The Committee on the Judiciary, to which was referred the bill (S.J. Res. 41) to propose an amendment to the Constitution relating to a Federal balanced budget, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon, and recommends that the bill do pass.
The Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment sets forth, in the Nation's government document, the basic principle that the Federal Government must not spend beyond its means. This principle, Thomas Jefferson once said, is of such importance "as to place it among the fundamental principles of government. We should consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves." Thomas Jefferson's words ring true today. The discipline imposed by a balanced budget amendment may be the only way to avoid leaving future generations of Americans with an overwhelming legacy of debt.
II. LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
In 1936, Representative Harold Knutson of Minnesota proposed the first constitutional amendment to balance the budget (H.J. Res. 579, 74th Cong.). This proposal would have established a per capita limitation on the Federal public debt. Since that time, numerous constitutional provisions have been proposed to require a balanced budget.
S.J. Res. 41 derives from work begun in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution in the 96th Congress. Throughout 1979 and early 1980, the subcommittee held a series of hearings across the country--eight in total--on the subject of a balanced budget amendment. Senators Hatch, Thurmond, DeConcini, Heflin, and Simpson introduced S.J. Res. 126, which was reported out of the subcommittee on December 18, 1979, by a vote of 5 to 2. On March 15, 1980, the full Committee on the Judiciary defeated S.J. Res. 126 by a vote of 9 to 8.
The same principal sponsors reintroduced S.J. Res. 126 in the 97th Congress as S.J. Res. 58. During the early part of 1981, the subcommittee held four additional days of hearings. On May 6, 1981, the subcommittee voted 4 to 0 to report out the amendment, but only after adopting an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Senator Hatch. On May 19, 1981, the full Committee on the Judiciary favorably reported S.J. Res. 58 by an 11-to-5 vote.
On July 12, 1982, the Senate began consideration of S.J. Res. 58. On August 4, 1982, following the adoption of a package of amendments by Senators Domenici and Chiles and the acceptance of an amendment by Senators Armstrong and Boren, the Senate passed S.J. Res. 58 by a 69-to-31 vote. This marked the first time either House of Congress had approved such a measure.
On October 1, 1982, following a successful discharge petition effort, the House of Representatives considered H.J. Res. 350, the House counterpart to S.J. Res. 58. Although a substantial majority of the House voted in favor of the amendment, the 236-to-187 margin fell short of the necessary two-thirds vote.
In the 98th Congress, the Subcommittee on the Constitution held 2 days of hearings of S.J. Res. 5. On March 15, 1984, the subcommittee approved S.J. Res. 5 by a 4-to-1 vote and referred the measure to the full committee. On September 13, 1984, following the adoption of an amendment offered by Senator Deconcini, the full Committee on the Judiciary approved S.J. Res. 5 by a vote of 11 to 4. However, the full Senate did not vote on the measure before the 98th Congress came to a close.
S.J. Res. 13 was introduced by Senator Thurmond on the first day of the 99th Congress. Following a hearing, the Subcommittee on the Constitution held a markup of S.J. Res. 13 on May 15, 1985, at which the subcommittee adopted as amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Senator Thurmond, and then approved S.J. Res. 13, as amended, by a unanimous 5-to-0 vote. After considering S.J. Res. 13 during May June, and July, the full Judiciary Committee reported it favorably on July 11, 1985, by a vote of 11 to 7. At the same time, the committee approved S.J. Res. 225, a simplified proposed amendment introduced by Senators Thurmond, Hatch, DeConcini, and Simon, by a vote of 14 to 4.
On March 25, 1986, the Senate defeated S.J. Res. 225 by a vote of 66 to 34, thus failing to achieve the constitutional two-thirds requirement by a single vote.
In the 100th Congress, the Subcommittee on the Constitution held hearings on S.J. Res. 11, S.J. Res. 112, and S.J. Res. 116, on March 23, 1988. On May 25, 1988, the subcommittee approved S.J. Res. 11, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, by a vote of 3 to 2, and reported the measure to the full Committee on the Judiciary. The committee considered S.J. Res. 11 in a markup session on August 10, 1988, but no action was taken.
In the 101st Congress, Senator Simon chaired a hearing on S.J. Res. 2, S.J. Res. 9, and S.J. Res. 12 on July 27, 1989, before the Subcommittee on the Constitution. On the same day, Senator Simon introduced, and the subcommittee approved, S.J. Res. 183, which incorporated ideas from each of the other three bills. By a vote of 4 to 2, the subcommittee reported S.J. Res. 183 to the full Committee on the Judiciary.
On June 14, 1990, the committee accepted an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Senators Simon, Thurmond, DeConcini, Hatch, and Heflin, and then approved S.J. Res. 183, as amended, by a vote of 11 to 3.
Following a successful discharge petition effort, the House of Representatives considered H.J. Res. 268, the House counterpart to S.J. Res. 183, on July 17, 1990. The House fell seven votes short of the two-thirds majority required to approve the constitutional amendment, failing by a vote of 279 to 150. S.J. Res. 183 did not come before the full Senate for consideration in the 101st Congress.
In the 102d Congress, S.J. Res. 18 was introduced by Senator Simon on January 14, 1991. The measure, identical to the bill reported out of the full committee in the previous Congress, was originally sponsored by Senators Thurmond, DeConncini, Hatch, Heflin, Simpson, and Grassley. Senator Specter also became a cosponsor.
The Subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired by Senator Simon, reported S.J. Res. 18 favorably to the full Committee on the Judiciary by a vote of 4 to 2, on March 8, 1991. S.J. Res. 5, a similar measure introduced by Senator Specter, was also reported out.
On May 23, 1991, the communities adopted, by a vote of 10 to 4, an amendment to S.J. Res. 18 offered by Senator Heflin regarding military conflict. The committee then approved S.J. Res. 18, as amended, by a vote of 11 to 3. S.J. Res. 5, amended to include a three-fifths vote requirement for tax increases, was defeated by a vote of 6 to 8.
On June 9, 1992, after a series of procedural votes, the House of Representatives took up S.J. Res. 290, a balanced budget proposal introduced by Representative Stenholm. After extensive negotiations among key House and Senate sponsors, a bicameral, bipartisan, consensus version of the bill was submitted as a substitute amendment. On final passage, the vote in favor of the amendment was 280 to 153, nine votes short of the two-third necessary for adoption. Following this defeat, Senate leaders stated that they would not call up S.J. Res. 18 before the full Senate. Accordingly, the Senate did not vote on S.J. Res. 18 during the 102d Congress.
S.J. Res. 41 was introduced into the 103d Congress by Senators Simon and Hatch on February 4, 1993. The measure is virtually identical to the bicameral, consensus, proposal hammered out during the summer of 1992. Twenty-one Senators joined Senator Simon and Senator Hatch as original sponsors, including Senators DeConcini, Thurmond, Helfin, Craig, Moseley- Braun, Grassley, Kohl, Brown, Daschle, Cohen, Bryan, Pressler, Shelby, Bennett, Mathews, Smith, Campbell, Kempthorne, Graham, Nickles, and Lugar. In addition, Senators Murkowski, Gregg, Chafee, Feinstein, Warner, Simpson, Robb, Boren, Bingaman, Jeffords, and Roth subsequently joined as cosponsors.
On March 16, 1993, Senator Paul Simon chairmen a hearing on S.J. Res. 41 before the Subcommittee on the Constitution. In addition to Senators Thurmond, Graham, Craig, and Danforth, those testifying included James Davidson, National Taxpayers Union; Pro. David Calleo, Johns Hopkins University; Kenneth Ashby, Utah Farm Bureau Federation; Kent Colton, National Association of Home Builders; Max Sawicky, Economic Policy Institute; Rudy Oswald, AFL-CIO; and Robert Greenstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Soon after the hearing, the subcommittee reported the measure favorably to the full committee by a vote of 4 to 2.
On July 22, 1993, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary approved S.J. Res. 41 by a vote of 15 to 3, the largest margin of any balanced budget amendment yet reported out of the Committee on the Judiciary.
While Congress has the ability to balance the Federal budget, it lacks the discipline to make the difficult, but necessary, decisions. The national debt is now over $4 trillion, over three times what it was 10 years ago. Although persistent deficits threaten the Nation's long-term prosperity, the Federal Government has shown itself unwilling or unable to act in a fiscally responsible way. The search for popular, painless ways to limit deficit spending has proved to be futile. A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution may be the only way to provide the fiscal discipline the Nation desperately needs.
INTEREST ON NATIONAL DEBT
Gross interest on the national debt is now the second largest expenditure in the entire budget--higher than defense spending. Interest payments are the fastest growing item in the budget. Up from $75 billion in fiscal year 1980, this year the Federal Government will spend an estimated $295 billion on interest, an increase of nearly 400 percent. Even controlling for inflation, interest payments have grown by over 95 percent during the past 12 years. By 1996, service on the gross national debt is projected to surpass social security payments as the single largest government expense.
Every day, the Government throws away over $800 million on interest payments. None of this money goes toward education, health care, or the battle against drugs and crime. Spending more and more on interest leaves fewer and fewer resources to spend on the goods and services needed to address other, serious problems facing the Nation.
Furthermore, interest payments work to redistribute income in the wrong direction. The money for these payments comes out of the pockets of taxpayers, primarily low and middle-income families. These same working families are also burdened by the high interest rates that the deficit sustains. On the other end of the scale are the more fortunate and well-off, who can afford to invest in Treasury bonds and receive high interest payments. Increasingly, these payments are going overseas, to wealthy investors in other countries.
Critics of the balanced budget amendment argue that Congress does not need a constitutional amendment to balance the budget; Congress can achieve that goal statutorily, right now, without waiting to ratify a constitutional amendment. Technically, these arguments are, of course, correct. The balanced budget amendment provides no new authority to cut spending or raise revenues. However, recent efforts have shown that Congress does not have the will to balance the budget.
The Federal Government has not run a budget surplus in 25 years; the last one was in 1969. And that is the only time in 30 years that we have achieved a balanced budget. Enacting responsible budgets is not easy. While a spending program often has a particular constituency that strongly supports it, the general interest in restricting spending is diffuse.
Statutory efforts to balance the budget previously have failed because it is too easy for Congress simply to change its mind and rescind its previous declarations. Statutory efforts are vulnerable to change of heart or a weakening of resolve. Deficit reduction targets in such legislation can be continually changed, and the legislation can be several years in operation before the budget must be balanced. An amendment to the Constitution forces the Government to live within its means. S.J. Res. 41 requires a balanced budget by 1999 or 2 years after the amendment is ratified by the States, whichever is latest.
IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT
S.J. Res. 41 contains the flexibility that an amendment to the Constitution must have. It does not prescribe a particular mechanism that Congress must employ in order to achieve a balanced budget. Instead it leaves political decisions to the political system. The amendment contemplates that Congress will execute its responsibilities under the amendment through the exercise of its currently existing authority. The Constitution already empowers Congress with such authority. Section 8 of article I grants Congress the power "[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper * * *." Furthermore, members of Congress are required by article VI generally to "support this Constitution" while the President is required by article II, section 1, clause 7, to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution".
The committee expects fidelity to the Constitution, as does the American public. Both the President and Members of Congress swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, including any amendments thereto. Honoring this pledge requires respecting the provisions of the proposed amendment. Flagrant disregard of the proposed amendment's clear and simple provisions would constitute nothing less than a betrayal of the public trust. In their campaigns for reelection, elected officials who flout their responsibilities under this amendment will find that the political process will provide the ultimate enforcement mechanism.
It is the committee's view that: (1) the language and the intent of S.J. Res. 41 are clear; (2) Congress and the President are to abide by this language and intent; and (3) where necessary, Congress is to enact legislation that will better enable the Congress and the President to comply with the language and intent of the amendment.
THE EXPERIENCE IN THE STATES
In contrast to Federal fiscal policies, continued deficit spending by the states has been a rarity. More States incur general surpluses than incur general deficits. Forty-eight States have constitutional provisions limiting their ability to incur budget deficits. While there are significant differences in the problems and resources that the State and Federal Governments face, the state experience is nonetheless instructive. The constitutional constraints have proven to be workable in the states and have not inhibited their ability to perform their most widely accepted functions. Because it has been required, State legislatures have learned to operate effectively within the external limitation of their constitutions.
A balanced budget amendment steers a disciplined course which protects our future economic strength and national standard of living. Both flexibility and a strong mandate are needed for a fiscally responsible path for our Nation. Senate Joint Resolution 41 provides both these elements. A constitutional balanced budget amendment can serve as a moral and legal beacon to guide the nation in the fundamental choices of governance.
IV. VOTE OF THE COMMITTEE
On July 22, 1993, with a quorum present, the Committee on the Judiciary, by a vote of 15 to 3, ordered the bill, S.J. Res. 41, favorably reported.
V. TEXT OF S.J. RES. 41
JOINT RESOLUTION Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to require a balanced budget
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution if ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within 7 years after its submission to the States for ratification:
"Section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a rollcall vote.
"Sec. 2. The limit on the debt of the United States held by the public shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a rollcall vote.
"Sec. 3. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year, in which total outlays do not exceed total receipts.
"Sec. 4. No bill to increase revenue shall become law unless approved by a majority of the whole number of each House by a rollcall vote.
"Sec. 5. The Congress may waive the provisions of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is in effect. The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law.
"Sec. 6. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.
"Sec. 7. Total receipts shall include all receipts of the United States Government except those derived from borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government except for those for repayment of debt principal.
"Sec. 8. This article shall take effect beginning with fiscal year 1999 or with the second fiscal year beginning after ratification, whichever is later.".
Source: S. Rept. 103-163,
For years we have watched Federal debts spiral to new levels, adding hundreds of billions of dollars annually to our national debt. The financial record of our Government--our own record as public officials--is not one of which we can be proud.
Over the years, we have tried numerous methods for restoring balance to our Federal budgets. All of them have disappointed, raising false hopes and in the end only adding to the cynicism that is now a real threat to our democracy. Of all the deficits created by our reckless budget policies, the declining faith in Government--indeed, in our country's future--may well be the worst.
But we know that deficits hurt us in more tangible ways, as well. They absorb our scarce savings we need for crucial investments in our people and our technology to meet the demands of the new global economy. We will grow more slowly in the future for lack of investment today.
Deficits have also tied our legislative process in knots. While they have gradually forced us to reconsider our priorities, deficits also threaten to sacrifice long-range policy goals to short-term budget savings. Much of the work before us now requires a clear view of the investments we must make for the future. In the grip of huge deficits, we may find ourselves neglecting the future to improve the bottom line today.
So our search for a cure for the deficit disease continues. No one has been more dedicated or persistent in this search than my good friend from the State of Illinois. Senator Simon has been a bulldog on this issue from his first days in the Senate. Once again, he brings before us his proposal for an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit Federal deficits.
Two years ago, when we considered an earlier version of this proposal, I stated my reservations about this approach. Despite my conviction that the deficit problem is every bit as serious as its author claims, I am not entirely convinced that this is the solution we seek. Let me briefly restate those reservations and mention two new points, one raised by a new provision in the proposed amendment, and another raised by what I believe may well be new reason for cautious optimism about the course of federal deficits.
S.J. Res. 41 prohibits outlays that exceed receipts, in language that some could argue gives the President the power to impound funds already appropriated by Congress. The crucial separation of powers written into our Constitution, that gives preeminence to the Congress in the appropriations process, would be thrown into doubt with this new constitutional language.
This consideration leads to another: in the absence of any guidance on enforcement, which side would prevail in a dispute between Congress and the Executive on such an issue? Would our budget process be thrown into the courts on this and other questions? Constitutional scholars, including Lawrence Tribe, are convinced this would be the inevitable result of a constitutional mandate on Federal finances.
Another concern I have is that while we all agree that deficits pose a real threat to the current and future financial health of our country, a balanced budget is only a means by which we hope to achieve other goals. In the face of natural disasters, oil embargoes, and other unpredictable events, our budgets may be thrown out of balance despite the best efforts and estimates.
In addition to the question of how to enforce this amendment in the case of such events, do we really want to restrict ourselves to tax increases or spending cuts during periods of unexpected economic slowdown? Attempts to balance the budget under those conditions may slow the economy even more, requiring additional taxes or spending cuts to meet the constitutional mandate, generating a spiral of self-defeating policies.
As I remarked when we considered an earlier version of this proposal, I am particularly concerned that Social Security and other trust funds, needed to meet future obligations, would be put back on budget, masking the real extent of our annual operating deficits. I supported the removal of Social Security from our operating budget, which is the driving force behind our annual deficits. I see no reason to reverse that decision now, much less to write that reversal into the Constitution.
In addition, S.J. Res. 41 contains a new provision that I find troubling. Section 2 requires a three-fifths majority of the whole number of each House to approve an increase in the national debt. It seems to me that this grants to two-fifths plus one of the members of one House the power to shut down the Government. Control of the decision to pay the legal obligations of the Federal Government could be used to extract concessions from majorities in both Houses and the President.
As my colleagues know, extension of the national debt is not an option, nor a choice to permit further undisciplined spending. Extension of the national debt is needed because unbalanced spending has already occurred and must be paid for buy authorizing the sale of additional Treasury notes. Failure to extend the debt is tantamount to not paying one's credit card debt when it comes due, in the name of fiscal prudence.
I find it particularly troubling that we would grant--through a change in the Constitution--to a small minority the power to shut down the Government under the pretense of a false economy.
Finally, I think that it is appropriate to note that for the first time in over a decade, since our national debt began to grow faster than our economy, we have reason to hope that the deficit disease may be easing. Recently both the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget have released projections for future deficits that suggest current budget policy is a real first step toward fiscal sanity.
Both estimates show Federal deficits shrinking as a percentage of our economy from around 5 percent now to half that in 1998. I hasten to add that the deficit picture becomes more threatening after that time, unless we bring entitlement spending, particularly health care costs, under control. But again, we are beginning to take the first steps necessary toward difficult choices that health care cost control will require.
We know that current fiscal policy, by reducing the impact of Federal spending on the economy, will have the effect of slowing down economic activity in the short term. Defense cutbacks provide the most dramatic evidence of the effects of current policies. Communities and industries that supported our country's fight during the Cold War will face serious dislocations as a result of a new role for the United States in the world. Cutbacks in other areas will create similar difficulties.
Under these circumstances, we cannot take for granted that any action toward reducing the deficit will be beneficial to our nation's people and industries. Deficit reduction is the means by which we hope to take control over our economic future. We would not want to turn our priorities upside down, sacrificing real economic progress to the goal of balancing our books.
While a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution may be the only way to keep us on the path toward responsible budgeting, we have taken a few steps down that path already, without the risk of upsetting 200 years of finely balanced constitutional powers among the three branches of our Government.
Despite these reservations, I will vote to send S.J. Res. 41 to the floor of the Senate, where this important issue can have the full hearing that it clearly deserves.
Source: S. Rept. 103-163, BALANCED BUDGET CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, October 21, 1993.
[Excerpts from the Congressional Record, in which Republican leaders in the House propose a balanced budget amendment, which is debated by some Democratic members.]
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD U. S. HOUSE 1/25/95
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kolbe). Pursuant to House Resolution 44 and rule XXIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union H 629 for the consideration of the joint resolution, House Joint Resolution 1.
TIME: 1615 IN THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Accordingly the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 1) proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States, with Mr. Walker in the chair.
PAGE H629 The Clerk read the title of the bill. The Chairman. Pursuant to the rule, the joint resolution is considered as read the first time. Under the rule, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde) will be recognized for 1 1/2 hours, and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) will be recognized for 1 1/2 hours. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde).
PAGE H629 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. (Mr. HYDE asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, it is clear, judging from the minority party`s reactions, that our quest to achieve a balanced budget has already encountered fierce resistance. This is evidenced by the cascade of amendments they have offered to the legislation barring unfunded mandates and to the balanced budget amendment itself.
PAGE H629 Why this lip service to the concept, Mr. Chairman, but genuine obstruction to the process? Mr. Chairman, as I was asking, why do the Democrats give lip service to these concepts of banning unfunded mandates and having a balanced budget amendment, but yet the process seems to be strewn with land mines? Mr. Chairman, I think, and this is just my personal opinion, they do not want a balanced budget amendment, despite what they say, nor do they want to forego unfunded mandates, because it is through their mandates and deficit spending that Government grows bigger and bigger and bigger. The minority party has a long-standing romance with big Government, and unfunded mandates and deficit spending are the flowers and the candy they keep bestowing on their beloved. Why do we need a balanced budget amendment? The current statistics, the figures, the money, are both inescapable and staggering. Federal debt is now $4.7 trillion and growing; the 1995 deficit, $176 billion, and by the year 2005 the deficit will be, if current expenditure rates continue, $421 billion.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Chairman, the Federal Government has run deficits in 33 of the last 34 years.
PAGE H629 Mr. Chairman, interest on the national debt is 14 percent of Federal spending. It is the third largest item in the budget after Social Security and defense. It now totals $235 billion, and next year debt service will jump to $260 billion. By the year 2000 it will be $310 billion and still counting, and still mounting.
TIME: 1620 Foreign creditors now own 20 percent of our debt. That is the reality lurking behind this romance with ever-bigger Government that seems to consume the Democrats.
PAGE H629 The balanced budget amendment is much more than a mere symbol. It would establish a binding, legal framework, a disciplined structure requiring Congress to make the tough choices with a bias toward cutting spending, not increasing the debt and not increasing taxes. In 1982, I wrote an op-ed piece expressing skepticism about a balanced budget amendment. Thirteen years later, that skepticism has dissipated. I am convinced nothing is going to work short of a balanced budget amendment. To date we have rejected all serious efforts to hold back this tidal wave of red ink that threatens to inundate us all. In the past 10 years, three major legislative efforts have sought to reverse our chronic deficit pattern. Two of them have failed and the third is destined to do so. I am convinced only a long-term permanent legal commitment provided by a constitutional amendment will harness a runaway Congress in pursuit of a balanced budget amendment. In short, this amendment is essential to force Congress to make the kind of difficult choices it has evaded for years.
It is a last gasp of a fiscal policy suffocating from overspending.
PAGE H629 The balanced budget amendment is a procedural enforcement tool. It is not a detailed plan. Much has been made about the failure of our amendment to specify where the cuts are going to come and when they will be made. I suggest that a constitutional amendment should never include a laundry list of spending cuts. It is a statement of general principles, not an inventory of details. It is irresponsible for balanced budget amendment critics to demand in a single legislative vehicle a specific balanced budget plan covering the next 7 years as a precondition for passing the amendment. Making complete and accurate spending and revenue projections covering the entire 7-year timeframe is impossible at this time and they know it. It would be the sheerest speculation and more misleading then informative.
PAGE H629 As George Will has said, `The Constitution stipulates destinations. It doesn`t draw detailed maps.` This year as part of the annual budget process, Congress will begin to identify what specific cuts need to be made between now and 2002. Passing the balanced budget amendment will give Congress the opportunity to reexamine virtually every function of Government. Like the base closing commission, it will impose a systematic reform that will force elected officials to make those tough decisions. The result will be what the voters said they want, a smaller, less intrusive Government and more power to reside where it belongs, with the States, with local communities, and with American families. The long-neglected 10th amendment will be resuscitated and so will our economy. What we need to do is to convince America that we will make the cuts and that we have the will to make the cuts necessary to bring the budget into balance. That was the clear signal of November 8 last year.
PAGE H629 We have heard so much about Social Security and we have heard it from the party that has taxed Social Security in the last budget, taxed the Social Security benefits that they so cavalierly refer to as sacred. It seems to me that was a violation of sanctity, but nonetheless, that is their problem. Social Security is off-limits. It is not on the table. The Republican Party, the Republican leadership has made it clear that Social Security will not be cut. The budget can be balanced by the year 2002 without touching Social Security.
PAGE H629 One of my authorities for that is the distinguished gentleman from Texas and a fine Democrat named Charles Stenholm. It should be noted that a balanced budget amendment will provide greater protection for each American`s investment in Social Security because by balancing the budget, no additional Government bonds will have to be issued to finance the deficit. Thus, there will be no more borrowing from the trust fund which truly protects the future of our Nation`s retirees. In contrast, if there is no amendment, starting in the year 2013, the Federal Government will have to begin paying back from general revenues the trillions it will have borrowed by then from the trust funds. Congress will then have to face the inevitable task of raising payroll taxes and/or reducing benefits.
PAGE H629 The Contract With America clearly supports senior citizens. It helps seniors in several ways. It raises the Social Security earnings limit to $30,000 over 5 years. It repeals the onerous Clinton/Democrat tax increases on Social Security retirees. It provides a $500 elder care tax credit and tax incentives to help individuals purchase private long-term care insurance. Not only will the balanced budget amendment protect our seniors but it will protect our children and their children as well. We steal from them by thrusting the metastasizing Federal debt on their shoulders. We will continue to commit generational larceny if we fail to reduce the debt. It can only be done with the help of a balanced budget amendment. One of the most interesting lines last night in the President`s State of the Union speech was this: `None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change tomorrow's. Well we better be careful how we change tomorrow's, H 630 by lightening the debt on our grandchildren`s backs or by exacerbating it.
If we do not have a balanced budget amendment, you know what is going to happen and it is no present our grandchildren or future generations.
PAGE H629 Slowing the rate of growth of spending is the answer. Under current policies, spending will increase by 5.4-percent annually over the next 7 years and total spending during that period amounts to $13 trillion. We can balance the budget by 2002 if we hold spending growth to about 3-percent annually. If we do not act, what is going to happen? The longer we put this off, the tougher it gets. Where will we find the money for essential Government services and programs when the debt service grows to 30 percent or 40 percent of Federal spending? How will the private sector finance business startups, job creation, with debt service eating up almost half of the private investment funds generated each year? What will we do when the foreigners close their checkbooks? The American taxpayer deserves and demands relief. We need bold action to regain the confidence of the investment community here and abroad. More dollars will be available to the private sector. Savings rates will increase. Interest rates will be lower. Capital investment will be encouraged. More jobs available for more Americans.
PAGE H629 If the last election did not convert you, perhaps you are beyond redemption. But to the rest I say, seize the day, and now is the day. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
PAGE H630 Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to House Joint Resolution 1 and have long opposed the concept a constitutional amendment to balance the budget because it seeks to trivialize our most fundamental document by inserting an ill-defined and unenforceable promise about budgetary policy. The Constitution deals with real - not illusory - promises to safeguard the rights and liberties of all Americans. And while many are quick to point to simplistic Gallup polls indicating widespread support for such an amendment, they severely underestimate the real desire of the American people to see their Government take real responsibility for reducing the deficit - rather than simply taking credit for promising to do so after two more Presidential elections have passed into history by the year 2002.
PAGE H630 Make no mistake. All Members of this body want to see the Federal budget balance. Its crushing weight will dampen the dreams of our children, constrain capital flows, increase interest rates, and exert often regressive influences on the economy. Only using the Constitution both trivializes that precious document and delays action for seven years. In the past two years, President Clinton and the Congress didn`t delay but acted on a budget that has brought us three consecutive years of deficit reduction for the first time in modern history. That is the way it should be, but that is not what House Joint Resolution 1 is all about. The proposed amendment is the epitome of `trust me` politics. It rightfully is the heart of the Republican Contract With America - because it is all style and symbolism, and no substance. Most significantly, the new majority refuses to put its money where its mouth is by supporting the truth in budgeting concept. Not only that, they blocked our right to offer that measure as a perfecting amendment.
Why is that? Are Republicans hiding the real numbers because as one of their leaders said that the `Congress may buckle,` or because as one of the majority members in the Judiciary Committee said that the `States may buckle?`
PAGE H630 What I object to most is the fact that I believe that its proponents, relying largely on public opinion polls, are trying to buy their budget cutting wings on the cheap. And because they are not answering fundamental questions raised by the amendment, they are selling the American people a pig in a poke. Well, I am from Detroit, and we know that when buying a car, we first need to look under the hood. This budget is going to force over $1 trillion in cuts, but no one will say from where. Will our military have to be cut in half` Will Medicare be on the chopping block. Will veterans` benefits be up for grabs? How about student loans. When we tried to provide protections for these programs in the Judiciary Committee, the Republicans in lockstep said no. And, yes, what about Social Security? Upon taking office, the new majority promised that Social Security would be protected from the hemorrhagic budget knife which must surely follow if the proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution passes.
PAGE H630 Less than 7 days later, one of its chief lieutenants, the respected Judiciary chairman, Henry Hyde, said during committee markup of the measure, that Social Security couldn`t be taken off the table because if it was, the cuts in other programs would be `too draconian?` Senior citizens of America beware. The balanced budget amendment removes current `off-budget` protections of Social Security and places the program on the chopping block. It is clear and simple. House Concurrent Resolution 17, a Republican proposal to provide implementing legislation without touching Social Security is a mirage, totally unenforceable, without any sanction if Congress fails to do it. The only way, I repeat the only way to protect Social Security from cuts under this amendment, is to put it in the text of the constitutional amendment.
Proponents, and particularly Republican proponents, are telling Governors and other States` representatives that any fears that Washington will cascade Federal responsibilities to States in the form of unfunded mandates - a scenario many consider inevitable if the amendment becomes law - are magically resolved by the imminent passage of unfunded mandates legislation.
PAGE H630 You`ve got to be kidding. In the 103d Congress I chaired the committee with jurisdiction over unfunded mandates. So I know that whatever unfunded mandates legislation Congress passes now, can and most likely will be superseded with subsequent legislation passing the responsibilities - but not the bucks - to the States. The amendment, in fact, is the mother of all unfunded mandates. The only way to stop that from being so is to say in the text of the constitutional amendment. But Republicans in lockstep said no to that. They stopped us from an amendment on the floor to that effect also. Starting to get the picture? It`s great to say we`ll balance the budget in 6 or 7 years - well after two more Presidential elections - but how are we going to do it? Is defense going to be cut in half - even as Republicans state they`ll seek increased funding? Will Medicare, veteran`s benefits, student loans, or agricultural subsidies be reduced and by how much? That evasiveness may make for good politics but do not make for good economic policy and could turn a mild recession into a dramatic economic downturn.
Many countercyclical entitlement program for instance, such as unemployment benefits, require budgetary flexibility to keep our economy strong when its runs sour. Today a 1 percent increase in unemployment would increase the deficit by $57 billion - both because of declining taxes and increasing demand for benefits. With such a proposed constitutional amendment, the Federal Government would be forced to increase taxes or cut benefits by $57 billion during an economic contraction. This would dramatically aggravate the economy, create economic pressures increasing rather than decreasing the deficit, and generally make a bad situation far worse.
PAGE H630 Had the constitutional amendment been ratified in 1991 when the recession combined with the savings and loan crisis created a $116 billion shortfall in receipts, the amendment would have plunged this country into a devastating economic contraction which would have been bad for all our goals, including deficit reduction. And the amendment`s failure to provide definitions for `receipts` and `outlays` would only mean more chaos. Are loan guarantees or contingent liabilities of Government corporations considered `outlays`? We do not know from the text of the amendment. What about zero coupon bonds on the revenue side? Does Congress have the prerogative to declare certain items off budget, or outside the traditional `receipts` and `outlays` categories. It`s unclear. H 631 Further the mechanics of such an amendment are not spelled out. The budget identified in the amendment requires only estimates of overall spending and revenues, which are always inaccurate because of unanticipated economic circumstances. So what happens if revenues fall short, or there are overages in entitlement outlays at midyear?
Does Congress enact a supplemental appropriations bill? Does the President impound funds despite statutory requirements to provide outlays? Do the courts step in?
PAGE H630 Finally, there is nothing in the proposal before us to explain what the enforcement mechanism will be if Congress fails to honor its promise to balance the budget. Do the courts step in on their own initiative and start making budget decisions will-nilly? Do impacted States and taxpayers have the right to bring suit to make Congress keep its Contract with America? Does a sequestration procedure kick in which would cut back all expenditures by a fixed amount? Do the capital markets `go on hold` while the international monetary system is kept in suspense about whether the U.S. Government will be brought to a halt? I think what this amendment does is to pass the buck ultimately to a unaccountable Federal judiciary whose role is not to decide how much the American people should be taxed and on what tax dollars should be spent. Isn`t it ironic that one of the first promises of the Republican contract is to abdicate budgetary responsibility to another branch of Government.
Make no mistake, if the amendment is ratified, critical decision about taxes and Federal spending could be made in a secret chamber without any checks whatsoever. Do individuals affected by any of the above courses of action have the right to sue? Much of our information about the level of outlays on the mandatory side of the budget are not even calculable until 3 months after the fiscal year. In the past weeks the Republican leaders have publicly admitted that they will not spell out what cuts will be necessary to bring the budget into balance because Congress` knees would buckle, or because the States` knees would buckle or because the American taxpayer`s knees would buckle. Well buckle or not, the American people have a right to know. And the amendment I will be offering later will require Congress to specifically enumerate how it will eliminate the deficit in the next 7 years before it will go into effect.
PAGE H630 Well, do not fear: By passing the amendment before us, we are on a `glide path` to a balanced budget, because that`s what the Republicans say - but do not vote to specify - about the effect of the proposed amendment after only 2 weeks of consideration by Congress. This effort is not serious, and by its snake oil promises, does not augur well for the accountability which Americans have demanded in this new Congress.
TIME: 1640 Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
PAGE H631 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner). Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Chairman, the balanced budget amendment is a question of discipline. It is a question of financial discipline on a Congress which has had none. Amending the U.S. Constitution is strong medicine, and in past history has occurred only to correct deficiencies in the Constitution, which was adopted in 1787, to abolish slavery, to give women the right to vote, and in other important matters such as the Bill of Rights.
PAGE H631 I would submit the strong medicine is in order to force Congress to put America`s fiscal house in order. Congress has tried and failed in the past to put discipline on itself in a statutory manner. In 1990 we had the Bush budget agreement with discretionary spending caps and firewalls. That lasted 3 years before it was replaced by the 1993 Clinton agreement. In 1985 we had the Gramm-Rudman law, which was amended twice before it was repealed, because the shoe started to pinch too hard.
PAGE H631 In 1981 we had the Gramm-Latta, and in 1978 we the Harry Byrd law that required Congress to balance the Federal budget by 1981. To my knowledge that law still is on the books, and since 1981 the national debt has increased by almost $3 1/2 trillion. So we do need a constitutional amendment to force the people who serve in this Chamber and the one down the hall to start reducing the Federal budget deficit to zero so that we do not mortgage our children and grandchildren`s future. It is no secret that many of the most vocal opponents of the balanced budget amendment have big-spending records on issues of taxing and spending, and they are the ones that do not want to put this constitutional discipline on the House of Representatives so that they can go on spending as usual.
