Here is the text of Senator Bennet’s speech before the Senate yesterday supporting the Conrad-Gregg deficit commission:
AMENDMENT NO. 3302
Mr. BENNET. Madam President. I would like to express my strong support for the Conrad-Gregg fiscal task force amendment. I thank Chairman CONRAD and Senator GREGG for crafting a proposal that rises above petty Washington partisan bickering.
When my oldest daughter Caroline was born in 1999, our Nation’s debt stood at about $5.6 trillion. Our country welcomed her with an unpaid bill totaling $20,000–the amount every American would have to pay up in order to balance the budget.
But there was reason for hope. A President was working with Congress, using pay-go and discretionary spending limits–and reducing our annual deficit down to virtually zero, even running a surplus in a much stronger economy than today’s.
Two years later, we welcomed Caroline’s younger sister Halina into our family. Our debt had jumped to about $5.8 trillion. She also owed about $20,000. We had a new administration with new priorities–tax cuts that were not paid for, a prescription drug plan that was piled on the deficit , and unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind, and the war in Iraq.
In 2004, we welcomed our youngest daughter Anne. The debt had skyrocketed to over $7.3 trillion. Anne’s share of the national debt stood at $25,000.
By Caroline’s 10th birthday last year, the national debt stood at about $11 trillion–double what it was when she was born. She owed about $36,000 at this point. I would have to say that is a lousy birthday present for any 10-year-old.
Now we have had to deal with the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the necessary steps we have taken to provide middle class and small business tax cuts and preserve jobs for police officers and teachers have contributed to the red ink.
Today, our debt stands at just over $12 trillion. Each person owes about $40,000. By 2019, the White House projects that it will double yet again. If we do not come to our senses soon, we may pass the point of no return with this unfair and vast mortgage on our children’s future.
The other day I was at a house party in Denver and I was talking about how we were passing this debt on to our kids and they were going to have to pay it back. Caroline was with me. We walked outside the party and she said: Daddy? I said: What? She said: Just to be clear, I am not paying that back. Which I think is the right attitude we should have. We need to take care of it now.
No Member of this body wants my three daughters or any child to inherit the fiscal mess we have caused. Yet partisan stalemate prevents reform from even getting off the ground.
For my part, I introduced the Deficit Reduction Act, which would reinstitute discretionary spending limits and cap our deficit to 3 percent of the GDP, and I cosponsored pay-go. Yet even ideas as basic as these have faced stiff opposition.
We need the Conrad-Gregg amendment. Their commission would enable Congress to reduce the deficit without the usual backroom deals, appeasing of special interest groups, and engaging in partisan blamesmanship.
It is a shame that a commission is necessary. But it is. We have to take the partisanship out of reducing the deficit or nothing will get done. The commission can do this. Sadly, Congress, left to its own devices, has proven that it will not.
Conrad-Gregg is a chance to make Congress live by fiscal rules. I commend the President for expressing his strong support for this amendment.
And to my Republican and Democratic colleagues, now is our chance to show that you are serious about real reform–serious about reducing our deficit .
I urge my colleagues to follow JUDD GREGG’s lead, and to follow KENT CONRAD’s lead. They designed this commission to allow for everyone’s point of view.
When I think about extending the debt limit, I cannot help but return to my daughters and all the children across this country. They have their entire lives in front of them.
Most of us in this body are parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles. One way or another, we are in public service to help our kids. Let’s view the Conrad-Gregg proposal through their eyes. They are depending on us to plan for their future–to pay for our tax cuts and to restrain our spending impulses to only the most important priorities.
I urge support for the deficit commission proposal. We need 60 Senators to stand for fiscal responsibility. Let’s not allow this chance for bipartisan breakthrough to pass us by. Vote yes on Conrad-Gregg. I yield the floor.
I’ll let you all decide what you think of this. I just wanted you to know that he not only voted for this concept but strongly supported it. Is he a “deficit peacock?”