McConnell: A Budget Debate Worth Watching

‘An extremely important debate has been taking place on the Senate floor. It’s a debate about the future of our country. And in the course of that debate, two very different philosophies have emerged’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the budget:

“Anyone who’s turned on C-SPAN 2 over the past few weeks could be excused for wondering what’s been going on here in the Capitol. Most people outside Washington don’t know much about Reconciliation Instructions or Points of Order. But behind the legislative lingo, an extremely important debate has been taking place on the Senate floor. It’s a debate about the future of our country. And in the course of that debate, two very different philosophies have emerged.

“On the one side are those who think American lives will improve in direct proportion to the size of the federal government; that the answer to all the challenges we face as a nation is to follow Europe, where people look to the government for almost everything from the cradle to the grave.

“On the other side are those who think government has an important role to play in keeping people safe and creating the conditions in which Americans can succeed, and that government can also play a role in helping people weather temporary or permanent troubles and even to provide temporary help to private institutions if the failure of those institutions imperils the well-being of the whole. But in all these areas, the role of government is limited. Liberty and freedom are primary.

“The first group defends the administration’s budget proposal, which we first saw a couple months ago and which outlines the administration’s vision for America over the next several years.

“The second group has warned about the consequences of that budget, which calls for a dramatic and potentially irreversible shift of our nation to the Left in the areas of healthcare, education, and private enterprise and which, in order to get there, imposes the biggest tax hike in history, massive spending, and a titanic amount of debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back.

“This is a debate that’s been worth tuning into, because its outcome affects everyone. So I’d like to highlight just a couple things we’ve seen over the course of this debate that everyone should know.

“The first thing people should know is the one thing many already do know: the administration’s budget simply taxes too much, spends too much, and borrows too much at a moment when we can least afford it. And there’s good reason to believe the American people agree. Several of the amendments Republicans have proposed adding to the budget as a way of protecting American businesses and families have been approved by wide bipartisan majorities.

“The American people can’t afford new taxes — and that’s why Senators approved the Johanns Amendment yesterday, an amendment which forces an open debate on the budget’s proposal for a massive new national energy tax that would hit every American family by up to $3,100 per year. As the Senior Senator from Missouri put it on Tuesday, ‘Families are struggling to make ends meet, unable to pay their mortgages, bills or debts … We should oppose an energy tax.’

“The Junior Senator from Nevada also knows Americans can’t afford having their taxes raised, especially in a recession. And that’s why he offered an amendment yesterday that would make it harder to raise taxes on middle class couples. As he put it, ‘Americans are struggling to pay for life’s essentials … What we should be discussing is extending tax relief,’ not raising taxes. This is common sense. His amendment passed. The Junior Senator from Texas knows that business owners can’t afford a tax hike. That’s why he offered an amendment that would make it harder for Democrats to raise taxes on small businesses. This is also common sense. His amendment also passed overwhelmingly.

“Americans know the trouble that they get into when they spend money they don’t have, and they don’t want government to spend money it doesn’t have. That’s why the Junior Senator from Alabama came to the floor Monday and lamented the lack of fiscal responsibility in this budget.

“The American people are worried about the size of the national debt, and they’re worried about a budget that doubles that debt in five years and triples it in 10 — a budget that adds more debt in five years than the entire debt accumulated under every president from George Washington to George W. Bush.

“The Senior Senator from Tennessee is worried about the size of the debt too, and that’s why he offered an amendment to keep the growth of that debt relative to the GDP in check. As he put it on the Senate floor on Tuesday, ‘This is not a matter of not letting the horse get out of the barn. This recognizes that the horse is already out of the barn, and we’re trying to put a fence around him before he gets into the next country.’ Democrats rejected that amendment too.

“Throughout this debate, Americans have started to focus a lot on the national debt, and they’ve heard some troubling things.

“If they were listening Tuesday, they’d have heard a very illuminating discussion on the topic between the Senior Senator from Tennessee and the Senior Senator from New Hampshire. The Senior Senator from New Hampshire said that at the end of this budget, every American household will have an obligation relative to the federal debt of $133,000. The Senior Senator from Tennessee asked who holds that debt. The answer of course is that China is the primary holder of that debt — along with Russia and oil-producing nations in the Middle East.

“Americans are worried about more government spending, higher taxes, and higher debt that we may never be able to repay. And a lot of the groups that represent these Americans are massing against these things.

“Groups opposed to this budget include the National Association of Manufacturers, the Tax Relief Coalition, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Club for Growth, The Council on National Policy, Associated Builders and Contractors, Independent Electrical Contractors, International Foodservice Distributors Association, and The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.

“These groups represent millions of small business owners, independent contractors, and millions of ordinary Americans who don’t want to see their dreams fade away because of someone else’s vision of what government should do for them.

“Americans want the freedom to do for themselves. And they worry freedom may slip away if this budget passes in its current form. They can’t afford a new national energy tax that could cost every American household up to $3,100 dollars per year. They don’t want to have to pay for the 250,000 bureaucrats who’ll be needed just to spend the money this budget wants to spend. They don’t want their children buried in debt.

“What Americans want is for Republicans and Democrats to work together to craft a budget that lets them keep their hard-earned wages, spends their tax dollars wisely, and doesn’t saddle their children and grandchildren with debt.

“That’s what they haven’t seen this week — and what they also won’t see are the back-room negotiations where the Chairman of the Budget Committee, the Senior Senator from North Dakota, has said he will strip out many of these good amendments we have passed this week — and where some budget writers intend to fast-track a massive new national energy tax even though we just passed an amendment to keep that from happening.

“Americans oppose this energy tax. And if the Senior Senator from North Dakota has as much influence over the outcome of this budget as he says he does, then he will make sure that the will of the Senate and of the American people is reflected in it. He will make sure that a new national energy tax costing American households up to $3,100 a year isn’t rushed through Congress on a party-line vote.

“So the drama that’s unfolded here in the Senate put two very different philosophies on display. It showed Republicans fighting to keep our nation from an irreversible drift to the Left, and it showed some Democrats agreeing to some of our proposals. But the proof of their commitment is in the final product. This debate isn’t over with the passage of this budget tonight. And Republicans are not finished fighting on behalf of the priorities of the American people — not even close.”