PAGE H631 The time has come to put a stop to that, and that is why House Joint Resolution 1 should pass. Now, tomorrow the biggest item of controversy will be the three-fifths vote that would be required both to raise taxes and to increase the national debt. I favor a three-fifths supermajority in both cases and hope that the House of Representatives will approve it. Why should we not make it harder to increase taxes on the American people and to raise the national debt? We ought to do that so that a balanced budget amendment simply is not complied with by increasing taxes.
PAGE H631 But also a three-fifths supermajority will require bipartisanship for future tax increases and national-debt increases. No longer will a partisan majority be able to ram a tax increase down the throats of the American people such as happened in August 1993. It will require a consensus in order to achieve a tax increase or in order to increase the national debt. The President last night called for consensus. We have not had consensus in these areas in the past. We ought to have consensus in the future, and the three-fifths vote will require that consensus to be had. I would hope that this amendment would pass and be sent to the States with the three-fifths vote.
PAGE H631 Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from Colorado (Mrs. Schroeder). Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time. I appreciate your leadership on our committee.
PAGE H631 I must say, as I listen to this debate, I hear people accusing this side of the aisle of being political, and it would be much easier for us to say, `Oh, let us just go along; let us just vote yes, let us take up this new idea of government by windsock or government by the slogan of the day.` Clearly we would be more popular. But it seems to me that when you deal with the Constitution, we are not talking about popularity, and our forefathers and foremothers in the past restrained themselves and did not just throw everything they could think of into this Constitution. I must say, as the ranking member on the subcommittee that dealt with this amendment, I have been shocked by the whole process. As we saw today in the rule, they had to waive points of order because of some of the violations that went on during the markup, improper notice, the problems we had of not having, or of having very short hearings. We had less time to mark this bill up than it takes me to make a costume for my children for Halloween.
PAGE H631 You know, I always thought of a constitutional amendment as being real serious. Yet it was like, `No, no, no, we have got to have it out here, we have got to have it now because it is on our slogan, and there was some ad or something in a TV journal and we have got to have it now.` So here we are.
TIME: 1650 Some of the amendments that we never dealt with in committee I think are the most serious amendments of all and go right to the core of this amendment. There are things like who has standing to sue. Now, that sounds like a technical thing. Obviously, the average guy is not too interested in it. Unless you can figure out what standing to sue means, it is finding out can anybody enforce this thing. Are we passing something and throwing it into the H 632 Constitution, and if the President has an unbalanced budget or we have an unbalanced budget, something can be done about it?
PAGE H631 Then I think the American people can be mad about it; we cluttered up the Constitution and nobody had any enforcement. But we never got to the issue of standing. In fact, most of the witnesses said they felt, the way this was drafted, no one had standing. So I have real questions as to whether this is really worth anything. Then, second, if you got over the standing hurdle and somebody could challenge this and it went to court, what could the court review? What we are saying today is the Presidents have not been able to balance the budget, we have not been able to balance the budgets, so now we are going to give it to the courts. The courts have the right to decide we are leaning too heavily on defense and can take it away? Or do the courts look at our estimates? What do the courts do?
PAGE H631 Of course, we never got to those amendments. That was one of the over 20 amendments sitting at the desk that we never got to. Are insurance funds in this? Yes. You buy crop insurance, you think you have got crop insurance. Surprise, the money goes to balance the budget. Social Security funds are on the table, as we well know from the prior debate. Let us be honest, they are on the table. So are all the trust funds. You pay for gasoline, and you think that tax is going to buy highways. No, we are going to put it into a budget balancing. Maybe that is what we should be doing. But we ought to tell the American people what we are doing.
PAGE H631 But let me tell you the real reason I do not think this belongs in the Constitution: I was one of the Members on this side, and there were only Members on this side, who voted for the last budget, the last few budgets that have brought this deficit down. It is easy to deplore the deficit, but we do not find very many votes to vote for real cuts that really turn it around. We prefer rhetoric to reality. So, being one of the realists who voted to bring it down, and also being an airplane pilot, let me tell you what I feel our challenge is in this body. Every year when we do a budget, it is like bringing an airplane down to the ground. We are trying to bring the deficit down to zero, but we know we cannot bring it down to zero, blam, or we crash just like an airplane. We were up in the airplane, and we want to bring it down to the ground, boom. No. You have to find a way to bring an airplane down, just as we try every year to find what is the right angle of descent for this deficit so that we do not throw this economy into a spiral or into a tailspin and have a depression.
And yet we also are able to bring the deficit in the right direction.
PAGE H631 Many of us have been voting for what we thought was the right angle and have not been joined by very many people and have been beaten up for doing that. But that to me is what our mission is, trying to assess that angle. And putting it in the Constitution or demand we do a crash into the Constitution is not where I think we want to go.
PAGE H632 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas). (Mr. GEKAS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
PAGE H632 Mr. GEKAS. I thank the gentleman for yielding this time to me. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the balanced budget amendment, and I do so for several apparent and vivid reasons. First, just to put it in the Constitution and have it as a discipline for the Members of Congress is reason enough to support the balanced budget amendment. But if one looks at it more analytically, one will find even additional rationale for strong support of this amendment.
PAGE H632 In my judgment, and it has been said in various ways throughout the parts of the debate that have preceded this, our Social Security funds, our trust funds to which there has been reference, our pension system, our budgetary problems, our deficit, everything is on the table and will be helped when we reform a balanced budget. Social Security, actuarially, will be even more sound than it is today. Veterans` benefits will stay in place and be strengthened when we reach that balanced budget. So why do we clamor for a balanced budget? To solidify our economy, to stabilize our debt situation, to make it possible in the near future, 2002, borrowing power on the part of citizens will be greater. Mortgaging and lending that will allow the building of homes and the building of businesses will be made easier once a balanced budget has arrived.
Why? Because everyone in America knows that when the Federal Government comes to a point that it will cease to borrow from the private sector in order to finance debt, then that money no longer required by the Federal Government because we have reached a balanced budget, that money will remain in the private sector. And lo and behold, the banks and lending institutions and all who are interested in the availability of private capital for creation of jobs, for reduction of unemployment, for increasing workers` benefits, for then considering the raising of the minimum wage, all those other matters that come with prosperity will be given a yeoman`s chance if we reach - and I say when we reach - the balanced budget in the year 2002. We must balance the budget not just to insert into the Constitution, as valuable as that is, the language of balanced budget, but rather to do so for the spirit of America in reaching financial sanity through the balanced budget that will free us all, including our citizens, for the enterprise of the future.
PAGE H632 Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes and 45 seconds to the former Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, the gentleman from New York, Charles Schumer. Mr. SCHUMER. I thank the gentleman for yielding this time to me. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment, the Barton amendment, the amendment that is on the floor.
PAGE H632 You know, ladies and gentleman, I guess the balanced budget amendment is something that the closer you get the worse it looks. You look at a couple of lines, `let us have an amendment in the Constitution to balance the budget,` and everyone says, `Great idea, let`s do it.` Then you look at the mechanism of how to do it, and it does not look that good. And, finally, you look at the specific proposal and the kind of cuts that it would entail, and it looks very bad altogether. My guess is that a number of the strategists on the other side who have put together this amendment hope it fails. It is a great campaign issue: `We are for a balanced budget amendment.` But there is no way to do this amendment even if you should take our advice and leave Social Security off the table, without decimating programs like Medicare, like transit, et cetera.
PAGE H632 I believe we must balance the budget. But I believe we should be on a gradual glide path down, not a severe drop and not a constitutional amendment that mandates that once you are in there you can never get out. I talked to a number of financiers on Wall Street, `Wait until we are able to make the cuts.` And yet we are unable to raise the debt ceiling. This nearly happened a few years ago, and Wall Street tremored. Wait until it happens now. The people who devised this amendment did not really know what government is all about. They did not think it through. They did not go step by step by step. They rather said, `Let`s find something that sounds good. The polls back us up. Eighty percent of America are for a balanced budget amendment.` But when told it would cut Medicare by about one-third, which is about the cut that I understand the majority on the Budget Committee are considering, 76 percent say, `No, forget about it.`
So I say to the Members on our side who know it is a bad idea but are a little worried about opposing the big headline-grabbers, just wait, the closer the scrutiny, the closer we get to actuality, the less good this idea will be.
PAGE H632 I think, in fact, that if you wanted to make sure our side retakes the majority, make sure the balanced budget amendment becomes law, and a few years after that we will have total change and total revolution. Good politics, maybe on the surface, although I H 633 say `no` after a long period of time. Good substance? No way.
PAGE H633 Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield? Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to yield to my friend, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), who has pursued this with such sincerity and is one of the few who is willing to make the tough cuts required and who supports this amendment.
PAGE H633 Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I was just going to ask for a point of clarification because I wanted to be sure that I did not hear the gentleman saying that those who support the balanced budget amendment do not have a plan or cannot get there. I would take very strong exception to that on behalf of a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle. We do, and we can, and we will. Mr. SCHUMER. I would say to the gentleman that my guess is I certainly think the gentleman understands the severity of the cuts. He is willing to cut Social Security - - Mr. STENHOLM. No, sir.
PAGE H633 Mr. SCHUMER. My guess is 90 percent of the supporters of the balanced budget amendment are not. Once we have taken Social Security off, the cuts are at least one-third. I make the point that my analysis is, and I think it is uncontroverted, that it would require about a one-third cut in all discretionary programs. I do not think most people are willing to take that kind of cut. Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Saxton).
PAGE H633 (Mr. SAXTON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. SAXTON. Mr. Chairman, this is truly an historic debate, and I do not think there is any question about where the sentiment lies in this House relative to a balanced budget amendment. I think there is a huge majority that favor a balanced budget amendment, probably 300 or more Members. The question is which one will we support. Will we support a balanced budget amendment that makes it easier to raise taxes, or will we support a balanced budget amendment that makes it more difficult to raise taxes to accomplish the goal that we want to accomplish? I favor the bill that was reported from the Committee on the Judiciary. It requires a 60 percent majority, or three-fifths, in order to raise taxes to balance the budget, and I have come to that conclusion after looking, at great length, to what has happened in our efforts to balance the budget over the last couple of decades.
PAGE H633 In 1991, Mr. Chairman, the Democrat leaders of the House, the Democrat leadership of the House, and the Republican President got together, and they worked out an arrangement where we would have a tax increase, and for every dollar of tax increases we would have $2 in spending cuts. I say to my colleagues, `Well, if you asked yourself what happened, you probably guessed it. We got the tax increases, but we never got the spending cuts.` And history repeated itself in 1983 because the same kind of arrangement was arrived at with the same kind of results, and then in the middle of the 1980`s we passed the Gramm-Rudman bill, and the Gramm-Rudman bill began to work, and we began to see the level of spending ratchet down, even if it was ever so slowly, but, as it ratcheted down, it became very painful to make those spending cuts, and we repealed the Gramm-Rudman bill.
Then our next major effort in 1990 was when George Bush got together with the Democrat leadership, and went out to Andrews Air Force Base, and came back here with a deal and said, `We`re going to have a $170 billion deficit remaining in 1995,` and that happens to be this year, `if we don`t do something,` and we imposed - I did not, but the House collectively imposed - the largest tax increase in the history of our country on the American people to solve the deficit problem. Well, it did not do it either.
PAGE H633 And in 1993 President Bill Clinton came to the House and said we have to do something about the deficit, and once again we raised taxes, once again the biggest tax increase in the history of our country imposed on the American people, and guess what? Next year our projected deficit is not $170 billion which was projected in 1990. It is $180 billion. So, Mr. Chairman, not only did we not take the easy out to increase taxes, but it also can be said quite clearly, `It didn`t work. Now this is bad tax policy, creates a lot of bad things, and particularly it has a bad effect on our economy, and I know that we like to do things around here on a bipartisan basis, and I know that if the three-fifths provision passes, Mr. Chairman, it will pass on a bipartisan basis.
PAGE H633 So, I look at the history of tax increases, look at the effect that they have had on our deficit, and I ask for support for the three-fifths provision. Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm). (Mr. STENHOLM asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
PAGE H633 Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, just as I felt compelled to challenge the statement of my colleague from New York regarding those of us who support the balanced budget being unwilling to make the tough cuts, I found it very, very difficult to restrain myself from the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Saxton) a moment ago in asking for time because, when I look at some of the tough votes that were cast last year, like the Solomon amendment on the budget, he did not vote for it. When I look at the entitlement cap, he did not vote for it. The gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Schaefer) did, but not other Members. We have a lot of rhetoric on this floor today that has no standing with reality, and I would hope in our bipartisan spirit we could start understanding that we are serious, in the serious mode now, regarding amending the Constitution of the United States, and just as my colleague stated on the floor a moment ago that Charlie Stenholm is for cutting Social Security, that is not true. I voted against the previous amendment for the merits of the amendment.
I am not for cutting Social Security one penny, and no one can ever find anything in the Record that suggests that our amendment that we will offer tomorrow does that either. But yet the rhetoric flows free in this House today, and that is what is wrong with the political rhetoric involved in this issue. I am pleased to stand here today and rise in support of sending to the States an amendment to the Constitution. I have not come to this position lightly. I have come reluctantly because I would rather be doing almost anything than amending the Constitution for any purpose, but I am convinced that we must do so for the reasons that we will hear amplified over and over. But I have three simple reasons for wanting to amend the Constitution for purposes of requiring a balanced budget. Those reasons are Chris, Cary, and Courtney Ann, my three children, and I have just this month learned that by the end of August, God willing, I will have a fourth reason: our first grandchild. Motivations do not come much stronger than that.
PAGE H633 Our Constitution has always, in large measure, been about protecting the unrepresented from the abuses of government. The threat to unrepresented, future children from continued deficit spending is the type of governmental abuse appropriately proscribed by the Constitution. This point was made by Thomas Jefferson who said, `The question whether one generation has the right to bind another by the deficit it imposes is a question of such consequence as to place it among the fundamental principles of the government.` Our bipartisan, bicameral consensus balanced budget amendment that the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Schaefer) and I will offer tomorrow we believe is based exactly on the same principle as the rest of the Constitution. It will protect the fundamental rights of the people by restraining the Federal Government from abusing its powers, from borrowing money day after day as we incessantly debate who is for cutting spending and who is for raising taxes. The easiest vote for any of us to cast is to vote `no` on everything and watch the deficit go up.
The amendment which I introduce with Representatives Dan Schaefer, Joe Kennedy, Mike Castle, L.F. Payne, Nathan Deal, and 132 others on January 4, the amendment now H 634 numbered House Joint Resolution 28, is consensus language that has been developed over the past decade.
PAGE H633 This same language was introduced on opening day as Senate Joint Resolution 1 by Senate Majority Leader Dole, Senators Paul Simon, Larry Craig, Howell Heflin, Orrin Hatch, and others. Obviously, this language has strong bipartisan, bicameral support. Requiring a higher threshold of support for deficit spending will protect the rights of future generations who are not represented in our political system but will bear the burden of our decisions today. The language of the Schaefer-Stenholm amendment is the product of years of careful review and refinement. The amendment has been improved over the years based on the advice of Constitutional scholars, budget experts, numerous Members of Congress, and others. Changes were made in the amendment to address criticisms that were raised in the numerous hearings on the amendment. This exhaustive review process has produced an amendment that is workable, flexible, and enforceable.
PAGE H633 I do have some concern that the hearings held in the Judiciary Committee this year were just the start of any such review on the language incorporated in House Joint Resolution 1. Nonetheless, I have always supported my friend and colleague, Joe Barton, in his effort to bring this language before the House of Representatives. I included his amendment in every discharge rule which I filed in each of the past three Congresses. I also know that Joe is sincere about his desire to reduce the Federal deficit. Joe was one of the 37 brave souls to vote for the entitlement cap amendment I offered last year. The horrors conjured up when opponents talk about balanced budget Constitutional amendments are not really aimed at those amendments, but rather against what those amendments will require: significant deficit reduction.
To those who assert that deficit reduction will wreak havoc on the economy, I must ask, `What do you think the deficit is doing to our economy?` More importantly, what do you think it will do to the lives of our grandchildren? Reaching a balanced budget will require discipline, but it is a far cry from the doom-and-gloom scenario portrayed by many opponents of the constitutional amendment. Federal spending is increasing now at about 5 percent, or about $75 billion per year. Trimming that growth in spending to 3.1 percent would balance the budget by fiscal year 2002.
PAGE H633 But the hard truth is that the budget won`t be balanced without passing the amendment first. I am committed whole-heartedly and single-mindedly to passing the constitutional amendment which can garner two-thirds support in the House, two-thirds support in the Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the States. With the House scheduled to consider six different balanced budget amendment proposals from Members covering the political spectrum, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the House supports the principle of amending the Constitution to mandate a balanced budget. The question therefore is not whether we should pass a balanced budget amendment, but whether the amendment that we pass will be effective and enforceable.
PAGE H633 There are three fundamental tests of whether an amendment will provide effective fiscal discipline and is an appropriate addition to the Constitution. First, an amendment must have enforcement to make it more difficult for Congress to borrow money. Second, the amendment must not include any loopholes that could be used to circumvent the amendment. Finally, a constitutional amendment should be timeless and reflect a broad consensus, not make narrow policy decisions. Let me first address enforcement. Allowing Congress to waive the balanced budget requirement by a majority vote would gut the amendment. To be effective, an amendment must require a substantially higher threshold of support to deficit spending. A requirement for a super majority vote to increase the debt limit is critical to ensure that gimmicks are not used to circumvent the amendment. Second, taking the Social Security trust fund or capital expenditures out of budget calculations would open up a tremendous loophole in the amendment.
This loophole makes it possible for the Government to fund any number of programs off-budget by redefining them as Social Security or capital expenditures. This would make the constitutional amendment meaningless.
PAGE H633 Finally, we must ensure that the language of any approved amendment passes constitutional muster. A balanced budget amendment reflects a consensus that Congress and the President should set priorities through the regular legislative process. Items such as capital budgeting, the treatment of the Social Security trust fund, and specific budget plans represent narrow policy issues on which there is not necessarily a consensus. These issues do not belong in the Constitution. It would be particularly inappropriate to place the concept of capital budgeting in the Constitution when there is no consensus on what should be included in a capital budget. We face a historic opportunity to add a solid, credible, meaningful amendment to the Constitution, at last responding to Thomas Jefferson`s concerns. I urge my colleagues to take responsibility for the future we will hand our children and grandchildren. Vote for the balanced budget amendment.
PAGE H634 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Schaefer). (Mr. SCHAEFER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
PAGE H634 Mr. SCHAEFER. Mr. Chairman, in the years I have watched this body at work, I have concluded that only a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced Federal budget will force the consensus necessary for real deficit reduction. Opponents of the amendment are pressing its supporters to present a plan to eliminate the deficit at the same time Congress considers the amendment itself. The debate over amending America`s founding document should not be a divisive quarrel about narrow special interest spending programs, as opponents are seeking to make it. Rather, I believe the discussion should be elevated above politics, to a thoughtful and long over due discussion of the more fundamental issues of the appropriateness and necessity of adding a balanced budget requirement to the Constitution.
PAGE H634 The Constitution both enumerates and limits the powers of the Government to protect the basic rights of the people. The Framers of the Constitution saw balancing the budget and promptly repaying debt as moral imperatives fitting squarely within that framework. Permitting the Government to abuse its power over debt was not simply considered economic folly, but a violation of a basic right of the people - the right to be free from the massive indebtedness of a wasteful government. Our Constitution currently protects the people from the excesses of Government that might infringe on their freedoms of religion or speech, right to keep and bear arms, be secure in their persons, homes, and papers and other rights. In exactly this same spirit, the balanced budget amendment would protect the American people - today and in future generations - from the burdens and harms created when a Government amasses an intolerable debt. Amending the Constitution means dealing with the most fundamental responsibilities of the Government and the broadest principles of governance.
Scaring up special interest opposition only cheapens the debate and drags the Constitution through the gutter of politics.
PAGE H634 Demanding to see specific spending cuts before supporting a balanced budget amendment is little more than a poorly supporting a balanced budget amendment is little more than a poorly disguised argument against a balanced budget itself. It is like demanding a list of every kind of speech which will be protected before agreeing to support the first amendment. Mr. Speaker, the freedom from the harms of excessive Government debt, like free speech, is a right of the people that is absolute, not contextual. There are literally hundreds of plans to balance the budget out there - one, in fact, for every Member of the House and Senate. There are countless ways to balance the budget. What is lacking is an overriding moral imperative - backed up with the might of the Constitution - to force consensus.
PAGE H634 After all, if we could have consensus on how to balance the budget right now, we would not be needing to debate a constitutional amendment. Mr. Speaker, the primacy of fiscal responsibility in the Government`s affairs, once taken as an unwritten given, should be explicitly returned to its rightful place among America`s first principles. I urge my colleagues to support the balanced budget amendment.
PAGE H634 In closing, I would say that I want to give a lot of credit, much credit, to my good friend, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) and his work over the H 635 years, as well as all the other people who have worked on this specific issue so long and so hard. And over the years we have been able to sort out the arguments that would be rallied against the language of the amendment that the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) and I have proposed.
PAGE H635 Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Skaggs). Mr. SKAGGS. I think the gentleman for yielding.
PAGE H635 Mr. Chairman, we are engaged in particularly serious business this evening. In the 206 years of the Republic we have amended the Constitution some 27 times. There have been over 11,000 proposals. Yes, indeed, we need to bring the Federal budget, the operating budget of the Federal Government, into balance. It is not a question of whether we do it, but how we do it. We need to do it through a sensible process, not through an amendment to the Constitution that I believe will prove unworkable and detrimental to the national interests. And let me explain why I think the proposals that have been brought to the floor will run into those kinds of problems. First, those proposals with supermajority requirements: The reason we have a Constitution is that the Articles of Confederation required supermajorities for spending and taxing decisions, and they proved unworkable and brought the early version of this Nation into gridlock.
We should not repeat that mistake by passing an amendment that would give 41 Senators, theoretically representing only 12 percent of the people of this country, the power to bring Government to a grinding halt.
PAGE H635 Second, the enforcement problem: The amendments that are before us are silent on how we deal with living up to the promise that we are making. Now, some assert that the courts could not get involved. I have no reason to believe that is the case. The courts have authority under the Constitution to deal with matters arising under the Constitution. Do we really want unelected and unaccountable judges making decisions about spending and taxation? Third, these proposals depend upon budget estimates, notoriously - through our recent experience - problematic and unreliable, and especially difficult when the economy may be going into recession. Recall when we were dealing with 1981 with the fiscal 1982 budget, the Reagan administration estimated growth of 4.2 percent. That year ended up going into recession, a decline in GDP of 1.9 percent. What would that have done if this amendment were in effect? The distinction, fourth, between capital and operating: We need to be able to make investments.
This amendment hamstrings any ability of the Congress in the future to make the necessary investments that will save operating costs in the long run.
PAGE H635 Finally, the effort to fashion an escape clause for national security: Is `an imminent threat to national security` going to be whatever a future Congress says it is, or are we again inviting the Judiciary to get involved? I do not know. No one can know. It is an invitation to an intrusion by the Judicial Branch that is absolutely inappropriate. We evidently are not going to deal with these very substantial problems. My prayer is that our colleagues in the State legislatures, with the time that they will have to examine the ramifications of this, will find the faults and turn this down. Today we are being called upon to take the extraordinary step of amending to the Constitution. In the 206 years that this Nation has been governed by that charter of our democracy, about 11,000 possible amendments to it have been introduced in Congress, with only 27 approved. There`s good reason for this conservative approach to our Constitution. Amendments to the Constitution must be presumed to be for all time.
PAGE H635 It isn`t just a reverence for the document as now constituted, however, that leads me to oppose the proposed amendments before us today. I do consider it essential to get our Government`s financial house in better order, and I have devoted much of my effort here in Congress to that end. But to achieve that end I am not willing to sacrifice the ability of our Government to function. We must act to eliminate the deficit, but not by putting shackles on the democracy. To varying degrees, that is what each of the six versions of a balanced budget amendment before us today would do. Each would create more problems than it would solve. Let me illustrate in five ways. To begin with, the amendment proposed by Representative Barton and supported by the Republican leadership, would require a three-fifths vote in both the House and the Senate to approve an unbalanced budget, raise more revenue through taxes, or borrow more money. This would be constitutional lunacy.
It violates the basic constitutional principle of majority rule and would effectively place control of the budget in the hands of 41 Senators - who might represent as little as 12 percent of the American people.
PAGE H635 All of us, I believe, recognize that there are times when it will be necessary to spend more, to tax more, or to borrow more. We could not have won the Revolutionary War, or World War II, or the cold war, without doing so. It can be hard enough here to achieve a simple majority vote on budgetary matters. That`s the nature of a representative democracy, which is inherently constrained in making decisions. To raise the threshold for a decision by requiring three-fifths supermajorities in both the House and the Senate is a prescription for gridlock and failure. As a practical matter this amendment would act as a straitjacket in those times when swift action will be most needed. We could well be stuck with a policy-by-default that would turn an economic downturn into a depression, or a manageable threat to our security interests into a major conflict.
In fact, it was precisely this weakness with the Articles of Confederation - its requirements for supermajority votes in Congress to make basic budgetary decisions, and the resulting national paralysis - that led to the convening of the Constitutional Convention and the drafting of the Constitution. In that Philadelphia convention, the delegates repeatedly considered, and rejected, proposals to require a supermajority for action by Congress, either on all subjects or on more subjects than the five eventually specified in the original Constitution. Those are for overriding a veto, ratifying a treaty, removing officials from office, expelling a Representative or Senator, and proposing amendments to the Constitution. Amendments to the Constitution later added two others: restoring certain rights of former rebels, and determining the existence of a Presidential disability. None of those constitutional requirements for a supermajority threaten the basic functioning of the Government the way the three supermajority requirements of the Barton amendment would.
PAGE H635 It`s not difficult to imagine the problems that could be created. In the midst of a recession or some other national emergency, an attempt to raise the debt ceiling or raise additional revenue could be supported by strong majorities in both bodies, but be blocked by a minority of only 41 Senators, aligned by some particular regional interest or political ideology. Imagine a situation in which a badly needed measure was blocked by the Senators of the 21 least populous States. Senators from States with fewer than 30 million people - less than 12 percent of the country - could effectively thwart the will of the remaining 88 percent. The amendment, in short, would give exaggerated power to small States, and would effectively give 41 Senators the power to hold the country hostage. Recent experience gives us plenty of evidence that there are those who are willing to do so. We can`t let this provision, which is essentially an act of political gamesmanship, back us and future Congresses into a legislative corner that would be difficult, if not impossible, to get out of when our country most needs decisive and timely action.
PAGE H635 A second major problem with all the different versions of a balanced budget amendment before us today is the possibility that judicial interpretation and enforcement of an amendment could turn basic taxing and spending decisions over to unelected judges. If a deadlock in Congress or some other development were to lead to an unbalanced budget, no enforcement mechanism has been specified to resolve the issue. I would hope that this would not lead to the Federal courts stepping in and writing budgets, cutting spending, or raising taxes. But that possibility is not ruled out by any of the texts before us. And therefore, the general authority of the courts to consider cases arising under the Constitution would apply. Anybody who is concerned about unelected judges making decisions that should be left to elected legislatures should be greatly alarmed about this possibility. A third concern is an example of subtler, but no less troubling, problems of definition and workability.
We should ask ourselves, for instance, about the meaning and effects of these words that appear in both the Barton and Stenholm- H 636 Schaefer versions: that deficit spending is possible only if the United States faces `an imminent and serious military threat to national security.` Would this be a Grenada-type situation? Panama? The Gulf War? What about times of national economic crisis, or major natural disasters? How can we respond in times of crisis if the Constitution itself tells us that we cannot so act?
PAGE H635 A fourth problem has to do with the inherent weakness of budgetary estimates on which all of the proposed amendments rely. The level of accuracy we`ve seen in revenue and spending projections is rarely equal to the job of making budgets to which we must adhere, on penalty of judicial enforcement, during the course of a fiscal year. There are Members here who well remember 1981, when we started to dig this deficit hole in earnest. The first Reagan budget rosily forecast economic growth of 4.2 percent in the year ahead. The economy, apparently not in a mood to obey the President, proceeded to decline by 1.9 percent. The relevant lesson is that when we make projections, often 18 months or more into the future, our actions are based on economic models that are not perfect. And a lot can happen in the space of only 18 months to overtake the best projections. Given the difficulty we would face in marshaling the supermajority required for us to take corrective action, a balanced budget amendment could well leave us stranded.
Finally, it`s impossible to make the investments we need in roads, bridges, airports, and the rest of the facilities that are vital to our economic health if we don`t differentiate between an operating budget and a capital budget. Families, businesses, and State and local governments can do that, the Federal Government should also have that ability.
PAGE H635 Balancing an operating budget makes sense. That`s the kind of balanced budget States are typically required to achieve. The more difficult issue is capital spending and investment: something that all States, municipalities, and individuals borrow to do regularly when they build a bridge or buy a house. We regularly borrow from future revenues to invest in future well-being. By effectively prohibiting borrowing for investment on the Federal level, we`d force a wholesale shift in investment responsibility to the States and localities. Or worse, we`d force a foolish limit on needed investment that would only increase operating costs in the long run. Each of the proposed amendments before us now all fail for one or more of these reasons. That is why I have to reject all of them. But let no one mistake my rejection of these proposals for a desire to keep the budget unbalanced.
The Federal deficit, which has more than quadrupled since 1980, continues to act as a drag on the Nation`s economy, compromising our efforts to deal with our fiscal problems and indenturing our children, and their children, for decades to come. I do understand why most people believe that the moral authority of the Constitution is necessary to force us to act to correct our fiscal problems. And I know that the pressure to pass something will likely lead to a proposed amendment being passed by the House. So I tried to examine the proposals being put forward to see if there were ways I would amend them in a responsible manner to make them more workable and legitimate. I found two ways to amend - to improve - the six versions before us today, to reduce or eliminate the problems that I see with them. Unfortunately, the Rules Committee decided not to let me offer any of those amendments.
PAGE H635 My first proposed change would have made it clear that the courts would not be brought into budget writing by litigation on the enforcement of a balanced budget amendment. I would have done so by adding a clause stating, `Neither the judicial power of the United States nor of any State shall extend to any case arising under this Article.` We should make it clear in this way, I believe, that a balanced budget amendment doesn`t turn into a wholesale abdication of Congress` basic responsibility, as the people`s elected representatives, to make the final decisions on vital budget choices. It is irresponsible of us to create any possibility of letting these choices be assumed by unelected judges, and any amendment to the Constitution should clearly state that it is Congress that will continue to be responsible and accountable for the Federal budget.
The second amendment I tried to be able to present to the House was an alternative, simple amendment stating that Congress must pass a budget in which `total operating expenditures . . . for any fiscal year shall not exceed total operating receipts` except in times of national security or economic emergency, as determined by majority vote. It also would have required the President to send Congress a budget in which total receipts exceed operating expenditures for every fiscal year, and would have given Congress the power to enforce and implement the provision by appropriate legislation.
PAGE H635 This alternative would have avoided the gridlock of supermajority requirements, would have left us with the flexibility to make capital investments, and would have placed the burden on Congress to find the appropriate mechanisms to enforce the new balanced operating budget requirement. I`m not sure that even this would have ultimately proven acceptable in light of my serious reservations about amending the Constitution, but this simple approach certainly would be far less troublesome than any of the other choices we face today. I`m deeply concerned, all of us are, about the growing national debt. It has brought us to this point, where we consider exercising one of our most solemn powers, the power to amend the Constitution itself. The irony of this is that after a dozen years of profligate spending, we`re finally moving in the right economic direction. Over the past 2 years, we`ve finally achieved a level of fiscal discipline that hasn`t been seen around here in a long time. We`ve approved a hard freeze on discretionary spending.
We`ve reduced the rate of increase in most entitlements, and actually cut some. It would truly be a shame if, at this promising moment, we were to wave the rhetorical wand, pass this amendment, and allow ourselves to believe that we`ve won the battle, only awaiting State ratification of that amendment. Rather, there can be no letup in the hard work needed to produce sensible budgets, with reduced deficits, over the next several years.
PAGE H635 In the end, we should be mindful that when we amend the Constitution, history will judge our actions with an especially critical eye. The Constitution grants primary responsibility for the budget to Congress for a reason: the decisions we make ultimately reflect the needs and preferences of the people we represent. The progress we`re finally making is proof of the ability of this body, at its best, to discharge its responsibilities. We must continue and strengthen the discipline recently shown here. That is the best way for us to honor both our fiscal responsibility and our obligation to preserve and protect the Constitution. I urge my colleagues to continue the hard work we`ve already begun to discipline our spending habits and reject the seductive and popular gimmickry of these balanced budget amendments.
PAGE H636 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Cunningham). Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, for 40 years, 40 years, this body failed to pass a balanced budget amendment. No line-item veto. And yet the Gephardt bill tries to scare you with the Social Security card.
PAGE H636 Well, if you are so concerned with the Social Security card, all those arguing with the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Gephardt), then why not support the three-fifths to raise taxes, because it would take a three-fifths vote to increase the tax on Social Security. But no, it is smoke and mirrors. You want to raise taxes at will. You want to be able to pass on unfunded mandates, the big tax and spenders. I would say there is not a Member of the Black Caucus except the only Republican that did not vote in the last Congress to increase the taxes on Social Security. No Republican voted for it. There is not a Member that is arguing here today, except maybe the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), that did not cut Medicare by $56 billion, and not a penny went for health care. Why? Because not a single Republican or Democrat voted for it in the Committee on Ways and Means. Do you get the picture? Why not vote for Gephardt? Because Gephardt kills the rule of three-fifths in his bill to raise taxes. He kills the limitations to raise the debt ceiling. They want to be able to raise the debt.
Does that tell you something about the real issue on the balanced budget amendment?
PAGE H636 What about the limit on cutting spending. Gephardt kills that. And H 637 that is why we do not support it. And we are asking him to support the three-fifths that would stop those things and also the unfunded mandates. Why does the gentleman from New York (Mr. Schumer) and the gentlewoman from Colorado (Mrs. Schroeder) and the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Gephardt), the last Congress they voted to cut Medicare, they voted to cut Social Security, and they also voted to increase the marginal tax rate of every middle-income American. All of them. But yet now they switch their story. I guess it is easier to switch than fight. Take a look at the leadership and the Rivlin memo to Gephardt and the Rivlin plan. The plan is to cut Social Security. The plan was to cut Medicare. The plan is to cut veterans benefits and further dismantle the military. But yet now we are talking about protecting Social Security. I will bet you will not find hardly anyone, if anybody, that wants to touch Social Security in here.
