Senate Floor Statement on Republican Budget Proposals

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mr. President, our nation faces enormous and worrisome fiscal challenges. There is no question we must reduce our budget deficit in the medium-term and prepare for a longer-term future in which an aging population stresses Medicare and Social Security funds. And we face, at the beginning of January, the prospect of automatic, unprioritized, and unwise budget cuts that would do tremendous harm to just about every program in the government, from domestic programs to our military, and would in the process threaten our economic recovery.

The way to address those enormous challenges is by coming together to address the sources of our budget deficit. The solutions must include prudent, prioritized spending cuts. They will undoubtedly include reforms to entitlement programs to ensure their long-term viability. And, as just about any objective observer has repeatedly pointed out, the solutions must include restoration of revenues lost to the Treasury through unjustified tax cuts for the wealthiest and unjustified tax loopholes.

Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to address these areas – even in painful ways that have a real impact on programs about which we feel strongly. President Obama has repeatedly reached out to Republicans in trying to craft a bipartisan agreement that deals with spending, entitlements and revenues. Senator Conrad and many others on this side of the aisle have said they will work with our Republican colleagues to deal comprehensively with the deficit.

Rather than seeking compromise, Republicans seem determined to draw uncompromising lines in the sand.  Today we will vote on extreme budget proposals that would sacrifice vital programs like education, transportation and research in order to protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

The Republican proposals before us today demonstrate that our efforts to deal constructively with the deficit have so far fallen on deaf ears. Rather than offer prudent, thoughtful spending cuts, these proposals would gut programs that Americans have repeatedly told us to preserve. Rather than recognize the obvious fiscal reality that revenue must be part of the equation, these proposals demonstrate a continued, ideologically motivated refusal to even consider what must obviously be part of any serious attempt to address the deficit. Rather than reform entitlement programs so we can maintain our commitment to seniors, these proposals would upend that commitment.

Perhaps the clearest statement of all of Republican intentions is the budget passed in the House, one of the proposals we will vote on today. This budget eliminates the decades-long guarantee of health care for our seniors, replacing Medicare with a voucher program that would cause skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs for seniors.

There’s more. The Ryan budget proposes to cut billions and billions from domestic programs, but gives us no specifics as to how those cuts would be accomplished. It proposes almost no specific spending cuts, though it promises massive savings. We can see just how devastating these cuts would be if we assume, in the absence of specific proposals, that they would be distributed evenly across the budget. If that were the case, we would lose more than $100 billion in funding over the next decade for science, including the search for new cures and other new technologies. We would have space for 2 million fewer Head Start students to get a jump on their education. More than 9 million college students would lose $1,000 in Pell Grant funding to afford college.

This budget would slash spending to educate our children and to train our workers. It would cut funding to support new sources of energy and to protect our national parks and historic sites, and for environmental protection and other natural resource programs. It would slash funding to pave our roads and bridges and meet other transportation needs.

And the Ryan plan does not address what budget experts of all ideological stripes tell us we must address: the need for additional revenues. Mr. President, rather than restore revenue, this budget is premised on the notion that high-income earners haven’t gotten enough in tax cuts – and so it slashes the top tax bracket.

Mr. President, if you’re not willing to address revenues, you’re not serious about addressing the deficit. The Ryan budget and the other Republican proposals before us fail that test. I hope we can dispense with these proposals and get to the challenging work of dealing with the deficit.