Mr. Chairman. It is well past time the Senate follows through its statutorily required duty to mark up a budget resolution. Unfortunately, the exercise we are going through today does NOT do that. I am disappointed this is the case because I believe we are missing an opportunity to make real progress in solving the most important problem facing our country – our unsustainable debt.
In 1997, when I first came to Washington, our national debt was $5.4 trillion. Today, it is an astonishing $15 trillion, and without immediate action, that number will continue to increase to a level that is even more unsustainable. We are spending more today than ever before and we are seeing trillion dollar a year increases in the debt.
What will happen if we don’t act and cut spending? We won’t be able to afford the military we need. People won’t get their Social Security checks. Roads won’t be fixed. All our money will go toward paying the interest on the debt. People shouldn’t doubt this is real. There were riots in the streets in Greece when their government was forced to face the realities of debt. I have news for you; our debt per person is more than Greece’s debt per person.
Time and time again, the federal government has proven that it is incapable of the fiscal discipline needed to spend within its means. Time and time again, the federal government has spent more money than it brings in. It has led to the situation we currently face – where we are borrowing more than 40 cents on every dollar we spend.
For years, we have tried for years to hide it, disguise it, and ignore it. We have acted like it is okay to keep spending money that we don’t have. We no longer have that option. The world today is different than the world was in 1997.
Unfortunately, we appear to be hiding once again today. Rather than marking up a budget resolution that can be conferenced with the Majority, we are discussing the Majority’s version of the Simpson-Bowles plan. While I strongly support the Simpson-Bowles plan, and thank Chairman Conrad and Senator Crapo for their service on the Commission, one of its key aspects was its bipartisan nature.
I wasn’t consulted about the plan we are discussing today. Ranking Member Sessions wasn’t consulted. This isn’t the way legislation is supposed to work. We’re supposed to come together and do the hard work in the Committee. We’re supposed to find the areas where we can agree and push them forward. The Simpson-Bowles plan is a good outline. Now we need to work together to hammer out the details. That’s not what we’re doing today.
In fiscal year 2011, the government brought in slightly more than $2.3 trillion in revenue. At the same time we collected $2.3 trillion, we spent about $3.6 trillion. In other words, we overspent by $1.3 trillion. That’s an astonishing amount of spending, and it cannot be sustained.
We have the opportunity to change this trend and to do that, we have to stop digging. We can start by considering serious proposals to curtail federal spending and steer the country back on a track of fiscal responsibility. My Republican colleagues have introduced cost-saving measures and budget proposals, and I have introduced my own bill to balance the nation’s budget.
While we’ve done this, where is the President and where are my colleagues in the Majority? Last year, President Obama’s budget was such an unserious proposal that it failed by a vote of 0 – 97 in the Senate. In the House, his latest budget failed by a vote of 0-414. Not a single member was willing to support the President’s budget proposal. In the Senate, we haven’t passed a budget in more than 1,000 days, and the budget that we are discussing today isn’t likely to come to the Senate floor for debate.
Once again, we’re passing the buck because the Majority Leader doesn’t want his caucus to have to make politically tough votes. I understand that. None of us likes to make tough votes, but consider this – by avoiding votes, he has been avoiding solutions. Problems aren’t getting solved and this hurts members more than making some tough votes.
At a time when the national debt breaks down to more than $49,000 for every person in Wyoming and across the country, there is no justification for business as usual. We cannot wait until it is politically expedient to do what must be done. We cannot keep talking about the problems, promising solutions, and then shying away from substantive discussions and votes.
Citizens across the country are also weighing in and their anger is understandable. Congressional approval is at an all-time low and our inability to make any changes to the way the government operates has left taxpayers with less and less confidence in Congress’ ability to manage their tax dollars and take responsible action.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating – we cannot continue to punt the tough decisions. Right now, the decisions we make will be tough and cause some pain. If we continue to avoid making any significant headway in addressing our debt and spending, the pain felt in the future will be much greater.
I’ve heard from a lot of people in Wyoming about the national debt and the lack of a budget resolution in well over 1,000 days. They have shared different ideas and opinions about what solutions we should focus on, but one message is universal. Do something. And do it now. This message should resonate with all of us and galvanize us to come to the table and do what we were sent here to accomplish. Instead, we will end today with more talk and no action.
The House Republicans at least did a budget and voted on it. Senate Democrats chastised House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan for that budget. Senator Toomey has a budget that balances in eight years that he is ready to vote on. And yet, we are here today without a plan from Senate Democrats that we get to vote on.
That’s too bad. I’m ready to put in the work necessary to pass a budget and get our country on a sustainable fiscal path. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will have the opportunity to do that work today.