Videos & Speeches
May 16 2012
Mr. President, today we considered five separate budget proposals for the Federal Government. At first glance, that would appear to be the fiscally responsible thing to do. The families back home in Kansas and small business owners I talk to they do that every year. They operate with a budget, and we know the Federal Government needs to do so as well. However, this Chamber has not passed a budget in 1,113 days. That is more than 3 years.
In my first speech on the Senate floor as a new Member of the United States Senate a little more than a year ago, I indicated to my Senate colleagues that my greatest concern for our country is our Nation's out-of-control spending. I am here today because I still have that concern. We spend too much money, and we no longer can delay the difficult decisions necessary to correct that problem.
Our national debt stands at more than $15 trillion. This enormous amount of debt is slowing our economic recovery and threatening the prosperity of our future generations, who will have to pay for our fiscal irresponsibility.
Writing and passing a budget is one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress. It is required by law. The budget sets forth priorities and guidelines for the fiscal year and begins the process of determining how much money should be spent and which programs should be cut back, eliminated, or even further supported. Without a budget, the annual appropriations process--and I am a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and I want the appropriations process to work, but in many ways that appropriations process continues to be on hold. This is not the way to run our country. To put our country back on its path to fiscal responsibility, we must set a budget. We set budget limits, and then we have to stick to them.
Any serious conversation about budget and Federal spending must include a candid assessment of our Nation's entitlement programs. Those programs include Social Security and Medicare. Mandatory spending makes up 56 percent of the Federal budget --if we had one. This percentage will only increase in years ahead as more Americans retire and fewer workers are there to replace them. Without addressing our long-term commitments, our attempts to significantly change our country's fiscal outlook will be limited.
As I said, I am a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where our appropriations process deals with about 30 percent of spending on an annual basis. We have done a reasonable job--I hate to be overly complimentary to Congress—but we have done a reasonable job at holding the line on that discretionary spending, that 30 percent we deal with every year. It has been pretty flat lined over the last several years, but you cannot solve our country's fiscal problems by only dealing with the 30 percent that we include in the appropriations process. You have to deal with the remaining portions of our budget.
These challenge not only the appropriations process to and the challenge that it is every year to determine how much money we spend but the broader issues of so-called entitlement spending cannot be ignored any longer. Of the five budgets we considered earlier today, four of them--all but President Obama's budget --contained serious proposals to reform these entitlements. I can critique every one of the four budgets that move in the right direction of balancing the budget. There are things I would do differently, but I commend my colleagues for offering serious solutions to serious problems.
Its bothered me greatly that when Members of the House or Members of the Senate offer a serious budget, they are immediately attacked from a political point of view as if we can continue to ignore the problems that we face and simply make sound bites out of proposals that Members of the Senate and the House care very seriously about.
We have got to work together to put forward commonsense solutions that will preserve these programs for future generations. This is not about ending those entitlement programs. In fact, the reports that recently came from, just recently, nonpartisan sources tell us that both Medicare and Social Security will face significant shortfalls in the near future. Therefore, this is about taking care of those programs to see that they are available for those who need them in the future. I want to be able to tell every young person--when they question , will I be able to get Social Security when I retire, I want that answer to be yes and if we don't deal with the issues, the answer cannot honestly be yes.
In Congress, we have a solemn obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Our spending debate is oftentimes seen as something that is philosophical or academic or more likely just a partisan argument, but the truth is that out-of-control borrowing and spending has a very real consequence on the daily lives of every American and certainly on the economy in which we live and operate. It is about whether or not Americans can find a job, make payments on their homes and automobiles, and whether their children will have a bright future and the opportunity to pursue what we all call the American dream.
When we continue to fail to balance the budget, when we don't put ourselves on the path toward a balanced budget, it means increasing inflation, higher interest rates and an uncertain economy, which results in less business investments and fewer jobs.
The greatest opportunity we have to improve the lives of Americans is to erect an environment where employers feel comfortable in investing in the future and create jobs so that people can go back to work. When they go back to work, they can put food on their family's table, they can save for their children's education, they can save for their own retirement, and most importantly, every person in America will once again be able to pursue the American dream.