Menendez Opposes Debt Deal on Senate Floor

Menendez Opposes Debt Deal on Senate Floor

Washington - Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) took to the floor today in strong opposition of the debt deal and balancing the budget solely on the back of American working families. The NJ Senator emphasized the need for shared sacrifice and ensuring oil companies, billionaires, offshore tax havens and corporate elite are part of the formula to reduce the deficit.

""[T]here is no balance in this agreement -- no compromise. It simply does not force shared sacrifice as the American people have demanded. Oil companies will keep picking the pocket of American taxpayers with ridiculous handouts while they earn $143 billion in profits.... There is no fairness. There is nothing but concessions to the radical right wing of the Republican Party that is holding the American economy hostage - a gun to its head - threatening to the pull the trigger if they don't get their way," Senator Menendez stated. "I cannot in good conscience support a plan where soldiers, seniors, students, and working families must endure trillions in cuts, while oil companies, billionaires, and corporate jet owners are not asked to pay their fair share."

Link to full video of speech

FULL TEXT AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:

Debt Limit Agreement

Remarks by Senator Robert Menendez

Senate Floor - July 31, 2011

Introduction - Eleventh Hour Deal

Mr. President, we have reached the eleventh hour...

Time has run out...

We have a deal before us as a result of a manufactured crisis. The debt limit has historically been raised as a matter of course, by both sides, without conditions. Ronald Reagan did it 18 times without conditions, George Bush 7 times without conditions.

But not this time...

For days, for weeks, this Congress has been held hostage by a radical few, a band of Tea Party tyrants who believe their opinion, their values, their view of the world, their vision of government, must be America's vision.

It is not.

In their world there is no room for reasonable compromise...

...There is no room for fair and balanced budget approaches - the kinds of approaches to budgets that I - and many on this side - have worked for and voted for throughout our careers in Congress.

I have voted for balance going in and I was looking for balance in the final agreement, or the hope of balance that the American people want.

I have voted for $2.4 trillion in cuts in the Reid amendment with inclusion of a joint committee process that could include revenues - a balanced approach...

I have supported increasing the debt limit in a responsible way - a balanced, reasonable, fair approach that implements significant but responsible reductions...

I voted, in 2010, to establish the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action, the precursor to the Bowles-Simpson commission to review all aspects of the financial conditions of our government including tax policy and entitlement spending...

I voted to protect Social Security from being used to balance the budget when it hasn't contributed to our debt...

I voted in favor of the Pryor amendment to reduce the budget deficit by at least $154 billion with a balanced approach to cutting our deficits that included discretionary spending, entitlements, and revenues...

I've supported budget enforcement measures like statutory PAYGO to control both spending and revenues.

I've led the effort in this Chamber to cut $21 billion in unwarranted oil subsidies and supported saving almost $6 billion this year alone by cutting ethanol subsidies...

And I have voted 5 times, in the past, to increase the debt limit in a responsible way...

But this eleventh-hour deal, with so many strings attached that it has become a tangled web of conservative social values - is nothing more than a concession to the radical-right of one Party... and flies in the face of our values as a nation.

No Fairness

It would mean drastic and dramatic cuts to one side of the ledger - overwhelmingly from non-defense spending...

And no balance - I repeat: no balance on the revenue side...

...Speaker Boehner has said he won't appoint anyone - anyone - to the committee who would accept revenue as part of the mix...

Senator McConnell has said there will be no revenue...

Even Gene Sperling, the President's economic advisor, said there will be no new revenue for the next 18 months which is a clear reflection of what Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell have said...

Since they won't accept revenue, except in the context of tax reform, which the joint Committee has said it can't do by the end of the year, and we Democrats will have members on the Commission who will be responsible and want to strike a deal, we will end up either having to accept the Commission's spending cuts, without revenue, leaving us with trillions of dollars in non-defense and entitlement cuts, or automatic sequestered cuts that are more draconian.

And does anyone really believe that the Bush tax cuts for the top tier, the richest - which will expire in 2012 -- will be on the table in an election year - that the President will issue a veto threat for those tax cuts and make them the hallmark of his re-election - I don't think so.

