Denver, CO - Today, in the wake of a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate projecting this year's deficit to total $1.35 trillion, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded President Barack Obama for his commitment to rein in the federal budget by freezing discretionary spending, which is similar to a provision Bennet supports in the Senate.
While a spending freeze represents fiscal progress, today the Senate failed to create a bipartisan, independent debt commission tasked with making recommendations on major spending cuts that would either be accepted or denied by Congress. Bennet spoke about the need for the debt commission today, which can be viewed here (a full transcript is available below).
"Washington's spending has been out of control for far too long. Based on the President's announcement yesterday and a similar Senate amendment that I support, there's finally a real commitment to put the brakes on until Congress ends its bad spending habits that have saddled our kids with debt for generations to come," said Bennet.
"I'm disappointed that the Senate rejected a chance today to move toward fiscal accountability when it voted down an independent commission that would rein in big spending. We must mobilize a bipartisan coalition to get serious about cutting the deficit in the weeks ahead." he continued.
Last year, Bennet sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to consider the creation of the bipartisan fiscal task force.
The full text of Bennet's remarks is included below:
Madame President, I'd like to express my strong support for the Conrad-Gregg fiscal task force amendment. I want to 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 PAYGO 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 weren't 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 tenth birthday last year, the national debt stood at about $11 trillion -- double what it was when she was born just a decade before. She owed about $36,000 at this point, and I have to say that's a lousy birthday present for any ten-year-old.
Now we've had to deal with the worst recession since the Great Depression. And necessary steps we've 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 $12 trillion. Each person owes about $40,000. By 2019, the White House projects it will double yet again. If we don't come to our senses soon, Madame President, 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 that they were going to have to pay it back. And Caroline was with me, and we walked outside of the party. She said, "Daddy," and I said, "What?" And she said, "Just to be clear, I'm not paying that back," which I think is the right attitude that she should have. We need to take care of it now.
No member of this body wants my three daughters or any of the children in America to inherit the fiscal mess that 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 re-institute discretionary spending limits and cap our deficit to three percent of the GDP and drive it below that, and I cosponsored PAYGO. Yet even ideas as basic as these have faced stiff opposition.
That's why 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's a shame, 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 his strong support of this amendment.
And to my Republican and Democratic colleagues, now is our chance to show that we are all serious, 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 the 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're in public service to help our kids. Let's view the Conrad-Gregg proposal through their eyes, Madame President. They're depending on us to plan for their future, to pay for our tax cuts, 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.