Floor Updates

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."