TIME: 1720 Then support the three-fifths, let us not have the smoke and mirrors. The gentlewoman from Colorado says we had hard choices in the Clinton tax package, that the liberal leadership twisted arms and only passed by one vote last Congress, one vote. Well, she did. She cut Medicare and Social Security. Those were the hard choices. They cut in 1986 IRA`s. Now they want to support them back. They cut the annuities for senior citizens.
PAGE H637 Get a life. Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Stupak). Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.
PAGE H637 I rise today, to urge my colleagues to support the Gephardt and Wise substitute amendments to the Barton balanced-budget amendment. I have supported a balanced-budget amendment before my election to Congress, and I am going to support one today. But as long as I have believed in a balanced-budget amendment, I have also believed that Social Security is a sacred contract between the Government and its people. That is why I offered my own substitute balanced budget amendment. While not made in order by the House Rules Committee, my substitute, like the Gephardt and Wise proposals, specifically exempted Social Security from budget cuts and eliminated the unconstitutional and unworkable super majority requirement for raising revenue. Not specifically exempting Social Security in the text of a balanced budget amendment - as the Republicans fail to do in their proposal - is to place this contract directly in the path of the uncertainty of the annual budget process and subject the program to possible cuts. That is irresponsible and unacceptable.
PAGE H637 My constituents in northern Michigan understand that balancing the budget will require difficult choices and painful cuts. Almost to a person, they have indicated to me that they are willing to make the tough choices. But people in Michigan also understand a promise. Simply put, cutting Social Security is the same as cutting the Federal Government`s credibility. Social Security is not just statistics - it is the only thing which stands between thousands of elderly Americans and true poverty. In Michigan, more than 1.5 million people receive these benefits - that is 1.5 million real people with real bills to pay and very real obligations to meet. The Republican leadership claims that the adoption of House Concurrent Resolution 17, offered by the gentleman from Illinois, Congressman Flanagan, would protect Social Security from cuts. But, Mr. Chairman, if the Flanagan resolution were currency, it would be the peso - not worth a heck of a lot.
As we all know, this resolution has no force of law, and is really nothing more than saying to our Nation`s senior citizens `I know we`ve pointed a loaded gun at you, but we promise we won`t pull the trigger - at least not until the Nation`s bill for the tax breaks for the rich and spending in the GOP Contract With America comes due.`
PAGE H637 Mr. Chairman, the Gephardt and Wise substitutes are tough and responsible and keep the promises that our Nation has made. I urge my colleagues to support these balanced-budget substitute amendments. Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Bryant), a member of the committee. Mr. BRYANT of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.
PAGE H637 Mr. Chairman, I come before you today behalf of the people of my district to support a balanced budget amendment with three-fifths supermajority tax increase provisions because, Mr. Chairman, most every one of them is demanding relief: Relief from a Congress that has strapped each and every one of them with a debt of over $4.5 trillion. Relief from a Congress that has taken away from many of them the incentive to save and invest as a result of burdensome and stiff taxes. And relief from a Congress that has created more than ever a sense of distrust of this institution. A balanced budget amendment with three-fifths majority tax provisions will give them this relief, Mr. Chairman. We have before us the opportunity to restore the trust in this institution, the opportunity to bring about an economic climate that will encourage savings and investment, and an opportunity to begin addressing the problem of our ever-increasing debt by slowing spending.
PAGE H637 We can do all of this by supporting a balanced budget amendment with a three-fifths majority for tax increases. Mr. Chairman, it is my strongest belief that the tax burden placed on our society has created the circumstances I have mentioned. As a result of raising taxes, we have decreased the ability of the American people to save and invest, thereby damaging our economy. Mr. Chairman, it makes it difficult for someone to save and invest when they wake up every morning knowing that Congress is making them work from January to May to pay their taxes.
PAGE H637 Clearly, Mr. Chairman, raising taxes has not been the answer. There are the nine States which have similar supermajority requirements in order to raise their taxes. And in those nine States, State taxes have gone down an average of 2 percent. Compare those numbers, Mr. Chairman, to the 41 other States without some type of supermajority requirement to raise State taxes. Their State tax burden has gone up 2 percent. I repeat, Mr. Chairman, nine States have supermajority tax requirements for tax increases, and these nine States have lower tax burdens. Mr. Chairman, today this country is at a crucial crossroads of its history. Now we have at the time opportunity to change the way Congress goes about its business of taxing and spending. Opponents of the idea of a balanced budget amendment with a three-fifths provision scoff at that idea. They say it will not work. I say nonsense. Having a balanced budget amendment with the three-fifths provision for tax increases will work.
Do we want to keep raising taxes and borrowing money we do not have? I do not think so, because either way the taxpayer gets stuck with the tab. Taxpayers know it, and they are sick and tired of it.
PAGE H637 Mr. Chairman, we were sent here to make some tough decisions. We were sent here to reform the way we do business. It is something that should and rightfully be expected of us. Requiring a three-fifths majority for tax increases in a balanced budget amendment will invariably bring about the necessity of slowing spending. So it will ultimately force this body to make some long overdue decisions about how we are spending taxpayers` dollars and whether they should or should not be spent. Some do not want to confront these decisions but they must be confronted. Otherwise, we are only saddling ourselves and our future generations with more debt and more red ink. The American people are demanding a balanced budget. They expect Congress to curb its spending. They want to trust us and deserve that tax relief. Passing House Joint Resolution 1 will give them all.
PAGE H637 I urge my colleagues to support this. Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Peterson). H 638 (Mr. PETERSON of Florida asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
PAGE H638 Mr. PETERSON of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Nation`s future and for the protection of our children and grandchildren`s well-being. Right now both are in jeopardy because of the tremendous national debt that we continue to accumulate. Why do we keep borrowing from future generations?
PAGE H638 I will answer my own question: because the Government has not made the tough decisions necessary to balance the budget and because of conflicting signals from the American people to cut spending but not from their favorite programs. To stop us from passing the buck and to force the Nation to commit to making the sacrifices necessary for the long-term in economic security, I will join many of my Democratic colleagues in supporting the constitutional amendment to the balance the budget. The bipartisan balanced budget amendment generally referred to as the Stenholm-Schaefer amendment, which I cosponsored when I first was elected to this House 4 years ago, contains no gimmicks and no shell games. It simply requires that total outlays not exceed total receipts.
PAGE H638 I along with many of my fellow Democrats have led the fight for this amendment long before the Republican contract was drafted. We have pushed to bring this amendment to the floor each Congress and continually voted for its passage. And we came very close to passing this amendment previously. Today, I reaffirm my support for the Stenholm-Schaefer balanced budget amendment and join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in taking aggressive action now to protect the Nation`s economic security and our children and grandchildren`s future. Mr. VOLKMER. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
PAGE H638 Mr. PETERSON of Florida. I yield to the gentleman from Missouri. (Mr. VOLKMER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. VOLKMER. Mr. Chairman, I planned to take a couple of minutes to talk, but basically about the same thing that gentleman has mentioned. Some of us have been here, and I have been here 18 years. I voted on the constitutional amendment for a balanced budget back in 1982.
PAGE H638 We have consistently voted on it. I have supported it. I am a cosponsor of the amendment of the gentleman from Colorado and the gentleman from Texas. Some of us have struggled and fought. We came close, 9 votes one year, 12 votes, if I remember right, last year. We may see a culmination. If we don`t, we are going to continue to fight. It was not a contract with America that started us on this effort. It was because some of us feel that we need to have a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget, but a sound one, one that makes sense, not a three-fifths majority, and that we need to do that in order to arrive at balancing the budget in the future. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me.
PAGE H638 Mr. PETERSON of Florida. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I will once again compliment my colleague the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) for leading this battle, along with my friend over here, the gentleman form Colorado (Mr. Schaefer) who really intently feel seriously about this to the point of making the hard decisions necessary to balance this budget. We stand with them in this fight.
PAGE H638 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Hefley). Mr. HEFLEY. Mr. Chairman, every year, we hear the same arguments used against the balanced budget amendment: it is unnecessary, binding, and a blot on the Constitution. We are told we need to tighten our belts, make the tough choices, stand up to special interest groups. There is one word you`ll never hear used against the amendment though: commitment.
PAGE H638 That is because opponents here in Congress do not share our commitment for cutting spending and reducing the deficit. As Robert Reich made it clear last week, neither does the administration. It is just not important to them. But it is important to the American people. It is important to our future. It is important to our children. Mr. Chairman, Congress does not lack for choices, it lacks commitment. The balanced budget amendment represents a commitment to the American people to make the tough choices and cut spending. It`s the one budget agreement Congress can`t repeal.
PAGE H638 As a long-time cosponsor of the balanced budget amendment, I am excited this legislation is before us, and I look forward to successfully passing it, here and on to the States for ratification. Last night, Bill Clinton told America that he was working to cut spending and reduce the deficit. He said his budget would cut $130 billion over the next 5 years. What he did not say was that spending will continue to rise and the deficit will continue to climb. In fact, the legacy of the Clinton tax increase of 1993 is higher spending, lower growth, and higher deficits. The 1993 reconciliation bill was just one in a long line of budget agreements designed to balance the budget through tax increases and spending constraints. Each time, the taxes were gathered, but the spending cuts never materialized.
PAGE H638 We are presented today with the unsavory picture of Congress and the executive branch piling fiscal failure upon failure. The situation is intolerable and it cries out for change. In my mind, that change can begin with passage of the balanced budget amendment. Not an end unto itself, the BBA will create a bulwark of fiscal discipline to the congressional budget process, beyond which neither Congress nor the President can tread. The BBA will reform the budget process by forcing Congress to make decisions between increasing taxes and cutting spending. If the tax cap provisions are included with the BBA, then Congress will have no choice but to prioritize its spending decisions. Even without the cap, however, the BBA will provide a line of defense for the American taxpayers that simply doesn`t exist today. A balanced budget amendment is an idea whose time has come. While it is not the final answer to our fiscal problems, it will provide a measure of discipline that does not exist now, and it will instigate reforms that otherwise would not occur.
For that reason, I applaud this effort and support the balanced budget amendment.
PAGE H638 Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Visclosky). (Mr. VISCLOSKY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman`s yielding time to me.
PAGE H638 Mr. Chairman, beside asking Americans to give their lives for their country, there is nothing more profound that any of us can do than to amend the Constitution of the United States. After serving in this House for 10 years, I have come to the conclusion that without an amendment, the budget will never be balanced. That is why I support the balanced budget amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) and the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Schaefer). Mr. Chairman, I support a balanced budget amendment because I do not believe that the President and the Congress will find the collective courage necessary to balance the budget without a Constitutional imperative. It is my sincerest hope that the weight of the Constitution will force the balanced budgets necessary to secure a prosperous future, our nation`s sovereignty, and a government that makes smarter decisions.
PAGE H638 America has always been the land of opportunity. A better life for each successive generation is one of the defining characteristics of our nation. Each generation`s hard work paved the way so that those who followed could travel farther down the road of prosperity. Unfortunately, in recent decades, the economic policies of this country have caused us to lose our way. Nations, just like families, must plan for the future. As a nation we have failed to plan. We H 639 have borrowed to achieve a false sense of prosperity today, leaving the bills for our children to pay tomorrow. In 1992, our government spent $290 billion more than it had. In 1992 alone, $1,150 was borrowed from every single person in America. Over the past 20 years, the average budget deficit has grown from $36 billion in the 1970s, to $156 billion in the 1980s, to the unprecedented $248 billion hole we have dug for ourselves so far in the 1990s. This irresponsible spending has resulted in a debt hole so deep that this year`s interest payment ($213 billion) - just the interest payment - will be larger than this year`s deficit ($176 billion).
Today`s talk about balancing the budget, while also calling for increased defense spending and lower taxes sadly assures me that fiscal responsibility will be trumped by politics as usual. These are the same misguided economic policies that tripled our national debt during the past 12 years. Republican George Bush called it `Voodoo Economics.`
PAGE H638 In 1798, Thomas Jefferson said that if he could add one amendment to the Constitution, it would be to prohibit the Federal Government from borrowing money: `We should consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves.` Our recent history makes it clear we should heed Jefferson`s wisdom. Our current spending spree cracks the foundations of our nation`s sovereignty. At the beginning of the 1980s, foreigners owed Americans much more than we owed them. Today, we are the world`s largest debtor nation. We owe foreigners much more than they owe us. And foreigners are collecting these debts by buying our office buildings, our companies, and our farms. We are selling our nation to anyone who will bankroll our outrageous spending. In an era when economics plays a larger role in the global order, our spending binge threatens our sovereignty and ability to influence international events. It`s much harder to get Japan to tear down its trade barriers when we our indebted to them.
A message sent loud and clear in the 1994 elections was that Americans want us to make wise decisions. A balanced budget will force the achievement of this goal because the decisions made depends on the amount of money you have to spend. This is proven true in our daily lives. A person with $3 to spend on lunch will make an entirely different set of decisions than that same person with $10 to spend. The Government just puts it on a credit card.
PAGE H638 We must remember, however, that voting for a balanced budget amendment is the easy part. The amendment has overwhelming public support and simply voting `yes` puts each of us on the right side of public opinion without having to make the tough choices that will put the budget into balance. It would be a cruel hoax on the American people to pass a balanced budget amendment without beginning to actually balance the budget. If we start our work today, the impact will be less painful and our decisions less difficult than if we continue to postpone tough decisions. To ensure that we make good on our commitment to balance the budget, I am working to draft the Balanced Budget Enforcement Act of 1995. This bill would force us - today - to begin bringing the budget into balance by the year 2002, while the ratification process proceeds. It would do so by setting spending caps and using across-the-board cuts if the caps aren`t met. I don`t believe this bill is the only answer to our budgetary problems, but it is an answer and it will lead to balanced budget.
PAGE H638 There is little argument that balancing the budget is essential to the future of our country. However, the bickering begins and political courage fades when we begin to talk specifics. It is time to summon the courage and start today.
PAGE H639 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Frelinghuysen). (Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
PAGE H639 Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding time to me. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the balanced budget amendment. Our current financial crisis is due to overspending pure and simple, and I firmly believe that a balanced budget amendment will impose discipline on Congress and the executive branch to live within defined means. Having worked under a similar mandate in the State of New Jersey as a State legislator, chairing the appropriations process, I am fully prepared to work within the same spending and taxing restraints on the Federal level to make those serious decisions.
PAGE H639 Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Barton amendment to provide, finally, discipline to the Federal budget process. Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio). Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.
PAGE H639 Mr. Chairman, Harry Truman used to say, in an earlier and perhaps better era here in D.C., `The buck stops here.` In today`s Washington, D.C. your buck barely gets a chance to wipe its feet before it is back out the door in the form of some new Federal spending. Without the fiscal discipline of a balanced budget amendment, I doubt this Congress will be able to make the tough choices that are required, no matter what party is in charge. It is time to quit passing the buck, or in this case, the debt, to future generations and put our fiscal house in order. The national debt is nearly 5 times higher today than it was when Ronald Reagan became President in 1981. That is a disgraceful bipartisan legacy of irresponsible spending and tax giveaways.
PAGE H639 The total debt of the Federal Government totals more than $4.6 trillion, $16,000 for every man, woman and child in America. Interest alone will total more than $225 billion this year. That is 10 times more than all the funds spent by the Federal Government on all education programs and assistance this year. Some oppose the balanced budget amendment over genuine concern for the fate of Social Security, child nutrition, education funding, or other meritorious programs. An honest assessment of those programs shows us they have not done well during this decade of spend and debt. We accumulated $4 trillion of debt, but there is not a penny in the Social Security Trust Fund. It is full of IOUs. How are we going to cash those IOUs in when we need them? Twenty percent of Oregon`s children live in poverty. Many go to bed hungry every night. We know of the shortfall in education funding. It is time to get our priorities straight, make some tough decisions. As we make those tough choices, I am confident these programs, the programs I care about, will do better than they did during the spendthrift decade.
PAGE H639 My home State of Oregon has a balanced budget amendment, as do most other States. Every local government in Oregon is required to balance its books every year, as does every responsible family. The Federal Government can do the same. Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 minute and 30 seconds to the gentlewoman from Washington (Ms. Dunn). Ms. DUNN of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I rise in favor of the Barton balanced budget amendment. Some say that to propose a balanced budget amendment without proposing how we would get there is wrong. I say nonsense.
PAGE H639 The American people are pleading with us to set aside bickering and at least agree on the goal of living within our means. We must take that first step toward a balanced budget amendment, with or without the support of the President. Then we can debate the spending cuts necessary to achieve that goal. Mr. Chairman, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have had 40 years to control the power of the purse and prove that Congress could be fiscally responsible. The result: Congress has left this country with a crippling debt and with higher taxes. Americans can no longer afford this sort of behavior from their Congress. Mr. Chairman, now the burden of proof should be on the Congress to justify dipping further into the taxpayers` wallets. That is why we must pass the H 640 Barton substitute that requires a three-fifths majority to raise taxes. We must force this Congress to make tough choices in spending cuts, not taxing our way to a balanced budget. Protect the taxpayer. Pass the Contract With America version of the balanced budget amendment.
PAGE H640 Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Orton). (Mr. ORTON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
PAGE H640 Mr. ORTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of a balanced budget amendment. I am disappointed that the majority will not allow us to vote on mine and other amendments which I believe solve some of the problems, but there are many similarities between the amendments we will look at. There is, however, a real problem: How do we enforce it? We have looked to a super majority in various amendments as a way to enforce it, or future legislation as a way to enforce it. Will it work? The problem I see with these amendments is that they rely upon estimates, not actual. Will it actually require us to balance the budget? No. Why? Mr. Chairman, I read in the Barton amendment, section 1, the last line `Congress and the President shall ensure that actual outlays do not exceed outlays set forth in this statement.` What about receipts? How do we guarantee that the projection of revenue is actually going to show up?
PAGE H640 If we say `Well, it will,` look at the last 14 years. CBO has missed in every one of those years by an average of, overestimating revenue, an average of $25 billion per year. What is going to happen? At the time we figure out that receipts did not come in, it is too late to cut spending. We have already spent it. It is the end of the fiscal year. Even if we could get three-fifths to raise taxes, it is too late to do that.
TIME: 1740 There is one option and one option only, that is, increase the debt limit. You are going to put a permanent ceiling on the debt limit and you cannot raise it without three-fifths.
PAGE H640 What you have done is in contravention of the Founding Fathers` intent, you will have placed control in 40 percent of this body or the other body to hold us hostage. Let us say they decide they want more welfare spending, and they are not going to vote for increasing the debt limit unless you give them a higher debt limit to spend more money on welfare, or defense, or anything else. We had better back up. I will vote for and support the best constitutional amendment we can, but I certainly hope the other body can do a better job and perfect this before we have to send it to the State legislatures.
PAGE H640 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Hoke). Mr. HOKE. I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Barton balanced budget amendment.
PAGE H640 We are going to vote either tonight or tomorrow on this amendment and we are going to have the opportunity to complete 2 pieces of work that were begun 200 years ago and about 100 years ago. One is the Constitution itself. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789 very clearly and very well. He said: If there is one omission that I fear in the document called the Constitution, it is that we did not restrict the power of the government to borrow money.
PAGE H640 What this constitutional amendment does is it puts into the constitution the restriction that the Founding Father and founder of the Democratic party, Thomas Jefferson, wanted to have put in the Constitution, the restriction on borrowing money. It is the three-fifths majority that is required to raise the debt ceiling. That is the operative language that makes it very, very difficult, not impossible - by no means impossible - but it creates the hurdle over which we have to jump in order to borrow more money to make it possible to deficit-spend. It is the essential element of this constitutional amendment with respect to spending. On the taxing side, we are going to complete the 16th amendment to the Constitution which allowed the income tax in the first place. That is, that we are going to require that there be a three-fifths majority to raise taxes as well. These two together will complete the spending and taxing limitations and restrictions that were begun 200 years ago and need to be completed, need to be fulfilled in the Constitution of our country.
PAGE H640 Our country was founded on limited government, not unlimited borrowing. To limit government, we need that supermajority. To limit borrowing, we need a supermajority to increase the debt. And the BBA will reinforce the theme of the Constitution. The other thing that the BBA does is it will change the way that the American people have been cheated out of the definition of government. The proper definition of government is what the people are willing to pay for on a pay-as-you-go basis.
We really have no idea what we as a Nation believe our Government should be, what the size and scope of it should be, what its role should be, what its definition should be, because just as in a family you do not know how you want to define your lifestyle except by what you are willing to pay for, just as in a company you do not know what you are willing to do, what you want to do in terms of defining the direction of your company and where you want to go, the same is true with respect to our Nation and our national identity and what we are willing to pay for in terms of defining what our government is going to be.
PAGE H640 We have been cheated out of that as a Nation. We do not know what that is. Until we are required to match revenues against expenditures, until that happens, we will not know as a Nation what it is that we want our Government to do. Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Kennedy). Mr. KENNEDY of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the balanced budget amendment. I have been for the balanced budget amendment for the last several years, because I do not believe that we can find the will to make the necessary cuts to save the future generations of this country without the support of the American people through a balanced budget.
PAGE H640 The fact is the people say: Listen, Joe, you are a liberal Democrat, how can you possibly be for a balanced budget amendment? It is going to cut the very programs that much of your family and others have stood for generations. I say to them that those very programs that stand up for the working people and the poor and the senior citizens of this country have suffered the worst cuts over the course of the last 15 or 20 years in this country as a result of budget deficits.
PAGE H640 Look at the housing budget. Cut by 77 percent over the course of the last 15 years. Look at those who have press conferences that say they want to protect fuel assistance for the poor. Look at what has happened to the fuel assistance program. Cut by 30 percent. Aid to education. All of the programs that are designed to assist the very poor, our vulnerable citizens, are the programs that get cut. And after all, who pays the debt? It is the working families of America that pay the lion`s share of America`s taxes. We see a greater and greater percentage of those taxes going for one particular item, and, that is, to pay the interest on the debt.
PAGE H640 What accounts have gone up in the last 15 years? National defense. We have seen the budget doubled. We have seen a fantastic increase, from $70 billion a year to $240 billion a year on the interest payments alone on the national debt. Does a working family get to educate their kid? Do they get to take care of a senior citizen, a parent? Do we see the bellies of our poorest children filled as a result of interest payments on the national debt? The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from Massachusetts has expired.
PAGE H640 Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee do now rise. The motion was agreed to. Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. Cunningham) having assumed the chair, Mr. Walker, chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, reported that H 641 Committee, having had under consideration the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 1) proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States, had come to no resolution thereon.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 44 and rule XXIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the joint resolution, House Joint Resolution 1.
TIME: 1749 IN THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Accordingly, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 1) proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States, with Mr. Walker in the chair.
The Clerk read the title of the joint resolution.
The CHAIRMAN. When the Committee of the Whole rose earlier today, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde) had 52 minutes remaining in the debate, and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) had 47 minutes remaining in the debate.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde).
Mr. HOKE. Mr. Chairman, I have a parliamentary inquiry.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will state his parliamentary inquiry.
Mr. HOKE. Mr. Chairman, when the Chair or the Speaker grants unanimous consent that someone may revise and extend their remarks, does that mean, is that implicit that that means within the rules, or does that actually mean that the remarks themselves can be revised in the Record?
The CHAIRMAN. It means revisions and extensions within the meaning of clause 9 of rule XIV.
Mr. HOKE. That have been adopted by this House in the 104th Congress?
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is correct.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde).
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 1/2 minutes to another distinguished gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Upton).
Mr. UPTON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, there have been many efforts made in this Chamber to try and balance the budget. I can well remember the Freeze Budget, the 1992 Group Budget, the Pork Busters, our good friend Tim Penny who led many bipartisan efforts, and I can remember Gramm-Rudman. Every one of these was to no avail.
Remember this button: `108 in `88?` That meant under Gramm-Rudman our deficit was going to be by law no greater than $108 billion in 1988.
Well, guess what? It was $187 billion, not $108 billion.
Promises, promises, promises, promises, and every one of them was broken.
It is time to keep our promise. The deficit today is over $200 billion, and it is as far as the eye can see $200 billion. In fact, by the turn of the century it is not going to be $200 billion, it is not going to be $300 billion. The OMB, the Office of Management and Budget is projecting over $400 billion.
I had a town meeting a couple of weeks ago and I had a very activist Democrat stand up and say:
Fred, I have been against the balanced budget before because I did not think it would work. I thought we had laws that made it work, but I`ve given up. When you get back to Washington, please, please, please, for our children and for our jobs, pass a balanced budget amendment.
It is time now to keep our promises. It is time to pass a balanced budget amendment, a constitutional one.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Browder).
(Mr. BROWDER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BROWDER. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding time to me.
Mr. Chairman, let me first commend my colleague, Charlie Stenholm, for his leadership on the issue we are debating today. We are considering, hopefully for the last time, passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I have been on this floor three times before pressing the Members of this institution to let this debate out of Washington. Ratification is my ultimate goal, but more important in my mind is the great public debate that will take place around this country during the process of ratification.
The balanced budget debate must be expanded beyond the Washington beltway and with passage in Congress the debate will begin in earnest. For as the states consider ratification, our country will begin a full and frank public debate on the role of government - Federal, State and local - and the cost of fulfilling that role.
If the politicians who designed past efforts to bring the budget into balance had engaged the public in that process then I doubt we would have dug - or been allowed to dig - such a huge deficit hole.
Mr. Chairman, the balanced budget amendment incorporates into our fundamental law the principle that the Federal Government cannot spend more money that it takes in, except under special circumstances. That principle rightly fits in the Constitution and would not, as some suggest, trivialize that basic document. But more importantly, the ratification process will allow, even force, the American people to focus on what they want from their government, what benefits they will surrender in the name of fiscal responsibility, and what burdens they will shoulder to do the important tasks they ask their government to do.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am honored to yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton)
(Mr. BARTON of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I want to first of all thank the distinguished chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, Henry Hyde, for his excellent leadership in shepherding the balanced budget amendment process this far. I want to thank our new Republican majority leadership for scheduling the debate immediately and not having to force us to resort to discharge petitions. I want to thank my good friend, Charlie Stenholm of Texas, for being such a stalwart for so many years to keep the dream alive and all of the other true believers that feel like we need to balance the Federal budget in a bipartisan fashion.
We have won the debate as to whether we should have a balanced budget at the Federal level, at least we have won the debate everywhere but in the White House, in the Office of Management and Budget, and with the Secretary of Labor. The question is not should we balance the budget but how should we do that, and there are really three basic ways: We can raise taxes; we can cut spending, or we can do a combination of both.
There are two serious amendments on the floor this evening and tomorrow to get us to a balanced budget. The Schaefer-Stenholm amendment requires a three-fifths vote to borrow money, a three-fifths vote to raise the national debt ceiling and that is a constitutional majority of 218 plus 1 in the House to raise taxes. The Barton-Hyde-Geren amendment requires a three-fifths vote to borrow money, a three-fifths vote to raise the debt ceiling, and I think, significantly, a three-fifths vote to raise taxes. That third three-fifths vote to raise taxes in some ways is the most important three-fifths vote, because I believe the emphasis should be on cutting spending.
Why do I believe that? Go back to 1964; the entire Federal budget was $118.5 billion. In 1965 it actually dropped. We spent $118.2 billion. Every year since 1965 Federal spending has gone up. In the fiscal year we are in now we expect to spend $1,531,000,000,000. That is an increase of 1,300 percent in the last 29 years.
Federal spending has gone up every year since 1965. To put that in perspective, in the year we are currently in, we expect to spend 70 billion more dollars than we spent last year, and last year we spent 53 billion more than the year before. Simply put, it is not a lack of revenue as to why the budget is not balanced. It is simply the fact that spending is out of control.
If we want to restrain spending, we have got to balance the budget by cutting spending. Put the tax limitation provision in, the three-fifths vote, and we will do it. There are nine States that have tax limitation provisions. In those nine States their taxes have gone up less and their spending has gone up less, an average spending of about 9 percent less and an average tax increase - an average in the years between 1980 and 1990 - an average of about 14 percent.
We should vote for the balanced budget amendment with tax limitation. I ask for Members` support.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to this gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Deal).
Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to take us for a quick ride down our spending highway. If we assumed our income equals our spending and we are traveling at 55 miles per hour, if for every $1 billion of deficit spending we increase our speed by 1 mile per hour, instead of going the posted 55 miles a hour, we are going 258 miles an hour.
And remember, that to get $1 billion of revenue it requires approximately 250,000 - that is right, a quarter of a million - individual average tax returns. So not only are we exceeding the speed limit by 203 miles a hours, we are spending the money from 50,750,000 average individual tax returns that we do not have.
TIME: 1800 And that is just in 12 months. If we are to have to pay off our national debt right now, it would require the taxes from 1,171,000,000 average individual returns that we do not have.
Even if the debt never increased and we never paid any interest on it, it would require all the revenue received from all the tax returns of all individual taxpayers in this country for almost 11 years just to pay off the principal. So if you think we can slow this vehicle down that is traveling 258 miles an hour by just posting a slow-down sign, you are wrong. We have tried it. If you think we can slow it down by putting speed breakers in there, we have tried that, too.
Gramm-Rudman 1 and 2, the Budget Acts of 1990 and 1993, you are wrong; we hit those bumps, we picked up speed, and $2 trillion in debt, since we hit them.
It is time we called out a traffic cop with a radar gun to slow us down. That is what the balanced budget really is, Mr. Chairman. It is time to call out the cops.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle).
Mr. CASTLE. Mr. Chairman, I particularly thank the truly distinguished chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary for yielding me this time.
I rise in support of the balanced budget amendment. I am a name cosponsor with the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) and the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Schaefer) on theirs, but I also support the Barton three-fifths tax limitation as well.
But it is the concept of what we are doing. Let me just say I would like to congratulate this entire House of Representatives on considering the most significant chance to end doing business as usual down here that we have probably ever considered, and doing it early on in January. I think it makes a huge difference.
I thought the way I could spend what is left of my 3 minutes is to just tell you a story about what has brought me to be so supportive of the balanced budget amendment, my own personal experiences.
I am from the State of Delaware. I was in the legislature of the State of Delaware. I was there in the 1970`s. During that period of time, we had some difficult problems. We never balanced our budget. We borrowed money in virtually any way you could possibly borrow money, short-term, long-term, whatever it may be. We had the highest personal income taxes in the entire United States of America, 19.8 percent State taxes, this is. Businesses were leaving Delaware as fast as they could make up their minds to be able to get out. Then we came along, and some individuals, and I was not involved in this, adopted a balanced budget amendment. We have the three-fifths tax limitation. We adopted the line-item veto. We have rainy-day. We have other cushions. We have everything you could possibly imagine.
Since that time, since we woke up in the end of the 1970`s, we have balanced our budget 18 straight times in the State of Delaware. We have reduced our taxes five times in the State of Delaware. We have created more jobs than practically any other State on a percentage basis; I know, we are a small State. We did reduce poverty more than any other State during the 1980`s. We became a financial success story.
It is not easy. It was very tough to do this. In addition to all those constitutional amendments and changes, we had to struggle with small pay increases, in fact, no pay increase one year for State employees. We eliminated waste. We had an early retirement option. It was a very difficult matter to carry out.
We expended Medicaid perhaps a little more slowly than some other States did. We did create economic opportunities, because we saw the other opportunities, because we saw the other side, if we could bring in revenues, and we have different banking laws in the State of Delaware which have helped us attract jobs to our State, and we have made fiscal adjustments each and every year to keep our budget in balance.
We are absolutely convinced that this is the way to go, and I am convinced this is what we should do in Washington, DC.
What if we do not pass the balanced budget amendment? What if we just go H 643 on as we have with business as usual? Well then, in my judgment, the easier choice will be made virtually every time, that is, to extend, to expand, and to add programs. The debt will bury our future generations, and the inefficiencies, because of political malaise, to make the tough decisions will simply carry on.
For all of these reasons, I believe that each and every one of us should tomorrow realize that this is not just a procedural vote. It will lead to many, many years of very difficult votes, both of which are going to benefit the people of the United States of America.
I hope we will all support the balanced budget amendment.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler), a member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I oppose this amendment, because we should not write fiscal policy into the Constitution.
Of course, we want balanced budgets most of the time. But it is nonsense to speak of a balanced budget without separating out a capital budget.
Every State, every local government, every business has a capital budget and an operating expense budget. The operating budget must be balanced, but the capital budget enables long-term investment, highways, bridges, tunnels to be financed by borrowing.
Any family borrows to buy a car or a house.
This amendment would prohibit the Federal Government from ever borrowing except in wartime. This is nonsense.
Second, budgets should be balanced over time, not every year. In good times, the operating budget should be balanced or have a surplus to pay down the debt. During a recession we should prime the pump, cut taxes, increase expenditures, run a deficit to stimulate the economy, to put more people to work, and to get out of the recession.
This amendment would force the Government to violate all we know of economic policy and cut spending during a recession to offset the lower tax receipts generated by the recession. This is a good way to turn a recession into a depression.
That is why the Owens amendment which I support would suspend operation of a balanced budget amendment when there is high unemployment.
Third, the proposed three-fifths rule would require a 60 percent vote to pass bills to improve enforcement of the law against tax cheats, to close special-interest tax loopholes, or to revoke most-favored-nation status of countries that violate human rights. A minority of the House would be able to block any of these actions.
Finally, our large national debt and the Republican decision to increase substantially defense spending means inevitably that a balanced budget amendment would force us to gut spending on Social Security, Medicare, and other vital programs.
Mr. Chairman, we do not need this dangerous amendment. In the last 2 years we have cut the deficit almost in half. We need to continue a prudent fiscal policy. We do not need to rewrite the Constitution.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the distinguished gentleman from Ohio (Mr Ney).
Mr. NEY. Mr. Chairman, I want to talk about reality and fact today versus uncertainty and doubt.
And the uncertainty and doubt mentioned is budget estimates. The reality is it has been done. It has been done in many States.
But Ohio sets an example, one of the larger budgets in the United States, and you have the executive budget, you have the legislative budget office. Sometimes their statistics do not agree. But you come to a middle point and you take the conservative end of it. Usually that tends to give us the basis to be able to operate on a balancing budget.
