Videos & Speeches
Jul 25 2011
Mr. President, yesterday, I was on the Senate floor talking about this piece of legislation that passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week is now pending before the Senate. I am a sponsor and supporter of cut, cap, and balance, and believe it is a path toward responsibility that we need to demonstrate in the Senate, in the Congress, and here in America.
It seems to me it certainly is irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling, but it is equally or more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without making adjustments in the way we do business in Washington, DC. Clearly, cutting spending is a component of that. And so is capping spending to a portion of our national economy. Returning it to the days just a few years ago in which we were spending “only” 18% of our gross national product by the Federal Government. Unfortunately, in the last few years that 18% has grown to 24.2%.
So reducing some spending, capping that spending in the intermediate future so it does not exceed a certain portion of the national economy, and finally, passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems to me to be a reasonable, rational approach to solving the problems we face.
I also indicated yesterday that, in my view, there is a fourth component. It is cut, cap, balance, and grow. I do not want us to forget the importance of a growing economy. The last time we had our budget that close to being in balance was at the end of the term of President Clinton. Yes, there was some spending restraint back in those days. In those years, Republicans and Democrats could not get together and pass major pieces of legislation that increased spending, so that spending restraint was an important component. The other part of that is the economy was growing, people were working and, as a result, they were paying taxes. That is the more enjoyable component of our work in addition to restraining spending, capping its percentage of the economy, and putting a balanced budget in place so we do not get back into this mess.
The other aspect of that is to make sure we make the policy decisions in our Nation's Capital that allow a business person, an employer, to make the decision that now is the time to invest in plant and equipment and now is the time to add additional employees. Yet there are so many aspects of decisions that have been made in our Nation's Capital over a long period of time that now come together and discourage an individual business owner, a potential employer, from making the decision: I am going to invest in the economy.
We have all heard the numbers as to the amount of money sitting on the sidelines in the U.S. economy. In my view, the recession we are in has lingered longer than necessary because there is so much uncertainty in regard to what is going to happen next. A large portion of that uncertainty comes from the inability to predict what policy decisions are going to be made in the Senate, across the hall in the House, and what the Obama administration is going to propose and potentially put in place in regard to rules and regulations.
I certainly hope my colleagues in the Senate will take the proposal by the House of Representatives as serious work. I certainly agree there can be negotiations had. There has been, as I indicated yesterday, some concern about the specific language of the constitutional amendment that requires a balanced budget, and we ought not draw the line in the sand and say it has to be exactly the way it is written.
Let's come together and work to find a reasonable, rational solution based upon the outline this legislation provides. From time to time, it has been considered a radical piece of legislation--labeled that way. Yet so many of the things we do in our everyday lives and that States across our Nation encounter, involving the way they conduct business, are certainly capsulized in cut, cap, and balance.
I know there has been significant talk about raising taxes. I heard the Senator from Arizona speak of this just a few moments ago. When an individual is struggling to pay the bills, they do not often have the opportunity to ask for a pay raise. What we do at home, what we should do in our own lives, is to reduce our spending levels. Simply asking for more money to meet our current obligations is not usually an option.
That tax issue goes with my comments a moment ago about the importance of growing the economy. Too often, we look at taxes as a source of revenue. I am for raising revenue, but I am for raising revenue by a growing economy and people being at work paying taxes, not by raising the tax rates, but by improving the economy and allowing good things to happen to families, individuals, and businesses across the country. So that Tax Code is an important component of this issue of growing our economy and getting our deficit back in line and back to some level of responsible behavior here.
Mr. President, the additional point I wish to make--in addition to what I have said already today but also in addition to what I said yesterday to the Senate--is that this is the 1-year anniversary of the passage of Dodd-Frank.
Huge financial regulations were put in place by legislation that, just 1 year ago today, were passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Obama. In my view, that legislation is another component of the difficulty in knowing what is coming down the road—the hundreds of regulations yet to be proposed, pursued, and enacted. So many of our businesses and financial institutions do not know what to expect and, therefore, are waiting to see what happens in the Federal Government and what decisions are made here, in this case, not by Congress but by regulators up the street in our Nation's Capital.
So on this anniversary of the passage of that legislation, I wish to again highlight what I think is a commonsense reform to that legislation. A part of Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A number of Senators have signed a letter to President Obama trying to make clear that before a head of that Bureau is going to be confirmed by the Senate, we believe that structural reform, a change in the nature of that organization, needs to occur.
Again, these seem very straightforward and common sense to me, but rather than have a single head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I would ask—in fact, I have introduced legislation to do this and my colleagues in signing that letter—that the President help us change that individual to a board or commission similar to other government agencies charged with financial oversight, so the power does not rest in a sole individual.
Then again, one would think Congress would never want to give up the authority to determine the appropriations for this agency. Instead, the law, as currently written, provides for a draw against the Federal Reserve as compared to where almost all agencies have to come to Congress and ask for their appropriations, which gives us, as legislators--me, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as ranking member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Appropriations--the opportunity to review, to have input, and to provide oversight. We ought to change that formula by which the money comes directly from the Federal Reserve and put it back with the responsibility of this Congress making those decisions.
Finally, we want to have banking regulators, who oversee the safety and soundness of our financial institutions today, given meaningful input into the Bureau's operation, all designed to provide greater opportunity for us as Members of Congress, for the American people, to have input and oversight over what will be one of the largest agencies, most powerful regulators in our country's history, and certainly having significant creation of new rules and regulations that are going to, in some fashion, affect the U.S. economy.
Many of my community banks feel so overregulated today. There is a real concern or fear about making loans today--something that is very important for an economic recovery, that aspect of growing the economy--because they do not know what the next set of regulations is going to be.
In fact, for the passage of Dodd-Frank—the legislation, which we are now observing the 1-year anniversary of it becoming law—the GAO, our Government Accountability Office, estimates that the budgetary costs of Dodd-Frank will exceed $1.25 billion. In addition to that, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next 10 years, Dodd-Frank will take $27 billion directly from the U.S. economy in new fees and assessments on lenders and other financial companies.
So as we look at the legislation that is pending before us—cut, cap, and balance—my hope is that we will expand once we pass that legislation and we will get back to aggressively pursuing a pro-job and pro-growth agenda. Jobs certainly are important for us in generating the revenues necessary to fund the Federal Government and to reduce our national debt, but there is nothing more important to Americans—to Kansans across our State—than being able to have a secure opportunity for employment, to put food on the family table, and to save for their own retirement and children's education.
I do believe—seriously believe—that a significant message was delivered by the American people in the election of November 2010 as a reminder that we have the responsibility. Government is not a creator of jobs, but we are the creator of an environment in which the private sector can create jobs.
So let's cut, cap, balance, and grow the economy, strengthening the opportunity for every American to have a valuable and viable job with the hope of improvement in their own lives, and, most importantly, make certain we pass on to the next generation of Americans, the ability to pursue that American dream.
I thank the Presiding Officer for the opportunity of addressing the Senate.