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April 13, 2011

Government Spending

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Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, there is no one else in the Chamber now. They said they had other speakers lined up, and when they come in, I will be glad to yield the floor to them. In the meantime, let me make a couple of comments about the discussion today that everyone is addressing, Democrats and Republicans.

I have been here for a number of years. I have seen different administrations come through. I think this is the first time the American people have finally awoken to the fact that we have finally gotten to a point where we can't continue to do what we have been doing.

When President Obama came into office, he came out with his first budget and then his second budget and then his third budget. If we add up these budgets, what he has done successfully, since he had total control of the House and the Senate, is passed these budgets. He has added more to our national debt in 2 years than every President throughout--in the history of this country, every President from George Washington to George W. Bush.

I can remember coming to this floor and I was outraged back in 1995 when then-President Clinton came up with a budget, and that budget was a $1.5 trillion budget. This budget President Obama has come out with is not just $1 trillion, not $1.5 trillion, it is $3.5 trillion, and the deficit alone for this 1 year is greater than the budget was for the entire year of fiscal year 1996. It can't happen. We can't continue to do that.

Consequently--and I criticized some of my Republican friends when a lot of them voted for the $700 billion bailout back in October of 2008. Of course, none of the Republicans voted for the $800 billion stimulus package. Right now, we are quibbling over, well, can we really cut $60 billion from the budget. Yet they passed an $800 billion stimulus package--spending. It had never been done before in the history of this country. It has to stop now.

I watched what Paul Ryan is doing over there. That is heavy lifting, that is tough, and he is talking about something that is very real.

I see my good friend from Utah has come in.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Utah.

Mr. HATCH. Madam President, I thank my colleague.

Sometimes it amazes me how quickly debates change here in Washington. At this time in 2009, President Obama was riding high. Heralded as the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt, the conventional wisdom was that his election represented a sea change in the attitudes of American taxpayers. Where his Democratic predecessor came to Congress and announced that the era of big government was over, President Obama came to Washington convinced that the era of big government was just beginning.

With historic majorities in both Houses of Congress, he and his Capitol Hill allies set about the business of transforming the Nation's economy with massive jolts of new government spending and regulation. They cultivated an unholy alliance of big labor, big business, and big government, and the hoped-for result was a corporatist state where government bureaucrats would calculate the fair share that business would contribute to finance the administration's redistributionist policies. They exploded the growth of the Federal Government through ordinary appropriations and the stimulus. Democrats hiked up nondefense discretionary appropriations by 24 percent over the last 2 years and by 84 percent if you count the stimulus bill.

But, as an American songwriter once put it, the times they are a-changing.

Later this week, we will be considering the continuing resolution that gets us to the end of fiscal year 2011. To hear the left talk, one would think this proposal was shutting down agencies left and right. They say we have cut discretionary spending to the bone. This, of course, is a little bit melodramatic. Before the Republicans won in November, the Federal Government was on pace to spend $3.8 trillion. That is $3,800 billion. The continuing resolution we will vote on reduces spending by $38 billion. And $38 billion in spending reductions from spending of $3,800 billion or $3.8 trillion--whichever you like--is not exactly cutting to the bone.

I agree with my colleagues who say we need to reduce spending by even more. Facing our third consecutive

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year with more than a $1 trillion projected deficit, these cuts barely scratch the surface of what needs to be done. But make no mistake about it--even these cuts would have been impossible if not for the Republicans taking back the House and making gains in the Senate last November. When Republicans won, they changed the debate in Washington.

Even the press has been forced to acknowledge the depth of our fiscal crisis, though old habits die hard. Just this morning, we witnessed a relapse in the mainstream media as it did its best to enable excessive spending. The headline on the front page of today's Washington Post screamed ``Cuts Will Affect Vast Spectrum of Priorities.'' This made me think of the old joke about the likely reporting at the New York Times on the outbreak of a nuclear conflict: ``Nuclear War Breaks Out: Women and Minorities Hardest Hit.'' But I should not be too hard on the press. They seem to be getting it. There is certainly no denying it. We are spending way more than we are taking in, and, absent real reductions in spending and meaningful reforms to entitlements, this country is cruising toward a legitimate debt crisis that will adversely impact every American family.

This desire to reduce spending and restore the Constitution's limits on the size of government is the new normal for taxpayers. The Obama administration's salad days when they dreamed of permanently expanding the size of the Federal Government are way back in the rearview mirror.

Because of the undeniable seriousness of our debt and deficits and the commitment of Republicans to taking it on, the debate has shifted from how do we enlarge the size of government to how can we scale it back. The administration was slow to recognize this. When given his first opportunity to weigh in on this crisis, the President voted ``present.'' His fiscal year 2012 budget was laughable for its failure to take on our deficits and growing debt.

Even Ezra Klein, the liberal Washington Post reporter, could not carry the President's water on this one. Even he couldn't carry the President's water on this one. He wrote that when reading the budget, it is almost like the fiscal commission never happened.

The President's fiscal commission recommended over $4 trillion in spending reductions, including adjustments to entitlements. I can't say I agree with everything in the commission's proposal, but it was a serious effort to get our Nation's finances back in order. But the President chose to pretend this report did not exist.

Well, since then, they must have done some polling over at the White House. They must have realized that on the most critical issue facing the country, American taxpayers and American families want something more from their President--they want leadership. The President of the United States can't just subcontract out these issues to other people. The President of the United States has to lead, and in these areas it takes the President. He has to be bold. He has to take a stand. For all of the elegiac comparisons of President Obama to Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, those were not passive Presidents. On the big issues, they took big risks and they led the country. It seems as though the President's advisers have finally figured this out. They need to get involved in a serious way on the issue of Federal spending.

Sitting back and adding nothing, while your allies demagogue reasonable solutions to pressing problems, is simply not acceptable to the American people. Democrats tried this tired line of attack last week, alleging that Republicans were out to hurt the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. These smears really are beneath the dignity of our elected officials, and they show a total disregard for the common sense of American citizens and the good faith and charity of those who support Republicans. A good first step for the President would be to disavow these statements. He has a chance to do so tomorrow.

The President is giving a much-hyped speech tomorrow on the issue of spending and getting our deficits and debt under control. I can only say I hope he comes through. The people of my home State of Utah and the people of every State are demanding that Washington tackle out-of-control spending. Vague outlines or statements of principle are not going to do it. The President needs to take a stand, or should I say stance.

I would add that the American people don't want solutions to a spending crisis that involve higher taxes. The solution to a spending crisis is not higher taxes that will give the government more money to spend. Our problem is not that citizens are taxed too little; our problem is that government spends too much.

So the President needs to come forward with serious, concrete proposals and commit to working with Congressman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and Senate Republicans to solve this problem.

I am willing to give the President a mulligan on his first budget proposal. The President, like Members of Congress, represents the people. As representatives of the people, we must acknowledge those times when we get it wrong. When the people make it clear that they want their elected officials to go in a different direction, in a democratic republic it is only right that the President and the Congress give voice to those concerns. The President seems to understand that he got it wrong with this first budget.

Taxpayers and families want Washington to take on spending, but the people will not be fooled. If the President comes out tomorrow and speaks in vague generalities, if he comes out and simply defers to Congress, he will have satisfied no one. Being the President of the United States is not like being a law professor. Your job is not merely to facilitate dialog. Your job is to lead.

I look forward to the President's remarks tomorrow. I guess we could call it the President's budget, part deux. My hope is that the sequel will be better than the original.

With that, Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

(Senate - April 12, 2011)

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