Videos & Speeches
Mr. President, in my view something significant happened yesterday in the House of Representatives. I am pleased with the outcome of the passage of the cut, cap, and balance legislation. I think we have a serious responsibility here in the Congress to see that we address the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. Certainly the way we do that is important. I am one who believes it would be irresponsible not to address the debt ceiling, but I also believe it would be irresponsible only to address the debt ceiling without adequately taking into account the economic circumstances we are in and the tremendous debt our country faces.
There is no way we can continue down the path we are on. While it is easy for us to make accusations, the reality is that this country, through its Congress and through various administrations, has overspent year after year. The fact that 42 cents of every dollar we spend is now borrowed tells us we cannot continue down that path. In one of my town hall meetings this past weekend back in Kansas, the suggestion was we are willing to take a cut in what benefits we get from government but let's do this in a fair way and let's do an across-the-board reduction in Federal spending. The suggestion by the constituent was maybe if we all took 5 percent off of what we received, we would be fine.
I appreciate that attitude but it fails to recognize the magnitude of the problem. Reducing Federal spending by 5 percent across the board will not get us out of the financial circumstance we are in, will not restore fiscal sanity to our Nation. So while we are about, between now and August 2, seeing what we can do to raise the debt ceiling, in my view we have to come together with a plan that addresses the long-term financial condition of our Federal Government.
I am a supporter of cut, cap, and balance and was pleased by the broad support that legislation received in the House. It is my understanding we will now consider that legislation here in the Senate this week. But I read the press reports and the political pundits who say that legislation is dead on arrival in the Senate. I encourage my colleagues not to reach that conclusion. It may be the one and only path we have to accomplish what we need to accomplish in the next 2 weeks. It may be this is one of the very few measures, if not the only one, that would pass the House of Representatives. We have now received in the Senate a message that says this is something we are willing to do. For a long time I have been told as a Senator there is nothing that will pass the House of Representatives that raises the debt ceiling. Yet we saw last night that was not the case. So let's not be so quick to say that the Senate will not address and seriously consider and potentially pass legislation based upon cut, cap, and balance.
In some circles, this concept of cut, cap, and balance is considered radical and extreme. Cutting spending is not extreme. That is what every Kansas family does when the budget gets too tight, when we have overspent, and when the credit cards are maxed. We reduce our spending. It is unlikely we can go out and say I need a raise to solve our problems. Our employers are not that sympathetic. We ought not be so quick to say we need a raise. We ought to say, what can we find within the government that we can reduce, that we can cut.
The idea of capping is certainly not radical. For the last 60 years, our country has averaged 18 percent of the gross national product in spending by the Federal Government. In the last couple of years that average has increased 24 to 25 percent. It would not be radical to move us back to the days in which we were living with 18 percent--what seems to me to be a significant percentage; if we would go back to the days in which only 18 percent of our gross national product was spent by the Federal Government.
Finally, balancing the budget is not a radical idea. Amending the Constitution ought to be done rarely and with great regard for this divinely inspired document, but the Constitution allows for an amendment process. In fact, it has been utilized to solve many of our country's problems and challenges over the time of history. It is not radical. Forty-nine States have a provision that requires them to have a balanced budget in some form or another at the end of the year. So amending the U.S. Constitution to say we are not ever going to get back in the mess we are in today certainly is worth pursuing. Of the cut, cap, and balance provisions, perhaps it is the constitutional amendment that is the most controversial among my colleagues. I certainly would express an interest to work with others to find the right constitutional amendment, the right language in an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that met their concerns.
This cut, cap, and balance seems to me the path forward and the Senate should pass a version of cut, cap, and balance to not only allow the debt ceiling to be raised but to allow the debt ceiling to be raised only if we become responsible stewards of American taxpayer dollars.
I actually have a fourth component of cut, cap, and balance. I would say it is cut, cap, balance, and grow. The last time our fiscal house was in solvency--was solvent--was back at the end of President Clinton's administration. In part, Republicans and Democrats could not get along well enough in those days to spend money on big programs. There was legislation that was passed that was supported in a bipartisan way by President Clinton and Republicans in Congress to limit spending, so there was some spending restraint. But the reality is that the last time we had our fiscal house in order, where we were spending less money than we were taking in, was a time at which the economy was growing. If we want to address the issue of balancing our budget, we should focus much more attention than we have on growing the economy, putting people to work, and allowing, as they work, that taxes be collected.
The greatest opportunity we have to improve people's lives is to create an environment in which jobs are created and in which employers feel comfortable investing in the future, buying plants and equipment, and putting people to work. So while it is cut, cap, and balance today, we need to make certain we do not forget, what is in my view, that fourth component: Grow the economy. In my view that means a Tax Code that is certain and fair, that does not change, and that is something a business person or a family can rely upon. It is also a regulatory environment that allows businesses to have the opportunity to grow their business.
The most common conversation I have had with a business owner in Kansas, walking through a manufacturing plant, or some small business that manufactures a piece of agriculture equipment--that is pretty common in our State--is: Senator, what next is government going to do that puts me out of business? If that is the mindset, how do we ever expect that business person to reach the conclusion that they have the faith in the future to invest in their plant and equipment and in hiring new employees? We need to make certain our financial institutions, particularly our community banks, are not hamstrung by significant regulations that would discourage them from making loans and create uncertainty about the ability to do that, a tax regulatory and access-to-credit environment that says now is the time to invest in America, to put people to work.
I am here to urge my colleagues to seriously consider, not dismiss, cut, cap, and balance, and upon its passage, to immediately return to the pro-growth agenda that allows people to have the faith that the future of their country is bright and return to them the opportunity, for the next generation of Americans, to understand that the American dream can still be lived.
I yield the floor.