The doubt, it has not all been set out over the course of the next 7 years. The reality, the State of Ohio, like many other States, has made it a reality that we set out a budget pattern. We accomplish a short-term goal, and it works. The doubt, this system will not work: The reality, it does. Last month I was chairman of the senate finance committee in Ohio. I guarantee you had we told the members magically there is no more cap on the Ohio budget, the end result is they would have crawled on glass to get there to spend money. It does work.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee), a member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
(Ms. JACKSON-LEE asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Ms. JACKSON-LEE. Formulating laws and studying our legal system has occupied most of my adult life. At each level of my professional career, I have taken an oath to uphold the laws and principles of the Constitution of the United States of America, and I take this responsibility very seriously.
I feel very great cause for concern over this most recent attempt to alter the Nation`s most sacred charter, not that it has not been done, but simply the process is one that bears a great consideration and seriousness.
Clearly any changes that are to be made to this document should only be made upon careful deliberation and dialog. At this time, however, I do not feel that we have gone forward in a bipartisan spirit and open debate to do this monumental task.
Oh, I know the stories have been told about the years of trying to balance the budget and all the Congresses that have not, but I come here a new Member representing my constituents and believing that we have the ability to handle this in a manner that shares with the American public the direction in which we are going.
In this Committee on the Judiciary time and time again in a bipartisan spirit Sheila Jackson-Lee offered military preparedness, protecting Medicare and Medicaid, offering Social Security amendments, not to stop the progress but simply to provide for the American public a realistic look at the balanced budget amendment.
There are too many questions that I still have, and they are still left unanswered. Precipitive cuts in essential Federal programs, especially programs that assure health, safety, well-being, and educational opportunities for our citizens clearly are in the national interest. The majority wants to balance our budget by cutting spending by 30 percent without raising taxes. This will hurt our children`s programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans` services.
In Texas alone over 180,000 babies, preschoolers, and pregnant women would lose infant formula and other WIC nutrition supplements. If we pass the balanced budget amendment, 420,000 children in Texas will lose food stamps; over 500,000 would lose Medicaid health coverage.
While these alarming numbers are specific to my State of Texas, I have to stand up for my people in my State and in the entire Nation. As legislators it is our responsibility to examine the effects of this legislation in detail and to truly understand the consequences of what we are doing.
When we talk about dropping education benefits, 37 percent of the people say they support the balanced budget amendment. When we talk about cutting social security, only 34 percent of the American people.
I simply ask that we detail where we are going and what we are doing. I simply ask are we going to cut child welfare dollars or are we going to fight for a new flight bomber? It is very important, as we discuss a balanced budget, that we focus on the substantive impact and whether or not Congress and the President can actually achieve a balanced budget amendment.
We must understand the enforcement mechanism. Who has standing? The question has never been answered.
Does the senior citizen in the 18th district of Texas have the opportunity to go to the Supreme Court and say they have been impacted negatively by the balanced budget amendment? I think they should. The questions are still unanswered.
We have a great responsibility as we amend our Constitution, and I believe that we must give reverence to the Constitution of the United States. An open rule, and understanding of where we are going, that is what we need in a balanced budget amendment, but we need most of all to understand and respect the Constitution.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am delighted to yield 2 minutes to the H 644 learned gentleman from New York (Mr. Houghton).
(Mr. HOUGHTON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. HOUGHTON. I thank my learned chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I am trying to figure out a way of how to get into this conversation because so much of what I had intended has already been said.
Let me just say one thing: I was down here in 1982 with the Grace Commission. We had a deficit of $200 billion. We had great plans, we had suggestions to close that gap, cut the spending. Nothing happened.
I came here as a Congressman in 1987. Our deficit was still $200 billion, and we had all of these plans, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, all of the great laws. Nothing happened.
Here we are now with a deficit of still $200 billion or approximating that.
There was a man called C. North Cole Parkinson, who said expenses have a tendency to rise to exceed income. That is what is happening here.
I think it is really a bad idea, if there were any other alternative to having a constitutional amendment. However, I am convinced now that it is the only way of doing this thing. I am not for the three-fifths for the tax increase. It is not practical. It will not work. But I am for a balanced budget amendment.
Let me say one other thing: That is the easy part. The hard part is to put this into practice. Peter Drucker always said that all great ideas ultimately degenerate into work. This is what is going to happen here. The easy part is passing this legislation; the hard part is going to be to put it into effect.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Engel).
Mr. ENGEL. I thank my friend for yielding this time to me.
My colleagues, in the rush to pass a constitutional amendment and tamper with the Constitution to do something that we do not have the guts to do ourselves, let us tell the American people what we are really doing. Let us be honest with the American people.
If the American people knew what this balanced budget amendment would do, there would be a hue and cry in the land.
We are exempting social security. I agree. We are telling our senior citizens that by exempting social security, they will be all right. Who is kidding whom? Do you know the Medicare cuts that will come as a result of this balanced budget amendment? My senior citizens and senior citizens across this country that are on Medicare and cannot make ends meet now will face cuts of 20, 30, 35 percent. They cannot get money to pay for prescription drugs or the health services they need now. Forget it after the balanced budget amendment.
Medicaid, decimated; veterans benefits, decimated. You veterans who think you will continue to get outpatient services under a balanced budget amendment, outpatient health services, forget it. That will be gone.
Education, school lunches, magnet school programs, forget it. Tremendous cuts. Our children are going to suffer in future years.
Mass transit, Meals on Wheels, the environment, forget about clean water and clean air, there will not be money for that.
More cops on the beat, housing, health research.
Federal pensions, we can forget about all the things the American people have come to expect.
Wake up, America. If we do not have the guts here to do what we have to do, a balanced budget amendment is not going to do it for us. All it is going to do is impose terrible hardships on the American people, senior citizens, and our young people.
If Congress declares war, we have to have a separate vote on a military action and then a second vote to decide to unbalance the budget. This is unworkable.
It is a disaster for America, and I will vote `no.`
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Packard).
(Mr. PACKARD asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. PACKARD. Mr. Chairman, after hearing the last remarks, the most scary scenario of all would be for us to continue to run this country into bankruptcy and then there are no programs that are going to get the benefit.
Mr. Chairman, last November the American taxpayers declared that enough is enough. They are fed up with the Federal Government`s liberal tax-and-spend policy. Passing the tax limitation balanced budget amendment will insure that the Government will balance its budget without raising taxes. The three-fifths rule serves as a vital disciplinary tool. It will help Congress resist the temptation to fall back into the liberal tax-and-spend habit of the past 30 years. It will keep Congress` sticky fingers out of the American taxpayer`s back pocket. Are not American people already being taxed enough? Forty-nine States operate with a balanced budget amendment. Every American working family must balance their checkbook each month.
Is it not time for the Federal Government to start living within its means as well? I urge all my colleagues to vote in favor of the Barton amendment.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Mrs. Clayton).
(Mrs. CLAYTON asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Mrs. CLAYTON. Mr. Chairman, democracy means majority rule, but it also means government of, by, and for the people.
In the context of democracy, there are two things that trouble me greatly about the Barton constitutional amendment for a balanced budget.
First, the resolution seems to trample on the right of the people to know under what burdens they must suffer at the hands of the Government. The resolution, second, seems to ignore the sacredness of the Constitution of the United States.
On one occasion, President John Adams spoke of the right to know. He said, `Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right to know.` That right, he said, `is indisputable, unalienable, infeasible, and divine.` Passage of the proposed Barton constitutional amendment in its current form denies the people the right to know.
In order to achieve a balanced budget by the year 2002, as provided in the amendments, an amendment must provide that we must make those hard cuts. $1.2 trillion will have to be cut in a range of entitlement programs alone.
Why will not the majority tell us how those cuts will be made?
These are not social security alone, there are other entitlements beyond social security. If the tax cuts envisioned are made, indeed we must make cuts beyond that. More than $450 million in additional cuts would be made. That will mean farmers in my State and rural communities, water sewage, all of those projects will be subject to cut.
One of the sponsors of the amendment has said that we should not let the people know because, `If they know they will buckle at the knees.` I disagree. Knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. A wise America is a strong America and will make the decisions as to the necessary cuts if they believe, if they believe those cuts are necessary for the welfare of this country.
My second concern is, while I agree that the Constitution is a living, breathing document, it is not a document that we should take lightly. It is not subject to every political whim, and the people will say that we are good politicians. It is a sacred document. It has only been amended 27 times in more than 2 centuries. Therefore, we should take as sacred our responsibility to first deliberate, then understand, then to inform the American people what it is we are about to do.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Foley).
(Mr. FOLEY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FOLEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the constitutional amendment to balance our budget and especially the Barton amendment with the three-fifths provision.
Almost 180 years ago, Mr. Chairman, Thomas Jefferson, a man well ahead of his time, stated, `To preserve our independence we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.`
Now I have heard from a lot of people today saying, `When the American public finds out how you are going to do this, they will be outraged.`
My colleagues, the American public is outraged now, is asking us, `How do you do it? If I bounce a check, the bank will shut my account. If I go over my limit on my Master Card, they will cut my credit.`
The United States of America spends money it does not have while parents at home have to tell their children, `You can`t go to the University of Florida or Florida State. We have to keep you at home because we can`t afford the tuition.` Parents make those choices every day. The American Government must make those same choices.
Mr. Chairman, we must balance this budget in order to assure future generations the same opportunities we have in this country.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Olver).
(Mr. OLVER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, we are fast approaching 5,000 billion dollars in debt, and the interest on that debt is $200 billion every year. That interest on the debt is greater than the deficit for this year for the first time, and it will be for many years in the future. Much of that interest goes to foreign sources, and it denies our people`s needs that we should be paying that interest. But how did we get here?
The majority of us in this Chamber were not here when the vast decisions were made on this issue. For a 12-year period not one budget was presented that was in balance by either President Bush or former President Reagan. And the Congress, after passing those budgets, those budgets which were than presented and signed by those Presidents, all of those budgets which were out of balance, not a single one of them was vetoed. So, I deplore the history that got us to that point, and it was in that period of time that we went from 1,000 billion dollars to 4,500 billion dollars of debt.
So, I intend to vote for some of the proposals for balanced budgets. I will vote for those that involve capital budgeting because every family and every State in this country provides for some degree of amortization for its investments in the future, for construction of long-term nature at the State level, for homes at the family level. I will vote for the protection of Social Security. I will vote to allow the fast action when we have a recession and need to do something countercyclical to deal with the recession. But I will not vote for amendments that allow for a minority to control budgetary decisions.
So, Mr. Chairman, I will vote against the Barton amendment and hope that it is defeated.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Martini).
(Mr. MARTINI asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. MARTINI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde) for yielding this time to me.
Mr. Chairman, once again the House is about to consider a balanced budget amendment. I rise today to throw my support behind this important measure, particularly the Barton amendment.
For the last 25 years, Mr. Chairman, this Chamber has accumulated deficits that defy logic. After a quarter century of living on borrowed money, today I say `Enough is enough.`
Previous attempts to balance the budget without a constitutional amendment have failed. Time after time Congress has shown that it lacks the discipline to adhere to goals that it sets for itself. It is clear only a new approach will bring lasting fiscal restraint on this body.
Mr. Chairman, the world will not come to an end if this amendment passes. Those naysayers who claim that the sky will fall if we embrace fiscal responsibility in our Constitution are just the guardians of an oversized government that has betrayed the American taxpayers by wasting too much of their money. Let us end the congressional spending spree and support the balance budget amendment.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Tanner).
(Mr. TANNER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. TANNER. Mr. Chairman, this is the fourth time that I have been on the floor on this subject since I came here 6 years ago. I am in my seventh year now. We have come within 12 votes one year, 9 votes one year, and, I think, even 7 votes one time, and I want to commend the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) and the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Schaefer) for bringing once again, I think, a workable solution to our problems.
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, once said, `A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism.`
I think, if he were here today, he would say the same thing. What he said was, in my words: There must be a clear, cogent and compelling reason to disregard this most basic premise of democracy: majority rules.
Over the past 25 years, Mr. Chairman, a clear willingness to borrow from tomorrow for today`s gratifications has been shown by administrations, Democrat and Republican, by Congresses, Democrat and Republican, and the American people. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I think circumstances justify, or maybe even demand, a three-fifths requirement for a supermajority to borrow money as it relates to our national debt and to place such a restraint in our most basic document of government, the United States Constitution.
Always in these arguments about spending, Mr. Chairman, those whose voices are not heard in these decisions to raise the debt ceiling are those who are not here: our children, our grandchildren and their children. On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, there is a significant and profound influence in our body politic to prevent this or any Congress from raising taxes.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the distinguished gentleman from Florida (Mr. Miller).
Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the tax limitation balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Without question, Mr. Chairman, this is the single most important budget reform contained in our Contract with America.
As the recent debate over Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has demonstrated, every item in the Federal budget has a special interest constituency ready to lobby Congress to protect their funding and their programs. The outcry from these organized interests will only get louder as we continue to look for ways to control the size of government. A well-drafted constitutional amendment will protect the general taxpayers` interests from this continued onslaught of special interests, giving Congress the backbone to cut spending first. That is why tax limitation is so crucial to reducing the size and scope of government.
As former President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, `The American people are not taxed too little. The government spends too much.`
I say to my colleagues, `If you agree that Federal spending, not lack of new taxes, is the reason for the deficit problem, then support the tax limitation balanced budget amendment.`
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Roemer).
(Mr. ROEMER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. ROEMER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in very strong support of the balanced budget amendment, and I believe that this issue should unite Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Perotists and populists. I believe that we all should get behind a H 646 balanced budget, and I believe we should for the following reasons:
PAGE H645 We are currently spending $212 billion on interest on the debt. Let me repeat: $212 billion on interest on the debt.
That is 14 percent of our budget; $14 out of every $100 collected from our taxpayers go to interest payments.
Now, to a fiscal conservative, naturally that would be outlandish and offensive, to spend $212 billion on interest payments, and to a social liberal, to spend $212 billion on interest payments, when you might argue that it should go to Head Start, immunizations for children, technology investments. All Democrats and Republicans should be behind a balanced budget.
But, Mr. Chairman, if this is the backbone, then comes the courage. We must work in bipartisan ways to come up with majority votes to cut spending. Not Social Security, but cut spending on a space station that is over budget, cut spending in our own personal offices and pass a law so we can have that money go to the Treasury Department so we have it go to take down the debt. We must come up with cuts in the Interstate Commerce Commission, in the Agricultural Conservation and Stabilization offices. Across the board we must look at programs in a bipartisan way.
Finally, I know that tax cuts are as popular as apple pie, but apple pie has to be paid for. We are talking about a balanced budget. If we have to come up with $200 billion for tax cuts, why do we not concentrate on the balanced budget for the next year, and then determine if we have money for tax cuts? I think the American people want us to make those tough cuts in spending, and balance this budget. Because if we balance the budget, that is the best tax cut we can give for all Americans. Working Americans, every American benefits from lower interest rates, from a growing economy and jobs, and we get much-needed credibility back in this institution that we can do things.
I encourage all votes for a balanced budget amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the constitutional balanced budget amendment. As we are all too well aware, Federal budget deficits have been and continue to be a chronic problem which plagues the Nation. In 56 of the last 64 years, the Federal Government has run a deficit. We have now reached the point where the public debt of the United States exceeds $4.7 trillion. That is crazy!
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the interest payments on the debt will cost the American taxpayers $212 billion this year alone. Put another way, 14 percent of every tax dollar that the Government collects will be used to pay the interest on the debt. These are funds which we could and should be using for programs such as Head Start, child nutrition, education, job training, and so many other important programs.
This deficit continues to harm our Nation`s economy, stifles economic growth, and jeopardizes the future prosperity of our children and grandchildren. Our debate today about a balanced budget is really a debate about the future of this country.
Clearly, spending cuts are the best way to achieve a balanced budget. Throughout my career, I have never hesitated to make the tough choices to cut spending, even where my votes were not always politically safe or popular. Spending cuts must continue to be our top priority.
While the balanced budget amendment is not a panacea for all of our economic ills, I believe that it will help. It will provide a badly needed element of discipline to the budgeting process, by requiring the President to submit a balanced budget, and prohibiting Congress from enacting a budget where spending exceeds revenues.
Mr. Chairman, while I strongly support the balanced budget amendment, I want to make it clear to the senior citizens in my district that I believe that Social Security should be fully protected. I am pleased that earlier today the House passed overwhelmingly House Concurrent Resolution 17 which directs Congress to leave Social Security alone when it is forced to comply with the balanced budget amendment.
Mr. Chairman, since I was first elected to Congress, I have supported a balanced budget amendment. While a balanced budget amendment will not eliminate all wasteful Government spending, it represents a significant step toward controlling spending. In recent days, much attention has been focused on tax cuts. In my view, deficit reduction is the best tax cut for all Americans.
Mr. Chairman, the future of our children and their children is at stake. Let us pass the constitutional balanced budget amendment to ensure that their future is full of hope rather than crippling debt.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the very distinguished gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Hutchinson).
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Barton balanced budget amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I remind my colleagues of a few facts: In the last 30 years, the Federal Government has balanced its budget exactly one time, 1969. The national debt amounts to $13,000 per person in this country, and the interest payments now amount to over $800 per person per year. But opponents say we do not need an amendment, just let Congress make the spending cuts. Well, most proposals or spending cuts are like the magician`s trick of sawing in half the lady in the box. There is a great deal of hoopla, there is a great deal of fanfare, and then something appears to be cut. But when it is all over, nothing much has changed.
That is why we need a balanced budget amendment, to discipline our own profligate spending habits. And we need to have the supermajority requirement, the tax limitation proposal. We have it in the State of Arkansas, where I am from, and it works in Arkansas and it will work here.
Mr. Chairman, deficit spending is stealing. It is stealing from our children and it is stealing from our grandchildren, and it must stop.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith).
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary for yielding.
Mr. Chairman, on November 8, the American people put their bloated Federal Government on a diet. The balanced budget amendment with taxpayer protection is step 1 in Washington`s weight loss program.
Federal fat has been growing for the past 25 years. Since 1969, when Congress last balanced the budget, the debt has grown to $4.6 trillion. How Congress chooses to shed Federal fat is critically important. The balanced budget amendment with taxpayer protection causes the Government to change its eating habits by cutting spending first.
Like so many would-be dieters, the leaders of the minority have all kinds of excuses as to why the Government can`t be made lean. These excuses can be termed budgetspeak.
Budgetspeakers contend that massive cuts would be needed to balance the budget. They argue that every Government program is indispensable and irreducible.
Outside the corpulent Capitol, the American people know better. In reality, Congress can balance the budget by reducing the increase in spending. According to the Clinton administration`s own numbers, if spending increases by 3 percent rather than by 5 percent, as currently projected, the budget will be balanced in 7 years.
Budgetspeak also contends that by taxing Americans more, the Government somehow will spend less. Yet both President Clinton and President Bush painfully learned that tax increases cannot solve our fiscal woes. Just last week, the President`s Budget Director Alice Rivlin admitted that the administration had no plan to balance the budget.
Budgetspeakers deride this amendment as a gimmick. They assert that Congress should instead make serious choices to reduce the deficit. Yet look at the voting record of these budgetspeakers. The National Taxpayers Union, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, tallied the votes of the 103d Congress and graded every Member of Congress on how carefully they spent the American people`s hard-earned money. Every member of the Democratic leadership received an `F.`
Mr. Chairman, the American people understand budgetspeak is code for why the Government can`t diet today.
Mr. Chairman, as chairman of the contract with America`s working group that produced this amendment, I urge its passage.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), H 647 a very valuable member of the committee.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Chairman, I keep hearing the opponents of this amendment claim that they oppose the amendment because of the spending cuts that will affect their favorite programs that they feel are going to hurt people when they are cut. But what about their concern for the future of our children and grandchildren as we continue to pile debt upon debt on them?
We now are averaging deficits of approximately $200 billion a year, a $4.7 trillion debt. That is $18,000 for every single person in this country. And as we increase that debt, we increase the interest payments. And right now by doing that year after year, we are reducing the portion of the debt budget each year that can be used to spend on programs, because an increasing proportion of it has to go to pay for interest on that debt. We need to stop that increase in the debt, we need to cut it back.
Voting for this amendment is going to be an important part of this process, but it is only going to be the beginning. We are going to have to step up and make those cuts, but we are going to do it in the interests of our children and our grandchildren.
We must make sure that the budget is balanced by cutting spending, which never seems to happen in this House, particularly on the domestic spending side. We cannot do it by continuing to increase the percentage of people`s incomes that goes to taxes.
We have a situation where year after year, whenever we have a crisis with our spending, we increase taxes, we do not decrease the spending. And that is why we have got to support the Barton amendment to level the playing field, because historically we have found it easier here to increase taxes than to cut spending.
This has historically proven to work in States that have the supermajority requirement, and I urge the support of the Barton amendment.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Barr).
Mr. BARR. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time.
Mr. Chairman, for too long the American taxpayer has suffered from Congress` inability to control spending. That is why people all across the country, and in particular my constituents in Georgia`s seventh congressional district, so strongly support the balanced budget amendment as the first critical step to reining in reckless spending practices of the past.
Passing a balanced budget amendment, however, is not enough. True protection for the taxpayer means passing the BBA with the Tax Limitation or Taxpayer Protection Act. Putting real teeth in the balanced budget amendment, means we must pass the three-fifths supermajority, tax limitation provision to keep future Congresses focused on cutting spending and reducing the size of government.
In the Judiciary Committee, we passed this version of the balanced budget with strong support of the Members.
Here in this body we have heard the message that people are tired of the waste, tired of the excess and tired of the debt. Last November the people spoke and they want action on the BBA now.
However, there are still those who continue to persist in a vain effort to defeat the will of the people. A number of self-serving arguments have been made in defense of the status quo. One such argument is that we should not consider the balanced budget amendment until we have laid out every single line item to be cut.
That is like telling coach Seifert of the San Francisco 49ers that before he can play the Chargers this Sunday in the Super Bowl, he must turn over the playbook before the big game.
It is an absurd argument to say we cannot vote on the balanced budget amendment until we let opponents gut the bill. Just as it is absurd to expect the 49ers to play, knowing that their opponent has their playbook.
What does make sense are rules that apply to the big game and established the limits that make the game playable. In the same way, the American people are demanding new rules, rules that set finite limits about spending, and therefore, the size of government.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Foglietta), creator of the urban caucus.
(Mr. FOGLIETTA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FOGLIETTA. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong opposition to the Republican balanced budget amendment proposal. The amendment forces us to play blind man`s bluff with the economic prosperity of our Nation, and the safety net for our most vulnerable citizens.
For 2 years, the work of our President and the Congress has reduced the deficit. We can make much more progress with more hard work, more tough decisions and more courageous votes.
However, this legislation is far from responsible. It is neither hard, nor tough, nor courageous. What`s missing here is honesty. Honesty that would come if the proponents set out the details of how $1.2 trillion in cuts would be made.
One time, we had a vote on such a plan, though I did not agree with it. It came from the gentleman from New York, now Chairman of the Rules Committee. It would have balanced the budget over 5 years. It would have cut over $698 billion in spending, and offered the American people over 500 specific program cuts.
It would have cut the grants that create jobs and private low income housing in cities by $23.9 billion.
It would have cut child nutrition programs, like school breakfasts and lunches, and WIC, by $1.9 billion.
Medicaid payments to hospitals, serving large populations of the poor, would have been cut by $27.5 billion.
The Solomon plan did not raise taxes. It did not touch Social Security. And it increased defense spending. But at least it was honest. And although that sounds a lot like the Contract with America, only 56 Republican Members voted for it.
We must then assume the proponents of this amendment are looking for something different. And thus, the question still stands. How do you cut $1.3 trillion in spending?
I, along with John Conyers and Jose 1 Serrano, sent a survey to every member of this House, asking how they`ll cut the budget. So far, we have not received a single response.
I am convinced that there is a reason why the proponents of this amendment won`t tell us how they`ll find $1.3 trillion in spending cuts.
Because the cuts will be so draconian that they will destroy what is left of the safety net.
Because the cuts will be so severe that we will have to break our contract with senior citizens.
Because the cuts will be so tough that they will bankrupt Urban America, I strongly urge my colleagues to vote against the balanced budget proposal.
I am convinced that they only amendment before us that will balance the budget in a responsible way is through the creation of a capital budget. That`s why the Wise substitute is the only responsible and honest amendment. It allows us to borrow money to preserve and expand our capital, just like States and cities do, just like every American family does in attaining the American dream of home ownership. It is important that it would leave enough room in the opening budget to keep the safety net in tact, and spend money to meet national priorities like education and economic growth.
The remaining amendments leave us in the dark and could jeopardize this Nation`s very future.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot), a very valued member of our committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Barton amendment which I believe will best protect the American taxpayer. Since this House last voted on a balanced budget amendment, just 10 months ago, before I got here, I might add, the national debt has increased by $160 billion, less than a year, $160 billion. That is a whole lot of debt.
Well, it is time we had the courage to do something about it. It is time we passed a balanced budget amendment. H 648
Let us face it, Americans are forced to send far too many of their hard-earned dollars to this city. We must pass a balanced budget amendment now. I support balancing the budget by cutting spending, not by raising taxes.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bentsen).
(Mr. BENTSEN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BENTSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the resolution. I support a balanced budget, but the proposed constitutional amendment in no way guarantees that we will achieve one, and even then, not until 2002 at the earliest. As the gentleman from Illinois, the chairman of the Committee said in his opening statement, this legislation is about process, and I believe this process is flawed for several reasons.
First, this bill would amend the Constitution to require the Congress to achieve a balanced budget by 2002 or the date after which the States have ratified such an amendment, but it in no way details how the President or Congress would meet the targets necessary to do so. It is ironic that as we begin this debate, few, if any of the proponents have ever submitted a balanced budget for consideration by the Congress. Few, if any, have come to the floor during this debate to explain to the American people what a balanced budget would look like. While many argue that Social Security is off the table, we have no guarantees. Some have gone as far as to say that a balanced budget would make one`s knees buckle and to disclose such information would most certainly mean defeat of this measure. My colleagues, that candor in lack of disclosure begs the question that we must answer for the American people, what cuts must we make to achieve a balanced budget? Will it cut Medicare and veterans benefits? Will it cut education and college loans? If that is the will of the Congress, the people deserve a right to know.
Second, this legislation, which I restate is one of process, is inherently flawed. Whichever you choose, the Congress may waive the requirement of a balanced budget by a vote. So if we are not willing to tell the American people how we would balance the budget will we be willing to actually follow through in 2002 when the knee buckling hard decisions must be made? There is no guarantee.
I believe we must take efforts to balance our budget, but to impose fiscal restraints through the Constitution without any explanation is not the way. I have argued for, and I have introduced, legislation which provides for a better, more efficient process. Rather than amend the Constitution, why not amend the Budget Control Act and require the President to submit a balanced budget and the Congress to consider one, next year. This process is better in three ways: First, it puts the numbers before the American people so they can understand the pain and sacrifice necessary to achieve a balanced budget. That is fair disclosure. Second, it holds the President and Congress accountable by requiring consideration. You have to vote on the issue, not just to waive the requirement as the amendment process would allow. And, third it allows us to more quickly address our budgetary problems because this legislation can be adopted and implemented for fiscal year 1997. If we are really serious about balancing the budget, we should begin the process now, not in 2002.
My colleagues, like many here today, on both sides of this issue, I do not stand before you with an iron-clad plan to balance the budget. I believe there is no one in this House who could achieve that plan without severe pain and sacrifice. If we are going to get serious about achieving that goal, then we must be willing to go to the American people and lay out the details.
Like many of my new colleagues, I came to the Congress from the private sector where balanced budgets are a necessity if you wish to remain in business for a long time. I learned that the only way to achieve cuts was by sitting down together, reviewing the data and sharing in the sacrifice. If we are going to balance the budget, we must sit down with the American people at the same table and resolve together a map toward a balanced budget. I have a plan which provides the process to do so which I have offered. This bill, in my opinion, falls short of that goal because it fails to tell us how we get from here to there and therefore I must oppose its passage.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair wishes to announce that he inadvertently shorted the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Foglietta) by 1 minute and has, therefore, added 1 minute back into the time of the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers).
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the Chair.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, that last activity of the Chair is not debatable, I take it?
The CHAIRMAN. No, it is not.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the distinguished gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Fawell), the head of the pork busters caucus.
(Mr. FAWELL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FAWELL. Mr. Chairman, during the debate Members argue, of course, that we do not need a constitutional amendment because Congress can be trusted to balance the budget without one.
Well, that is what I thought 10 years ago, when I came to Congress. Since then, Congress has rejected countless attempts to balance the budget. Just last year the gentleman from New York (Mr. Solomon) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Upton) and I brought a budget plan to the floor.
We specified, for instance, something like $700 billion worth of cuts. It would balance the budget in 5 years. And actually, during that period of time, Federal spending would go up, about $8.2 trillion of spending over 5 years. We did not even touch Social Security.
We thought it was a pretty good plan. It garnered 73 votes. Congress has failed to balance the budget for 25 years in a row. Who can look at this record and honestly say that they believe the budget will be balanced by trusting the will of Congress? Congress does not lack ideas of specificity on how to balance the budget, it lacks the political will to do so.
Mr. Chairman, I would suggested that the Barton balanced budget amendment be passed.
Russert: `Mr. Secretary, you sound like you don`t want to balance the budget. I mean, how long would it take to actually balance the budget?`
Reich: `The President is against simply balancing the budget . . .`
Russert: `. . . what about actually balancing the budget? How long would it take to actually bring its budget into balance with an orderly and disciplined campaign?`
Reich: `But Tim, your question assumes that the goal is to balance the budget . . .`
Russert: `So the goal of a balanced budget is not your goal?`
Reich: `The goal of a balanced budget is not my goal.`
This was the exchange between Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Tim Russert of NBC News on Sunday, January 15. Secretary Reich`s comments epitomize the attitude of the Clinton administration toward balanced budgets, and the balanced budget amendment, which will soon be before Congress.
Secretary Reich`s comments, and the President`s continued opposition to the balanced budget amendment, suggest that the administration did not `get the message` of the last election. Two recent polls, CBS and USA Today/CNN, found that 80 percent of Americans support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
In the debate over this amendment, you will hear many arguments by those opposing it. A recent argument is that those supporting the amendment must itemize which programs would be `cut` before passing the amendment. That`s been done: Last year Congressmen Gerry Solomon, Fred Upton, and I brought a budget plan to a vote which balanced the budget in 5 years without any tax increases. There were no cuts in overall Federal spending, but rather, decreases of planned increases in spending! We itemized 600 specific spending cuts, saving $700 billion over 5 years. Nevertheless, overall Federal spending was still allowed to rise $327 billion over 5 years. Yet, the plan garnered only 73 votes, 218 are needed for passage.
The point I`m making is that Congress does not lack ideas for how to balance the budget. Congress lacks the political will to do it. A constitutional mandate will fortify that will.
Another argument often heard is that we don`t need a constitutional amendment because Congress could be trusted to balance the budget without any constitutional amendment. Technically, that`s true. Nor do we need the first amendment of the Constitution to guarantee free speech. But we all feel safer H 649 with that first amendment rather than trusting Congress not to pass laws infringing on our free speech.
With respect to attempts to balance the budget, we have tried the statutory route; and tried, and tried. In 1974, Congress passed the Budget Control Act to end deficit spending. The deficit and debt grew. In 1985, Congress enacted Gramm-Rudman I which required a balanced budget by 1990. Congress ignored it, then repealed it. In 1987, we passed Gramm-Rudman II which required a balanced budget by 1992. Congress repealed it in favor of the 1990 Deficit Reduction Agreement, another 5 year plan to cut the deficit which include $222 billion in new taxes. It failed, new taxes and all. With a new President, in 1993, in the third year of the previous 5-year plan, Congress tried again with the Deficit Reduction Plan which included the granddaddy of all tax increases: $250 billion. Most of the 1993 plan`s cuts were in the out years, years 4 and 5. It is another failure as deficits are expected to soar toward the end of the decade.
Congress has failed to balance a budget for 25 years in a row. Who can look at this record honestly and say they believe the budget will be balanced by trusting the will of Congress?
There is a debate as to whether the constitutional amendment should include a provision requiring a `three-fifths supermajority in both Houses,` as opposed to a simple majority, to raise taxes as part of any budget balancing plan. I support the inclusion of this supermajority provision in the Barton balanced budget amendment. Tax increases are not essential in order to balance the budget. As I said, we don`t even need an overall cut in Federal spending. It can be done by simply decreasing increases in spending. Should the Barton balanced budget amendment be defeated, I intend to support the Schaefer balanced budget amendment and pass the toughest balanced budget amendment possible.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 3 1/2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Becerra), a distinguished member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
(Mr. BECERRA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BECERRA. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Michigan, the ranking member, for yielding time to me.
Mr. Chairman, having listened to all the remarks that have been said by most of the Members, it occurs to me we probably, in these few hours, have had to debate what will be a constitutional amendment to the Constitution of this country, and hopefully will last more than the 200 years that we have already spent as a democracy. It occurs to me perhaps the best thing we could have done is had every Member who came on the floor to speak say exactly how he or she would propose that we cut the budget to balance it, if they in fact are supporting a balanced budget amendment.
That is the best thing we could do, because everyone says they want to do it and they do not want to inflict pain on seniors when it comes to Social Security, and they do not want to devastate children by cutting Head Start and other children`s programs, but no one who is saying they are for this is saying how they will do it. Everyone talks about how well families have to balance the budget and local governments have to balance the budget and States have to balance the budget, and that is right.
Let us take a family under his balanced budget amendment proposal by the majority party. Could a family out in the real estate market go out there and buy a house? They could if they could come up with every single dollar and dime and cent that house would cost, because under this proposal they could not run a deficit for a year, so that family would not be able to take out a 30-year mortgage, not be able to take out a 15-year mortgage. They could take out a 1-year mortgage, but by the end of that year they had better pay it all up or they cannot get that house, and they are out.
What about student loans? How many folks have children in school or desirous of going to college? Forget about borrowing money from the Government under the NDSL, the GSL or other student loan programs at low interest rates that allow people to do it, because by the end of the year that family has to balance its books.
Auto loans? Want a car? Need a car? the person had better be able to pay all the cost of that car by the end of the year.
I had a amendment which would have changed the way we look at this balanced budget amendment, and said if we happen to have a surplus one year, then let us use that surplus as a rainy day fund for those days or those years that come along when we have a recession.