While I know nearly a trillion of those automatic cuts will come from defense, what guarantees that they won't use the overseas contingency fund of a trillion dollars to meet the defense side of cuts -- the very fund that the defense budget passed in the House, and supported by my Republican colleagues in the Senate, used as cuts.

What makes us think supplemental emergency appropriations won't be offered on the defense side while war-fighters are in the field - leaving us with a hard trillion dollars in cuts on domestic programs like education, student loans, health care, and renewable energy?

What makes us think that the old paradigm - that people will be responsible -- given what we have seen from the other side in this negotiation - will work?

They will continue to look for deeper and deeper cuts to those basic services we - as a Party - have fought for.

We will spend the next year - headed into an election - forced to debate deeper cuts, re-fight old battles, debate a Balanced Budget Amendment, the Bush tax cuts... instead of taking about creating jobs and helping middle class families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Krugman

Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, wrote that this deal is a "disaster" for the economy.

He said - and I quote -- "Start with the economics. We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.

"The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn't work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

"Indeed, slashing spending while the economy is depressed won't even help the budget situation much, and might well make it worse. On one side, interest rates on federal borrowing are currently very low, so spending cuts now will do little to reduce future interest costs. On the other side, making the economy weaker now will also hurt its long-run prospects, which will in turn reduce future revenue. So those demanding spending cuts now are like medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker.

"And then there are the reported terms of the deal, which amount(s) to an abject surrender.... First, there will be big spending cuts, with no increase in revenue.

"Then a panel will make recommendations for further deficit reduction - and if these recommendations aren't accepted, there will be more spending cuts."

No, Mr. President, there is no balance in this agreement -- no compromise -- It simply does not force shared sacrifice as the American people have demanded.

Oil companies will keep picking the pocket of American taxpayers with ridiculous handouts while they earn $143 billion in profits.

Ethanol millionaires will be off the hook with this deal.

There is no balance in this deal...

There is no fairness...

They're nothing but concessions to the radical right wing of the Republican Party that is holding the American economy hostage - a gun to its head - threatening to the pull the trigger if they don't get their way.

And yet, no one on the right seems to be happy. They want more. They don't believe they have gotten enough...

Mr. President, when is enough - enough?

How far do WE have to bend before we break...

How much do we have to give of our values, our beliefs, our vision of America...

How much do we have to give of the promises we have made as a nation to the hard-working middle class families struggling to make ends meet...

...struggling to pay the bills, the mortgage - pay for health care and tuition to put their children through college and give them a chance at a better life...

How about those whose lives would be shattered except for the government's protection?

We are their voice... and I speak for them when I say this is not a fair deal but it is the deal before us...

Conclusion - What's Fair is Fair

What's fair is fair. But this plan is not fair to the American people.

I cannot in good conscience support a plan where soldiers, seniors, students, and working families must endure trillions in cuts, while oil companies, billionaires, and corporate jet owners are not asked to pay their fair share.

The Republicans turned a relatively routine vote to meet America's obligations into a crisis threatening the world's economy.

In response, the Reid plan met them 80 percent of the way by proposing $2.4 trillion in cuts creating a process where a bipartisan commission could find a balanced approach to deficit reductions that would meet the American people's call for shared sacrifice from those at the top of the ladder.

But this was not enough for the Tea Party...

This was not enough for the Republican Party they now control.

No, instead they have insisted on a process where oil companies, billionaires, offshore tax havens, and the corporate elite are completely protected from making shared sacrifices.

That is simply not fair and I cannot support it.

The thought that because our soldiers will join seniors, students, and working class families on the chopping block Democrats should flock to this plan is wrongheaded.

Eliminating troubled DOD weapons systems is one thing...but across the board cuts will punish those who are bravely serving our country in a time of war.

Adding these cuts just makes what was a painful plan a totally, unfair, unbalanced, and unacceptable plan.
I supported the Reid plan...

...I have shown I am serious about deficit reduction.

I have supported a fair deal, a reasonable deficit reduction plan that truly represents compromise...

...a deal that fulfills the common-sense idea of shared sacrifice.

This is not shared sacrifice, this is capitulation to a radical fringe of the Republican Party that will not bend until they break this economy and get their own way.

I have been for deficit reduction. I have voted for fair approaches to deficit reduction. I know fairness.

This is not fair. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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