News Releases

Senator Murray Speaks Against the Budget Resolution

May 09 2001

Partisan Budget Blueprint Fails to Adequately Fund Hanford Cleanup, Prescription Drugs, Veterans, Education, Project Impact and other Priorities

Today, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) made the following statement about the FY 2002 Budget Resolution.

Mr. President, today the Senate is considering the FY 2002 Budget Resolution. As my colleagues know, the budget resolution provides the framework for federal budget priorities for the next fiscal year. In fact, this debate and this budget are the most important things the Senate will do this year. The vote we take will have a significant impact on our nation's ability to meet our challenges and to provide opportunity for America's working families. But this vote isn't just about what happens to Americans a year from now. It's about what happens to our country generations from now because this budget will have a major impact on the projected surplus and on future budgets.

Mr. President, over the last eight years, we learned what a difference a responsible budget can make. We learned it starts with the basics like using real numbers and not "betting the farm" on rosy projections. We learned that if we invest in the American people and their needs, our country and our economy will also benefit. We learned we need to be fiscally responsible. That means making tough choices and holding the line on deficit spending. And we learned that we have to work together to get things done. The last eight years have shown us that if we follow those lessons: using real numbers, investing in our people, meeting our needs, being fiscally responsible, and working together we can turn deficits into surpluses, and we can transform the American economy into a job-creating machine.

Today, there is a new president in office. There is a new Congress, and there are new economic challenges as our economy slows and an energy crisis grows. Mr. President, the times are different, but the lessons are the same. This isn't the time to throw away the handbook we've used for the past eight years. It's time to follow the lessons it offers.

Unfortunately, Mr. President, the Administration and the Republican leadership are running in the opposite direction. And I fear that they will repeat the same mistakes of the past – mistakes that we are just now getting over. The Republican budget ignores the lessons of the past eight years. Instead of focusing on real numbers and realistic estimates, the Republican budget puts all its faith in projected surpluses that may never materialize.

The things we know so far about this budget are disturbing. We know it's based on surplus estimates that may or may not come true. We know that it abandons fiscal responsibility in the name of a tax cut primarily benefitting a few. We know that it fails to adequately meet the priorities and needs of the American people and the people of my home state. We know it fails to invest in our future economic security and competitiveness. And we know it fails to eliminate the $5.3 trillion dollars in debt accumulated over the past twenty years.

What we already know about this budget is enough to give us pause, but what we don't yet know about this budget is enough to stop it cold. We don't know what the surplus or the overall economy will look like a few years from now. And today there are real reasons to be concerned.

In my home state, and up and down the West Coast, we are experiencing an energy crisis. Gasoline prices are skyrocketing. Factories are closing down, and energy bills this month are up significantly. This crisis is having a negative impact on the economy of the country, but this budget resolution and its projections do not take any of that into account.

This budget resolution is also silent on two major Bush proposals: developing an unfettered missile defense system and privatizing Social Security. Now, what is significant about these announcements is not just that they represent major departures from past policy, but that they came with no price tag. So, we have the President proposing to spend huge sums on these initiatives, but they are not accounted for in either his budget proposal, nor the one considered by the Congress.

Why would we as a country pass a budget that we know is based on shaky projections, that excludes huge bills we know we're going to have to pay, and that forces cuts in vital services just to fund a tax cut that's tilted to the few? And why are we proceeding down the slippery slope of rosy predictions and fiscal irresponsibility? It's the only way President Bush can afford his tax cut.

Democrats support a fair tax cut for middle-class Americans, and we are fighting for an immediate tax rebate that would put an average of $600 dollars in your family's pocket this year. A tax cut is one of the many things that Americans deserve, but it's not the only thing. We also deserve a government that stops corporate polluters, that supports the hiring of more police officers and good teachers, and that strengthens Medicare with a real prescription drug benefit. Americans deserve to get a tax cut this year, after all it's our money. But it's also our national debt. Our overcrowded classrooms. Our prescription drug costs. And our drinking water. We can't walk away from those responsibilities.

Finally, Mr. President, this budget does not address the needs of the American people. I want to mention some of those needs. This budget eliminated the amendment we passed to increase our investment in education. This budget falls short of our targeted debt reduction goals. This budget fails to give communities the tools they rely on to prepare for natural disasters and to limit their damage.

President Bush's budget eliminated Project Impact, a pre-disaster program that saved lives and prevented damage during the February 28th earthquake in Washington state. The president's budget also cut the federal share of a program that helps communities rebuild after disasters strike. The Senate passed my amendment to restore these vital programs. But in this budget resolution, it is unclear whether Congress restores these programs. This budget fails to maintain the successful community oriented COPS program and other law enforcement programs that have helped thousands of communities achieve some of the lowest crime rates in a generation. The cop on the beat has worked to restore a measure of safety and security in our communities.