I could not even get that amendment considered in committee. I was blocked in a closed rule which would not allow the debate. If I wanted to add that amendment today, I would not be able to because this debate is closed, only to that which the majority said we can debate.
This amendment, Mr. Chairman I cannot offer, as much sense as it might make. Understand something, all the money that we spend in a year, if we end up with a surplus, those agencies that ran that surplus know they cannot use that money. It goes back to the Treasury.
What does it encourage? The use or lose mentality. `I have the money in my account. I had better use it, or I am going to lose it for next year.` That is not prudent spending.
Where will the cuts come? I believe we can say that the majority here is playing hide and seek. First the Republicans tell us they are going to increase military spending, not cut it, just increase it. Second, we know we have to pay the debt, the interest on the debt, which is around $250 billion. That amounts to about 30 percent of the budget. Off the table, we cannot consider it.
What is left to cut $1.2 trillion to balance the budget? Social Security, which the Republicans have refused to include in this balanced budget amendment as exempted; Medicare, education, Head Start. What is the conclusion? We have heard it before: `Read my lips.` The problem is we are not being told what there is.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 1 1/2 minutes to the distinguished deputy majority whip, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hastert).
(Mr. HASTERT asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. HASTERT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in the strongest possible support of the tax limitation substitute of House Joint Resolution 1 that has been put forward by my friend, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton). I have heard comments from our friends on both sides, but especially one comment from one of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle several speeches ago that said `The President, over 12 years of Republican Presidents, had never signed the budgets that were unbalanced, and he had never once vetoed that budget.`
That is not true, because the President does not sign a budget and the President does not veto a budget. That is part of the problem. The President does not have any control over this budget. It is Congress that passes the budget. Forty years of Congresses have passed a budget that basically is out of control.
The U.S. Congress has not been able to control itself in meting our dollars and cents to the various programs across this country, and do it without mounting that debt higher and higher and higher every year.
In the past, as recently as two short years ago, this House passed the largest tax increase in history, and it passed it off to the American people as deficit reduction. That is why the substitute offered by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton) is critical. Adopting this balanced budget proposal and requiring a super majority vote in order to raise taxes will ensure that we can no longer look to the wallets and the pocketbooks of the American taxpayers to save us from ourselves.
Mr. Chairman, a national debt of $4.5 trillion should finally convince every Member in this Chamber that Congress has not got the discipline to solve its own problems. This balanced budget amendment will put discipline upon us.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I am delighted to yield 4 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi).
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding time to me, and for his leadership on his amendment, which I will address in my remarks.
Mr. Chairman, I rise with the greatest respect for the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton), and in strong opposition to his amendment. I object H 650 particularly to the three-fifths provision of his legislation, but after carefully listening to the debate, I have concluded that while being a strong proponent for reducing the deficit, I do not believe that we should amend our Constitution to do so.
Mr. Chairman, as I was listening to the debate, I thought it might be useful to once again review, and we just made this quickly in our office, so this is not a very fancy chart, but just to call to the attention of our colleagues once again some of the facts regarding our budget.
The fact is, Mr. Chairman, we take in each year more money than we spend in our budget, except for the net interest on our national debt. The projected deficit for this year is $167 billion. The net interest on our national debt this year is $235 billion. We have taken in $68 million more than we spend each year, except for the interest on the national debt. That is a great big exception.
My colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Becerra), referenced that families cannot live within the limits if they have to pay for their house in one year, or their car, et cetera, but we cannot even deduct this interest from our taxes. This is the price we are paying for the failed trickle down policies. Let us not make that mistake again in the contract. That is a little bit of a separate issue from the balanced budget amendment.
Mr. Chairman, our other distinguished colleague, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Barr), mentioned that it would be like the 49ers giving the play book to the Chargers for this Congress, this majority, to show what cuts they would make, we would make, to the American people before we approve balanced budget amendment.
I think that is one, with all due respect to the gentleman, one sports analogy too far. The Chargers should not see the 49er play book. The public has a right to know what the cuts will be, so if it is true that Social Security is not to be cut, why not support the Gephardt-Bonior amendment? If Members believe that the American people have a right to know, then why not support the Conyers amendment, which makes all the sense in the world?
Mr. BECERRA. Mr. Chairman, will the gentlewoman yield?
Ms. PELOSI. I am pleased to yield to the gentleman from California.
Mr. BECERRA. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman from California for yielding to me.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to just explore that analogy that was made. The interesting analogy that was made by the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Barr) about the playbook, about the 49ers and the San Diego Chargers, makes it clear that the majority`s opinion of this whole debate is that, as the 49ers, they have to keep the play book, in other words, how we will plan to balance the budget, away from the Chargers, which would be the American people, so they treat the American people as adversaries in this whole process.
Ms. PELOSI. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, although we take pride in San Francisco of the 49ers being a gentlemanly team, when we talk about football it is a tough game, and I do not think we should play hardball with the American people. I think they have a right to know.
We should support the Conyers amendment, and in addition to that, if we are serious about balancing the budget and reducing the deficit, we had better get serious about real health care reform, so that we can reduce the increase in health care expenditures that are the rising cost of our deficit in our national budget.
But let us just remember once again, we take in more than we spend except for the price tag on the failed trickle-down economics.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Franks).
(Mr. FRANKS of New Jersey asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FRANKS of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, Federal spending is out of control. It is bankrupting our national Treasury and threatening the quality of life that our children will enjoy in the next generation.
There is only one iron-clad way to stop this runaway freight train, and that is through the adoption of a constitutional requirement that this institution balance the American people`s budget.
That is why tomorrow I will be proudly casting a vote for the Barton balanced budget amendment but with a level of disappointment. That stems from the fact that neither the Barton amendment nor any of the other amendments pending tomorrow strictly prohibit unfunded Federal mandates.
Virtually everyone who has come to the podium today has indicated that there are only two ways to balance the Federal budget: One is to cut spending and the other is to increase taxes.
But, Mr. Chairman, there is a third option, far more insidious than the first two, and that would come from the Federal Government requiring States and local governments to pick up the tab for programs currently operated and paid for by the Federal Government in Washington, DC. That could amount to an enormous tax hike for local property taxpayers, something that they can ill afford.
Mr. Chairman, judging from the past, Congress will avoid tough budget choices whenever we can. So to shed programs to other levels of government is a distinct possibility and we need to prohibit that possibility.
That is why our amendment that would have prohibited unfunded Federal mandates had the support of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the very body that will be charged with ratifying the balanced budget in the various State capitals around the country.
But, Mr. Chairman, while I am somewhat disheartened by the fact that unfunded mandates are not at issue in this amendment, we hope to take it up separately this summer.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to my friend and colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Tucker).
Mr. TUCKER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding me the time.
Mr. Chairman, obviously we are all concerned with balancing the budget. There are three areas, however, Mr. Chairman, that are bones of contention. The first one is the area that my illustrious colleague who just yielded to me has produced an amendment about, and that is to have truth-in-budgeting.
We should be honest with the American people. As my colleagues just indicated before I came up here, Mr. Chairman, we should not play hardball with the American people. They are not our adversaries. Therefore, we should be honest with them. Let them know where the cuts are going to have to occur because they are going to have to occur right in their pocketbook, whether we are talking about Social Security or whether we are talking about our young.
It reminds me, Mr. Chairman, of an adage that says you can judge a society very carefully by how it treats its elderly and how it treats its young. So this is how we must look at balancing the budget.
The second area, Mr. Chairman, has to do with this supermajority. We have heard my colleagues on the other side of the aisle indicate that this is the only way that we can have a sagacious balancing of the budget. But in actuality, that supermajority, that 60 percent is not going to preclude the raising of taxes. What it is going to do is empower a minority rule. I do not believe, Mr. Chairman, that that was the original intent of the Framers of our Constitution. In fact, I would submit and suggest to you that that is unconstitutional and we should not adopt and accept and support the Barton amendment.
Third, Mr. Chairman, as we talk about balancing this budget, we certainly have to realize that we must be honest and we must be fair with the American people and that we must balance the budget fairly.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Kim).
(Mr. KIM asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. KIM. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of this balanced budget amendment. H 651
Mr. Chairman, when I came to this body I was the owner of a small business. It is tough to run a small business, believe me. It is tough to survive even. But one thing I learned running a small business is that I cannot spend more than I can take in. Nor can I spend more than I earn. If I do, I have no choice but to file bankruptcy. No bank will bail me out, no government will give me a loan guarantee, because my business is not big enough, like Chrysler.
So I have a choice. I can lose everything. My lifetime savings. Perhaps even my wife.
Now, for some reason, the Federal Government keeps borrowing endlessly, without any collateral or consent from taxpayers. Just keep borrowing and borrowing. That is not fair.
The Federal Government should operate under the same rule. Laws should apply equally.
Year after year, I am tired of listening to these promises. We keep promising to the American people that Congress is going to do something about this runaway deficit. And here it is. We have got a chance, a golden opportunity to do something about this. We have a resolution to adopt it, but here we go again. More excuses. I am listening to criticism from colleagues for not saying exactly where the balancing should come from.
Mr. Chairman, again back to private business. In private business, we always set the goal and then decide how we are going to meet this goal.
To me, the balanced budget amendment is good. We set the goal. Then later we sit down together and go through this painful process where the cuts should be. That is how I look at it.
We all know that we can do it. We all know that we should do it. So we work together, instead of bickering, and go through this painful process.
Mr. Chairman, it is time to stop talking and start acting.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Roth).
Mr. ROTH. I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.
Mr. Chairman, I must say you look great in that position.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair thanks the gentleman from Wisconsin. He still only has 2 minutes.
Mr. ROTH. I was afraid of that.
Mr. Chairman, many of us have waited a good long time for this vote tomorrow. Because while we have had a chance to vote on this issue any number of times, we have never had a chance to win. Tomorrow we certainly have a chance to win.
I want to thank Chairman Hyde and his committee and the Contract With America, and I want to thank the American people for their vote on November 8 because they are going to make this victory on a balanced budget amendment tomorrow possible.
Mr. Chairman, we have had this issue up before. The last time we had it up for a vote, we lost by 12 votes. Some of us had hoped that we could have a balanced budget. For example, we had the Solomon amendment a year ago. No tax increases, no Social Security cuts, and we only had a handful of votes.
I have come to the conclusion that, of course, in 15 years we have had 5 statutes which promised a balanced budget but all were circumscribed.
No, there is no other solution than a balanced budget amendment.
This morning at 9 o`clock something happened I hope that does not happen to our country, but this morning at 9 o`clock we had a hearing here on Capitol Hill on the Mexican peso devaluation. We were told by our leading people in this country, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, the Federal Reserve chairman, `We`ve got to do something; we`ve got to do something.`
Well, that debate is for another day, but I hope that never happens in our country, that happens to our dollar, but it is going to happen if we have these huge deficits. We now have a deficit of $4.6 trillion. How much further can it go?
Since the last time we had elections, our national debt has increased by $170 billion.
My friends, actions have consequences, and this type of profligate spending is going to come back and bite us hard.
Other countries come to the United States for help. Where are we going to go for help? Its time is now. If not us, who? If not now, when?
Let us vote for the balanced budget amendment.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Wise), a gentleman who has worked on budget matters for so long.
Mr. WISE. Mr. Chairman, I have had the privilege of working with the chairman for many years here and I want to thank him very much.
Mr. Chairman, this is the Congress that is trying to be family friendly. We hear a lot of talk about helping middle-class families and we talk a lot about how families have to balance their budgets, all of which is true. So we can learn from families.
I have heard the analogy often about families sitting down around the table at the end of the month, which is what we have to do, what every family I know has to do, to balance their budget. And as the families balance the budget they know there is something crucial. They know the difference between consumption and they know the difference between investment, they know what it is, they know what is the difference between a dollar that is spent on children going to a roller rink or to a movie, or a dollar spent for food or basic consumption and the dollar spent for investment into the house, into the car, into education.
So, families break their budgets up. Yes, they have to balance, but they break those budgets up into operation and maintenance, or consumption and investment, and so that is why we make mortgage payments every month and that is why we borrow for our automobiles and that is why we borrow for the most important probably of all, to send our children to college and to school. So those are investments that we spread out over a long time, that is the cost of them.
The way we balance our budget is we balance the consumption and we balance, and then we add in debt service on those investments. Not many of us, this Member certainly not, cannot afford to buy a House in one year or a car or a college education.
That is what my amendment and the amendment that many others are cosponsoring tomorrow does. It says you should take Social Security off budget. Everyone said they do not want to touch Social Security. We give Members that opportunity. You cannot touch it; it is gone; it is off budget.
But the other thing we do in this that none of the other amendments will do that will be in order, is to have a capitol budget so the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure, those things which in some ways families would pay mortgage payments on, the Federal Government can now account for in the way that a family does. You pay the mortgage on our House; we would have debt service on our roads, on a bridge, on water or sewer systems, particularly those things that bring back far more in economic return than what we ever spent on them.
We have to make sure this country grows. My major concern with many of the balanced budget proposals, as well-intentioned as they are, is because they chop off growth because they count a dollar for investment the same as a dollar for welfare or a dollar for food. That is my main concern.
I urge Members to look at the Wise substitute tomorrow, the only one we will have a change to truly invest in growth and have a chance to do what American families do, recognize the difference.
Mr. BECERRA. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. WISE. I yield to the gentleman from California.
Mr. BECERRA. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from West Virginia makes a very good point. I think some folks that may be watching may think those of us who are saying this balanced budget amendment is the wrong way to go are against ever balancing the Federal budget when of course we want to balance the budget, but we want to be realistic. That is why the gentleman from West Virginia`s alternative is really a sound way to go because, as I explained earlier, if this was a family, and we are a family in America and we were trying to make decisions for this family of America, we would want to be able to purchase a home and, we H 652 would like to be able to get a 30-year mortgage or send our kids to college and be able to get some student loans to help pay the cost.
If the gentleman can explain, does the balanced budget amendment that is on this floor by the majority party, the Republicans, allow for that?
Mr. WISE. There is no capitol budget program. It counts a dollar of consumption exactly the same as a dollar of investment, even though the investment dollar will bring you back much more in economic growth and tax revenues.
Mr. BECERRA. And the gentleman`s proposal which does provide for capitol budgeting, could that allow for that type of process, a 30-year mortgage?
Mr. WISE. Yes, it would.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Fowler).
(Mrs. FOWLER asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Chairman, I support passage of a strong balanced budget amendment.
We must obtain control over our debt. This Government has not produced a balanced budget since 1969. Today we are saddled with a $176 billion deficit, nearly $300 billion in annual interest payments, and a debt of some $4.7 trillion.
This situation cannot continue.
We will soon consider several versions of the balanced budget amendment. I believe the Barton amendment, which requires a three-fifth`s vote to raise taxes, is superior. However, if the Schaefer-Stenholm amendment, which does not include this provision, garners the most votes, I will support it on final passage.
Neither of these measures represents a cure-all for out problems. But each would require the Federal Government to finally be accountable to the American people.
While a balanced budget amendment will require hard decisions, it is not synonymous with a threat to our seniors. Rather, it is our monstrous debt and the interest on it that most threaten social security and other truly vital programs.
The time for easy decisions is over. We must prioritize. I urge passage of a strong balanced budget amendment.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, may I inquire as to the time remaining?
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas) has 18 minutes remaining, and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) has 9 minutes remaining.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 6 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton).
(Mr. BARTON of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to spend a little bit of time explaining exactly how the tax limitation provision in the balanced budget amendment would work. There has been gnashing of teeth about how stringent that process might be and how difficult it might be to implement. Fortunately for the United States Congress, there is ample evidence of how tax limitation amendments to balanced budget amendment requirements would actually work.
I think it has been pointed out on the floor earlier, there are 9 States that have a tax limitation provision either in their Constitution or by statute, including the State that the President is from, the State of Arkansas, which has a three-fourths requirement to raise taxes.
The Heritage Foundation has done extensive data collection to see if in those States that have tax limitation, it does work or it really does not work, and the record shows at the State level that tax limitation in point of fact does work.
Between 1980 and 1990, in those States that had a tax limitation provision, taxes went up by a total of 87 percent in that 10-year period. In the States that did not have tax limitation provisions, their taxes went up 104 percent.
That is a difference of 17 percent. In States that have tax-limitation provisions, taxes went up 17 percent less in a 10-year period between 1908 and 1990 than in those States that did not have the tax limitation provision.
Why do we want a tax limitation provision at all?
Ultimately you want that, because you want to make government more effective, you want to make government more responsive to the people, and you want the Government to spend less money.
If you do not have as much money to spend, you do not spend as much money.
The States that, again, have a tax-limitation provision by statute or in their constitution, their spending did go up, but it went up about 9 percent less than in those States that did not have a tax-limitation provision on the books, again, in the period between 1980 and 1990.
So what does that mean? If you take those numbers and put them at the Federal level, a 9-percent reduction in Federal spending would be over $100 billion in the fiscal year that we are in today. So the bottom line is not only do we need to balance the budget in Washington, we need to balance it by having a tax-limitation provision on the books, because tax limitation does work.
If we do that, we are going to have to make some tough calls. You know, people have asked me, `Well, Congressman Barton, you are the sponsor of this provision. How are you going to balance the budget? Where are you going to cut?` My answer is quite simple, `I think we look at every Federal program.`
We passed a resolution on the floor earlier this afternoon that specifically exempts Social Security. So some people have come to me and they say, `Well, that is only for this year. Why not exempt Social Security in totality by putting it into the constitutional amendment?` And the simple answer to that is because if you exempt any program in the amendment itself, it goes into the Constitution. It would not be totally hypothetical to think at some point in the future everything in the Federal budget would be in that program. We could have an instance where the Social Security budget at some point in time, if it were specifically exempted in the Constitution, not only would include the Social Security budget as we know it today, it could include the defense budget. We do not want to put into the Constitution any specific exemptions.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, let me simply state that the three-fifths requirement for a tax increase is important, because it balances the amendment. We have the three-fifths requirement in the Stenholm-Schaefer amendment to raise the debt ceiling; we have the three-fifths vote requirement to borrow money in a given fiscal year. If we do not put the three-fifths requirement in for a tax increase, we have really created an incentive, intentionally or not, to balance the budget by raising taxes.
So I would respectfully request that when we actually come to the vote tomorrow that the colleagues in the Chamber vote for the Barton-Hyde-Tate-Geren tax-limitation, balanced budget amendment and send it to the Senate where we encourage the Senators to do likewise.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. BARTON of Texas. I am happy to yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
Mr. GEKAS. As I was listening to the gentleman recite the record of the States and the supermajorities in those States, it dawned on me, someone else has mentioned before that in those States where the taxes were raised even in the face of the supermajority, it almost had to be, did it not, a bipartisan vote that finally carried the day?
Mr. BARTON of Texas. The gentleman is correct.
If I could respond, the gentleman is correct, because in the nine States that have tax-limitation requirements, it is a bicameral, bipartisan legislature, and my understanding is that it was a bipartisan effort.
Mr. GEKAS. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Lewis), who serves as our chief deputy whip, in addition to his other responsibilities.
Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank my friend and colleague, the gentleman from the H 653 State of Michigan, for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, our Constitution is an extraordinary document. Our Constitution is the only document of its kind in the world to have lasted so long and to have been used so often as a model for other nations.
This balanced budget amendment that we consider tonight would dishonor our Constitution. It substitutes good politics for what is good policy, for what is right.
Make no mistake. I want a balanced budget like everyone else. I do not want our children and unborn generations to bear the burden of the deficit and increasing national debt.
But I believe we must deal with this issue in a responsible and sensible way. Passing the buck to future sessions of Congress is not responsible.
The new Republican majority must tell the American people what they are going to cut, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, a school lunch program for our children.
Our knees, the American people`s knees, will not buckle as some on the Republican side have suggested.
Two years ago Members on this side of the aisle made the hard choices needed to reduce the deficit. We reduced the Federal deficit by over $500 billion. We acted responsibly. I expect no less from those on the other side of the aisle.
Now they are in charge. They are in control. Lay your cards on the table face up. Tell us the hard choices you are willing to make, be straight with our children and the elderly. Tell them what they will have to do and what they will have to do without.
We do not need this amendment to our Constitution, Mr. Chairman. What we need is courage, raw courage, to make the tough choices facing our country.
Have the courage to do the right thing and vote against this amendment.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Christensen), the only unicameral State in the Union.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Mr. Chairman, in February 1982 President Ronald Reagan said the Federal Government has taken too much tax money from the people, too much authority from the States, and too much liberty with the Constitution. Truer words were never spoken.
That argument is as germane today as it was 13 years ago. Last year we experienced the largest tax increase in American history, and yet, sadly enough, the deficit continued to grow. The time has come to restore fiscal sanity in our Government and pass the Barton balanced budget amendment.
I was sent to Washington to reform government, to change the way Congress does business. In the first 3 weeks of the 104th Congress, we have barely scratched the surface of the Contract With America, the vehicle for the very reform that the American people sent us here to do.
The balanced budget amendment is at the heart of this contract. Since 1935 the American people have been waiting for Congress to pass this measure. Patiently they have waited year after year, only to see another legislative year pass by with no balanced budget amendment.
How long will we make them wait?
The opponents of the balanced budget amendment and our own President of the United States last night said before we pass the balanced budget amendment and send it to the States for ratification we must specify every cut for the next 7 years. I ask those opponents if someone decides that they want to lose weight and live a healthier life, do they not first take a pledge to eat right and exercise, and after taking that pledge, then lay out a plan and a schedule of how they will attain their goal?
Ladies and gentlemen, our Government is fat with debt. The only way to insure a healthy America is to pledge to this country a balanced budget and define that commitment within the United States Constitution.
Once we have sealed our commitment, we will lay out a national diet of fiscal responsibility, balanced by the exercise of spending cuts across the board, and with any good diet, we will forbid the consumption of pork. We will insure our agreement by mandating that only the consent of three-fifths of this body, as laid out in the Barton amendment, not just a simple majority.
We need to consider this Barton amendment. We need to seriously consider this, because it is very important. We need to put handcuffs on our Federal Government so they cannot turn to raising taxes every opportunity they get.
My colleagues, this Nation is broke. Tax increases alone have not solved the problem. We must begin now to put America back on track.
I stand in strong support of the Barton balanced budget amendment and encourage my colleagues to join in this effort.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Mrs. Johnson).
(Mrs. JOHNSON of Connecticut asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Mrs. JOHNSON of Connecticut. I thank the gentleman for yielding this time to me.
Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, I rise in strong support of the balanced budget amendment for three reasons. First of all, we have no choice. We are spending $800 million every single day on interest. Soon we will be spending $1 billion every single day on interest on the national debt. We cannot ask our children to support a growing number of seniors living 20 and 30 years after retirement and spend a billion dollars a day on interest on the national debt. We will destroy their standard of living, we risk our own democracy.
It is that serious.
We must balance the budget. We have no choice.
Let us look at the record of this body. I have been here 12 years, since 1985, and I have submitted balanced budgets, line by line, cuts. They were reasonable when the problem was manageable.
I have had the Democratic chairman of the Committee on the Budget get up and say to the moderate Republicans who proposed this budget, `Good thinking, thoughtful, real good effort. We are going to do most of this.` But it never happened.
I have submitted budgets, I have been part of bipartisan teams to submit budgets, I voted for tax increases and spending cuts, and it has gotten worse and worse and worse.
So our record is bad. In the States, that has been the harness, a balanced budget amendment, which forces attention to this matter on a year-by-year basis. It has worked for them. We must try it, because we are squandering the Nation`s resources and compromising our children`s future.
Third point: How do we achieve it? Of course, we cannot tell you. How many times have you walked into factories in your districts? I can tell you I have walked into a factory in my district, faced with the absolute panicked look on the faces of the leadership who had just found out they were going to have to be required to cut 20 percent of their workforce in 1 year. I said to them, `How will you do it?` Their answer was, `We don`t know.`
I came back a year later, and I said, `How did you do it?` They said, `Well, we did this, and then we did that, and then we found out we could do this and do that, we discovered that not only could we do it, but we improved the quality of the product.`
I remember in one factory I went to, I said `So what now?` I get this terrible stare that said, `We just learned we have to do it again.`
Now, do we know how to do it? No. But we do know that if we have to do it, we can do it. We do know that if we have to do it, we will face up to the fact that those kids cannot support public employees retiring 10 years before they can retire. We do not like talking about that. We do not want to make that decision.
These are tough times. Let us do it, let us have the guts, the courage to serve not only our people but our children.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair will remind the committee that the majority does have the right to close.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt), a very able and committed member of the Committee of the Judiciary.
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. I thank the gentleman for yielding this time to me.
Mr. Chairman, I have sat throughout this debate, the entire course of it, and I think we beat this dog probably as much as we can beat it, as we say in North Carolina. I have not heard anybody come here who has not expressed a commitment to a balanced budget. But the American people should know that it is really the debt, the national debt that is the drag on us.
So a balanced budget is not going to get us there. It is going to take a series of surplus years to start the reduction in the national debt.
I think everybody has talked about that at one level or another. I want to come at this from a slightly different angle because the real problem that I have with the balanced budget amendment, this balanced budget amendment and all of the balanced budget amendments that are coming before us under the series of amendments, is that they jeopardize my right to have an equal vote in this institution.
Every amendment that is coming before this body has a three-fifths majority of some kind in it. Everything that I stand for tells me that my vote and the votes of my constituents, based on constitutional principles, ought to be equally valued.
So I cannot support a constitutional amendment that says to me that next week or next year or in the year 2002 somehow my vote in this body is going to be less valuable than another Member of this body.
This three-fifths majority devalues my vote.
The second problem is that despite all of the protestations to the contrary, the American people do not operate their lives on a balanced budget every year. We fund the acquisition of homes by borrowing, we finance education by borrowing. Those are investments that we make because we think they are important.
Over time, over a long period of time, we pay those things off, but they pay dividends to us in the meantime.
Now I had an amendment that I offered before the Committee on Rules, I tried to get it to address this issue of devaluing my vote.
I went to the Rules Committee and I said, `Here is an amendment that would have a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, but when we were going to waive that balanced budget amendment, we come back in here and we would take a vote by majority so that every Member of this House would continue to have an equal value to their vote because that is the constitutional principle, that is the majority rule principle, that is the American way, that is the fair way.`
But the Committee on Rules, I say to my colleagues and the American people, elected not to make this amendment in order. I had nine other amendments that I tried to offer to this bill in the Committee on the Judiciary on which I sit. The committee closed down at 6:30 on Wednesday, 2 weeks ago, and said, `We are not going to take any more amendments. We don`t care whether you are a member of this committee or not, we are not going to let you offer any amendments.`
So I am being deprived of the value of my vote; I am being deprived of the opportunity to offer amendments on this floor, and I think that is the disservice that we are doing to the American people.
We have got to debate these things regardless of the outcome of the vote and come in and vote and take those hard choices, and then we can maybe balance the budget.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 1/2 minutes to the impeccable gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin).
Mr. TAUZIN. Let me first thank my friend, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), for assuming my position as the second sponsor of the Barton-Tauzin amendment which has been an amendment before this body for many years. I can think of no finer gentleman to assume this role in this new majority than my friend, Mr. Hyde. I also want to congratulate my friend, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Pete Geren), for the role he is playing in the effort to pass the Barton-Hyde-Geren-Tauzin - many Members - bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a required balanced budget and to require it in the right way. I want to make just three points tonight:
PAGE H654 In this age of cyberspace and high-speed technology in communications there is a word that is very current and very popular right now called a new way of seeing things. It is a paradigm, it is called, a new way of looking at things, a new way of seeing things, a new order of things. The old paradigm here in the U.S. Congress and in America has been very simple. People elected Members to go to Congress to get back as much of their tax dollars as they could, and bring them back home and spend them at home, and let me tell my colleagues that paradigm has worked wonderfully. We have all done a marvelous job of that. Every one of us has been extraordinarily good at coming to Washington, bringing back our taxpayers` dollars back to home and spending them at home. In fact we have done such a wonderful job of it that we spend a great deal of money more back home, more than our taxpayers sent to Washington, DC. It is called a deficit. It is called a debt.
We have operated under this old paradigm for many, many years now, and we have riddled our country with debt as a result while we have brought the bacon home.
I think the message of the last few elections has been very simple. The message of the last few elections has been to cut it out. It is time for a new paradigm. It is time for us to elect Representatives to Washington who will stop spending money we do not have.
The new paradigm is to come up here and balance the budget. I ask, `How do you do it? Do you do it by borrowing in a capital account, as some have recommended?` Well, this Government borrows. Unlike most families in America, Mr. Chairman, we borrow and never pay the debt. The debt just piles up. We never pay the mortgage. It piles up on us and our children.
Second, do we balance the budget by raising taxes on Americans again, and again, and again? That is the easy way, but they are telling us to cut spending first, and I say to my colleagues, `If you want to cut spending first to balance the budget instead of taxing the dickens out of the people at home, you need to vote for the Barton-Hyde-Geran-Tauzin amendment to the Constitution.`
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) is recognized for 2 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, all I can think of is what has been the weight or the effectiveness of the discussion on amending the Constitution of the United States that has transpired on this floor today, and I think on balance, as we study our Congressional Record, as our citizens across the several States examine the arguments for this important policy change, I think that there will come up a shortage of logic that would persuade people that we have now reached a system or a process that would make sense in making this massive change out of desperation, to be sure, to the Constitution because the bulk of all of the arguments that I have heard for this amendment is that we are failing, we have tried everything else, and there is nothing left to do.
In my judgment that is not enough. In my judgment we have already started reducing the deficit annually, and from that modest position that we find ourselves, Mr. Chairman, we could easily begin to build on increasingly reducing the deficit and, ultimately, the national debt.
So, Mr. Chairman, I leave this first day of leading the debate on this side on a constitutional amendment disturbed that there has not been a persuasive case made for a constitutional amendment.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Weldon).
Mr. WELDON of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I speak out in support of the balanced budget amendment not only because I believe it is good policy or that it is a policy that is supported by many of the leaders of this body, but because it is a policy that is supported by the people of my district. There was no issue that I found stronger support for than a balanced budget amendment during my campaign, and I believe the reason that the public recognizes that H 655 we need this is because they have seen in more than 30 of our States that the States, when they implement their constitutional amendment to balance the budget, that the leaders in their legislative bodies are able to balance the budget. Yes, they have to work hard, make tough decisions, stay until late at night, but they are able to when the fire is put to their feet.
The people of this great country have been very patient with this body, asking for the past 15 years that we balance our budget. They are not holding us to a higher standard. I believe we need to submit to their will, pass a balanced budget amendment.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. Riggs).
Mr. RIGGS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas) for yielding this time to me.
The distinguished ranking member of the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight just a moment ago said that at the conclusion of the first day of a very important and historic debate in this country on the balanced budget amendment he had not heard convincing argument, a persuasive argument, for enacting a constitutional amendment requiring the Congress and the President, that is to say, the legislative and executive branch, to enact an annual Federal budget that is balanced. Well, let me provide that argument, counterargument.
Congress has failed to control the deficit despite legislative attempts to cut Federal spending. At the end of 1994, Mr. Chairman, the deficit was projected to be $223 billion, and the public debt, the national debt that is passed on to our kids and grandkids, all future Federal taxpayers, which is the accumulation of each year`s deficit, will reach $4.7 trillion. Left unchallenged the deficit will grow and continue to reach crisis proportions early in the next century.
The choices are hard, but necessary, and that is why we must enact a balanced budget amendment to impose a very real fiscal restraint in this body.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Fox).
Mr. FOX of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to address the body tonight inasmuch as we really have a historic time to pass what will be a balanced budget amendment with a three-fifths tax limitation which is what the country really wants. If we put our fiscal house in order everything else in the Contract With America can be accomplished, but this is the most important part of the contract. We want to make sure that if we have people, we have families, that have to be on budgets, this Congress has to be on a budget, and I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas) for this time that he has yielded for this purpose.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield the remainder of the time to the distinguished gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), an institution within an institution.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), an institution, is recognized for 1 1/2 minutes.
Mr. HYDE. I think the gentlemen are suggesting I should be institutionalized.
Mr. Chairman, I just want to say as to the supermajority on raising taxes:
When the government expands its power from one level of gross domestic product to another in terms of its fiscal reach, that ought to be an extraordinary decision because we are reaching into people`s pockets and we are taking a great rate of the blood, sweat and tears that they have earned through their own work. So that extraordinary reach ought to be an extraordinary decision, and that ought to call for an extraordinary vote. So to increase taxes, to increase the reach of government, it seems to me is an extraordinary decision. It has not been until now, but we are going to try to make it an extraordinary decision, and not have that left to a simple majority vote.
Sixty percent is not that tough to get over 50 percent, but it is a little tougher, and we want to avoid the bias towards increasing taxes as the line of least resistance to balancing the budget.
I would say to my friend from North Carolina, the only amendment that the gentleman offered to be brought before the Committee on Rules was one we did vote on in the full committee, and he lost 13 to 19. I will agree the Committee on Rules did not have a relitigation of that issue, and I wish they had because the gentleman is a member of the committee. But the other nine amendments that the gentleman says he had, I never did see them, but he said he had them. He must not have thought too highly of them, because he did not even offer them.
Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, I also favor the Wise capital budgeting balanced budget amendment version because I do not support adding public-policy-related supermajority requirements to the Constitution.
Supermajority votes are appropriate in the checks-and-balances interplay between the co-equal branches of government, like ratification of treaties, override of vetoes, and the impeachment or approval of executive or judicial branch officers. They are also appropriate for expulsion of Members of Congress, an extreme action which constitutes, in a sense, an override of the will of the people.
But final say on issues like annual budget policy should not be constitutionally delegated to a minority, as Madison warned in the Federalist Papers. If we constrain revenue and expenditure numbers to a supermajority requirement, we put ourselves on a slippery slope to other ideologically based encroachments on the principle of majority rule, a fundamental tenet of our Constitution as it now reads.
Irresponsible borrowing certainly must end, but responsible governing should not.
Mr. MONTGOMERY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the balanced budget amendment because it represents the strongest incentive to force the Federal Government to live within its means.
If we act now, we will still have the flexibility to set budget priorities to protect Social Security and other vital programs. If we delay, the budget deficit will continue to grow and could eventually threaten every Federal Government program in the future.
Today, interest payments take up 14 percent of our Federal budget. That means every day, we pay more than $800 million just to service the Federal debt. If we take no action, that percentage will continue to increase and claim even more Federal dollars, at the expense of other important programs.
