DEBT CEILING
(Senate - July 20, 2011)

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[Pages S4682-S4683]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                              DEBT CEILING

  Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, our Nation is less than 2 weeks away 
from potentially facing what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has 
called a ``calamitous outcome.''
  Unless we act, the United States of America, for the first time in 
our history, may face the prospect of defaulting on our loans, and not 
making good on the promises we have made to millions of our citizens.
  This outcome is unthinkable, and we should be doing everything we can 
to avoid it. That is why I am so disappointed that instead of working 
with us to tackle this issue seriously, the Republican-led House of 
Representatives has chosen to put politics ahead of everything else, 
and has sent us a bill they call cut, cap, and balance.
  First of all, this is a colossal waste of time. The Republican House 
has sent us a bill that may appeal to their extreme base, but right now 
the American people are looking for results, not more rhetoric.
  The Washington Post reports this bill as being ``a doomed plan.'' 
Even conservative columnist David Brooks said in his column yesterday 
that this bill has ``zero chance of becoming law.'' And that it is 
``likely that Republicans will come to regret this missed 
opportunity.''
  But second of all, this bill is not just a waste of time, it's truly 
terrible policy. It would essentially enshrine into our Constitution 
the failed Republican policies that got us into this crisis in the 
first place.
  It could bind our hands from responding to national emergencies that 
require quick and decisive action. Like another terrorist attack or 
Hurricane Katrina, payments for families who have lost their homes in 
tornadoes, or an infrastructure breach in states across the country 
like the Howard Hanson Dam in my home State of Washington.
  It would force us to say ``no'' to families across the country who 
need some temporary support to help them get back on their feet, and at 
the same time help them contribute back to our economic strength.
  This bill would have prevented us from taking any real actions after 
Wall Street brought us to the precipice of financial collapse in 2008, 
which would have led to thousands more job losses across the country at 
a time when we could afford it least.
  And it would not allow Congress, as representatives of the American 
people, to make the investments we need to continue innovating, 
educating, and leading in the 21st century economy.
  Republicans may be talking about the virtues of cutting, capping and 
balancing now, but their actions and votes speak much louder than these 
three words.
  And the Republican budget this same House of Representatives just 
passed, a budget that slashes and burns away at the fabric of our 
society that cuts off millions of middle class and working families 
from the health care, nutrition, education, and housing support they 
need. Even this Republican budget would not meet the standards of cut, 
cap, and balance. And you know who else's budgets would not meet those 
standards? Ronald Reagan's and George W. Bush's.
  It is truly unbelievable that they are playing these games with the 
clock ticking down to another financial crisis. We do not need a so-
called cut, cap, and balance bill to put in place sensible policies 
that work for the American people.
  My Republican colleagues may choose to ignore this fact these days, 
but we did some responsible cutting and balancing of our own here in 
America not too long ago and we did not need a constitutional amendment 
to do our jobs, either. Like many of them, I was here in 2000.
  I remember that when President Clinton left office we were on a 
course to completely pay down the $5.6 trillion debt by 2012. I 
remember the projections of surpluses. I remember some of my colleagues 
actually being worried that the large surpluses in years ahead could be 
a problem. And I remember the efforts by many of us to safeguard that 
funding for our seniors, for our future, and to pay down the debt.
  But I also remember what Republicans chose to do with that surplus. 
They could not wait to get their hands on the nation's credit card. And 
when they did, after President Bush took office, they spent lavishly.
  Throughout the Bush years, and particularly in the Bush tax cuts of 
2001 and 2003, trillions of dollars in tax breaks went to the very 
wealthiest Americans.
  There were capital gains tax roll-backs. Tax breaks designed to 
benefit corporate giants. And a new tax bracket that provided the very 
wealthiest Americans the lowest tax rates they have enjoyed since World 
War II.
  These tax breaks were all unpaid for, all handed out to those who 
could most afford to pay, and all put on the Nation's credit card.
  Our country was also led into two wars, and neither of them were paid 
for.
  Now that the credit card bill has come due, now that all those tax 
cuts and spending need to be reckoned with, and just as our Nation is 
starting to recover from the Wall Street crisis that has devastated so 
many families, Republicans are playing political games with our future.
  This is serious. If we cannot come to an agreement by August 2, the 
consequences will be dire.
  A few weeks ago the Bipartisan Policy Center put out a report 
authored by a former Bush Treasury official about

[[Page S4683]]

what would happen if Congress failed to act and the administration was 
forced to make desperate spending decisions in August. And the 
scenarios were worse than grim.
  Potentially at risk are: the benefits and health care we owe our 
veterans, loans for struggling small businesses, food stamps for those 
struggling to buy groceries, Social Security checks for our seniors, 
unemployment benefits for the millions of workers desperately seeking 
jobs, and even active duty pay for our military. These risks are 
unacceptable.
  Senior citizens in this great country are worried that the Social 
Security checks they depend on, and that they have been promised, may 
not be coming in the mail in 2 weeks. And then they read the news and 
hear that Republicans are still ``playing games.''
  Mothers and fathers are sitting around their kitchen table, trying to 
figure out what they would do if the food stamps they count on to feed 
their kids got cut off. And then they turn on the television, and see 
reports of the House of Representatives sending us a bill that cannot 
pass. This is an embarrassment. And the American people deserve better.
  Democrats have come to the table again and again with reasonable 
proposals for coming to an agreement. We have come to the middle. We 
have offered up serious and deep cuts in Federal spending. But again 
and again, Republicans have said no.
  So far, they have refused to make any deal that does not protect tax 
cuts and loopholes for oil companies, private jets, and millionaires 
and billionaires and as we see today, they seem to be more focused on 
offering up red meat to their base than actual solutions for the 
American people and more focused on negotiating tensions within their 
own party than on working with us to get results.
  So, with 13 days to go, I urge House Republicans to get serious about 
this.
  The so-called cut, cap, and balance bill is bad policy. It is the 
kind of silly politics that Americans are sick of, and it is a waste of 
time that we as a country simply cannot afford right now.
  If all it took were slogans and gimmicks to solve this crisis, House 
Republicans would have this covered. But we know that is not the case. 
And the clock is ticking for families across America.
  Democrats are going to keep working to solve this crisis. We are 
ready to compromise. And we need a partner at the table that is just as 
serious about this as we and the American people are.
  I yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Nebraska.

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