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BUDGET: Murray to House Republicans: The Only Way to Avoid Automatic Cuts is with Compromise, Balanced Approach

May 16 2012

BUDGET: Murray to House Republicans: The Only Way to Avoid Automatic Cuts is with Compromise, Balanced Approach

Watch Senator Murray’s floor speech here

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor about the Republican legislation that passed the House of Representatives last week that would roll back the automatic cuts agreed to in the bipartisan Budget Control Act in a wildly imbalanced and deeply damaging way. Murray called on Republicans who are truly interested in a better approach to deficit reduction than sequestration to work with Democrats on a balanced and bipartisan plan that shares the sacrifices and doesn’t simply call on the middle class and most vulnerable Americans to bear the burden alone.

Key excerpts:

“…Republicans in the House of Representatives passed legislation that continues their mad dash away from the bipartisan Budget Control Act, reflects the upside-down priorities guiding their party, and stands absolutely no chance of passage here in the Senate.”

“…[The BCA is] a law…that is binding, that replaces and carries more weight than a budget resolution, and that makes the budget resolutions we are debating today nothing more than political theater.”

 “House Republicans are not only trying to re-litigate the Budget Control Act—they want to pretend it never happened.”

“So…I say to them today what I said to Republicans in the Joint Select Committee: We will not allow the debt and deficit to be reduced on the backs of the middle class and most vulnerable Americans without calling on the wealthiest to contribute. That is not fair, it’s not what the American people want, and it’s simply not going to happen.”

“We are facing these automatic cuts because Republicans continue putting protecting the rich above all else—and unless that changes before the end of the year, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence.”

“This is not about reducing the deficit. [Republicans] want all the deficit reduction from the Budget Control Act, but without any of the bipartisan compromise or shared sacrifice.”

The full text of Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, at the end of last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed legislation that continues their mad dash away from the bipartisan Budget Control Act, reflects the upside-down priorities guiding their party, and stands absolutely no chance of passage here in the Senate.

“Mr. President, I think it would be helpful at this point to remind my colleagues of the recent history that has brought us to this point.

“In August of last year, Democrats and Republicans came together and we agreed to the Budget Control Act to cut spending and put in place a process for additional deficit reduction.

“The purpose of this bipartisan agreement was to move toward serious deficit reduction—and to give some consistency to the federal budget so the American people wouldn’t be threatened with a government shutdown every few months.

“Mr. President, that bipartisan deal set the levels for next year’s discretionary spending, which allows us in Congress to do our jobs and work to allocate federal resources toward investments in jobs, infrastructure and innovation, maintaining our commitment to our servicemembers and veterans, protecting and supporting middle class families, and so much more.

“That was the agreement we came to. Speaker Boehner shook on it. Minority Leader McConnell shook on it. Majority Leader Reid signed on. I joined many of my colleagues in voting for it. And when President Obama signed it, it became the law of the land.

“A law, I should add, that is binding, that replaces and carries more weight than a budget resolution, and that makes the budget resolutions we are debating today nothing more than political theater.

“Senate Democrats fully intend to honor our word and stick to the bipartisan budget levels for next year—and Senate Republicans in the Appropriations Committee, including the Minority Leader, recently voted to stick to those levels as well.

“But I was extremely disappointed that less than nine months after we shook hands on the deal, House Republicans turned right around and broke it.

“They put appeasing their extreme base ahead of the word they gave to us and the American people—and they demonstrated clearly that a deal with them isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

“But despite House Republicans reneging on the deal, the Budget Control Act is the law.  It’s settled. And we have so many challenges ahead of us as a nation—we can’t afford to re-litigate bipartisan deals every time some members on the extreme end of the Republican party make some noise at a meeting.

“But Mr. President, House Republicans are not only trying to re-litigate the Budget Control Act—they want to pretend it never happened.

“As part of that deal, in addition to over $1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts, a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was formed to reduce the deficit by at least an additional $1.2 trillion.

“And if that committee couldn’t come to an agreement, the bipartisan Budget Control Act put in place automatic spending cuts, or sequestration, spread evenly across defense and non-defense spending.

“We all knew at the time that sequestration not the ideal way to reduce spending.  But we wanted the cuts to be painful enough to make sure both sides had a strong incentive to make compromises and truly work toward a bipartisan deal.

“Mr. President, I was proud to have been called on by Majority Leader Reid to co-chair that Committee with Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling, and I am proud of the hard work many of us did to try to come to an agreement.

“Of course, I was extremely disappointed that in the end, we were not able to come to a bipartisan deal.

“But Mr. President, I want to be clear—because this is very relevant today:  we weren’t able to get to a deal because Republicans refused to even consider tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.  The talks fell apart around that issue and that issue alone.

“I came to the table with many of my colleagues with proposals for serious compromises on spending and a willingness to move forward with smart changes to strengthen entitlements.

“We knew many of these compromises would be painful, but we were willing to put them forward to get to a balanced deal. But as much as we offered, we couldn’t get our Republican colleagues to give an inch when it came to taxes on the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

“Even though the rich are paying the lowest rates in generations, Republicans were fundamentally opposed to any plan that would call on the wealthy to pay a penny more in taxes.

“In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly say they want to see a balanced approach to tackling the deficit and debt that puts everything on the table—including revenue.

“And every single bipartisan group that has come together to tackle this—from Simpson-Bowles, to Domenici-Rivlin, to the Gang of Six here in the Senate—all of them have included a balanced approach that reduces spending and raises revenue.

“Because they all know that’s the only real and fair way to tackle this challenge. And that it simply doesn’t make sense to solve this problem with cuts alone.

“So as we watch House Republicans rolling back the automatic cuts they don’t like and acting like the bipartisan Budget Control Act never happened, I say to them today what I said to Republicans in the Joint Select Committee: We will not allow the debt and deficit to be reduced on the backs of the middle class and most vulnerable Americans without calling on the wealthiest to contribute.

“That is not fair, it’s not what the American people want, and it’s simply not going to happen.

“We are facing these automatic cuts because Republicans continue putting protecting the rich above all else—and unless that changes before the end of the year, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence. 

“Mr. President, Republicans in the House of Representatives are not only acting like the BCA never happened—they are highlighting the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of a party that allows itself only to think in terms of cutting, shrinking, and eliminating—and never in terms of investing, growing, and fairness.

“The legislation they passed would roll back sequestration for next year by simply taking funding from programs middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans count on—and shifting it to defense.

“This is not about reducing the deficit.   They want all the deficit reduction from the Budget Control Act, but without any of the bipartisan compromise or shared sacrifice.

“The choices we make as a body in the coming months will affect every single American.

“Mr. President, as we have said from the start, we will put everything on the table but that word is ‘everything.’

“We cannot come to a solution in America unless everybody contributes and there is shared sacrifice.

“That's the principle we have been fighting for, it is the one we will continue to fight for, and, Mr. President, that is what the American people want and I’m proud to stand with my party to continue to fight for that.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”