The longer we wait, the worse the alternatives are going to be. If we act now, some small sacrifice will be required of all Americans. If we wait, I am afraid we will be facing tremendous sacrifices and as we are to make drastic cuts to programs throughout the Federal Government.
Mr. Chairman, we can`t afford to wait any longer. The time is now to pass this amendment and get on with the job of restoring fiscal responsibility.
Mr. SERRANO. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to House Joint Resolution 1, proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Virtually every Member agrees that we must reduce the Federal deficit. We began in the 103d Congress with responsible steps to raise revenues in a limited way and to reduce spending, and those efforts must continue. But passing a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget is not responsible. There are two possible outcomes, neither of which is desirable.
One is that a balanced budget amendment will be ignored and the respect due our Constitution will be eroded.
The other is that a balanced budget amendment will be obeyed, harming the economy and limiting the Federal Government`s ability to meet national needs.
But I don`t only oppose House Joint Resolution 1 because it is a balanced budget amendment; I oppose it because it is a bad balanced budget amendment.
House Joint Resolution 1 puts the entire range of Federal activity, from responding to hunger and homelessness, to protecting health and safety, to investing in education, training, research and development, and infrastructure for long-term growth, at risk, along with the contracts the United States has made with our senior citizens, our veterans, our states and cities.
The populations most reliant on federally supported income support programs are our elderly and our children.
But, however earnestly some Members promise to keep Social Security off the table, there is nothing in House Joint Resolution 1 to protect it when the time comes to balance the budget.
The Children`s Defense Fund estimates that, if Social Security and defense are protected, the BBA would force cuts in other Federal spending of 30 percent. The impact on children would be devastating. If the cuts simply reduce caseloads, 6.6 million children could lose Medicaid health care coverage, and 4.3 million could lose food stamps; in New H 656 York, over half a million children would lose Medicaid and nearly 300,000 would lose food stamps.
But programs for poor children, like those for other poor and underserved people, may not see cuts held to 30 percent; having no votes and no highly paid lobbyists, our most vulnerable people may be hit even harder.
House Joint Resolution 1 does not permit a waiver of the balanced budget requirement when the economy is weak, so it is likely to have a countercyclical effect. As unemployment rose and our people`s need for federal assistance grew, tax receipts would be falling, and spending would have to be cut even deeper to meet the BBA`s requirements. Recessions would become more frequent and deeper.
House Joint Resolution 1 does not provide for unforseen situations such as natural disasters - the recent flooding in California. Tax increases or spending cuts would be required to offset spending to meet emergencies. A disaster would bring suffering on many more people than its immediate victims.
The requirement of supermajority votes for raising taxes undermines the principle of majority rule, giving excessive power to a minority of the Members of each House. It also distorts the process of achieving a balanced budget and is likely to lead to indiscriminate cuts and possible elimination of critical Federal programs.
Mr. Chairman, beyond these issues, there are many unanswered questions about and deficiencies in House Joint Resolution 1. Democratic Members of the Judiciary Committee tried to deal with these questions and deficiencies by preparing amendments for full Committee markup and the floor, but amendments offered in Committee were defeated on party-line votes, markup was cutoff before more than half of our amendments were offered, and the Rules Committee denied us the right to offer them on the floor.
I can only note that, had these changes been made, House Joint Resolution 1 would be much longer and much more detailed - an even clearer argument against making economic policy in the Constitution.
Mr. Chairman, Congress already has the tools to reduce the Federal deficit and has been using those tools for the last 2 years. We know the choices will be extremely difficult, but making those choices is the only way to bring the deficit down.
We do not need a constitutional amendment, and we most emphatically do not need House Joint Resolution 1. I urge my colleagues to vote against this and any other balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Mr. Chairman, I support a balanced budget amendment but suggest that a provision to limit Federal spending to the growth of the economy is also desirable.
The problem of Federal deficits is simply a symptom of the larger problem of massive growth in the Federal Government. James Buchanan and Richard Wagner discussed what happens when the populace begins to believe that the Federal Government need not practice fiscal restraint. Their 1997 book `Democracy in Deficit` - published before the era of $200 billion a year budget deficits - describes how this opens the door to ever-increasing deficits, which are then monetized by the Federal Reserve, leading to continuous reduction in the value of the balanced budget amendment.
While such an amendment sounded somewhat radical sixteen years ago, it sounds almost mainstream today. I suggest, however, that instead of a balanced budget amendment, we apply to the Federal Government a variant of what Michigan applied to its State government in 1978 when it adopted the Headlee amendment to the State constitution. The basic components of the Headlee amendment are: First a limit on the size of State government achieved by holding state revenue to the same fraction of personal income that it was when the amendment passed in 1978; second, a requirement that the state maintain its proportional share of spending to local government and reimburse local units for any mandates imposed by the State; and third, a provision requiring a vote of the local populace for any increase in local taxes.
The purpose of the second provision was to prevent the State government from avoiding the limitations on its growth imposed by the first provision by shedding its financial support of the local units and requiring them to provide services and programs that the state was unable or unwilling to pay for. A blue ribbon commission appointed by Governor John Engler to study the Headlee amendment recently concluded that the Headlee amendment had been effective in limiting the growth of State government.
In order to keep the requirement of a balanced budget from resulting in massive tax increases and a deterioration of the economy, my suggestion is to limit the growth of federal spending by setting a limit on the amount of Federal outlays relative to gross domestic product (GDP). This would cap Federal outlays at the percentage of GDP consumed at the time of submission of the amendment to the states. Federal outlays could never, in any year, exceed the growth of GDP. In this way, if outlays were less than the ratio in one year, there would be a permanent reduction in the ratio of Government spending to GDP. The Federal Government could not mandate that the States provide any service that they are not already providing, unless it fully funded the mandate. Combining this with a phased-in balanced budget requirement would result in attacking the real problem - the growth in Federal outlays over time, whether this growth is funded by taxes, borrowing, or inflation of the currency.
Of course, there are details, and as they say, `the devil`s in the details.` An emergency provision to allow deviations from the limits during time of war is an example. The definition of federal outlays, which would appear to work at this time, will no doubt be strained over time. However, it is probably easier to set standards regarding outlays than debt, considering the pitfalls to defining debt that your editorial pointed out.
There are at least three reasons why a provision to limit spending should be part of a balanced budget amendment. First, it is a moderate proposal. It does not require a reduction in the absolute size of the Federal Government, but only that the Federal Government not get larger relative to the size of the economy. Second, it has been tried at the State level and appears to have accomplished its basic purpose. Third, it gets directly at the problem of growth of the Leviathan rather then trying to get around it indirectly by limiting how much the Government can borrow and then hoping that political pressure against taxes will restrain Government growth.
Mr. BALLENGER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Barton three-fifths tax limitation version of the balanced budget constitutional amendment. Earlier this month in an article in the Wall Street Journal, Milton Friedman, who received the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics, argued why a tax limitation amendment is so very important.
The Barton amendment`s limitation on taxes would force the achievement of a balanced budget through a reduction in spending rather than an increase in taxes unless a super-majority of three-fifths voted to raise taxes. The other amendments are not as strong, because there is nothing in them to prevent balance from being achieved by a massive tax increase. And, nothing to prevent further increases in Government spending as long as they were accompanied by higher taxes.
After all, as Mr. Friedman argued, `the real burden on the economy is what the government spends - or mandates others to spend - rather than how much it received in taxes.` If you raise taxes, you can spend more - even with a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, if that amendment does not limit tax increases.
I urge my colleagues to seize this opportunity and cut Government down to size. Vote for the right kind of balanced budget amendment - the Barton three-fifths tax limitation amendment.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the balanced budget amendment, House Joint Resolution 1. This amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced Federal budget is not a new idea. Balanced budget amendment proposals have been introduced since the 1930`s and, in recent years, have fallen just short of passage in Congress on several occasions. In 49 States, there is some form of balanced budget requirement - including the State of New Jersey.
In Congress, this balanced budget amendment is only the beginning of the process of amending the U.S. Constitution. It is a big step for Americans to amend the U.S. Constitution, and that is as it should be. Of the several thousand proposed amendments in 206 years, only 27 amendments have been ratified by Congress and by the States - and one of those (the 21st amendment) repeals the ban on alcohol proscribed by one other - the 18th.
Amending the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the U.S. House (290 votes) and in the Senate (67 votes), and ratification by three-fourths of the States (38 of the 50 States). The drafters of the Constitution placed a great deal of weight on the powers delegated to the Federal Government and those that remain with the States, giving the States the ultimate decision making powers regarding amendments.
They also saw a limited role for the Federal Government in taxation and borrowing - a role which has been greatly expanded during the current century. The Framers of the Constitution clearly saw Federal debt as an emergency matter at times of national or international crisis, not as a means of normal operations. Likewise, taxation was for specific and justifiable purposes. It is the breakdown of both of these principles that has led to our current budget problems. H 657
I believe Congress has an obligation to send this question to the States, so that we can engage in a much needed and lively debate on the broader question - what is the role of the Federal Government and at what cost?
Our experiences with State budget balancing requirements have provided several positive outcomes from this important fiscal discipline. It imposes discipline on legislators and executive branch. It, therefore, requires a closer working relationship between these two branches of Government. And, the requirement ultimately will force all parties to sit down and work out their differences to maintain the required balance.
Having worked under the balanced budget requirement, I believe it will promote better communication and governance - at least that`s been my experience as a State legislator in New Jersey. It has been 25 years since the last time the Federal Government`s books were balanced. Of every dollar collected in Federal taxes, 15 cents goes to pay interest on the national debt - more than $200 billion a year, further drawing down the amount available for other Government programs.
Clearly, our current situation is not due to under-taxation, but to over-spending. The Federal Government collects $5 in taxes today for every $1 it collected 25 years ago. The problem is that Government spending today is up $6 for every $1 spent in 1968.
Some may claim that the balanced budget amendment is a gimmick. Rather, I believe it will finally provide the discipline to the Federal budget process that has failed, to date, to control Federal spending - even with the best efforts of individual Members committed to deficit reduction and despite the demands of the American taxpayers.
Mr. EMERSON. Mr. Chairman, the Constitution is fundamental law; indeed, it should deal only with fundamental questions. I agree with Thomas Jefferson: `The question whether one generation has the right to bind another by the deficit it imposes is a question of such consequence as to place it among the fundamental principles of government. We should consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves.` I urge you to keep these important words in mind as we debate the crucial issue of balancing our budget.
In my 14 years in Congress, my record has demonstrated my strong commitment to the senior citizens of this country. For this reason, I resent the attempt by some in this Chamber to scare senior citizens with misinformation about how the balanced budget amendment might affect Social Security. There is nothing in the balanced budget amendment that says that the Social Security trust fund will be cut or that Social Security benefits will be reduced for anyone.
The fact is that Congress can balance the budget without touching Social Security. The budget can be balanced in the year 2002 by simply restraining the growth of all other Federal spending to 3 percent per year, instead of allowing it to increase by 5.4 percent annually under current policies. A balanced budget amendment is the first step toward guaranteeing the financial security of our retirees. Because the Government must continue borrowing from the Social Security trust fund to finance the current debt, we are on a course of destruction toward the painful task of cutting benefits or raising payroll taxes. By enacting a balanced budget amendment, we halt this troublesome path by imposing the budgetary discipline necessary to safeguard our future generations.
I would also like to take this opportunity to make very clear my support of the three-fifths proposal contained in the Barton amendment. Raising taxes should be a matter of last resort. The process of raising taxes should not be simple or easy. We need a mechanism to force spending reduction before new taxes are levied, just as we need a mechanism to force a prioritization of spending issues to achieve a balanced budget.
The majority party is committed to following through on its promises. The balanced budget amendment is supported by 85 percent of the American people. If hard-working taxpaying families have to live within their means from paycheck to paycheck, then there is no excuse that it has been 25 years since the Federal budget has enjoyed a surplus. The balanced budget amendment is a common sense mechanism that will enforce the necessary budgetary discipline in Congress and I urge support for the Barton amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. All time for general debate has expired.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee do now rise.
The motion was agreed to.
Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. Gekas) having assumed the chair, Mr. Walker, Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, reported that that Committee, having had under consideration the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 1) proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States, had come to no resolution thereon.
Source: Congressional Record, 1/25/95
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD (SENATE)
DATE January 25, 1995
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I listened to a goodly number of our colleagues earlier today as they came to the floor to speak about the constitutional amendment on the balanced budget. I was glad to see the President last night give some time to that subject matter. I was glad that he stated that the proponents of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget have a responsibility to let the American people know up front the details as to just how the proponents propose to achieve that balanced budget over the next 7 years.
I listened to my friends with a great deal of interest this morning on the floor, and I just have a few comments to make in regard to this subject. Many colleagues who support such a constitutional amendment are sincere in their belief that such an amendment is the answer to our budget deficits and is necessary to impose discipline on ourselves. I do not quarrel with their sincerity. They have a right to their viewpoints just as I have a right to mine.
I heard it said earlier today that Members of the House and Senate should show courage by voting for a constitutional amendment. Mr. President, courage is not needed to vote for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Courage is needed to oppose the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. We read public polls that 80 percent of the American people support a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Courage is not needed to vote for something that the polls say 80 percent of the people want. Courage is needed to take the time to try to convince the American people that they are being misled. So those of us who vote against a constitutional amendment to balance the budget are swimming upstream, and going against the grain.
I believe it was Talleyrand who said, `There is more wisdom in public opinion than is to be found in Napoleon, Voltaire, or all the ministers of state present and to come.`
I subscribe to that view. There is more wisdom in the people, but the people have to be informed in order to reach considered and wise judgments. The people have to be correctly informed if they are to form wise opinions. They also have a responsibility to do what they can to inform themselves.
It does not take courage, Mr. President, to vote for this constitutional amendment on the balanced budget. It just takes a politician`s view of what is best for him or her politically at the moment. I urge Senators to show courage in taking the time to debate this matter fully and voting against a constitutional amendment on the balanced budget, at least until the proponents show Senators what is involved here - what is in this poke, along with the pig.
I hear it repeated over and over again that we need a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, so that we will be forced to discipline ourselves. Mr. President, no constitutional amendment can give us the political spine to make the hard choices necessary to balance the budget. Constitutional amendments cannot impose spine or courage or principle where those things may be lacking to begin with.
We do not need a constitutional amendment. If the proponents of a constitutional amendment have two-thirds of the votes in the House and Senate, and I would say they are very close to that, I would say they would need 67 votes in the Senate and 290 votes in the House. If they have 67 votes in the Senate and 290 votes in the House for a constitutional amendment, they can pass any bill, now. It only takes a majority to pass a bill. If all Senators are here, it only takes 51 Senators to pass a bill, and only a majority of the House to pass a bill. So if the votes are in both Houses to adopt a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, the votes are here to produce simple majorities to pass bills and resolutions that will get the job done now. We do not have to wait 7 years.
In the final analysis, the discipline that is needed now will still be needed 7 years from now if this amendment goes into effect. That constitutional amendment will not cut one program nor will it raise taxes by one copper penny. In my judgment it will have to be a combination of both in order to deal with the extremely serious problem of balancing the budget.
The responsibility of balancing the budget 7 years from now will rest where it rests now: With the President of the United States and with the Members of the House and the Senate. If we lack the discipline now we are not likely to have much more spine, if any, 7 years from now. It will come right back here. Of course, many of those who vote for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Mr. Chairman, the budget today probably will not be around, some of us, in the House and Senate, 7 years from now.
Mr. President, an immense hoax - that is what this is, in my judgment, a colossal hoax. It is supported by a lot of well-intentioned, well-meaning people. But in the final analysis, that is what it will prove to have been - a hoax. It is about to be perpetrated on the public at large.
It is this Senator`s hope that the people will get quickly about the business of informing themselves of the ramifications of the so-called balanced budget amendment before it is too late. In my opinion, the American people could do themselves no better favor than to become very intimately involved as fast as they can with the details. And they should insist on their representatives in these two bodies to give them the details, and the probable impact of this proposal.
For almost every benefit being claimed by the proponents of this ill-conceived idea, the exact opposite of the bogus claim is, in fact, the truth. For example, the proponents claim that the balanced budget amendment will remove the burdening of debt from our children and leave them with a brighter future. This balanced budget amendment will do nothing of itself. The amendment would do nothing of the kind that is being stated. Even if we were somehow able instantly to be able to bring the current budget into balance, our children, our grandchildren, and their children would still be in debt and they would still be paying interest on that debt. Bringing the budget into balance so that there is no deficit this year or next year, or the S 1499 next year, is child`s play compared with wiping out this Nation`s $4.6 trillion national debt.
What we pay interest on is our debt. The people should be made aware that the deficit is not the debt. The debt is an accumulation of the deficits built up over a period of years. A constitutional amendment does absolutely nothing about retiring the national debt.
The American people are being told that by passing a constitutional amendment, we will somehow be relieving generations to come of the obligations to pay for the debt of past generations. Well, until the day that the national debt is completely retired, there will still be interest that has to be paid, and then there will be the principal, which future generations will have to eliminate.
That is not to say that getting our deficits down is not important. It is. And we went down that track in 1990 when, under President Bush, we met at the so-called budget summit and a Republican President, President Bush, and the Democratic Congress, made up of both Houses, not just one, enacted legislation to reduce the deficit over a period of 5 years.
The same thing happened again in 1993. President Clinton and a Democratic Congress passed a reconciliation measure which laid out a 5-year glidepath to bring down the deficits, and the deficits are coming down.
That was a tough bill to vote for. Not one of our Republican friends on the Senate side - not one - not one of those who are proposing today that we have a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, not one voted for that bill in 1993, and I believe I am correct in saying that not a single Republican in the House voted for that package. I could be wrong in that. But not one vote came for that bill from the other side of the aisle. There was an opportunity for courage. Why was it not demonstrated then by the proponents on the other side of the aisle?
There was some pain in that package - some increased taxes, some cuts in programs. We are operating right today with a freeze on discretionary spending. We are operating below a freeze in our discretionary spending, because we passed that package and because, subsequently, we have passed measures that are in keeping with the promise that we made when we passed that budget reduction measure. That is the course we ought to continue on: Bring the budget deficits down but do not tamper with that fundamental organic document, the fundamental law of our country which trumps any other law of the land.
So let us not buy the claim that the balanced budget amendment will somehow take your grandchildren off the hook. These deficits and that debt can never be wished away, nor can they willy-nilly, over a period of any number of years, be erased through a simple provision that is inscribed into the fundamental law of the land: The Constitution.
That balanced budget amendment will not take our grandchildren off the hook. It cannot and will not.
As for leaving future generations with a brighter future, this balanced budget amendment is more likely to snuff out any possibility for a brighter future for many of America`s children than to brighten such future.
Getting the details about how the proponents would actually get to a balance by the year 2002 is like extracting blood from a turnip. The President said we ought to have that. But if the broad outlines of such a plan to get to balance are to be believed, America`s future may be dim, indeed.
According to reports, some proponents of the balanced budget amendment want to exempt Social Security and exempt defense spending from any cuts. Regardless of whether one agrees with those exemptions or not, let us just look at the arithmetic.
If one adds to that list the interest on the national debt, which cannot be cut and which must be paid, then more than half of the Federal Government`s budget will have been excluded from any effort to balance the budget by constitutional amendment, if those items, defense and Social Security and interest on the debt, are taken off the table.
When we take those items off the menu, slide them off the table and totally insulate them from any review or analysis as to whether or where they should be cut, what have we done to the remainder of the Federal budget? The prime candidate then left to feel the budget ax becomes the domestic discretionary budget.
Discretionary spending is made up of both domestic and defense spending. If we eliminate defense from the equation, then the prime candidate to feel the budget ax becomes the domestic discretionary budget. That portion of the budget is the portion left to fund education, veterans` medical care, pensions, protect our people`s health and safety, fund research and development projects, build roads and bridges, fund crime-fighting efforts, foster U.S. economic competitiveness in global markets, and generally invest in our people, their talents, and their future.
Obviously, if we take most of the Federal budget off limits for cuts, then the portion that is still eligible for cuts is going to be pretty badly devastated. One-point-three trillion dollars is not change for the streetcar or the bus.
What then happens to the quality of life in America that we are going to bequeath to our children? That ought to be a prime consideration in our debate here on the floor, and it ought to be a prime consideration on the minds of the people.
Are we really doing our children and our grandchildren a favor by embracing this amendment to balance the budget? We are all for a balanced budget. Those Senators who spoke in support of a balanced budget amendment this morning said we are all in favor of balancing the budget, and we are. If we devastate the part of the budget that keeps our kids educated, protects our health, advances our research, helps to keep our Nation competitive in the world, keeps our infrastructure in good repair - in other words, minds the basic needs of the Nation - what are we actually doing?
Mr. President, is there an order that at 1:30 we go back - -
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Yes, the Chair will state to the Senator from West Virginia, under a previous order, we will be considering an amendment at the hour of 1:30.
Mr. BYRD. I thank the Chair. I ask unanimous consent that I may proceed out of order for not to exceed 10 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, so what we are actually doing is walking away from these responsibilities at the Federal level and relegating them to the States and counties and municipal governments. Some would say, `Yahoo, get the Federal Government off our backs.` That is the standard talk show answer. But let us give that a little more thought.
With the passage of this balanced budget amendment, we will actually be shifting traditional Federal responsibilities, many of them, to the States and to the State houses. We will be creating a patchwork quilt of a nation with some States able to meet the increased responsibilities dumped on them by the Federal Government`s withdrawal of funds due to steep budget cuts and other States not being able to do so.
We will have some States with enormous unemployment, some States with extremely dilapidated and deplorable transportation systems, some States booming, maybe, and others busting. Do we want that result?
I hear the Governors boasting of having cut taxes. I heard some of that last night. They are cutting taxes at the State level. And they have further tax cuts planned. Just wait until this constitutional amendment goes into effect. Those Governors will not cut taxes anymore. They will have to increase taxes because much of the burden is going to be dumped on them from the Federal Government. We will have trickle-down mandates. The Federal Government will offload the problems on the State governments. State governments will offload those problems on the county governments and municipal governments, and in the final analysis the same people who pay the taxes now are going to continue to pay the taxes.
Do we want to have parts of America looking like a Third World country? I have not heard those concerns addressed by anyone. The American people are not being told about the very dark and dismal side of this balanced S 1500 budget amendment. Why is not anyone talking about these probable results of enacting such a proposal? In the opinion of at least one leader of the other body, the answer is, because if we talk about these things, the proposal will not pass. The knees of Members will buckle.
Now, think of that. Are we going to hide these things from the people in order to pass this ill-conceived idea?
There are other aspects of this proposal that are being hidden from the American people as well. All the while we are slashing away at the funds we have used to invest in our own people, some of the proponents of this amendment are busily signing on to some of the biggest tax cuts in our history. The U.S. Treasury Department indicates that Congress will have to come up with another $300 billion in cuts over the next 7 years to pay for the tax cuts reported to be embraced by the so-called Contract With America.
Now that, my friends, is not small change, either. Well, some would say, what is wrong with that? I want a tax cut.
Now we have the leaders of both parties advocating tax cuts.
Well, with a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, we need to reduce our deficit. We do not want any cuts in defense. We say no cuts in Social Security. We want to balance our budget, but we also want to cut taxes.
I said to Mr. Reagan, when he was President, you cannot do all these things and balance the budget. You cannot cut taxes in the situation we are in; you cannot have a massive buildup in defense spending; you cannot do all those things at the same time you cut taxes and still balance the budget. And we saw an accumulation of $3.5 trillion added to the nearly $1 trillion national debt which was in existence when President Reagan was elected - an almost $1 trillion national debt - and now we have a $4.5 trillion debt.
Look again at those tax cuts in the context of the budget cuts. It does not make sense. All that additional chopping at the budget to pay for tax cuts puts even more pressure on the States to fill in the gaps left by the cuts in the Federal budget.
There is some very clever sleight of hand going on here, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. You may get the Federal tax cuts, but your State taxes are going to go through the roof as a result of this constitutional amendment on the balanced budget. And that ought to infuriate every thinking American taxpayer and inflame every Governor of the Nation. But many of the Governors are saying: No, give us a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. We are cutting taxes in the States. Why do we not have a balanced budget amendment? Get the Federal Government off our back.
Once that constitutional amendment takes effect, the Governors of the States will not be cutting taxes. The load is going to shift to them. They are going to be increasing taxes. Federal taxes will be cut and paid for with cuts in Federal programs, but that means the States will be left holding the bag, and the States` taxes will likely climb through the ceiling. The poor, unwitting believer in the balanced budget will be given the double whammy of increased taxes and reduced services.
When one takes more than half the Federal budget off the table - makes it off limits for cuts under the balanced budget amendment - then fully one-third of the remaining Federal programs are composed of grants to State and local governments and those are obviously going to be brutalized under this balanced budget amendment regardless of our passing this unfunded mandates bill that is presently before the Senate.
I hope the Governors will listen. I hope the Governors are eager to raise taxes to pay for essential needs, because the Federal Government is going to have to take a powder under this balanced budget amendment.
Nobody is leveling with the American people about these matters. I say to the American people, if there is ever a time to utilize your well-honed distrust for politicians, utilize it now. Demand to know what balancing the budget really means and how the proponents plan to balance it. Do not let the politicians get away with this rabbit in a hat, with this sleight of hand.
What is going on here is simply politicians falling all over each other to embrace something that is momentarily popular. Sloganeering has taken the place of serious legislating and only you, the American people, can turn that around. I urge the American people to look beneath the slogans before it is too late. Demand to understand what will really happen to your taxes, to your quality of life, to your local economy, to your children and grandchildren if we constitutionalize this slogan. Demand to know the details. Understand that when Federal taxes are slashed in this instance, State taxes are likely to soar, likely to go up. Understand that when necessary Federal programs are slashed, services decline.
I am not saying that there should not be some programs slashed - that is what we did in 1993; it is what we ought to do - or services decline. Each State then has to try to pick up the slack.
Understand that reducing the deficit is not the same as reducing the debt, and do not be disappointed to learn that even after we devastate the only pot of money we have from which to invest in ourselves, in our Nation, and in our children by way of infrastructure and investment in the Nation`s infrastructure, those children and their children will still be paying interest annually on the national debt.
Also understand that the unfunded mandates legislation does nothing to protect States from Federal mandates already in place.
Understand that the balanced budget amendment straitjackets the Nation when it comes to dealing with the economy. In a recession when economic activity falls and revenues fall, unless the Congress can get a three-fifths vote to agree to run a deficit, then the Government will be forced to aggravate the problem by cutting public expenditures, which is the easiest way I know to turn a recession into a depression.
Fiscal policy needs to be flexible because we cannot accurately predict economic fluctuations. Engraving fiscal policy and political ideology on the marvelously flexible United States Constitution is like putting an ugly tattoo on the forehead of a beautiful child. It is inappropriate, will mar the child forever, and it serves no purpose whatever except to destroy something inherently fine and to deface it.
I implore the American people to make the powers-that-be tell the American public how - exactly how - they intend to get the budget into balance by 2002. What are the proponents hiding? What about this sleight of hand on the subject of tax reduction? What else is there that we do not want the American people to know?
I also hope to remind the American people that television and radio talk shows are entertainment, not hard news and not hard facts. Do not let the colorful talk show hosts obscure real issues by exploiting public anger. If you are really angry about public policy, demand to know the details of the so-called cures for the ills of public policy from the proponents. Do not buy three-line formulas as a blueprint for some so-called American revolution, some Contract With America.
Here in my hand is my `Contract With America,` the Constitution of the United States of America. If revolutions are contemplated, let us remember Lenin`s words:
`We shall destroy everything, and on its ruins we shall build our temple.` Does that sound like some of the talk that is making the rounds lately?
It might be well to remember Lenin`s words in these days of talk about revolution.
If revolutions are contemplated, let the public clearly understand what the final results may be before we so wound the Constitution and the Republic that they may never recover.
We are only just now recovering from the fiscal hangover left the Nation by the Reagan revolution. As I recall balanced budgets, tax cuts, budget cuts, and sacrosanct defense budgets were all prime features of that last revolution and we are still paying the tab for that one. Let us not overdose on a frenzy of dimly understood procedural reform to the point where we take the insane step of writing fiscal policy into the U.S. Constitution.
We are on the road to balancing the budget, and it is an important and laudable goal to do so and we cannot let up. We have passed important and significant deficit reduction measures S 1501 in 1990 and in 1993, the latter without a single vote, as I say, from the Republican majority in either House. What does that tell the people about the reality of expecting to get votes on measures that will be required to reduce the budget, measures that inflict pain?
What does that tell the people?
An informed and active citizenry is essential for the workings of a representative democracy. It is up to the people to exercise their right to know by demanding explanations to the many unanswered questions about this proposal, and it is my hope that they will be relentless and ruthless in their pursuit of knowledge in this particular case.
Mr. President, I call attention to a poll. Mr. President, the poll shows that 86 percent of the people think that the balanced budget amendment`s backers should be required to specify what cuts they would make before the amendment is adopted.
I ask unanimous consent that the poll released by the Los Angeles Times on Monday be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
(FROM THE LOS ANGELES
TIMES POLL, JAN. 23, 1995) SELECTED RESULTS FROM THE
TIMES NATIONAL POLL, RESPONSES ARE AMONG ALL ADULTS
A full results summary with question wording and full question text will be available through the Los Angeles Times Poll at a later date.
Note: Not all numbers add to 100% because in some cases the `Don`t know` answer category is not displayed.
AMBIVALENCE ABOUT REPUBLICAN PROPOSALS
Do you think the Republican `Contract with America` is a realistic or unrealistic set of proposals?
(In percent) 1/95 10/94 Realistic set of 31 30 proposals Unrealistic set of 54 55 proposals Some are realistic, 4 3 some are unrealistic Don`t know 11 1
As you may know, Congress is considering a proposal for a constitutional amendment to require that the federal budget be balanced by the year 2002. Those in favor say this is the only way to force the government to bring the federal budget deficit under control. Those opposed say it would require increased taxes and cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. Do you favor or oppose the proposal for a constitutional amendments to require a balanced federal budget? Percent Favor 40 Oppose 53
Do you think the balanced budget amendment`s backers should be required to specify what cuts they would make before the measure can be passed, or should the amendment be passed first, leaving the details until later? Percent Specify cuts first 86 Leave until later 10
Right now, the Constitution allows Congress to pass tax increases by a simple majority vote, that is, by just over half of the members voting. Do you favor or oppose a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would require income tax increases to be passed by a larger, three-fifths majority of the members voting.
Percent Favor 69 Oppose 24
Do you favor or oppose giving the President a line-item veto, which would allow him to reject individual parts of a spending bill, rather than having to accept or reject the entire bill as current law requires? Percent Favor 73 Oppose 20
As you may know, under the current income tax system, high-income people are taxed at a greater rate than low-income people. There is a proposal to replace that system with a `flat tax,` under which everyone, rich and poor, would pay 17% of their income in taxes. Under this plan, income from capital gains and interest on savings would be tax exempt, but the current deduction for interest paid on home mortgages would be abolished. Do you favor or oppose this proposal for a flat tax? Percent Favor 40 Oppose 48
Don`t know 12
As you may know, in 1993 Congress raised the percentage of Social Security benefits that are subject to income tax, from 60% to 85% for elderly couples with annual incomes of 44,000 dollars or more. There is a proposal to repeal that increase and restore the rate to 50%. Do you think the percentage of Social Security benefits subject to income tax should remain at the current 85% for these couples or should it be cut to 50%. Percent Remain at 85% 43
Cut to 50% 49 Neither/Other 2
Do you think the federal government should spend a great deal more money on national defense, or somewhat more, or somewhat less, or do you think the federal government should spend a great deal less money on national defense? Percent
Great deal/Somewhat more 32 Somewhat/Great deal less 60
Do you approve or disapprove of a constitutional amendment which would limit to 12 years the time any member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives could serve? Percent
Approve 75 Disapprove 21
Do you think the term limits amendment should apply only to those elected after its approval or should it also apply to lawmakers who are in office now? Percent
Apply to new members 17 Apply to current members 74 Oppose term limits 3
On another subject, do you favor or oppose allowing U.S. troops to serve under United Nations commanders in some circumstances?
Percent Favor 66 Oppose 35
Which version of the crime bill do you prefer? Percent
The original bill which had money for crime prevention programs 72 A revised bill with no crime prevention funds 20 Neither/Other 4
There are two proposals being considered in Washington for reforming welfare. One proposal would require welfare recipients to find work after 2 years on the rolls, and would guarantee them a public sector job if they couldn`t find one in the private sector. The other proposal would simply allow states to cut off a recipients` benefits after two years with no guarantee of a job. Which of these proposals do you prefer: the one that guarantees recipients a job or the one that includes no guarantee of a job?
Percent Version that guarantees job 66 Version that does not guarantee job 29 Neither/Other 2
There are two other welfare reform proposals being considered in Washington. One proposal would require welfare recipients under the age of 18 who have children out of wedlock to live at home in order to receive benefits. The other proposal would cut off all benefits to recipients under 18 who have children out of wedlock. Which of these proposals do you prefer: the one that requires recipients to live at home in order to get benefits, or the one that cuts off their benefits altogether? Percent
Version that requires living at home 58 Version that would cut off all benefits 28 Neither/Other 9
On tax cuts:
There are two proposals for cutting taxes being considered in Washington. One proposal would provide families with annual incomes of up to 75,000 dollars with a tax credit for children under 13, and families with incomes of up to 100,000 dollars with a tax deduction for their children`s college tuition. The other proposal would provide families with an income of up to 200,000 dollars with a tax credit for all children, as well as a 50 percent cut in the capital gains tax. Which of these proposals do you prefer, and I can repeat them if you wish. Percent Version for families with incomes under 75,000/$100,000 55
Version for families with incomes under $200,000 23 Neither/Other 10 Don`t know 12
VARIOUS POLICY PROPOSALS
Do you approve or disapprove of President Clinton`s national service program called `AmeriCorps` which provides students grant money for college it they agree to perform two years of national service? Percent Approve 72
In order to reduce the federal budget deficit, some have proposed that higher-income people over the age of 65 pay extra for Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly. Do you favor or oppose this proposal? Favor 48
As things stand now, the age when people become eligible for Social Security benefits will be raised from 65 to 70 in the year 2034. In order to reduce the federal budget deficit, some have proposed raising the eligibility age earlier than 2034. Do you favor or oppose this proposal? Percent Favor 27 S 1502
In order to reduce the federal budget deficit, some have proposed a reduction in the annual cost of living increases given on the pensions of retiree`s from the military and federal government. Do you favor or oppose this proposal? Percent Favor 42
As you may know, the federal government often requires state and local governments to adopt regulations and programs without providing funding to pay for them. There is a proposal in Congress which would bar the federal government from imposing these unfunded mandates on states and localities unless the federal government provided the money to pay for them. Do you favor or oppose this proposal? Percent
Favor 64 Oppose 23 Don`t know 13
As you may know, currently the federal government requires states governments to build sewage treatment plants so that water used by residents meets federal cleanliness standards. Do you approve or disapprove of the federal government requiring state governments to do this, even if the state must pick up the costs? Percent Approve 68 Disapprove 25
As you may know the federal government requires local school districts to provide special education for mentally challenged students. Do you approve or disapprove of the federal government requiring local school districts to do this, even if the localities must pick up the costs? Percent Approve 68 Disapprove 28
Do you approve or disapprove of the federal government requiring state governments to provide citizens an opportunity for registering to vote when they get a driver`s license or apply for some form of public assistance, even if the state must pick up the costs? Percent Approve 49 Disapprove 42
As you may know, the federal minimum wage is currently $4.25 an hour. Do you favor increasing the minimum wage, or decreasing it, or keeping it the same? Percent Increase 72
Keep the same 24 Decrease 1 Eliminate 1
Do you think affirmative action programs designed to help minorities to get better jobs and education go too far these days, or don`t they go far enough or are they just about adequate now?