This budget cuts the budget for the Ex-Im Bank, which allows our nation's industries to compete with highly subsidized foreign competitors.

This budget jeopardizes the federal class size reduction initiative which has helped school districts hire 40,000 new qualified teachers so our children can learn in a safe classroom environment. We know that overcrowded classrooms in crumbling schools are significant barriers to learning. This budget cuts rural healthcare initiatives, including telemedicine grants that literally provide a lifeline for remote and underserved areas.

This budget fails to make an adequate investment in a Medicare prescription drug benefit. This budget cuts support to America's family farms. This budget doesn't invest enough in environmental restoration and conservation efforts. This budget cuts research and development of renewable energy sources and energy conservation efforts.

This budget does not provide adequate funding Veterans programs that both the House and the Senate voted for. In fact, both chambers told the Budget Conferees to do better than the President's funding level. The Republicans met behind closed doors and stuck with the President's insufficient number. Not only did the conferees refuse to honor the increases for veterans programs approved by both the House and the Senate, but they discarded an important amendment that I proudly cosponsored about concurrent receipt. The amendment offered by Senator Reid would have allowed our military retirees to collect both their retirement pay and their disability benefits. Today, we single out veterans by denying them these benefits. The Senate-passed budget would have corrected this injustice, but the Republican conferees dropped this important provision as well. America's veterans are big losers in this budget pure and simple.

To me, that's just another example of why this process should have been bipartisan and open from the start. By closing the door on bipartisanship, the Conferees have left America's priorities behind. Let me mention two more: Prescription Drugs for seniors and the federal government's obligation to clean up nuclear waste.

When it comes to prescription drugs, we know that the lack of affordable drug coverage is not just a problem for those with very low incomes. All seniors and the disabled face the escalating cost of prescription drugs and the lack of affordable coverage. One or two chronic conditions can wipe out a couple's life savings in a few short months. Originally a prescription drug benefit was estimated to cost $153 billion. But new, recent estimates show that it will take about twice that amount to provide a real benefit. We know that seniors need an affordable drug benefit that's part of Medicare. The Republican budget does not set aside enough money to provide this benefit. The Republican budget not only short changes the prescription drug benefit, it also robs the Medicare Part A Trust Fund surplus to pay for a scaled-back benefit. It takes money from hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies to provide a limited prescription drug benefit. The surplus in the Part A Trust Fund should be used to strengthen Medicare and stabilize providers. I believe we can invest more of the surplus into a prescription drug benefit that all Medicare beneficiaries can access instead of the limited benefit the Republicans offer.

Let me turn to a final example. This budget reduces the federal government's responsibility for the clean up of nuclear materials and waste. In Washington state, we face the challenge of cleaning-up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Hanford Cleanup has always been a non-partisan issue, and I want to keep it that way. There were some press reports in February that the Bush budget would cut clean up funds. I talked to the White House budget director, Mitch Daniels, and he assured me that there would actually be an increase in funding for Hanford clean-up. However, the President's proposed cut of the nuclear cleanup program -- which is assumed in this conference report -- makes it difficult to meet the federal government's legal obligations in this area. Any retreat from our clean-up commitment would certainly result in legal action by the state of Washington. To avoid that and meet our legal obligations to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, we need an increase of approximately $330 million. The price of America's victory in World War II and the Cold War is buried in underground storage tanks and in facilities. And we've got to clean them up.

Mr. President, as you can see this budget leaves so many American priorities behind. It takes rosy projections, leaves out major bills we know will come do, and squeezes hard-working families. We can do better. Let's work together to come up with a proposal that is fair and balanced -- a proposal that meets the needs of the American people.

Mr. President this new Administration promised to restore bipartisanship and promised to reach across party lines to meet the challenges of governing. As a member of this joint House Senate Conference Committee, I can tell my colleagues that we were not even invited to the table. We were told our presence was not necessary. This partisan, back-room dealing spells disaster for the entire budget process.

Adoption of this Budget Resolution is only the first step in a lengthy budget process. It is far too early for this process to break down. I am disappointed in the decision to ignore many of the bipartisan amendments adopted in the Senate and as a Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee I fear that this kind of partisan tone will make past budget battles seem mild.

Mr. President, we've learned a lot about responsible budgeting over the last eight years. Unfortunately, those lessons are ignored in this budget resolution, and I fear it will put us on the road to repeating the same costly mistakes of yesterday. I urge my colleagues to reject this budget agreement and to work on a budget framework that invests in our future and pays our debts from the past.