Jul 22 2011
Remarks as prepared for delivery
I rise today to speak about one of my gravest concerns – our nation's fiscal future.
All of us – Democrats and Republicans, liberals, moderates, conservatives – face a choice about whether we will seize the moment before us and confront our grave fiscal nightmare or whether we will let this moment pass us by.
Clearly, we face tough and difficult choices.
But the decisions we make as Members of Congress must be the right and responsible ones or our beloved nation and our hardworking families will needlessly suffer.
In my state, when I became governor, we faced growing debts and tough budget choices. When I was first elected, I went to New York to find out what the rating agencies had to say about the condition of my state, and then we systematically went about fixing our problems.
One thing I did not do was raise tax rates. People came to me and said we needed to raise taxes, but I couldn’t look people in the eye without trying to run our government more efficiently first.
The difference between what we did back home and what’s happening here in Washington is that we faced these choices together, working across party lines, in a responsible way, to address our fiscal challenges. In doing so, we set our state on the right fiscal path without – let me stress without – sacrificing our moral responsibility to care for our seniors, our veterans, and the poor. And we did this without raising tax rates.
Right now, because we made the right choices, our state is doing well – even in a tough national economy. In fact, we improved our state’s credit rating every year for the past three years – one of the only states in the nation to do so.
M. President, we did all this by living within our means. It is the reason why I am such a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment.
I truly believe most Americans support a balanced budget. Every family that I know in my state – and in this nation – works off of a budget. Nearly all of our state governments operate on a balanced budget. I’ve never seen another place – except our government here in Washington – that puts a budget together based on much they want to spend, not on how much they have to spend.
But how we balance our budget is critically important.
We have a moral responsibility to our seniors, our families and those who are the most fragile and challenged in society.
That is why I cannot support the “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan passed in the House, which we will be voting on shortly.
As a moderate Democrat who is also a proud fiscal conservative, I agree with that bill’s goal of a balanced budget. However, I cannot support the path it takes.
The "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan does not reflect who we are or what we want to be as Americans.
I believe that we need to cut, but not so deeply and without regard for seniors and our most vulnerable.
I believe that we need to cap our spending, but not at a level that could destroy important and vital programs.
I strongly believe that we need a Balanced Budget Amendment, but only one that takes a responsible and reasonable approach.
Clearly, we can all agree that it is time for us to make the difficult choices that will get our financial house in order – but we must do so with the right plan, in a responsible manner that keeps our promises to our seniors, our veterans, and our children.
And, like it or not, neither Democrats nor Republicans can tackle this enormous challenge on their own. This is not a political problem. This is an American problem. We should put politics aside and put our country first.
Earlier this week, I saw that spirit at its finest on Tuesday when the Gang of Six – Democrats and Republicans – rolled out the first bipartisan proposal to address this nation’s fiscal nightmare.
At that meeting, fifty senators from both parties – evenly split - came together to listen to the hard work of Senators who span the ideological spectrum.
At that moment, the gang of six turned into a Mob of Fifty – and for the first time in these negotiations about our fiscal future…we had a bipartisan plan with momentum that was putting our country first.
M. President, we should not waste this moment.
We must work together to cut spending and attack waste, fraud, and abuse in every department and every program that needlessly cost our nation hundreds of billions every year.
We must work together to reform our tax code – not to raise tax rates, but to make fairness a priority. It is simply unfair that a hardworking middle class family in West Virginia would pay more in taxes than a Fortune 500 company like GE – which didn’t pay a cent. Or billionaires like Warren Buffet, who pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.
Democrats and Republicans must work together to remove unnecessary loopholes, subsidies and tax credits that we simply cannot afford in light of our ballooning debt.
And it is time to end the three wars we shouldn’t be in and that we are financing with massive borrowing from China, as we drain our resources here at home and lose thousands of brave Americans’ lives.
In the coming days and months, I hope that this body can show America the power of a true bipartisan spirit.
I hope we come together and address our nation’s great challenges by working together around a real bipartisan debt fix that cuts spending and helps set this nation on new fiscal course.
I hope we can put our own interests aside and craft a commonsense and responsible balance budget amendment that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.
For those who say that none of this possible or who would stand in the way of a solution, I say let’s put aside our personal politics and special interests and work for the good of our country.
Let's focus on what is right for the nation, not ourselves. Let's do what is right for the next generation, not worry about the next election.
I believe we can do this – if we focus NOT on our interests, but on the nation's interest.
Let me end by saying this - as difficult as the next few days will be, I believe we – the President and this esteemed Congress – have the opportunity to make this one of our finest hours.
An opportunity to prove to the naysayers and doubters that the Government of the people is a great as the people which it serves.
Thank you, M. President, I yield the floor.