleagues call for something they acknowledge already happened and that they supported. That's nothing more than petty politics. We should be focused on jobs and the economy. Instead, we're forced to spend hours debating something that that already doesn't make sense. But let's put that aside for a moment and look at the extreme plans we're voting on today. The only real difference between the four Republican budgets, the only real difference between the four Republican budgets is how quickly they race to end Medicare as we know it. The Republican budgets all cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and leave the middle class to foot the bill. They all allow student loan rates to double. They all provide tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. And they all put the middle class last instead of first. When I first examined the Ryan budget passed by the House GOP this year, I thought it was the height of irresponsibility. But now that we've seen three other republican budgets, we know they make the Ryan budget almost seem reasonable by no small feat. I have nothing against the wealthy. Many are living the American dream l but in order keep that dream alive, I think we need a little shared sacrifice. The bottom line: any budget that jeopardizes the middle class while filling the pockets of the wealthy with greater tax cuts is ultimately untenable and will never pass the Senate. While we're certainly open to compromise, Democrats will not tolerate an assault on the middle class. It isn't fair and it isn't right. We hope the coming debate will yield to sound, serious agreement. But it doesn't, Democrats are happy to take this contrast of priorities into November because we know we have the high ground."

Senator Sessions: (3:31 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "What kind of responsible leadership is that where the president of the United States would be traveling this country at a time when we have never face add more significant financial threat to America, never, ever have been on a debt course as dangerous as the one we're on today. It is systemic, it is deep. We've got to make serious changes. And he goes around saying the Buffett rule is going to stabilize the debt? He also said his budget last year would lead us to balance. The lowest single deficit year in ten would be a deficit of $600 billion. I don't know what kind of leadership we're getting. It is not good leadership. It is worse than no leadership because when a budget is prepared after great effort by Congressman Paul Ryan in the House and he produces a budget that actually will change the debt course of America to minimize the pain that we all have to suffer and create some growth and prosperity and works extremely hard to do that the president invites him over to a conference, sits him down there and then attacks him. And he's been attacked for the budget ever since. Why is this? Why will not our colleagues support any budget? I fully expect my Democratic colleagues to vote against all of these budgets and not vote for one. Think about that. They'll vote against four, not vote for one. Well, because you don't have your fingerprints on anything that results in cutting spending. So nobody that benefits from spending is going to be had with you wants more money and doesn't want to have a dime reduced in the take that they get from the taxpayers' trough and the debt we borrow, have any reduction in that, then they can't be mad at me. That's not a responsible course. This is not a little matter."

Senator Conrad: (3:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "The place we agree is we have a long-term problem for this country we must address. I attempted to lay before the Budget Committee, and did lay before the Budget Committee, the Bowles-Simpson plan. It is the one plan that has had bipartisan support. And I hope before the year is over that we can go back to it, because I think it holds out the greatest prospect. A key difference we have is whether we have a budget for this year and next. I believe it's clear we do. The Budget Control Act that passed last year says in part that the allocations and spending levels set shall apply in the Senate in the same manner as for a concurrent resolution on the budget. That's for both 2012 and 2013. I believe our Republican friends want to focus on that because they don't want to focus on the specifics of their budget plans. Because recall, the last time they were in charge, when they controlled everything - the House and the Senate and the White House - the Republican policies led us to the brink of financial collapse. And the proposals they are advancing today are a return to those failed policies. Remember what happened when they were in charge. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and the economy was shrinking at a rate of almost 9% a year. That's why they don't want to focus on the substance of their plans. But to focus on the substance for a moment, every Republican budget ends Medicare as we know it. One Republican budget cuts Social Security benefits by 39%. Every Republican budget cuts taxes for millionaires by at least $150,000 a year. And every Republican budget protects offshore tax havens."