1/95 9/91 Go too far 39 24 Don`t go far enough 23 27 Adequate now 32 38 Don`t know 6 11
As you may know, a measure has been proposed in Congress that would make it unlawful for any employer to grant preferential treatment in hiring to any person or group on the bases of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Do you favor or oppose this proposal? Percent
Favor 73 Oppose 23
MEXICO LOAN GUARANTEES
As you may know, Mexico faces an economic crisis which has forced it to sharply devalue its currency. In response, private American banks plan to loan that country up to 40 billion dollars, and the U.S. government has agreed to pay back those loans in the event Mexico doesn`t repay them. Do you favor or oppose the U.S. government guaranteeing those loans made to Mexico by private banks? Percent Favor 15 Oppose 81
As you may know, there is much discussion in Washington about which programs should be cut back in order to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Do you think the government should cut back spending:
Yes No On the arts? 69 25 On Amtrak, the 65 26 federally subsidized passenger railroad? For public 63 32 television and public radio? On food stamps for 48 45 the poor? On subsidies for 39 63 farmers? On Aid to Families 38 64 with Dependent Children, which is the government`s principal assistance program for poor families? On unemployment 30 64 insurance programs? On the environment? 27 67 For Medicaid, which 20 73 is the government health insurance program for the poor? On Social Security? 12 86 For Medicare, the 9 88 health insurance program for the elderly?
MOOD OF THE COUNTRY
Do you think things in this country are generally going in the right direction or are they seriously off on the wrong track?
1/95 10/94 Right direction 35% 26% Wrong track 66 66 Don`t know 10 8
Do you think we are in an economic recession or not?
1/95 9/91 No recession 49% 41% Mild recession 16 17 Moderate recession 18 23 Serious recession 11 13
CLINTON VS. REPUBLICANS
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bill Clinton is handling:
His job -- 1/95: 54% His job -- 10/94: 44% The economy -- 1/95: 51% The economy -- 10/94: 43% Foreign affairs -- 1/95: 46% Foreign affairs -- 10/94: 48%
His job -- 1/95: 40 His job -- 10/94: 50 The economy -- 1/95: 38 The economy -- 10/94: 50 Foreign affairs -- 1/95: 44 Foreign affairs -- 10/94: 46
His job -- 1/95: 6 His job -- 10/94: 6 The economy -- 1/95: 11 The economy -- 10/94: 7 Foreign affairs -- 1/95: 10 Foreign affairs -- 10/94: 6
Who do you think has the better ideas for how to solve the problems this country currently faces Percent
President Clinton 31 The Republicans in Congress 36 Both equally 7 Neither 14 Don`t know 13
Do you think (Clinton/the GOP Congress) is working hard to bring fundamental change to the way government is run or is (he/it) governing in a `business as usual` manner?
(In percent) Bill Clinton Republicans in Congress Bring change 49 41 Business as usual 45 47 Don`t know 6 12
As you may know, the Republicans now control both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Because of that, do you expect the country to be better off, or worse off, or don`t you expect Republican control of Congress to change things very much either way? Percent Better off 32 Worse off 18
No change either way 39 Too early to tell 6
When dealing with the Republican Congress, do you think President Clinton should compromise to get things done even if he has to sacrifice some of his beliefs, or should Clinton stand up for his beliefs even if that means less might be accomplished? Percent
Compromise 56 Stand up for beliefs 38
What is your impression of:
(IN PERCENT) Favorable
Bill Clinton: 64 Hillary Clinton: 47 Bob Dole: 41 Newt Gingrich: 26
Bill Clinton: 38 Hillary Clinton: 36 Bob Dole: 28 Newt Gingrich: 39
Bill Clinton: 8 Hillary Clinton: 17 Bob Dole: 31 Newt Gingrich: 36
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN
Congress has passed legislation banning the future manufacture, sale or possession of rapid-fire assault weapons. The measure does not affect those weapons already in existence and exempts many types of guns used by hunters and other sports enthusiasts. Some people in Congress would like to repeal this assault weapons ban. Do you favor or oppose maintaining a ban on the future manufacture, sale and possession of rapid-fire assault weapons? Percent Favor 67
HOW THE POLL WAS CONDUCTED
The Times Poll interviewed 1,353 adults nationwide by telephone, Jan. 19 through 22. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the nation. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and non-listed numbers could be contacted. Interviewing was conducted in English and Spanish. The sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age and education. The margin of sampling error for the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Selected questions were asked of a half sample of approximately 675; these carry a sampling error margin of 4 points. For certain other sub-groups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Mr. LEVIN addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate now resume consideration of amendment No. 173, and that the amendment that was scheduled to be debated at 1:30 be set aside for 5 minutes so we can S 1503 proceed to the consideration of amendment No. 173.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, and I will not object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I just want to make it clear we will not lose 5 minutes from our side because we have many Senators who wish to debate my amendment. I have no objection if the unanimous consent request includes the fact that we will not lose 5 minutes from the 90 minutes that we have been promised on our amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair will observe to the Senator from California that under the previous rule that has been adopted the time would not be deducted from her time.
Mrs. BOXER. I thank the Chair and thank the Senator from Michigan.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
AMENDMENT NO. 173
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, amendment No. 173 corrects a problem in this bill. The bill does not provide that individual Members can seek an estimate from the CBO that is so critical to the survival of their amendments and bills. This is a different bill from last year. This bill creates a new point of order which was not in last year`s bill. It basically keeps the points of order that were in last year`s bill, but it adds a new, critical point of order that makes a bill out of order if the estimate of the CBO is not in the bill, if there is not an authorization estimated for what it will cost local governments. But the new point of order has severe ramifications relative to the appropriations process.
Because there are such severe ramifications in this year`s point of order, it is critical that individual Members have the power to seek an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office because if that estimate is not there - if certain other things are not there - there is going to be a point of order against our amendments and our bills. And even though it is a point of order and a procedural matter, that stands for something. Points of order mean things, they are not just little procedural hurdles. They can make the difference whether or not an amendment is considered or not considered, and whether or not a bill is considered or not considered.
PAGE 14 and on
PAGE 18 there are references to committees of authorization obtaining the estimates from the CBO in two different provisions. And there is also a provision on
PAGE 29 for the chairman or the ranking member of the minority of a committee of the Senate or the House, to the extent practicable, to obtain a study of a Federal mandate. There is no provision in here for an individual Member to obtain that estimate from the CBO, which is so critical for that Member`s amendment or bill to survive a point of order.
So the amendment which I have asked unanimous consent now be considered, amendment No. 173, would correct that problem with the bill. I hope this will be adopted by the Senate.
At this point, with the understanding of the managers, I ask unanimous consent that it be in order to seek a rollcall on this amendment at this time, and that the rollcall occur prior to a rollcall, if ordered, on the Boxer amendment, which will come immediately after this amendment.
I am not sure if the manager heard my unanimous consent - whether either manager heard that. I am seeking unanimous consent that it be in order to seek a rollcall on this amendment at this time, but that the rollcall be delayed until immediately preceding the rollcall on the Boxer amendment if one is ordered.
I will modify the unanimous-consent request so that it read immediately after the vote on the Boxer amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection to the unanimous consent-request? Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
There is a sufficient second.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
Mr. GLENN. Mr. President, I rise to very strongly support the amendment proposed by my colleague from Michigan. I do not think any Senator here wants to give up his or her rights to request the same information that anybody else has - whether a committee chairman or not. I think this is a key amendment here. I do not see this as any small amendment.
To say that only chairmen of committees or only ranking minority members are the only ones who could ask CBO for a budget estimate gives up a right for a Senator to represent his or her State. And I do not think that is right. I think this was more of an oversight in the bill. It was not intended that Senators` rights be trampled on, but that would be the effect of this. So I see this as a very, very important amendment.
Every Senator representing his or her State has a full right to ask for whatever information may be required to get an amendment through or to propose legislation. In this case, that means that Senator has to go to the Congressional Budget Office and get an estimate. Otherwise, when they try to bring something up in committee and it is brought up and someone says what is the estimate on this, that Senator would not be able to have an estimate. So they would be precluded, in effect - they would be precluded from putting in amendments that other Senators could put in, if the other Senators were committee chairmen or ranking minority Members.
I do not think there was any intention to take away the rights of individual Senators. But lest there be any doubt about it I think we should pass this amendment. I hope it will be unanimous, if we pass it. To me it makes such common sense. So I rise in strong support of this and hope it could be accepted. If it cannot be accepted on the other side I hope the leadership on the other side could support this. We will have an overwhelming vote of support for this particular amendment because this really does correct something that needs to be corrected, something we should have done in committee but we did not have that opportunity. So here we are on the floor doing it, and I think this is a very important amendment. I yield the floor.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I appreciate the amendment of the Senator from Michigan. I am supportive of that amendment. I will encourage my colleagues on this side of the aisle to support that amendment.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that no second-degree amendment be in order to the Levin amendment prior to its disposition.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Mr. LEVIN addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I thank the Chair. I want to thank the managers of the bill for their support of the amendment.
I yield the floor.
AMENDMENT NO. 202
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will now resume consideration of amendment No. 202 offered by the Senator from California. Pursuant to that order, there will be 2 hours of debate; 90 minutes of debate will be controlled by the Senator from California, and 30 minutes of debate will be controlled by the Senator from Idaho.
The Senator from California.
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, will the Senator from California yield for a unanimous-consent request?
Mrs. BOXER. I am happy to yield.
AMENDMENT NO. 217, AS MODIFIED
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to modify my amendment which has already been entered and is qualified, amendment No. 217. I send the modification to the desk.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment (No. 217), as modified, is as follows:
PAGE 5, beginning with line 22, strike out all through line 2 on
PAGE 6 and insert in lieu thereof:
`(I) a condition of Federal assistance;
`(II) a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal program, except as provided in subparagraph (B)); or S 1504
`(III) for purposes of section 408 (c)(1)(B) and (d) only, a duty required under section 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206); or
AMENDMENT NO. 202
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.
Mrs. BOXER. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I want to again thank the managers of the bill for agreeing to a time limit which I believe will be sufficient so that Senators who wish to be heard on my amendment can come to the floor and be heard.
My amendment will ensure that this unfunded mandates bill will not threaten the health of children, of pregnant women and of the frail elderly. If we stand for anything in this Chamber, I hope it would be to stand up and be proud to defend the health of our most vulnerable populations.
I want the U.S. Senators to know that I support the thrust of this bill. I thought last year`s bill did exactly what it should do. It was an important move forward. I myself, coming out of local government, had experiences which I had detailed on this floor which basically said to me that local and State officials certainly have brains, certainly know what their priorities are and certainly should not be treated in a way that is unfair to them or to their budgets.
Having said that, I think it is important that we not go too far in this bill, that we have a bill that makes sense, that essentially says we will not put unfunded mandates on the States but, in fact, we will let them know the cost and, to the greatest extent possible, we will provide the dollars.
Having said that, I think it is important to note that many of the things we do around here are for the good of the people. I will bring that out as I put forward my arguments.
I feel I must at this point speak to something the majority leader said, the distinguished majority leader, the Republican leader. He said today that Democrats were trying to block a bill they support. I personally feel that is a very unfair statement. I am on one of the committees of jurisdiction, Mr. President. I am on the Budget Committee. And my committee chairman, Senator Domenici, for whom I have the highest regard, and the ranking member, Senator Exon, for whom I have the highest regard, asked me if I would withhold most of my amendments until I came to the floor. I agreed to do that, with the exception of a sunset provision which we debated very swiftly in committee, and on a party-line vote the Republicans voted not to sunset this legislation. But I agreed to hold off.
What I came up with were four amendments that I thought were important. I had a call from my good friend, the majority whip. He said, `Senator, can`t you try to cut down your four amendments to two amendments?` I said, Look. I think all four of my amendments are important. They protect the children, the elderly, they deal with benefits, and they deal with illegal immigration. But, I said, let me see if I can do it. I am happy to say that I was able to cut back on one of the amendments because Senator Wellstone had a similar amendment, although really the amendment that he had, in my opinion, does not go as far as I wanted to in terms of weighing the benefits of some of our laws. But I agreed in the spirit of bipartisanship to cut back.
Today, I have agreed to time limits on two of my amendments, and the third one I think we can dispose of very, very quickly.
So I want to make the point to the majority leader, if he happens to be listening, or to those who are perhaps monitoring the floor so that he can know what is being said, that truly I know of no Democrat who is trying to stall this bill. We want it to be a good bill. We want to be able to vote for this bill.
I also think it is important to note that my Republican friends have voted lockstep against every single amendment the Democrats have offered. I have gone back through the record book to the last Congress and I could not come up with more than one or two occasions when that has happened.
So we have our Republican friends voting lockstep against amendments that could make this bill a better bill, in my opinion. The Senator from Idaho authored the bill in the last Congress. I supported that bill. But I very briefly want to tell you what this bill does because I have gone through this once before on the floor. I will not take a lot of time going over this chart. But I think, if you just look at this chart, you can see the kind of hurdles that we are putting our legislation through should this bill pass as it is without amendment.
In the initial bill, we asked for a Congressional Budget Office statement on cost, and a point of order would lie against any bill that did not detail that cost. That made sense. We are adults here in this Chamber, and we should know what we are doing. And when we have the facts to know what the numbers are we ought to determine if the benefits are worth the cost. That makes sense.
If that bill had been before us, this chart would have ended, Mr. President, essentially right here. All of this would not have been added. All of this green deals with the legislative process and the power of the Parliamentarian here in the Senate. No matter how fine and wonderful the Parliamentarians are - and, by the way, I think they are fine and wonderful - the people of California who I represent, 31 million of them, did not send me here to abdicate my responsibility to unelected Parliamentarians and to unelected bureaucrats at the CBO, faceless, nameless people who, if they are politicized - and that has happened in the past - one way or the other may come up with a number that is questionable. And there is not much we can do about it. In any event, we set up a huge hurdle. That does not even get into this chart, which is what our Federal agencies must do regarding this issue of unfunded mandates.
So the reason I have these charts here is to make my argument, Mr. President, that there are certain priorities that we will not want to send through this incredible maze. By the way, this chart looks like it is describing a one-shot process. It is not. This process may be repeated 10 times for one bill. Let me explain what I mean.
The bill starts here. It goes through all of this rigmarole through CBO, it goes through the committee, it passes to the Parliamentarian, all kinds of points of order may be heard, may be waived, and then it goes to a vote. But guess what? If anyone offers an amendment, you start all over again. Thank God for Carl Levin pointing out that not one U.S. Senator had a right to find out what his or her amendment would cost, to come to the floor with a CBO estimate and try to compete to get an amendment. Only the authorizing committees have that right under the bill.
So this is a nightmare. I have to smile because I remember when my Republican friends had charts like this on some of the Democratic proposals.
(Mr. COATS assumed the chair.)
Mrs. BOXER. I have to smile. This makes that look like a birthday party, because if I was really being totally straightforward, I would have 10 of these charts, because every time you have an amendment, you have to start all over again. By the way, every time you have a conference report, you have to start all over again. And by the way, every time the House takes up a bill, they have to start all over again. So this does not even really reflect the bureaucratic maze we are putting legislation through. That is why the exceptions clause in this bill is so very important. That is why I am so pleased that the bill, as it now stands, makes certain exceptions for national security, for emergencies, for international agreements. But since we have set up this maze, it seems to me that we better be darn sure that we are not stopping legislation that protects the health and the safety of our most vulnerable populations, and that is what my amendment is about.
I am very proud to tell colleagues that we have today received a letter from Carol Browner, who heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I would like to read it into the Record.
Dear Senator Boxer: I applaud your efforts to ensure that sensitive subpopulations such as the elderly, infants, and pregnant women are protected in statutory and regulatory decision making.
A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that some subpopulations may be disproportionately affected by some contaminants. For example, it is well documented that high levels of lead exposure contribute S 1505 to learning disabilities in children. The National Academy of Sciences has published two reports confirming the need to consider differing effects in subpopulations when performing risk assessment and in regulatory decision making.
Your amendment to S. 1 will ensure that Congress is free to act to protect the health of our children, pregnant women and the elderly and it has my full support.
Sincerely, Carol M. Browner.
Mrs. BOXER. Carol Browner comes out of State government. She is very sensitive to the need not to put burdensome regulations on our States. In fact, she is very well supported by people in State government. But she agrees that my amendment is necessary. Why? Because she knows that if in fact S. 1 passes as it is, without amendment, and we do not fix it up, bills that deal with the health and safety of the frail elderly, children under 5, and pregnant women, will go through this maze. I think we owe it to our children and their children, and the children after them, to stand up and be proud and vote for this amendment.
I want to tell you that we are in a time when we keep trying to simplify issues. Somebody said, `Oh, the President`s speech was long.` It was long last night, but do you know what? There are a lot of issues that need discussion, intelligent discussion. The American people are a lot smarter than 30-second sound bites and they deserve to hear more. Do you know what is happening in this country? They are hearing it. They are hearing it. Yes, there is a contract - a Republican contract - that somebody said they are going to get through in 100 days. Well, I am going to tell you that where I agree with that contract, I will walk hand-in-hand with my Republican friends. But if it hurts the children, if it hurts the frail elderly, if it hurts pregnant women, if it hurts the economy, if it hurts job creation, if it hurts deficit reduction, I am going to be on this floor and this is one of those times I personally, as one individual Member of the Senate in my 90 minutes that I have, and I will be joined by others, we are going to stand here and say `no`, because this legislation sets up unbelievable hurdles to legislation.
This chart is just a hint of it because every amendment goes through it again and every conference report goes through it again. And it happens in two legislative bodies. I think the least we can do is exempt from that, in addition to the other things that are exempted in this bill, the most vulnerable people in our society.
Mr. President, there was a recent poll in the Wall Street Journal that I would like to share, a national poll that asked: `Which do you think should have more responsibility for achieving the following goal, Federal or State government?` Protecting the environment. Fifty percent of the people say it ought to be our responsibility; 38 percent say the State. Protecting civil rights? Sixty-seven percent say Federal Government; 26 percent say the State. Strengthening the economy? Sixty-four percent say the Federal Government; 24 percent say the State. When I ran for this office, I was very honest with the people in my State and I said, `I am going to fight for you, and I am going to fight for what you believe is right and what is best for you and your children.` They trust me to do that. There are many other Senators who did the same. So I am very proud to offer this amendment.
I would like to retain the remainder of my time. I know there is opposition on the other side of the aisle. I would like now to yield the floor and retain the remainder of my time.
Mr. LOTT addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi.
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, on behalf of the bill manager, I yield myself 10 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized for 10 minutes.
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, this is good legislation - trying to have a process to get some control on the incredible burden of Federal unfunded mandates. It has broad support at the local level - the mayors, county commissioners, Governors, and the private sector. All across America people are saying this needs to be done and asking, `Will you not at least have a process to look at the burden that is being created by Federal unfunded mandates, the burdens you are passing to individuals and to county and city governments, the taxes you are putting on people?` This is good legislation. It has had broad support, building over a period of months - in fact, years.
I understand there are 62 or more cosponsors of this legislation. Republicans and Democrats have joined together in drafting this legislation. We had the bill last year. The bill that got to the final hours of the session last year has been improved on. Changes have been made that make it better. It has been brought to the floor with this broad base of support across the country and in this Chamber.
Even the President, last night in his remarks, singled this out and said we may have some disagreements and maybe some improvements can be made, but this is something that we can have and he supports it. Great. We are going to find things we can work together on, such as congressional accountability, line-item veto, unfunded mandates. We are making progress. The American people are going to be the beneficiaries. We are working together. And then what happened?
A funny thing happened on the way to passage, on the way to the President`s desk. Every amendment conceived by the minds of men has been pulled up and has been offered or is pending to be offered to this legislation.
This is the ninth day on this noncontroversial, bipartisan bill. This is delay. This is not just finding ways to improve it. It has a purpose. Now, I am not real sure what the purpose is. I presume it is to try to delay the taking up of the constitutional amendment on the balanced budget. That is the only thing I can figure. Maybe it is just to try to score points along the way.
When the President says, `Let`s work together,` he gets applause on both sides. But he needs to convey to his agents in the Congress that we need a little help. We cannot make progress if we are going to have these amendments that are unrelated, nongermane, that are not going to be accepted. Let us get to the end of this process and pass this legislation.
The ninth day already, and it looks to me like it is going to be all day today and into the night and all day tomorrow and into the night, perhaps Friday, Saturday. But I think we need to get used to it. The leader said we are going to vote this week. The only way we are going to get to a vote is if we begin to dispose of these amendments.
Now, what kind of amendments are we talking about here over the past 9 days? We have had amendments on both sides of the aisle, I admit that, that have dealt with history standards, abortion clinic violence, one on Social Security, I understand one on pornography, now this one on elderly and children.
And, again, as has been said on this floor, I am not diminishing the importance of any of those, but on most of them I ask, why here? Why now? They do not relate to this bill.
This is just making points, Mr. President. And I think it is damaging the image of this institution, and it is certainly, at a very minimum, delaying this bill.
Now, there are those who say, `Wait a minute. I`m not talking about damaging this bill. Even if it is unrelated or nongermane, or maybe if it is germane, I just want to try to improve it. Could we exempt this little thing? Could we add this or that to the little list of exemptions?`
Well, after a while, if you exempt this, you exempt that, what are you going to have left? If it is going to in any way affect anybody or any group of individuals, then we want to exempt them.
And this bill has exemptions, carefully selected exemptions drafted by the committee, by the Members most intimately involved and knowledgeable in this legislation, that have already been worked out and put in the bill.
In fact, there are at least six categories of exemptions in the bill. In addition to the ones that came to the floor originally in this bill, a couple have been added - age, color. But we have the exemption if it involves enforcing the constitutional rights of individuals; we have an exemption if it establishes or enforces any statutory rights that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, or handicap or disability status - and now we have added age and S 1506 color. We have an exemption of any provision in the Federal laws that requires compliance with accounting and auditing procedures with respect to grants or other money or property provided by the U.S. Government; that provides for emergency assistance or relief at the request of any State, local or tribal government or any official of a State, local or tribal government; that is necessary for the national security or the ratification of or implementation of international treaty obligations; or the President designates as emergency legislation and the Congress so designates in statute.
This has been worked out. It has been carefully crafted in the committee. The exemptions that really need to be in the bill are in here. We cannot keep adding to it and adding to it and adding to it. We can all come up with some category that maybe we would like to say, `Oh, exempt that.` I can certainly think of some I would like to have in my State of Mississippi.
But I think the committee has done a good job. I think the managers of the bill have done a good job. They have been willing to accept a couple of additions, a couple of changes.
I think we have to stop that process where we keep adding to it. And remember this: This is a process. It has been said over and over again, but I repeat it again. This is not saying that it must be this way or that way. It sets up a process for Congress to be able to think about what we are doing with these mandates, to know what the impact is, so that we can raise a point of order. What is the cost analysis? Who would be affected? And it allows us to have a process or forces us to consider what the impact is and deal with it. And if it unfairly deals with the frail elderly, there will be a way to deal with that.
You know, when the American people realize that we pass all these bills and all these mandates and that we do not know what the costs are, we do not know what the impact is on individuals and cities and counties and States, they are horrified. They cannot believe it.
But at least now we will have a process to analyze what the impact would be, what the cost would be. We can make a decision that this is in the national interest and we are going to go forward with it. And that decision could include providing the money or not providing the money if that decision is made by the Congress. But it forces us to deal with this issue.
So you do not need to add every possible, conceivable exemption that you can possibly dream up because they are not being cut out. We would still have a process to review it and think about it.
It will help all of the people, including people of all races and colors and age and children, if we pass this legislation. This legislation will begin, hopefully, to get a grip on stopping some of the burdens we have dumped off on individuals, on cities, that leads to tax increases, causes the loss of jobs.
What about the people that want a job that cannot get one because of Federal unfunded mandates? We are going to at least force ourselves to think about those things.
There are a lot of groups and individuals that have written us in favor of this legislation as it was drafted in the committee - business groups, industrial groups, groups of private individuals, governmental associations, the National Federation of Independent Businesses. I have a long list of supporters.
Mr. President, if my time has expired, I yield myself 2 more minutes to wrap this up.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi yields himself 2 more minutes.
Mr. LOTT. There are groups that are on record as supporting this.
But, also, to again clarify the depth of the support and that there is a lot of Democrat and Republican support for this, I have letters in my hand here. I ask unanimous consent, Mr. President, to have these letters printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the letters were ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: Office of the Mayor,
Chicago, IL, January 18, 1995. Hon. Tom Daschle, Minority Leader, U.S. Senate, Hart Office Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Daschle:
I am writing to urge your support for the Mandate Relief Legislation (S. 1) currently being debated on the floor of the Senate and I encourage you to work with your Democratic colleagues to oppose any weakening amendments. I am pleased that the new Congress is acting quickly, with bipartisan support, to move this legislation.
My support for effective mandates legislation goes back several years. Along with countless other mayors, governors and county officials, I have long tried to make clear to the Congress and the Administration the adverse impacts unfunded mandates have on our ability to conduct the people`s business and be accountable to our taxpayers. Chicago`s 1992 study, Putting Federalism to Work for America, one of the first comprehensive studies of this issue, conservatively estimated that mandates cost the City of Chicago over $160 million per year - a figure that has only increased since then.
The legislation being considered in Congress will begin to address this problem by setting up a strong process to discourage the enactment of new mandates, and to require that new mandates be funded if they are to be enforced. I recognize that it does not cover existing mandates, an issue which I believe Congress also needs to address.
Fundamentally, this issue is all about giving local governments the flexibility to make the best use of local and federal dollars. The importance given the mandates issue gives me hope that the new Congress - Democrats and Republicans alike - will be paying close attention to the real issues that face our communities and our citizens. Please work to expeditiously enact a strong, effective version of S. 1.
Sincerely, Richard M. Daley, Mayor.
National League of Cities, Washington, DC, January 11, 1995. Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Senate, Dirksen Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Kempthorne:
On behalf of the elected officials of the nation`s cities and towns, I thank you for sponsoring the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act and for working against amendments that threaten the effectiveness and bipartisan spirit of this legislation. Local governments and the taxpayers we serve have borne the federal government`s fiscal burden for a long time. We will not have such an important relief opportunity again if this measure is thwarted in the final hour by special interests or partisan politics.
We urge you to oppose amendments that would provide blanket exemptions of certain types of mandates from the points-of-order contained in S. 1. We believe that exemptions for labor mandates and/or environmental mandates (sometimes termed as legislation relating to `protecting public health and safety`) would undercut the fundamental purposes of S. 1, as well as reduce the capacity and flexibility of the nation`s cities to focus our resources to protect public safety. Historically the most onerous unfunded mandates to local governments have fallen into the two categories of environment and labor.
We also strongly oppose amendments that would exempt mandates related to services which both the public and private sectors provide. The argument that S. 1, as it is currently written, gives the public sector a `competitive advantage` over competing private sector entities is an unfounded fear, as the private sector entities and the U.S. Chamber of commerce, who support S. 1, would likely confirm. Furthermore, we would note that the `Motor-Voter` bill is one of the very few bills we are aware of which imposes mandates upon the public but not the private sector. Therefore, we are apprehensive that any so-called `competitive advantage` amendment would largely eviscerate your NLC-supported legislation.
Our strongest objection to such `competitive disadvantage` amendments is that they contradict the purpose of S. 1 - to provide relief to state and local governments from unfunded mandates. The legislation and its sponsors recognize that the public sector is distinctly different from the private sector, both in the services each provide and how they are affected by unfunded mandates. Local governments have the responsibility to provide services such as clean water, drinking water, public safety and garbage disposal. In contrast, providing these same services are an option for the private sector - which can provide such services, for a profit, to those who can afford to pay. Local governments act, not as a matter of choice or motivated by profits, but as a duty to all citizens. In the case of private entities, the motivation is to gain a profit.
It is one issue to set certain standards so that any private corporation can understand the rules before it chooses to ply a trade. It is a different issue when the federal government requires a local government to provide a service in a one-size-fits-all manner to every citizen. This distinct difference between the two sectors means that the federal government must be sensitive to mandates it imposes on state and local governments.
Thank you for your continued efforts to maintain the integrity and bipartisan spirit of S. 1.
Sincerely, Carolyn Long Banks,
President, Councilwoman-at-Large, Atlanta, GA.
The United States Conference of Mayors, Washington, DC, December 30, 1994.
Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Kempthorne:
On behalf of The United States Conference of Mayors, I want to thank you for your continued leadership in our fight against unfunded federal mandates and to express strong support for the new bill, S. 1.
S. 1 is serious and tough mandate reform which will do more than simply stop the flood of trickle-down taxes and irresponsible, ill-defined federal mandates which have come from Washington over the past two decades. S. 1 will begin to restore the partnership which the founders of this nation intended to exist between the federal government, and state and local governments.
S. 1 which was developed in bipartisan cooperation with the state and local organizations, including the Conference of Mayors, is even stronger than what was before the Senate last year in that it requires Congress to either fund a mandate at the time of passage or provide that the mandate cannot be enforced by the federal government if not fully funded. However, the bill is still based upon the carefully crafted package which was agreed to in S. 993 and which garnered 67 Senate cosponsors in the 103rd Congress. The ill would not in any way repeal, weaken or affect any existing statute, be it an existing unfunded mandate or not. This legislation only seeks to address new unfunded mandate legislation. In addition, S. 1 would not infringe upon or limit the ability of the Congress or the federal judicial system to enforce any new or existing constitutional protection or civil rights statute.
The mayors are extremely pleased that our legislation, which was blocked from final passage in the 103rd Congress, has been designated as S. 1 by incoming Majority Leader Bob Dole. We also understand and appreciate the significance of the Governmental Affairs and Budget Committees holding a joint hearing on our bill on the second day of the 104th Congress at which our organization will be represented.
I remember the early days in our campaign when many questioned our resolve. How could a freshman Republican Senator from the State of Idaho move the Washington establishment to reform its beloved practice of imposing federal mandates without funding? We responded to these doubters by focusing the national grass-roots resentment of unfunded mandates into a well orchestrated political machine, and by joining with our state and local partners in taking our message to Washington.
The United States Conference of Mayors will continue in its efforts to enact S. 1 until we are successful. We will not let up on the political and public pressure. And we will actively oppose efforts to weaken our bill.
The time to pass our bill is now. Those who would seek to delay action will be held accountable, and those who stand with state and local government will know that they have our support and appreciation.
Thank you again for all of your hard work and commitment, and rest assured that we will continue to stand with you.
Sincerely yours, Victor Ashe,
Mayor of Knoxville, President.
National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington, DC, December 30, 1994.
Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Kempthorne:
The National Conference of State Legislatures enthusiastically supports S. 1, the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995. We join you in urging your colleagues to cosponsor this bill and approve this legislation in Committee and on the floor of the Senate. The National Conference of State Legislatures commends your efforts, along with those of Senator Bill Roth, incoming Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Senator John Glenn, the outgoing Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, in forging the bipartisan mandate relief bill that is to be presented to the Senate next week as S. 1. We deeply appreciate your leadership in developing legislation that takes significant steps toward correcting the problem of unfunded federal mandates and for your openness to listen to our concerns during the negotiation process.
Your bill is a fitting first step in restoring the balance to our federal system by recognizing that the partnership with state and local governments has been significantly weakened by the growing federal practice of imposing unfunded mandates. No government has the luxury of unlimited resources, and the taxpayers of this country, our shared constituents, recognize that having the federal government pass its obligations down to the state and local governments does nothing to reduce their overall tax burden.
This bill is about information and accountability. The cost estimate, points of order, rules changes and other provisions contained in this legislation are absolutely necessary to get us back on track and have the federal government take responsibility for its actions. To make responsible decisions, members of Congress need to be fully aware of the financial burdens that federal legislation often places on state and local governments, and to understand the implications of those burdens.
As has been said often over the past year, the level of cooperation among state and local governments and members of the United States Senate during the negotiation process is unprecedented. Again, we appreciate your efforts, and those of the other Senators who helped forge this compromise, and wholeheartedly support passage of S. 1, the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995.
Sincerely, Jane L. Campbell,
President, NCSL, Assistant House Minority Leader, Ohio.
National League of Cities, Washington, DC, December 30, 1994.
Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Senate, Dirksen Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Kempthorne:
I am writing on behalf of the elected officials of the nation`s cities and towns to commend you for sponsoring the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995. Of all the measures introduced to date, this legislation is undoubtedly the strongest, best crafted, and most comprehensive approach to provide relief for state and local governments from the burden of unfunded federal mandates.
The National League of Cities commits its strongest support for the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act. We will fight any attempts to weaken the bill with the full force of the 150,000 local elected officials we represent. Local governments and the taxpayers we serve have borne the federal government`s fiscal burden for too long. We will not have such an important relief measure thwarted in the final hour by special interests.
We commend you for continuing to foster the bipartisan support which your original mandate relief bill so successfully garnered in the last Congress. We will work hard to gain bipartisan support for mandates relief in the 104th Congress, because, as you are well aware, this bill will benefit all states, all counties, all municipalities, and all taxpayers, regardless of their political allegiance.
Again, please accept our sincere gratitude for your efforts.
