Hoeven: The American People Want Us To Come To An Agreement

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today spoke on the Senate floor urging Congress to reach an agreement to address the debt ceiling and find savings.

A transcript of Senator Hoeven’s remarks follows:

               I rise this morning to speak about the need to come to an agreement on how we handle the debt ceiling. We need to come to agreement on addressing our nation’s deficit and the debt.

                Let’s review where we are right now. If you look at our fiscal situation, right now the federal government takes in revenues on an annual basis of $2.2 trillion. At the same time, we’re spending $3.7 trillion. That’s a shortfall, or a deficit, of more than $1.5 trillion a year.

               Look at these young people here in this chamber—these great pages from all over the country. I think about what that means, not only for us today, for our economy, for our standing in the world, for the security of our country, but I think about what it means for future generations. What is it that we leave them? 

               Do we leave them a country that was founded on the concept of freedom and liberty- that people could pursue life on their own terms, raise their families the way they want to raise their families, live the way they want to live, do the work they want to do, and have an opportunity to start a business, build a life and to be successful so they can pass something of value on to their children?  

               I think that’s what we all want. That’s the nation that we have and the nation we’ve had for over 200 years. That’s the nation that we want to pass on to these great young people. 

               We’ve had tremendous debate here for an extended period of time, with many good ideas by both sides of the aisle—by Republicans and by Democrats—about how we should address this debt ceiling agreement, and how we should address the deficit and the debt. Nobody has a corner on good ideas. There have been many, many good ideas brought forward, but now is the time where we have to realize that we’ve got to come to agreement. The American people want us to come to an agreement.  

               Today, the House is considering the Budget Control Act of 2011, referred to as the Boehner Proposal. They’re over there working on it right now. As with any agreement, somebody can certainly find something to criticize. That’s always true. No agreement is perfect, but it does represent many of the ideas that both sides have brought forward as a way to come to agreement on this debt ceiling, and more importantly, as a way to start to get our fiscal house back in order.  

               Let’s talk about it for just a minute. Under the proposal, first there would be a reduction in spending—savings of more than $900 billion. That would also provide for a $900 billion increase in the debt ceiling, to get us past this immediate issue. Then, at the same time, it appoints a committee of Senators and Representatives—12 members: six Senators, three Republican, three Democrat; and six House Members, three Republican, three Democrat. 

               This committee is required to find at least another $1.8 trillion in savings. Those savings have to be found before there’s another increase in the debt ceiling. That’s the right way to do things. That’s getting the horse in front of the cart, not the reverse. They have to find those savings in a bipartisan way, and they have to bring those concepts back to the House and to the Senate for a straight up-or-down vote. This is the elected representatives of the people doing their job for the people in an open and transparent way.  

               Think about this committee for a minute. Again, the committee is made up of 12 members from the House and the Senate—six Republicans and six Democrats—that can bring forward all these great ideas that have been debated in recent months. They can bring forward ideas from the Simpson-Bowles Commission that have gained support. They can bring forward ideas from the Gang of Six that people feel are meritorious. They can bring forward ideas for savings. They can bring ideas forward for reform. They can bring ideas forward for tax reform that doesn’t raise taxes but actually eliminates loopholes, reduces rates, and creates a pro-growth environment, so that revenues will come from a growing economy, not from higher taxes. They can come forward with all of these ideas and more.  

               The important point is they must come forward by November with $1.8 trillion in savings that will help get us back on the right path—the path to good fiscal management. And the debt ceiling is not increased in that second step until they do. That’s making sure that we fulfill our responsibility and do things in the right order. 

               This bill also provides that we have vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, and that vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment must be sometime between October and the end of the year.  

               I, and others, have cosponsored a Balanced Budget Amendment. I strongly believe that’s what we need. I understand there are differences of opinion, but when you look at the situation, you recognize we need that fiscal discipline here in Washington, D.C. If you think about a Balanced Budget Amendment for a minute, how does it work? It works in a way that gets everybody involved, not just here in Washington, D.C., but throughout this great nation. What are we really doing? By passing a Balanced Budget Amendment in the Congress—which we have to do with two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House—what we’re really doing is starting that Balanced Budget Amendment on its way throughout this country. We’re saying to the good people of this country, “What do you want to do?”  

               Why not ask the people?  

               That’s how our democracy works. Ask them, “Do you want to make sure we have a Balanced Budget Amendment that requires Congress to see that year in and year out we are living within our means?”  

               Forty-nine states have either a constitutional or a statutory requirement to balance their budget. Forty-nine states live within their means. Cities, counties, families, and businesses live within their means. Three-fourths of the states would have to ratify that Balanced Budget Amendment as well. So we go out to the people and we say, “Look, we think we need a Balanced Budget Amendment, and we’re going to make sure that you have an opportunity to say what you think.” I believe that’s exactly what we should do.  

               I bring experience as a governor. I served as a governor for ten years, and we were required to balance our budget every single year. Back in 2000-2002, we actually had to reduce our budget and make reductions across the board. So we went to the people, and we talked to them and said, “Here’s the plan. We don’t have the dollars right now to fund all the things you want. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to make sure we live within our means and create a pro-growth environment that will enable business expansion, business growth, entrepreneurship and private investment to get this economy going, to get jobs and economic growth. Then with that growth, we’ll make sure we each year fund our priorities, that we set some aside for a rainy day and we do our best to continue to reduce the tax burden on our hardworking citizens.” 

               It doesn’t happen in a week, a month, a year or two years. It takes time to build to the position you want. But we can do it. We’ve done it before.  

               Look at the late 1980s. Coming out of the 1970s and early 1980s, we had stagflation—meaning high inflation and high unemployment and a growing deficit. But by creating a pro-growth environment and good fiscal management in the late 1980s, over the decade of the 1990s, we not only put people back to work, we eliminated that deficit and we built a surplus. We can do it again.  

               It’s all about the right approach. Today we need to take that first step. I come back to where I started. It may not be the plan exactly the way everybody wants it, but it’s a plan that we can approve, and it brings together concepts that people on both sides of the aisle have brought forward.