Remarks by Senator Patty Murray on the Senate Budget Resolution

Mar 17 2003

This budget would pile on record deficits, give a tax cut to the few and ignore the costs of war and peace. But even worse, this budget doesn’t even adequately fund the basics – like homeland security, education and transportation.

Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- This afternoon, Sen. Murray spoke on the Senate floor about the Budget Resolution that the new majority has proposed for FY 2004. She called the proposal "reckless" for pushing a large new tax cut, for cutting funds for education and transportation, and for ignoring the costs of the looming conflict in Iraq.

Murray is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, and plans to offer an amendment to fully fund the "No Child Left Behind" law when the full Senate debates the Budget this week.

Murray's remarks as prepared:

M. President, I can think of only one word to describe the budget now before the Senate.

In the middle of our War on Terrorism -- and on the eve of another war in Iraq -- this budget - offers a huge tax cut to the few, projects massive deficits for decades, and ignores the costs of war in Iraq.

There is only one word for that approach. The word is reckless. Lacking in caution – reckless. Deliberately courting danger–reckless again.

It's time for a reality check. Hundreds of thousands of our soldiers are poised on the knife's edge – ready to perform their duty at any moment. On this critical day, we hope and pray for their safety, security, and speedy return.

There is no doubt that Congress will provide for our soldiers – both on the field of battle and off.

We know it will cost a lot of money. We know that it is money well spent in keeping our nation's best and brightest as secure and safe as possible.

But the cost of winning this war -- and winning the peace afterward-- are not reflected anywhere in this budget. That's irresponsible. That's burying our head in the sand as the danger approaches.

I can't imagine any American family – going out and running up their credit cards – when they know they're going to have a major expense in the next month.

Ignoring the financial costs of war won't make those costs go away. But driving our country further into debt will certainly make it harder for us to pay those bills when they come due.

M. President, the only word for that approach is reckless.

This budget would pile on record deficits, give a tax cut to the few and ignore the costs of war and peace.

But even worse, this budget doesn't even adequately fund the basics – like homeland security, education and transportation.

A budget is a statement of priorities. In an environment where we can't fund everything, we have to make choices based on our values.

I think we've got to get our priorities straight. Today we are fighting a war on terrorism.

We are on the brink of another war in the Middle East, and we have many other international challenges including North Korea and Iran.

Historically, when our nation is facing war and so many challenges, we sacrifice. We make every dollar count -- but not in this budget.

I can't recall another time in our history when we've faced so many challenges, yet have been so reckless with our budget.

This budget would provide a massive giveaway to the few -- while our sons and daughters fight a war overseas. That's not sacrifice. That's not responsible. And I think it's wrong.

The President's budget – with its freewheeling tax cuts and lack of sacrifice in the face of war – is more appropriate for the Roaring 1920's than for the challenges we face today in 2003.

I'm very skeptical of a budget that says we can have it all - even as we stare down massive financial commitments for years in places like Iraq.

Ignoring the cost of war and its aftermath is reckless.

Running up huge deficits to fund a misguided tax plan is reckless.

And failing our needs here at home – like homeland security, border security, education and transportation – is reckless.

Homeland Security

Just look at homeland security – which will be come even more important if our country is at war. September 11th, showed us -- in the most horrific way -- that we are vulnerable here at home.

Our intelligence officials have told us that another attack here at home is not a question of "if" but of "when."

We know our first-responders – our firefighters, EMTs and police -- will be on the frontlines if, heaven-forbid, there is another attack.

I recently got a letter from Kelly Fox, president of the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, which represents 6,500 firefighters in my state. These are the people who are in the trenches of the Homeland Security front.

He told me that they don't have training, equipment, or staffing to respond to various attacks. He wrote:

"Let me assure you, we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect the citizens of this state – even if it means putting ourselves in harm's way. Although the job we need to perform in this war on terrorism is familiar, the magnitude of the challenges before us is unprecedented – as the enemy now comes to our cities and towns."

He goes on to write:

"Last August, Congress (led by a Democratic majority in the Senate) provided President Bush $2.5 billion in emergency homeland security funding, for him to release to local police and fire departments if he thought it was needed. Regrettably, he rejected that funding, and vowed, 'we'll spend none of it.'" President Bush held back hundreds of millions of dollars for equipment, training and other needs for our first responders."

