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Mr. President, I rise today to discuss several issues that I hope Congress will consider in this Congress.

First, I intend to work this year to address our nation’s spending problems because I sit up nights worrying about our nation’s debt and how it will affect our children and grandchildren.  We have a spending problem in this country, and we cannot spend our way to prosperity.  Rather, we must stop spending more than we take in and find a way to start paying down the $18 trillion – and growing – debt.  Several members of the Senate have ideas on how to do that, and I intend to work with them in an effort to find some real solutions.  I have some ideas I hope my colleagues will consider.

My penny plan cuts overall spending by 1 percent for three years to balance the budget.  The plan doesn’t mandate any specific cuts; Congress would have the authority to make targeted cuts and focus on the worst first.  If we focus on identifying and eliminating all of the wasteful spending that occurs in Washington, we might not have to cut important programs and services.  Let’s not make the cuts hurt – let’s be smart about the spending cuts and prioritize how we spend taxpayers’ dollars.

My biennial appropriations bill would allow for each of the appropriation bills to be taken up over a 2-year period, with the more controversial bills taken up in a non-election year and the less controversial bills taken up in an election year.  The defense appropriations bill would be taken up each year.  This would allow us to get into the spending details more and eliminate duplication and waste.

Eliminating duplication and waste, as well as improper payments, could be a real part of the solution this year because these are avoidable wastes of taxpayer dollars.  The Government Accountability Office has reported that 31 areas of the federal government are in need of reform to eliminate duplicative and unnecessary programs.  Consolidating programs and agency functions that overlap could save 95 billion dollars.  Additionally, in fiscal year 2012, there were nearly 100 billion dollars in improper payments.  These are payments that shouldn’t be going out the door, to people who are no longer eligible for benefits, or overpayments of benefits, or in the worst cases, payments to people who are deceased.  Ending waste and duplication would not only help get our fiscal house back in order, but could restore some confidence in the ability of the government to operate effectively.

Additionally, I believe now is the time to deal with the problems we have seen each day since Obamacare was implemented.  Premiums are skyrocketing for many people this year, while small businesses continue to hold off on hiring new workers or are keeping more people on part-time schedules.

We should repeal this law because it is bad for consumers and bad for businesses. We need real health care reform that gets health care costs under control and ensures that rural health care providers can afford to continue to provide vital services.

I am also hopeful that this Congress will take up tax reform legislation.  This will be a challenge, since the President has said he wants $1 trillion more in revenue from the tax code.  I disagree with that premise because I don’t think Washington needs to spend more.  Tax reform shouldn’t raise any more money for the federal government than the current system does, but if done correctly, tax reform may generate additional revenue through economic growth.  That revenue could be used to reduce the deficits and pay down the debt.  I hope we can work on a bipartisan basis to take our tax code off of autopilot and make it more simple and fair for everyone – families, small businesses, and corporations. As the only accountant on the Finance Committee, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work on tax reform. 

I also hope that this Congress will work to improve our economy and make energy more affordable by approving the Keystone pipeline and fighting against the President’s war on coal.  The Keystone Pipeline application has been pending for more than five years, and the State Department’s five reviews of the project have determined that the pipeline would cause no significant environmental impacts.  The pipeline could create more than 40,000 jobs – let’s get it built!

Similarly, we need to encourage coal production and prevent the Administration from restricting this low cost, reliable, stockpileable energy source.  The coal industry provided – directly and indirectly – over 700,000 good paying jobs in 2010, but since being sworn into office, President Obama’s rule-making machine has released rule-after-rule designed to make it more difficult and more expensive to use coal. Instead of running from coal, America should run on coal, and I hope this Congress will embrace its abundance, in its power and it’s potential.

We need to challenge the President’s other regulatory overreach as well.  President Obama has issued more Executive Orders, regulations, and other executive actions than either President Bush, Clinton, or Reagan; in fact, last month USA Today reported that the President “is on track to take more high-level executive actions than any president since Harry Truman,” with 195 executive orders and 198 presidential memoranda under his belt.  This year we need to fight the abuse of executive power, whether it’s used to grant illegal executive amnesty to illegal immigrants, to regulate all bodies of water on public and private land, or to make unconstitutional political appointments.   I will be reintroducing my constitutional amendment to allow states to repeal federal regulations and hope to work with my colleagues on other efforts to fight regulatory overreach.

I am confident that we can make some real progress for America this year on these and other issues because I believe the Republican Leader will re-establish regular order.  I expect that we will use the committee process so that senators can offer constructive amendments and debate bills in that forum.  I am hopeful that we will also have an amendment process on the Senate floor so that all 100 members of the Senate have an opportunity to improve the bills we consider.  Each of us has a different background, and each of us looks at every proposal from a different point of view.  Working together, we can make things better for the American people, and I hope that we will do that this year.