(Senate - September 17, 2013)

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[Pages S6485-S6486]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                             FISCAL ISSUES

  Mr. COATS. Mr. President, yesterday the President indicated that we 
need to pivot back to the fiscal issues facing this country and facing 
Congress. This comes after a year with little sense of urgency on 
perhaps the most pressing and challenging domestic issue before us. Of 
course, issues such as Syria and foreign policy have to be addressed, 
but we have had a year in this Congress to address our fiscal issues 
knowing we were moving toward a drop-dead date fiscally of September 
30, and here we are now, more than halfway through September, just 
beginning to take up these issues that will direct the fiscal future of 
this country. The clock is ticking away, and we have spent little time 
preparing for what is coming. But here we are once again careening 
toward another fiscal cliff.
  The American people are sick and tired of this. I think the Senate 
and the Congress are sick and tired of doing this. Yet we find 
ourselves once again careening up against a deadline to provide funding 
to keep our economy moving forward and to keep our government providing 
essential services.
  Clearly, we could all argue there are a number of things that don't 
need to be funded or can be postponed, but there are essential 
functions of the Federal Government that can't be handled any other way 
and must be funded. National security is one of those top priorities, 
along with homeland security. We continue to have issues in terms of 
providing safety for American workers in the workplace, such as the 
tragedy that occurred yesterday at the Naval Yard, and these all come 
under the rubric of providing law enforcement and homeland security 
enforcement for our people.
  These are essential functions of government, and unless we come to 
some agreement by the end of this month, we are going to shut all that 
down. Our troops won't get paid, our homeland security personnel won't 
get paid, and a whole number of other essential functions will not be 
able to take place. So we have a lot of work before us and very little 
time to do it.
  We also know that very quickly--shortly after the end of this month--
if we don't pass an ongoing resolution to provide funding while we work 
out some of our differences, we will also reach the national debt 
limit. We are going to have to address whether or not to raise it and, 
if so, how much to raise the current borrowing limit. Today we are 
looking at an unimaginable national debt of $16.7 trillion, and it is 
growing every day. All of us who have seen the debt clock ticking away 
are astounded at the rate we spend and how much we have to borrow in 
order to cover our spending because the revenues do not match the 
spending. Washington has had this spending addiction for decades, as if 
money just falls from trees or can just be printed down at the Fed and 
we won't have to pay any financial consequences.
  We have had 5 years of stagnant growth in our economy, timid progress 
that is not putting people back to work. Our economy is not working 
well. Yet we are still spending way beyond our means. That also has to 
be addressed. In the last 20 years Federal spending has grown 63 
percent faster than inflation. So it is clear that without changes, 
mandatory spending, including net interest, is going to consume three-
fourths of the Federal budget in just one decade. Almost half of that 
Federal spending will go toward Social Security and health care 
entitlements. In 2002 that percentage was 25 percent, and now it is 45 
  Far too little has been done to address this runaway spending train. 
Instead of waiting for a crisis to hit, instead of governing from one 
fiscal cliff to another, isn't it time we worked together on a plan to 
reduce our debt and curb the rate of mandatory spending? This is a 
matter of extreme importance. It can't be solved with a deal at the 
eleventh hour.
  There has been a lot of talk around here about putting us on a path 
to fiscal solvency but no real action, and the clock continues to tick. 
I would like to ask the President and the Senate majority leader at 
what point they think we should start acting on a plan to reduce our 
debt--$17 trillion, $20 trillion, $25 trillion? At what point, Mr. 
President, do we say this is unsustainable? This is driving us toward 
insolvency. We need to take action. How much red ink is too much?
  When will the President draw a redline on debt and borrowing? When 
pressed, the President says he actually has a fiscal plan: just 
continue to raise taxes, pass another one of his stimulus spending 
plans--the last one didn't work too well--and adopt his budget proposal 
that doesn't even have the support of his own party.
  Clearly, the President is unwilling to lead on addressing our fiscal 
crisis. Absent his leadership, I am urging my colleagues in the Senate, 
Republican and Democratic, to focus on this important issue. Let's put 
something on the President's desk and ask him to either sign it or 
reject it. But let's stop waiting for the White House to come forward 
with a plan because their plan is going nowhere. It doesn't have the 
support of either side of this body, Republicans or Democrats. I am 
urging the majority leader to focus the Senate's attention on reducing 
our debt, growing our economy, and getting Americans back to work.
  The best way to grow the economy and secure our country's fiscal 
future is by creating a long-term budget plan that focuses on 
restructuring mandatory spending programs, reforming our Tax Code, and 
cutting unnecessary Federal spending. This has been a mantra of mine 
ever since I came back to the Senate. I came back for this very reason, 
and here we are 3 years after the 2010 election, when the public was 
urging us to address this issue, and we still have not accomplished 
this task. It is because we have not had leadership from this President 
to address the underlying issues that are so plain, that are so 
evident, that are so consequential to our fiscal future. When we boil 
it down to what it means to American families, whether it be saving 
money to send their kids to college, getting a decent job after they 
graduate with a huge debt and being able to pay that back or getting 
middle-class people back to work who have been laid off for years, 
getting our economy moving again at more than a timid 1.8 percent or 
1.5 percent, stumbling along after 5 years of recession--the policies, 
whether we think they are right, frankly, haven't worked. Isn't it time 
to deal with something everyone knows we need to deal with; that is, 
excessive spending, this addiction to spending, the plunging into debt 
that is holding us back from doing what we need to do.
  I am committed to working toward a solution to address our debt, to 
strengthen our economy, and help provide full-time jobs for the 
millions of Americans who are without those jobs. It is time to stop 
procrastinating. It is time to start acting. It is time that the 
President and this Congress stop delaying the hard choices and start 
representing the American people who sent us.
  It is so unfortunate that we cannot rely on the President--the leader 
of our country--to act. He has announced he would not even discuss this 
incredibly important issue that determines the financial viability of 
our country. The President says: I will not negotiate with Congress on 
the debt limit. I will not negotiate with Congress on the resolution 
coming before us to fund the government going forward.
  How does this provide results to the American people? How can we work 
on a plan to reduce the debt if the President refuses to even negotiate 
it? He is

[[Page S6486]]

willing to negotiate with President Putin of Russia, but he refuses to 
negotiate with Congress on how we can address our rising debt. This 
isn't leadership. We can't rely on Putin to pull us out of this one.
  I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.