Sep 23 2011
Remarks as prepared for delivery
I rise to speak about the difficult fiscal choices that we, as Members of Congress, must soon make and the deficit-cutting proposals that President Obama has recently made.
As we face our exploding debts and deficits, our nation is truly at a crossroads.
A nation that was built on the strength of our people’s optimism must struggle to overcome a loss of confidence.
A loss of confidence that comes from an economy that has struggled for far too long. A loss of confidence that comes from watching debt and deficits explode. A loss of confidence that comes from watching Republicans and Democrats engage in fruitless partisan fights.
The American people worry about how to get their families out of debt and their financial house in order.
They worry about finding or keeping a job.
They worry about how they’re going to pay the rent, how they’re going to take care of their children, how they’re going to keep clothes on their backs, and how maybe they can buy their kids a Christmas present.
And, once again, instead of all of us coming together to do what is right for the nation and lighten their worries – Republicans and Democrats alike – are again gearing up for a fight about politics, even as our nation's fiscal and economic picture gets worse every minute.
Today we yet again find ourselves on the brink – and I can’t explain why to the American people. This summer, they watched us go through this exercise. The Senate, the House and the President agreed to spending cuts to keep the government working. Where I come from, M. President, your word is your bond. It shouldn’t be changed midstream. I am committed to passing a clean CR to keep our government working until the super committee gives us their recommendations to reduce the deficit.
In the midst of this disagreement over whether to keep the government running, the people of West Virginia and the American people are demanding that we put our partisan differences aside and work together in the best interests of this country.
They are pleading for us to quit fighting and worrying about the next election and start worrying about the next generation.
With our nation facing a death spiral of debt, now is the time that each of us should be zeroing in on credible, commonsense solutions that have truly bipartisan support.
After carefully reviewing the President’s recommendations to the so-called super committee, I believe that they fall short of what this country needs to put our fiscal house in order.
President Obama’s deficit reduction recommendation not only falls short of his stated $4.4 trillion goal, but could – according to an analysis done by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget – have the perverse effect of adding as much as $1.9 trillion to our nation’s deficit.
I’m also greatly concerned about rehashing unproductive recommendations like raising tax rates on small businesses in a recession and budget gimmicks like the notion that taxpayers will somehow “save” $1.1 trillion from not fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – which I believe we should not be in there anyway.
And I have said this, M. President, on my best day, I can’t sell that to the people of West Virginia – nor should we try to sell it to the American people.
That is not to say that the President’s proposal is all bad. There’s some good stuff in there. I have long said that our tax system needs to be more fair and balanced, and that billionaires like Mr. Buffett should pay their fair share. I appreciate the concept of the Buffett Rule and look forward to seeing more details. And I agree that one of the best investments that we all can make is in the infrastructure of this great country.
But as they stand right now, President Obama's proposals are too skewed to appeal to both sides of the aisle. So we see what we see happening again.
If we are serious about addressing our debt and deficits, neither Republicans nor Democrats can propose partisan proposals and then pretend they are credible. We can’t do that any longer.
The American people deserve better, and I also know we can do a lot better.
In my short time in Congress, I have seen only one plan that has earned support from members of both parties.
In fact, the President’s own bipartisan deficit commission – the Bowles-Simpson group – is the best example of what can be accomplished if we put politics aside.
While no one, including me, will agree with everything in the Bowles-Simpson approach, it at least offered a commonsense, bipartisan template that would cut spending, restore tax fairness, and would help restore fiscal sanity to our nation.
To date, it is the only plan that has offered a framework that has had bipartisan support from the beginning and still has it now. But instead of this approach, there are many people on both sides of the aisle who have chosen a path that all but guarantees that Republicans and Democrats will continue to fight over how to solve our fiscal problems, instead of seeking common ground and commonsense solutions.
For the sake of the nation, for our families, we cannot let this happen. We must act, and we must act together.
M. President, looking ahead to vigorous debates of the fall, my hope is that the deficit super committee will seize the moment and seek common ground to develop a plan that puts our nation on the right path to fiscal accountability.
Commonsense to me is that you would start with a plan that already has bipartisan support because it will take both sides of aisle to fix this problem.
And, I urge them, and the President, to look beyond partisan politics and do what is right for this country. I continue to urge the committee to look past their legal mandate of $1.5 trillion in savings and instead look for reforms that will create much broader fairness in our system that will lead to deficit reductions of at least $4 trillion.
I, for one, will work with the Senate Democrats and the Republicans who are committed to develop a commonsense debt fix that responsibly reduces spending; makes our tax system more fair; cuts waste, fraud, abuse; and makes sure we protect critical programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Thank you M. President, and I yield the floor.