Vote Results (President's FY 2013 Budget Resolution)

President's FY 2013 Budget Resolution

May 16 2012 4:20 PM

Not Agreed to, 0-99:
Motion to Proceed S. Con. Res. 41, the President's FY 2013 Budget Resolution.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (House-Passed FY 2013 Budget Resolution)

House-Passed FY 2013 Budget Resolution

May 16 2012 4:37 PM

Not Agreed to, 41-58:
Motion to Proceed to H. Con. Res. 112, the House-Passed FY 2013 Budget Resolution.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Toomey FY 2013 Budget Resolution)

Toomey FY 2013 Budget Resolution

May 16 2012 4:58 PM

Not Agreed to, 42-57:
Motion to Proceed to S. Con. Res. 37, the Toomey FY 2013 Budget Resolution.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Paul FY 2013 Budget Resolution)

Paul FY 2013 Budget Resolution

May 16 2012 5:21 PM

Not Agreed to, 16-83:
Motion to Proceed to S. Con. Res. 42, the Paul FY 2013 Budget Resolution.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Lee FY 2013 Budget Resolution)

Lee FY 2013 Budget Resolution

May 16 2012 5:43 PM

Not Agreed to, 17-82:
Motion to Proceed to S. Con. Res. 44, the Lee FY 2013 Budget Resolution.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Grassley, Landrieu, Moran, Whitehouse, Casey

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 16 2012 6:53 PM

Senator Grassley: (5:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the National Foster Care Resolution.

Senator Landrieu: (5:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the National Foster Care Resolution.

Senator Moran: (6:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Today we considered five separate budget proposals for the federal government. At first glance that would appear to be the fiscally responsible thing to do. The families back home in Kansas and small businesses, owners that I talk to, they do that every year. They operate with a budget and we know the federal government needs to do so as well. However, this chamber, the Senate has not done so in 1,113 days, more than three years. In my first speech on the Senate floor as a new member of the United States Senate, a little more than a year ago, I indicated to my Senate colleagues that my greatest concern for our country is our nation's out-of-control spending. I'm here today because I still have that concern. We spend too much money and we no longer can delay the difficult decisions necessary to correct that problem. Our national debt stands at more than $15 trillion. This enormous amount of debt is slowing our economic recovery and threatening the prosperity of our future generations who will have to pay for our fiscal irresponsibility. Writing and passing a budget is one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress. It's required by law. The budget sets forth priorities and guidelines for the fiscal year and begins the process of determining how much money should be spent and which programs should be cut back, he eliminated or even further supported. Without a budget, the annual appropriations process and I am a member of the Appropriations Committee and I want it to work but in many ways that appropriations process continues to be on hold. This is not the way to run our country. To put our country back on its path to fiscal responsibility, we must set a budget. We set budget limits and then we have to stick to them. Any serious conversation about budget and federal spending must include a candid assessment of our nation's entitlement programs. Those programs include Social Security and Medicare. Mandatory spending makes up 56% of the federal budget. If we had one. This percentage would only increase in years ahead, as more Americans retire and fewer workers are there to replace them. Without addressing our long-term commitments, our attempts to significantly change our country's fiscal outlook will be limited of the five budgets we considered earlier today, four of them - all but President Obama's budget - contained serious proposals to reform these entitlements. I can critique every one of the four budgets that move in the right direction of balancing the budget. There are things I would do differently, but I commend my colleagues for offering serious solutions to serious problems. It's bothered me greatly that, when members of the House or members of the Senate offer a serious budget, they're immediately attacked from a political point of view, as if we can continue to ignore the problems that we face and simply make sound bites out of proposals that members of the Senate and the House care very seriously about. We've got to work together to put forward commonsense solutions that will preserve these programs for future generations."