"Fifteen months ago, we were told that $3.5 billion was being earmarked for first responders in the Bush administration's FY 2003 budget. But to date that money is nowhere to be found. Firefighters in Washington and across our nation have received plenty of praise and accolades since 9/11; we have been invited to many photo ops. But our cities and towns, our counties, our fire districts, and their fire departments are still waiting for that funding. In fact, our state has yet to see a dime of money that was promised by the Bush administration to help our firefighters and paramedics."

M. President, Kelly Fox speaks for 6,500 firefighters in my state. We need to heed his call. Last year, Congress passed funding for homeland security. The president rejected it. The president then actually blamed Congress for not funding homeland security.

The bottom line is we must fund the security needs in our communities – from our fire departments and police departments to state public health labs.

With states facing budget deficits, first responders need our help to protect our citizens.

We can do better than this budget. I will support an amendment to adequately fund Homeland Security – and I may even offer my own amendment.

Education Funding

I'm also concerned that this budget does not provide enough funding for education.

When we passed the No Child Left Behind Act, we passed it based on two commitments.

First, we would hold schools accountable for their progress. And second, we would provide schools with the resources to meet those new requirements.

Those two always went together -- otherwise schools can't make real progress. But it seems the Congress and the President have forgotten about the funding part.

We still have an obligation to fund the new requirements that Congress imposed on local schools. We can't leave local schools holding the bag, so I intend to offer an amendment to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act.

Transportation Funding

I think this budget falls short in supporting our transportation infrastructure. We know that transportation problems plague our biggest cities and isolate our rural communities.

In my home state of Washington, our inadequate transportation network is hindering our economy, our productivity and our quality of life.

When we make sound investments in our transportation infrastructure, we create good jobs today, and we build the foundation for our future economic growth.

When we make our transportation systems more efficient, more productive, and safer, that will pay real dividends for our economy and our communities.

I'm going to support efforts to adequately fund our transportation infrastructure.


Another area where this budget is severely flawed is in its treatment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an important and unique national treasure.

It's the only conservation system in North America that protects a complete spectrum of arctic ecosystems. It's the most biologically productive part of the Arctic Refuge. And it's a critical calving ground for a large herd of caribou, which are vital to many Native Americans in the Arctic.

Energy exploration in ANWR would have a significant impact on this unique ecosystem. The proponents of this measure argue that over the years, energy exploration has become more environmentally friendly.

While that may be true, there are still significant environmental impacts for this sensitive region. Exploration means a footprint for drilling, permanent roads, gravel pits, water wells, and air strips.

The oil reserves in ANWR – in fact the oil reserves in the entire United States -- are not enough to significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

There are four ways to really reduce our need for foreign oil.

First, we can increase the fuel economy of our automobiles and light trucks.

Higher fuel economy standards will reduce air pollution, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, save consumers significant fuel costs, and reduce our national trade deficit.

A second way to reduce our need for foreign oil is to expand the use of domestically-produced renewable and alternative fuels. That will: reduce emissions of toxic pollutants, create jobs in the U.S., and reduce our trade deficit.

Third, we can invest in emerging technologies like fuel cells and solar electric cars.

Fourth, we can also increase the energy efficiency of our office buildings and homes.

These four strategies will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect one of our nation's most precious treasures.

Further, let's remember that the amount of oil in ANWR is too small to significantly improve our current energy problems. The oil exploration in ANWR will not actually start producing oil for as many as 10 years.

Exploring and drilling for oil and gas at ANWR is not forward thinking. It's a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

M. President, these are just some of the flaws that make this budget reckless.

As I close, let me put this into context because I've served on the Budget Committee since 1993. During that time, I've seen our country's economy turn around twice now. In 1993, we started with huge budget deficits.

On the Budget committee, we made tough decisions. And throughout America, families worked hard and got our economy moving again.

Employment rose. The stock market soared, and Americans benefited from low interest rates and declining poverty.

But today it feels like we're back where we started. The surplus is gone. We're facing looming deficits. Americans are out of work, and they need help.

If the President and the Majority in this Congress have their way, their plan will grow our nation's debt from $5 trillion to over $12 trillion as their plan reaches full maturity - $12 trillion.

And for what? So millionaires can get an average tax break of $90,000 according to the Tax Policy Center. And the rest of us get a $12 trillion debt.

That debt and our annual deficits will make it harder for us to fund urgent national priorities. It will hit every American when they buy a house or finance a car.

I hope we can find a way to produce a bipartisan budget that addresses these issues for the benefit of the American people.

Doing anything less would be reckless.