Mr. Chairman, thank you for yielding.
I would like to join with my Democratic colleagues in support of the remarks of our Ranking Member.
Senator Conrad has once again clearly articulated the concerns we have on our side about the misguided fiscal path that the package before us today takes us down.
Mr. Chairman, at a time when communities along our Gulf Coast are hurting; when we are facing the implementation of a confusing new Prescription Drug Law; when our roads, bridges and railways are aging; when millions of Americans are concerned about how to pay to heat their homes this winter; and when the men and women who have sacrificed to serve us overseas cannot find healthcare or jobs when they return home, we should be focused on protecting our most vulnerable – not handing them further burdens.
Mr. Chairman, this is simply not the American way.
Mr. Chairman, these are the wrong priorities for our country at the wrong time – and the American people know it. The role of our federal government is to protect all Americans and to provide security. Well, I can tell you that as I travel around my home state, people are worried.
Mr. Chairman, Americans across the country were glued to their televisions watching as our government scrambled – and fumbled – our response to the devastation of Katrina. The truth is, Mr. Chairman, we simply weren’t ready.
And there is a coastline, or a volcano, or a fault line, or an aging dam in every state in this nation – and this budget doesn’t make the right investments in prevention or protection.
Mr. Chairman, as we sit here today, farmers and ranchers in Washington state are shutting down their operations. They can’t afford to put gas in their machinery and their livelihoods are at stake. And what are we doing here in Congress? Well, we’re cutting investments in our family farms.
Mr. Chairman, my constituents – and yours – are losing their pensions; they can’t see a doctor for lack of insurance; they don’t understand why they will suddenly have to pay co-pays on drugs they need to survive; and they can’t seem to save enough to send their children to college as the price of tuition continues to rise.
Mr. Chairman, this isn’t the American dream – it’s a nightmare.
Unfortunately, the dangerous fiscal policies of this Administration have brought us to this point.
Mr. Chairman, a budget is a statement of priorities. My priorities and those of my constituents in Washington state are not represented in this Reconciliation Act.
I believe we should be providing greater investments in the tools that spur economic growth and help all Americans – Education, Health care, Transportation, Job training, and wise fiscal policies.
In short, we should be making Americans more secure.
Unfortunately, the package before us today does just the opposite. It cuts Medicaid spending for our most vulnerable; cuts agriculture investments for our family farms who have been hit hard by soaring energy costs; opens ANWR up to shortsighted drilling; and increases PBCG premiums that could trigger an avalanche of companies eliminating defined benefit plans.
While today’s action is not the final step in this process, I have little faith that conference with the House will bring us back to the right priorities.
As we speak, the House leadership is working on a spending package that cuts $50 billion in needed infrastructure, education and healthcare investments.
Now is not the time to take steps backwards. Now is the time to make the choices that will help Americans prosper and make our country stronger.
Before I close, I want to say a few words about the Katrina package.
It took a horrible natural disaster to open our nation’s eyes to the huge gap between rich and poor in this country. What we do – or don’t do - here in Congress, should not add to this divide. Now is a time for compassion and accountability.
We should already have passed the Grassley/Baucus Katrina relief legislation and provided the kind of aid and compassion Americans are known for.
Mr. Chairman, I am voting ‘no’ today, because I do not believe this package as it stands should move forward.
It has the wrong priorities and continues the failed policies that are undermining America’s ability to overcome the challenges confronting us today.