Videos & Speeches

I would like to thank the Senator from Maryland for allowing me the opportunity to speak during this discussion of the supplemental appropriation. Also, it is my first opportunity to publicly congratulate the Senator from Maryland on her achievement of becoming the chairman of the committee I am a member of, and I indicate to her that I look forward to working with her on an ongoing basis over the next two years as we work our way through appropriations bills. I look forward to seeing that we do right and well and that we appropriately take care of the taxpayers' dollars.

While the supplemental is important-and I am anxious that we move forward and vote on the amendments and its final passage-I would like to take this moment to speak, here on December 28, on the reason we are back in Washington, DC-the so-called looming fiscal cliff. Mr. President it is unusual for the Senate to be in session at this point in time, just a few days after Christmas and a few days before the New Year. I believe it has not been since 1970 that the Senate has cast votes during this period of time.

But our country faces a significant financial challenge, and I hope the House, the Senate, and the President are up to the task. Mr. President I want to reach an agreement. I want to avoid finding out the consequences of no agreement. We have heard the predictions of the Congressional Budget Office that suggest that the U.S. economy will be driven back into a recession should we go over the cliff. Projection of increasing unemployment rates, a reduction in real GDP, and the amount of debt held by the public will increase. I do not want our economy, the American people, the taxpayers, the business men and women of our country to suffer the risks of inaction by Congress and the President.

But while meetings are ongoing now at the White House-and I hope there is some semblance of progress that we learn about here shortly-it does seem to me that we are at this final hour with a lack of any significant progress to deal with the fiscal cliff issue. We need leadership. We need the President's leadership. We need leadership by Republicans and Democrats, we need the House and Senate.

While I say I want an agreement, I am also willing to appreciate the fact that I will not get everything I might want in an agreement. But the consequences of our failure seem to me to be so significant that we ought to find common ground.

Now, I understand we might reach an agreement that deals with a portion of the so-called fiscal cliff. I want to point out that we are only really talking these days about the tax consequences of the fiscal cliff. I don't know exactly how ‘fiscal cliff’ came into existence, that phrase, I don't know where those words came from. I don't know exactly what they mean. I think they probably mean different things to different people.

It seems to me the fiscal cliff that we face is based upon sequestration. This plan that was put in place by the Budget Control Act would reduce spending by $1.2 trillion in both defense and nondefense as well as the debt ceiling, which our Treasury Secretary says needs to be addressed. The peak will be reached, the balance necessary to be raised, on December 31. We might include the doc fix, this Medicare set of payments we make on a short-term basis to keep physicians seeing Medicare patients. Certainly, the deficit and debt our country faces are a part of that fiscal cliff.

We are only at the moment it seems to me dealing with the issue of taxes. I want to avoid taxes being raised on any American. I may not have that opportunity, but we ought to do everything we can to make certain that the Tax Code is unchanged in regard to those who are currently paying taxes. For more than 10 years, we have had a tax code that treated taxpayers a certain way, and in my view, any tax increase is damaging to the economy. Having said that, that I might not get everything I want, there are consequences of not dealing with this issue that may be beneficial even though a tax increase on anyone would be detrimental. So there is this opportunity for give-and-take to make certain that if there is a tax increase on anyone, there is a corresponding benefit that overcomes the damage to the economy in regard to this issue.

We should understand that while we are talking about taxes, we are talking about a tax increase that will affect every day Kansans and everyday Americans.  Research I have seen indicates that a Kansan, teacher in my State making $43,000 a year, in the absence of us dealing with this issue, his or her taxes would go up $3,000 a year, about $250 a month. That doesn’t include the end of the temporary payroll tax holiday, the new ObamaCare tax increases, or the alternative minimum tax, which affects taxpayers at income levels of more than $33,750.

So I am hoping we can deal with the tax issue, but I don't want us to forget there are other significant issues that our country faces. Almost none of the conversation coming from the White House or the discussions over the last few days, few weeks, few months have dealt with the deficit, which is so compelling.

As I drove down the roads from one side of the State to the other for Christmas, with one side of our family in western Kansas, the other side of our family in eastern Kansas, I’m thinking less about Christmas at that moment but what do I do if we have a short-term so-called kick-the-can-down-the-road-a 60-day or 30-day extension.

It seems that we owe Americans something much greater than just delaying the consequences of our inaction to date. We desperately need to deal with the big issues. We have no choice but to move forward with just the small items that are before us today, but we need to deal especially with the deficit and debt problems our country faces. We cannot afford to kick the can down the road.

I read from a letter a constituent of mine wrote to me back during the debt ceiling debate. I think what she said is still important for us today. She says that she believes America is the greatest country on Earth.  This is a letter from Gina Reynolds from Shawnee, KS. She says:  “I believe we have the greatest country on Earth, but our inability to compromise and stop acting like spoiled children saddens me.

The Founding Fathers were able to compromise and write a document that has stood the test of time for 235 years. Can we not now do the same? Please do the right thing for the American people, the ones hurt by this self-produced impasse. 

I want the impasse to come to an end. I want us to reach an agreement. I want us to deal with the Tax Code that changes on January 1. But I do not want us to avoid the opportunity to deal with the most significant problem and challenge our country faces-the fiscal challenge of our deficit and debt.