Statement of Senator Mike Enzi
Missed Opportunities of the July 4th work period
July 11, 2011
Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about missed opportunities. Almost two weeks ago President Obama scolded Congress for not making enough progress on debt ceiling and budget negotiations. He said we needed to stay in Washington last week and get things done. I took him at his word. I thought the Administration and the majority were serious about staying in Washington to push forward and get some results. We were all in Washington last week, but we did not get anything done. The debt and the deficit and the lack of a budget aren’t the only issues facing America. When are we going to have real issues processed through committees that provide real solutions?
Despite reports suggesting that Democrats had reached an agreement on a budget deal, the majority did not present us with that budget. Despite the President’s comments that Congress needed to be in session to reach an agreement, he refused to meet with our caucus. We have gone more than 800 days without passing any sort of budget in the Senate, and when we stayed in Washington last week to work on a budget deal, Democrats refused to bring that budget up for a vote.
Last week, we had an opportunity to make headway on the debt ceiling issue. I spoke on the floor last Wednesday and implored my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in rolling up our sleeves and figuring a way out of the fiscal mess this country is in. I laid out the facts and figures – frightening numbers that should have galvanized us all into action. Instead, we’re still pushing for a comprehensive solution to the problem – or none at all. This isn’t deal or no deal time.
Now here we are, and what was supposed to be an important work week has come and gone. What do we have to show for it? We had one vote cancelled on the Libya resolution, a substitute vote on whether the Sergeant at Arms should compel attendance, a non-budget related matter, and we had one legislative vote on Senator Reid’s resolution about tax increases. This resolution is a sense of the Senate – which is not something that can become law. At this juncture more than ever, we don’t need publicity pieces.
What we could have done is move forward with the balanced budget amendment that all 47 Republicans have cosponsored. We could have voted on my legislation to reduce spending by one percent each year until we achieve a balanced budget. We could have voted on legislation that other Republicans have offered that would cap spending. We could have voted on legislation offered by Republicans to ensure we pay our creditors in the event that we cannot reach agreement on the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, we didn’t do any of that and instead spent the week holding one legislative vote on a sense of the Senate about raising taxes that, even if passed, will not have the force of law.
Republicans have proposed a variety of ideas that will help us get out of the fiscal mess we are in. Some are baby steps – some are giant steps. Every bill doesn’t have to be comprehensive. Members of the Majority have said Republicans were using every tactic to delay. What was last week? A vote on a sense of the Senate. The House passed a budget in April. In the Senate, Republicans proposed two additional budget measures. The only plan presented by the Majority – President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012 – was unanimously opposed.
I thought we were here to take care of business. Is one legislative vote on an opinion piece considered taking care of business? Not in my mind. And I’m willing to bet the American people don’t think so either. This is exactly the kind of behavior that is frustrating people in Wyoming and all across the country. They have asked us to come do a job. They have put their faith in us that we will take care of business and get this country back on sound fiscal footing. The American people want us to thoughtfully and seriously work to address the debt ceiling and reduce spending. Taking ONE legislative vote in a week does not pass the smell test for getting the job done.
The work product we gave the American people last week is appalling. We are staring the most predictable crisis in American history in the face and with only one legislative vote last week, we essentially said it is not dire enough for us to get something done. It is not important enough for us to stop playing political games and stop running the clock.
I am hopeful that this week will be different. I am hopeful that we will actually make progress on budget negotiations. I am encouraged that the President has finally taken it upon himself to engage leaders on the matter. His direct engagement should have been happening for months, and his refusal to get directly involved has put us in the situation we are in today with three weeks until the Treasury Department is left without options for the debt ceiling.
We’ve lost time, we’ve lost opportunities. We’ve lost the focus started by the deficit commission. Every day that passes that we don’t get anything done is one more option lost and more money spent on borrowed time. Businesses around the country can’t afford to waste a day, much less a week without productivity. If they did, I guarantee they would pay a heavy price and if the unproductive behavior continued, they would have to close their doors. People going to work every day can’t afford to sit around and not do their jobs either. If Americans and businesses across the country have to work hard and stay productive to provide for their families and keep their businesses running, so should we. The standard shouldn’t be any different in the Senate.
The motion we are voting on tonight is a sham. When it passes, we have permission to add amendments to sense of the Senate resolution. In other words, we can amend an opinion of the Senate that cannot become law. How long will we amend and debate an opinion?
I’m disappointed we didn’t get anything done last week. I hope we all learned a lesson from the week we just lost – the issues facing the country today are too important and too dire for us to waste time like we did. I know right now committees are not having real mark-ups so there is nothing in the drawer to vote on. And even the few times a bill has been brought up, the Majority did not want to vote on amendments and shut the process down. This isn’t getting us anywhere. We need to change course. The time for action is now and I hope we can use last week’s failure to get things done as an incentive to roll up our sleeves and get to work.