Senator Whitehouse: (6:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Unfortunately, the House was not able to pass a Highway bill of any kind, which is unfortunate because it's not the most complicated task. It's something we've been doing for decades around here, but they couldn't get that done. So what they have done is now gone to conference on the Senate bill without a bill of their own, and it appears to be causing delay. So I'm here to urge that we all encourage the house members of the Highway Conference Committee to expedite their work as much as they can. There is a two-week period that the House is taking off, apparently. And if it is delayed by two weeks so members can go home, I don't think that's a profitable use of our time. There is a great deal of loose talk around here about jobs. We've even had bills that didn't relate to bills called jobs bills because of gimmickry in the titling. But this is a real jobs bill. It is 9,000 jobs for Rhode Island, as calculated in years of work, job years. And we're just wasting that if we don't get this done on time. So if people really want to do something about jobs, they can get the Highway bill moved along rapidly so that the work can be done in this summer work session."

Senator Casey: (6:23 PM)
  • Spoke on Afghanistan.
    • SUMMARY "I have sought to examine U.S. goals and progress in this war within three broad areas. First, the formation of representative political institutions. Second, the overall security environment. And third, the development of key sectors in afghan society, including education, health, the economy and the well-being of women and girls. In examining these factors, it's clear to me that a responsible drawdown of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan must be concurrent with not only progress on security and an increase in well-trained afghan national security forces but with a strong commitment to a transparent political process in Afghanistan. We should work to ensure that there will not be a crumbling of institutions similar to that scene prior to Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990's. In fact, without representative political institutions, I am concerned that the training of the Afghan national security forces could in fact be counterproductive and that we would end up developing a force that answers to a dysfunctional political system. Politics and governing institutions matter a great deal and there are tangible steps the United States can take to support Afghanistan's political development in the short term. Let me be clear. We should be under no illusions that Afghanistan's political system will nor necessarily should reflect our western model developed over centuries. But there are universal principles that should apply in Afghanistan, including the inclusion of all key political groups and transparency in elections and governance. In fact, the adoption of these universal principles is perhaps the only antidote to continued decades of conflict First, in the 2014 transition to Afghan leadership will require the active participation of the constellation of ethnic groups in Afghanistan. They will need to have some confidence in the political process or Afghanistan could very easily again descend into civil conflict similar to that scene in the aftermath of the soviet withdrawal in the 1990's. The opposition represented in what was formerly known as the northern alliance will likely be among the most skeptical. The United States can play an important role in bringing the interested parties together for dialogue to identify areas of concern and a path forward looking towards 2014 and beyond. Second, presidential elections are scheduled to take place in 2014. According to the constitution, President Karzai is limited to two terms and should step down. President Karzai has seen his country through a very difficult and historic time. Afghanistan's elections, the foundational act in a democratic system, have historically not met international standards and have established the basis for an unresponsive government and unresponsive government officials and unfortunately widespread corruption. A peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan is not only good for the country and good for its democratic institutions, it is vital to our own transition out of Afghanistan. Third, Afghanistan's independent electoral commission needs to become a truly independent body. Currently, the president selects the commissioners, creating the suspicion that the body is biased. In accordance with consensus of the Afghan people, not just the president. A statutory check on executive authority is needed to ensure the impartiality of the body in the years to come and enhance public confidence in the electoral system overall. Fourth, President Karzai has issued a presidential decree which allowed him to nominate the five national and 133 provincial commissioners of the electoral complaints commission. This body also needs to be independent from the executive branch to remove any perception of bias. During the last election there was a lack of transparency in the handling of these electoral complaints. Afghan authorities need to take steps now to ensure that the national and provincial commissioners are fair and transparent in their work. As it stands now, the political opposition does not trust the electoral complaints commission to equitably deal with inevitable disputes that emerge from the process. Now, throughout this process the United States should emphasize the importance, I should say, of international standards in the conduct of elections. And stand ready to support a process that is based on those universally accepted principles."

May 16 2012 7:00 PM

Senator Casey: (6:53 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. It is anticipated that the Senate will begin consideration of S. 3187, the FDA User Fee bill. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 10:30 AM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 90 minutes of debate equally divided, on:
      1. Executive Calendar #646, Jeremy C. Stein, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; and
      2. Executive Calendar #647, Jerome H. Powell, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on the nominations.
  • As a reminder, on Tuesday, May 8th, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Thursday, May 17th.