Sincerely, Carolyn Long Banks, President, Councilwoman-at- Large, Atlanta, GA.
National School Boards Association, Alexandria, VA, December 30, 1994.
Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, Dirksen Senate Office Building, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Kempthorne:
The National School Boards Association (NSBA), on behalf of the more than 95,000 locally elected school board members nationwide, would like to offer its strong support for the `Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995` (S. 1). This legislation would establish a general rule that Congress shall not impose federal mandates without adequate funding. This legislation would stop the flow of requirements on school districts which must spend billions of local tax dollars every year to comply with unfunded federal mandates. We commend you and your unending leadership on this critical issue.
Today, school children throughout the country are facing the prospect of reduced classroom instruction because the federal government requires, but does not fund, services or programs that local school boards are directed to implement. School boards are not opposed to the goals of many of these mandates, but we believe that Congress should be responsible for funding the programs it imposes on school districts. Our nation`s public school children must not be made to pay the price for unfunded federal mandates.
S. 1 would prohibit a law from being implemented without necessary federal government funding. S. 1 would allow school districts to execute the future programs which are required by the federal government without placing an unfair financial burden on the schools.
Again, we applaud your leadership in negotiating and sponsoring this bill which would allow schools to provide a quality education to their students. We offer any assistance you need as you quickly move this bill to the Senate floor.
If you have questions regarding this issue, please contact Laurie A. Westley, Chief Legislative Counsel at (703) 838-6703.
Yours very truly,
Boyd W. Boehlje, President.
Thomas A. Shannon, Executive Director.
National Association of Counties, Washington, DC, December 29, 1994.
Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Senate, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Kempthorne:
On behalf of the National Association of Counties, I am writing to express our strong support for S. 1, the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995. We sincerely appreciate the leadership you have provided in crafting this new, strong bipartisan bill to relieve state and local governments from the growing burdens of unfunded federal mandates. Our NACo staff has S 1508 reviewed the latest draft and they are convinced it is much stronger than S. 993, the bill approved in committee last summer.
While this legislation retained many of the basic principles from the previous bill, there were many improvements. Most significant among them is the provision that requires any new mandate to be funded by new entitlement spending or new taxes or new appropriations. If not, the mandate will not take effect unless the majority of members in both houses vote to impose the cost on state and local governments. Although the new bill will not prevent Congress from imposing the cost of new mandates on state and local taxpayers by holding members accountable we believe it will discourage and curtail the number of mandates imposed on them.
Again, thank you for your leadership on this important legislation. County officials across our great nation stand ready to assist you in anyway we can to ensure the swift passage to S. 1. If you have any questions, please contact Larry Naake or Larry Jones of the NACo staff.
Sincerely, Randall Franke, Commissioner, Marion County, OR, NACo President.
Mr. LOTT. I have a letter from Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago; another one from the National League of Cities. They support the legislation. But there are some key words in here. They support the legislation without weakening amendments. And that is what this is. It is a weakening amendment.
I will just read the first sentence in the letter from Mayor Daley.
I am writing to urge your support for the Mandate Relief Legislation (S. 1) currently being debated on the floor of the Senate and I encourage you to work with your Democratic colleagues to oppose any weakening amendments.
That letter was to the minority leader, Tom Daschle.
In a letter to the manager of the bill, the Senator from Idaho, Senator Kempthorne, from Carolyn Long Banks, president, and councilwoman-at-large, Atlanta, GA, on behalf of the National League of Cities, the first sentence of the second paragraph:
We urge you to oppose amendments that would provide blanket exemptions of certain types of mandates from the points-of-order contained in S. 1.
Right on point with this amendment - `oppose amendments that would provide blanket exemptions of certain types of mandates.`
And this is from a city officeholder in Atlanta on behalf of the National League of Cities, not your basic, you know, Republican organization. Mr. President, I really think that we should defeat this amendment, all other similar amendments. Let Senators bring this thing to closure. Let Senators pass this bill tomorrow night and celebrate, having done the right thing for all Americans with this unfunded mandates legislation.
I reserve the time.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, how much time do I have left?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California has 74 minutes and 30 seconds.
Mrs. BOXER. Thank you, Mr. President. I will speak for about 1 minute in response to the Senator from Mississippi, and I plan to yield 10 to 20 minutes to the Senator from Connecticut, whatever time he might wish to consume.
Mr. President, I want to say to my friend from Mississippi, and he is my friend, that I am rather distressed at his comments. But I am not surprised. It is the intent of the Republicans to make it look as if the amendments we are offering are so-called frivolous amendments. They are not important amendments. They are only meant to slow things up.
I understand he has a Contract With America that he likes. Hey, I like some of the things in the contract. I will help him when I agree with him. But I will not be railroaded so that he can make his 100-day deadline, when the people of California sent me here to protect the children, protect the frail elderly, to make sure that I stand up and fight for my State to get reimbursement for illegal immigration, the biggest unfunded mandate of them all that is not even addressed in this bill.
I liked the bill as it came out last year. As a matter of fact, it did exactly what the Senator from Mississippi, the distinguished whip, says this bill does. Today he said, `We want a process to look at the burden we are putting on the other levels of government.` I agree. That is exactly what the bill did last year. It stopped right there. CBO came in with the estimate. If we did not have an estimate there was a point of order against the bill. This whole green area here was added this year. It is a bureaucratic nightmare.
I believe we should think very carefully before we pass a law that will impact local and State government. I served on local government. I come out of local government. I had some mandates that were ludicrous that came down from the Reagan administration. Ludicrous. But I do not want to go too far because we can take a good bill with a good concept, which is what this bill is, and we can destroy it if the real agenda is to stop this U.S. Senate from acting in behalf of the people.
I am very clear in my mind that the people sent Senators here to do something. They did not send us here to walk away from our responsibility. Now, every day I hear of letters from mayors of cities, small cities and big cities, and members of boards of supervisors, and that is great. But I do not represent mayors and Governors and city councils and boards of supervisors. I like them a lot. I have a responsibility to the people that elected me. There were, as I remember, 6 million of them. And the others who voted for my opponent, they want me to work, too.
I find it interesting, because the majority leader last week said, `What is wrong with the Democrats? You do not want to work. We are ready to work.` First he says we do not want to work in January; then he criticizes us for having 100 amendments. It is work to put together an amendment that we believe in and fight for it as I am doing and others are doing. It is not fun and games, especially since the Republicans are voting lockstep against us on every single amendment.
I urge the American people to look at that. On the Congressional Accountability Act, they even voted in lockstep - lockstep - to allow lobbyists to continue to take them out to dinner and pay for their weekends. They voted in lockstep against the Lautenberg amendment that said if there is an across-the-board cut, we should take a cut in pay. They voted against that. They are voting in lockstep. There is a contract, and I am not here to help them get a contract through which, in part, I think will hurt Americans.
I think this bill is a good one, but we have to make it better. I am very glad to see that the managers of the bill support Senator Levin`s amendment, which will allow an individual Senator to get an idea of what his or her amendment will cost so that they can participate in what is now becoming a nightmarish scenario of how to get a bill into law.
When I was a kid I read how a bill becomes a law. It was complicated enough then. Wait until the kids have to learn about this. They will wonder what are we up to. So, I could say to the mayors who are listening and the city councils, I do not intend to vote on anything that will lay an unfair burden on you. But I say to the mayor of Milwaukee, and I don`t know if anyone has heard from him, but when cryptosporidium killed 100 people in his city and caused 400,000 serious illnesses because a parasite got into the water, he would have been glad if we had passed a law here that told them they had to get rid of cryptosporidium which killed his constituents.
So, I will yield time to the Senator. I will reserve my time to continue to debate this very important amendment. I am proud that the EPA, the person in charge of the environment in this great Nation has sent a letter to every Senator, asking for this amendment. I am very proud that the Senator from Connecticut is here now. He will talk not only about this amendment on protecting the frail elderly, children under 5, and pregnant women from this bureaucratic maze, but also on my amendment on child pornography that he supports. I yield to him at this time, 15 minutes.
Mr. DODD. Thank you, Mr. President. Let me thank my colleague from California. I may not need all 10 minutes, and I will reserve the balance of time if I do not use it.
Let me first of all commend the Senator from California for offering the amendment that is before the Senate, and, as I understand it, a second amendment which she will offer later this afternoon involving vulnerable constituencies. S 1509
The first amendment, the one which is before the Senate now, would provide protection for the health of children under 5, pregnant women, or the frail elderly. They would not be subjected to the procedural hurdles imposed by S. 1. The second amendment, which the distinguished Senator from California will be offering, would exempt laws that protect our children from pornography, sexual assault, and exploitive labor practices. And I think both are very sound and responsible amendments.
Let me just echo the comments of my colleague from California. First of all, I am a supporter of this bill, the unfunded mandates bill. I was a supporter of the bill that we could have passed last September, had it not been stopped through the gridlock and filibusters that took place here.
I do not know if there is much debate, there may be some who are opposed to the idea of amending the present situation which allows unfunded mandates to foist incredible burdens on our State and local governments. As the Presiding Officer knows, and others, a year ago I offered an amendment on this floor with the support, I might point out, of my distinguished colleague from Mississippi, on the Budget Committee and again on the floor.
We tried to do something about the cause of special education, which today the Federal Government contributes about 7 percent of the cost of educating a child with special needs, despite we made a commitment some 20 years ago that we would make up to 30 or 40 percent of the cost. I tried a year ago to get this body to support an amendment that would have raised our commitment to the costs of special education to 30 percent. That failed at the time. But that was again an unfunded mandate, in a sense, by saying special needs children must be educated. We said that should be the case, and yet we are not willing to back up that mandate with the kind of resources to support the States deferring those costs. That is one example.
Here we are talking about a generic law dealing with a lot of issues. I do not take a back seat to anybody in my support for the concept of trying to be more of a partner in meeting the desirable goals of our Nation. That, I do not think, is in debate. The question is, are there certain areas that we ought to exempt from those procedures?
Now, when we are sitting here debating a situation where there are absolutely no exemptions. We were taking the position, or there was a position of the majority here, that there should be no exemptions. Discrimination laws, national security issues, we are going to subject every mandate to the same standard and test. Then I think the argument that we should not be accepting or supporting the Boxer amendment would have value because we are applying the same standard to every single constituency and every single issue that comes before this body where a mandate is involved.
Mr. President, that is not the case. We have already decided to exempt some areas. And I agree with them, by the way. I am not disagreeing with the exemptions that have been made. We said, for instance, on the basis of sex or race or national origin, that you cannot require a procedural process dealing with the funding or the mandates in those areas.
We have already taken categories of people based on their gender, their national origin, and their race, and we have said, `If there is a mandate here to the States that involves those issues, then you are exempt from the procedures.` I think that is wise. I think that is right.
We have also done that in the area of national security and international agreements, again I think for good cause. We said, `Look, this is a very sound idea. Unfunded mandates, we ought to be funding them, helping our States or not requiring them. But there are areas in which we think that these procedures should not apply for certain constituencies. Certain people, certain circumstances ought to be exempt from that process.`
What the Senator from California has said is we agree. We also think there are some other people here, in addition to the ones mentioned, that we think also fall into that category, and circumstances that fall into that category. Not every State has laws which prohibit the mailing or communication of pornography. I know which States they are. I will not bother listing them here today, but there are States that have no laws in this area whatsoever.
So if we do not fund these things, it is conceivable through the computer practices today - and all of us have read the stories about Internet, and so forth, how you can cross State lines very quickly. The days of just only affecting your neighborhood in these areas is long since behind us. In fact, there are some horrid stories involving the use of computers, on-line computers, Internet, and what happens to young children who get caught up in this.
What the Senator from California is saying, when it comes to pornography and to child abuse and neglect, is that we ought to also carve out an exception, as we have carved it out for the others. Now that we are no longer being pure on the issue, we are carving out exemptions, this is one we think also ought to be carved out.
In addition to the question of children under 5 and frail elderly, I do not think any of us want to be in the position of having some huge procedural hurdles put in front of us despite our commitment to dealing with the unfunded mandates issue. This idea that we have to be so pure when it comes to the process, the process becomes more important, far more important than the constituencies we are trying to serve.
I think we have to get some balance here. Try to have an intelligent, thoughtful process, but let us not lose sight of what happens. The process becomes, in a sense, the Holy Grail, rather than the people who are supposed to be served by the process. I think we lose sight of that. It is possible to have a sense of equilibrium here, where you move forward in the process, you try to make it work better, far more efficiently, far more effectively. But when you turn to certain constituencies, as we have done in this bill - we have said on the basis of race, gender, or national origin, you are different; we are not going to apply the process to you because we honestly believe we should not be turning the clock back in certain of these areas.
What the Senator from California is saying, when it comes to the frail elderly and children under 5, and pregnant women, that we ought to, as well, say `Look, this is not a matter, folks, that we can argue about how much we want to do,` and so forth, but in these areas, it would be a major setback to become so distracted, so embracing of the process, that we are willing to walk away from constituencies in these particular cases.
I would certainly not stand up here and support constituency group after constituency group after constituency group that seek to avoid the process. This has been carefully crafted by the Senator from California - carefully crafted. She talks about a series of constituencies and circumstances in which some of those vulnerable citizens in our society could be affected.
Protecting children from pornography, that is a very important issue. This body has debated and discussed this issue over the years, and we have taken strong positions on the issue. I do not know of anyone here who wants to be on the side of coming out and saying, `I`m sorry, but the process of unfunded mandates is more important than what happens to a child through the use of pornography through the mails and computers.`
We have to make a choice here: Is the process more important than the issue? I suspect if the American public had an opportunity to vote on that issue, they would say, `Do not make the mistake of becoming so wedded to your process around here that you have neglected or failed to deal properly and forcefully with the issue of child pornography.`
The same could be said with sexual assault and exploitative labor practices included in this piece of legislation. Children under 5, pregnant women, frail elderly - those are the constituents. If we cannot find a way to have an intelligent bill on unfunded mandates - and I am confident we will - as well as intelligently carving out certain areas of constituencies that need our national protection, then I think we have lost sight of what our role is here to be a body that does try to be far more efficient and effective, make Government smaller, make it work S 1510 better. All of us, I think, are wedded and determined to do that and also, as I said a moment ago, to maintain that sense of equilibrium, which is critically important, in my view.
Mr. President, I will just mention here, because someone may say, `How bad is this problem in certain areas,` let me just point out - I know the Presiding Officer knows these numbers, as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Children and Families, on which I have the pleasure of serving with him - but reports of child abuse and neglect have risen 40 percent between 1985 and 1991. Too many cases of child neglect and abuse are reported annually now. One in three victims of physical abuse is a baby less than 1 year of age, and almost 90 percent of the children who died of abuse and neglect in 1990 were under the age of 5.
Unfortunately, these numbers seem to be getting worse. I do not know if anybody has simple answers to it, but I think as we try to deal with these questions, we ought to try to get to the heart of it as quickly as we can and not set up, as I say, an arbitrary set of hurdles here in our desire to intelligently do something about a process that needs reforming.
So, again, I emphasize, Mr. President, the fact that we have already carved out constituencies because we feel and have felt that they were important and essential and should not be subject to the whim of a simple majority here, a 51-49 vote that could roll back our support in these areas.
I suggest in the areas the Senator from California has outlined, we should do likewise. This will not do great violence to the underlying bill on unfunded mandates. Quite the contrary. I think it says that this is a body that has dealt with an issue that needed dealing with and dealt with it effectively, and had a sense of balance and equilibrium about the constituencies out there that deserve to be singled out because of their vulnerabilities. I think we ought to be able to do both.
If we do, I think we strengthen the legislation and build a stronger base of support, because we have shown a heightened degree of sensitivity about these people, these children, particularly, because most of the categories we are talking about are the youngest children, the ones who have little or no protection at all but look to us and look to others to make sure that at least there are laws on the books which allow those who are responsible for enforcing them to have some tools in their hands and not watch some endless debate down here that gets caught up in filibusters as to whether or not we are willing to come up with the money in these areas and watch the issue die.
I urge the adoption of these amendments. I hope we will get away from this notion that any suggestion - any suggestion - to try to improve this bill is rejected because of some drag-race mentality. We are not involved in the business of a goldfish-swallowing contest around here, to see how many we can put down our throats in what period of time. This is the Senate of the United States in the business of trying to legislate. I think these are good ideas.
Under normal circumstances, were we not sitting around here trying to meet some date that has been set out in front of us, I think these amendments would be debated, modified a bit, and I think they would be accepted. In the normal course of amending a bill, these amendments would be accepted.
But because there might be a conference with the House working out some of the differences, it might delay the calendar on adopting this legislation, no one can support it on the other side. I think that is a huge mistake. I do not think we are being well served by that mentality.
As I say, this is not a drag race to see who can beat the clock. We are dealing with a very important bill, a good bill - I will say, a good bill, a good bill - that will change the process in this country and provide assistance to States and localities. It is a good bill. I think it can be made a better bill, and that is our business through the amendment process.
Let us get rid of this calendar/clock idea. Let us get our business done quickly, but let us also engage in the kind of discourse that the Senate requires when good ideas are raised; Members can support or object. But to go through a process, no matter how good your idea is, no matter how many people may agree with you, we say, `Sorry, we cannot accept it because, you see, it is far more important we have a clean bill without a conference to get it done than it is what we write and what we ask the American people to support.`
So, again, I commend the Senator from California. These are good amendments. I think I can predict what is going to happen. They are going to be defeated mindlessly because it does not fit the drag race to get the bill done.
My view and hope would be that some might begin to at least say look, I think these are pretty good ideas. I think the House might accept them.
Let us not get bogged down in rejecting every idea that comes along here merely because it is going to upset the 100-day calendar, whatever else it is we are dealing with.
That is not what the American people are interested in. They could care less about the politics of what kind of time frame you are going to build on. They want us to do a good job here - not a fast job, a slow job but a good job. I think we have a wonderful opportunity to do a good job. It can be a better job with the adoption of these amendments.
Mr. President, I reserve the remainder of the time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut yields back his remaining time.
The Chair advises the Senator from California the time under her control is 53 minutes and 30 seconds.
Mrs. BOXER. I thank you very much, Mr. President.
Is there a desire on the other side to take some time?
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I inquire of the time remaining on this side.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair advises the Senator from Mississippi there are 17 minutes remaining.
Mr. LOTT. Since there are 50 minutes on the other side and only 17 on this side, I will reserve the remainder of our time at this time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, before the Senator from Connecticut leaves the floor, I want to thank him for taking time to speak. It is very difficult for Senators to come and talk on another Senator`s amendment. That is why I am so pleased I have a number who will be doing that.
I could not be more pleased than to have the Senator who has really stood for protecting the children of this country to be here on these amendments. I think it is clear that he has been the leader in this regard. I think he makes the points very clearly. We are setting up hurdles in this bill, many more hurdles than in last year`s bill. Some of us may still decide it is a bill worth voting for, but we do have a chance to make it easier.
I say to my friend, under last year`s bill, the hurdles stopped about at this point, because at that time we just said CBO had to let us know how much our amendments or bills would cost State and local governments. And then we would make intelligent decisions because hopefully we have the ability to do that.
What has happened in this year`s bill, S. 1, which some say goes too far, is that we added all this part here which deals with giving power to the Parliamentarian to decide whether or not the amendment or bill as it comes to us is fully funded, and there are points of order and all kinds of confusion.
I might say to my friend, after we even get a bill down here to the floor, every amendment has to start all over again with this procedure. That is why the exceptions clause is so critical to us. It is not as important as it was under last year`s bill, but because of these hurdles, we have to be careful that we do not tie our hands behind our back, blindfold ourselves, and put earplugs in so we can really do nothing.
I am very fearful, if we do not get these amendments through, then the children of our country, who do not put on pinstriped suits or come up here and treat Senators to dinners and breakfasts, will not be heard. S 1511
So I thank the Senator for adding his important voice to this amendment. I repeat that Carol Browner of the EPA supports us on this, of which I am very, very proud.
At this time, I would like to yield 7 minutes to my colleague from Minnesota, Senator Wellstone.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota is recognized.
Mr. WELLSTONE. I thank the Chair, and I thank the Senator from California. I am pleased to be an original cosponsor of this amendment.
Mr. President, to me, the operative language in the amendment says that any bill which `provides for protection of the health of children under 5, pregnant women, or frail elderly would not be subject to S. 1`s point of order and other requirements.`
I had a meeting back in Minnesota before the beginning of this session. It was really a very powerful meeting. It was with a large number of people from the disabilities community in Minnesota - Justin Dark came out - and people were really both terrified and I think indignant about what this unfunded mandates bill would mean to them.
I think it was very, very important it be made clear that there would be an exemption as it applied to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
I really view this amendment in the same framework, and I would say to my colleague from California and the Senator from Washington, with whom I have worked closely as well, that actually, as I have had discussions with people in my office about this piece of legislation, some have been surprised at really what is, by and large, with my strong support, the premise of this bill, but my view is that we should be accountable.
I think that when we vote legislation and we are requiring State or local governments to follow through and implement certain policy and there is an expense, and we might decide that we cover the expense or we might decide that it is appropriate for State or county or city government to also be providing some of the funding, we should go on record.
In many ways, that is what we do now. Someone can challenge a particular through an amendment and call for 51 votes right now. I like the idea of our being accountable, and in that sense I think the premise of this piece of legislation is extremely important. I have said that to Senator Kempthorne. But I also worry about what Senator Boxer has so ably pointed out on the chart.
What I worry about is that we get into a kind of morass where there is the complexity and the multiple veto points which end up leading to a process where we literally cannot move forward with important legislation where there are needs that cry out to us. I would say that those needs cry out from children and from frail elderly and from women expecting children.
I know one of the most poignant gatherings I have been involved with here in Washington was when a group of citizens, to make a connection to the environment, came from around the country. They were mainly poor and they came to talk about environmental justice. Their point was that all too often the environmental degradation has a disparate impact on their communities. And they are right.
So when it comes to situations where women really cannot eat fish out of lakes or rivers close to where they live, nor can their small children, or when you go into a classroom - this happened to me in Minneapolis - and meet with students - I think there is no alternative to meeting with elementary school kids; it is wonderful how eager they are. It is sort of like the world all of a sudden of magic is before you. But to leave this meeting and then have a teacher say to you afterwards: You know, Senator, these kids are wonderful, but I really worry about the lead they have in their bloodstream - environmental degradation, whether it be in the paint or whether it be in the soil - there are needs that cry out in this country.
I cannot think of an amendment that does more to really strengthen this piece of legislation because by passing this amendment I think what we say in one stroke of public policy is we are committed to being accountable; we are committed to making sure that we do not impose legislation on State and local governments without making an effort to either provide the funding or be clear that they should provide the funding, but we go on record, we are explicit about what we do, but at the same time in the framework of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we understand that there are some compelling needs in this country, there are important populations that, unfortunately, are not so important here, not as important as they should be, that really do need support and protection.
We do not want to see some legislative process we have designed that has become so convoluted, so complex, so full of opportunities for people to block to prevent us from moving forward where we really need to take action.
I think that is what this amendment does. I think it strengthens the bill, and I am very pleased to support it.
I yield the remainder of my time. I thank the Senator from California for her leadership.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I thank the good Senator for coming over and joining in this debate. Again, it is an honor for me to have so many of my colleagues make the time. He has consistently worked since this bill began to try to strengthen the ability of this Senate to respond to the needs of populations that simply cannot get on a plane, come over here, take us to dinner, and plead their case eloquently. And many times these populations are in fact little kids, pregnant women, and the frail elderly.
What we are saying in this amendment is very clear. This bill has turned into somewhat of a bureaucratic nightmare. Maybe it is worth it all, to make the Governors happy. But we better stand up and look out for regular people. Is that not why we are here?
At this time I am going to yield to the Senator from Washington who I think, more than anyone in this place, stands up in the most direct way to protect those people, average Americans. I yield 7 minutes to my friend from Washington, Senator Murray.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from California, Senator Boxer, for bringing this very important piece of legislation, this amendment, in front of us today, because I think it points out who some of the critical citizens we are representing in this debate are and what attention we need to bring to them. Certainly I, like all of my colleagues, have received letters from mayors and city councilmen and women who are saying you have to pass this unfunded mandates bill.
As a former State Senator I certainly was the recipient of mandates from the Federal Government, and I said, `Who are they to pass this along to me?` However, I think in the process we have forgotten the people whom we are here to represent. My constituents in the State of Washington sent me back here to represent their interests at the Federal level. Certainly some of the most important people I represent are the people who are spoken to in this amendment: Children, pregnant women, and the elderly. I look at this bill very critically. How will that affect those, the most frail in our society, people who do not have much of a voice here in the U.S. Senate?
There certainly are no children here, no pregnant women, and very few elderly. I think it is important we speak out for them and I thank the Senator from California for bringing this to our attention.
As we look at this bill in front of us, I look at the charts of the Senator from California that say what we will have to go through in order to pass a bill or amendment in the future, once the unfunded mandates bill comes before us. I have to say, as a mother I have a great concern about what this may do in case of a national crisis in the future. I want to point out an example of an issue I think might be severely impacted by this legislation as it is now in front of us without Senator Boxer`s amendment.
Last year in my State there was an outbreak of E. coli. E. coli is a bacteria that is in meat, and if the meat is not cooked properly it can cause severe illness and in some cases death. In my State of Washington, some children had hamburgers from a restaurant where the meat was not cooked sufficiently. Several children died, many were ill, several of them still ill, and S 1512 the outbreak of that has very much affected me as a mother thinking about buying meat and purchasing things.
We responded very quickly, putting out new regulations about how long meat should be cooked. Certainly public awareness has become greater on the issue. But I say to all my colleagues, and to people listening, that E. coli is an emerging bacteria. It was not here several decades ago. It is now something we are seeing more and more of, and there may be a time in this country where it is not just isolated to my region. Where we see more of it, we will need to respond quickly and directly with national legislation to ensure that we deal with this crisis.
I look back at the charts of my colleague from California that show us the legislative process we have to go through and I ask what would happen if we had to bring an amendment forward to deal with an issue like E. coli. What strikes me very much is it will no longer be our decision about whether or not this is a critical issue to the country and one we will be able to fight for. It will end up at CBO, and CBO will decide whether or not, if they have the manpower or the womanpower to decide how much this is going to cost, how long it will take them to put together the impacts, if they can, of the passage of the legislation. We will have some nonelected bureaucrat sitting in a back room, looking at a stack of paper on his or her desk deciding whether or not they have the time to decide the impacts of my E. coli amendment that is before the U.S. Senate.
I have a serious concern with that. I was elected by the people in my State to come back here and to bring to the attention of this Government important issues that we have to address. To know that I would be stymied by somebody who is not elected, who is a CBO bureaucrat in the maze of the Senator from California back there - that I could not react quickly really concerns me. It especially concerns me when the issue affects children or pregnant women or the elderly.
I think the amendment of the Senator from California is very important for several reasons. It points out very specifically how this can have a dramatic impact on some of our populations, some of our amendments - the process. Kids are small. Their tolerance level is very low. They cannot take a lot. We cannot wait for a bureaucrat to decide whether or not this is an important issue. Maybe they are not a mom and they do not have the kind of feeling I have about it. We need to be able, as elected officials - the people we have - to be able to move legislation quickly.
I commend again the Senator from California for bringing this very important amendment before us that will simply say when the issue affects children, pregnant women and elderly, that we can move it through this body quickly and effectively. I believe, as the Senator from Connecticut said, this strengthens the bill. This touches the concern I have, and says we can act as who we were elected be, to be legislators, to make legislation. We can do it responsibly. And it is an important amendment for this body to consider and to move forward.
I again thank my colleague, the Senator from California, for bringing this amendment before us and I yield back my time.
Mr. LOTT addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi.
Mr. LOTT. We do not have much time remaining on our side but I will just try to give a little balance to the debate. I would like to take 4 minutes of our time to make a couple points.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi is recognized for 4 minutes.
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, after the last three statements we have heard I want to emphasize this point. This bill hurts no one. This is a positive bill. The results of this bill will be to help people, all people, including - and I believe especially - the elderly who now have to bear the burden of so many of the Federal regulations through additional taxes and in many cases property taxes. This is a way to begin to help the American people by getting the onerous mandates of the Federal Government and all the problems it creates and all the taxes off the backs of people.
We should not be trying to anticipate, in this legislation, S. 1, any and all of the types of circumstances that would justify a waiver in future legislation. This legislation fully anticipates that such circumstances will exist, probably, and allows the full Senate to judge those cases on a case-by-case basis.
Several amendments have been offered. I guess others will be offered that would remove additional categories from coverage by the bill. I have a lot of questions about this.
How do you define frail elderly as distinguished from sick elderly or just elderly? My mother, heaven help her, is 82 years old. She has a bum knee. She does not get around too well. The bill already has an exemption for age. Would that not take care of this problem?
There is this other little exemption in the bill that I read earlier. If there is a real problem the President of the United States can designate this is an emergency and can take care of the problem also.
There is no end to the list of groups or categories of individuals or circumstances we might conjure up that might come forward. The bill will take care of that. There are at least three problems with adding all these exemptions.
First, it is a slippery slope and there is no limit to the interests that arguably ought to be protected through an exclusion.
Second, creating entire categories of blanket exclusions invites real problems of interpretation. Would a mandate that deals with infants and pregnant women, but also includes many nonexcluded circumstances or categories, be exempt from the requirements of S. 1? That is a question we really would have to think about.
Third, the more categories that are excluded, the more loopholes in the bill that will invite creative construction of mandates, in order to avoid the intent of the law.
The real answer to these pleas for additional exclusions lies in the waiver provision. Remember, S. 1 does not decide which mandates will be funded by the Federal Government and which ones not. Instead it establishes a process. Is it a magical process? Are we wedded to that? Can we make changes? Yes, we can. But this is not a mandate. This is a process by which we can virtually look at all Federal mandates. They will be judged on their individual merits as to whether or not the Federal Government ought to fund them or not.
S. 1 fully anticipates the concerns of Senators like the distinguished Senator from California, Senator Boxer, by allowing the Senate to make a case-by-case judgment on which mandates are so compelling that they ought to be imposed even without Federal funding.
A big advantage of such case-by-case determinations is that it allows Congress to prevent creative uses of exemptions from turning into unintended loopholes. It also allows us to still require that the cost of a mandate be scored by CBO, under the provisions of S. 1, while then having the option of waiving the requirement that the Federal Government fully fund it. Remember, exclusions from this act are exempt from both requirements. That is the way they should be considered.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Frist). All time which has been yielded has expired.
The Chair reminds the Senator from Mississippi that he has 13 minutes 43 seconds left under his time, and the Senator from California has 38 minutes 2 seconds.
Who yields time?
Mrs. BOXER. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Mississippi. I want to respond to some of his points.
The Senator says, `What do you mean by frail elderly? It is confusing to me.` Let me tell you why we decided to go with frail elderly. We wanted to make this a narrow exception. We did not want to make this an exception that will hurt this bill. We said children under 5, because those are the ages recognized by the World Health Organization as the years when children are particularly vulnerable to environmental pollution. We did not want to say `elderly.` That would mean everyone over 65 or 62 or 70, because I S 1513 have many friends of that age group who are in better shape than some of us who are younger. We are trying to make an exception for the most vulnerable in our society.
It is really extraordinary to me that my good colleague would send out one of the members of the leadership to fight this amendment. I am very flattered that the majority whip himself is here with all of his experience in debate. But I think it speaks to the fact that this is an important amendment.
I hope that my Republican friends will not march lockstep to some 100-day plan to pass a contract and say we have to vote against every amendment because if this bill is different than the House bill we will have to go to conference, and, God forbid, it will slow it down and take time.
I hope the American people are listening to this debate. I hope they get involved in it because we are going to vote on this issue pretty soon. I think anyone who has followed this debate, who has seen how bureaucratic this law is, will well understand why we need to exempt some of our priorities from the maze it creates. If children are not our priority, where are we as a nation? Every Senator from every party, Republican, Democrat, independent, I do not know of one who has not made a great speech and gotten great applause for our wanting to protect our children or our future. Well, let us show that we mean what we say.
We are setting up a new procedure that is very confusing. I daresay I listened to this debate. The two managers could not agree on some of the provisions. There is no explanation of one of the key points in the bill, the term `direct savings.` There is no definition. The Senator from Mississippi says, well, the Senator from California does not define what frail elderly means. In this bill there is no definition of direct savings. If we pass an environmental law and kids do not get poisoned from lead and they can concentrate in school and they can get into high school and college and earn a living, was it worth it that we said to the States get the lead out of the water? You bet.
I ask you, my friends, my Republican friends who voted in lockstep against every one of these amendments, to ask the people in Milwaukee if they would have wished we would have acted to take the cryptosporidium out of the water, or my friend from Washington, my good friend, who said she had to deal with the effects of E. coli in the meat supply.
This bill sets up a bureaucracy. Make no mistake about it, it is here. No one disputes it because this is it. This picture, I say to my friends, does not even show the whole nightmare that it is because this is just what the Senate does to get the bill. Every amendment goes right around and through all of these steps again at every single conference report that may come to us. It goes right through it again. You can hear the arguments on this amendment. They have accused us of slowing things up. I have news for them. They are on a 100-day course. My people did not send me here to march in tune to a contract that some politician wrote. They sent me here to fight for the people of California, to stand up for what I believe in, and especially for those without a voice because kids do not come here in pin-striped suits and treat us to dinner. They expect, and they should expect, of their elders that we will look out for them.
I have made this amendment very narrow. I have made this amendment so narrow that the exception is the frail elderly, children under 5, and pregnant women, because I do not believe it is right, I do not believe the American people want us to tie that kind of legislation into knots and later on be offering an amendment that says if it is a law that deals with child pornography, child sexual abuse, child labor law infraction, that we do not subject those kinds of laws to this bureaucratic nightmare.
If that is what this contract is all about, fine. I have to say that my friend from Mississippi, and he is my friend, says this bill hurts no one, that this helps all people. Let me tell you something. I will be unequivocal about this. I used to be in local government. I did not like it when the Reagan administration told me what to do, and they did it time after time. So I want to support a bill that takes the mandates off our backs. I supported the original bill. This one goes too far. It sets up a maze. I am here to tell you. What good is it for the people of California to send me here and I cannot even offer an amendment to save the children - to save the children from chemicals that go into the water, from bacteria that goes into the food, from dirty air?
Do you know that the children in Los Angeles today have a 15 percent lower lung capacity than children born in clean air areas? The San Francisco Chronicle, which in the past has supported many Republicans, says as follows about this bill:
Clearly none of the major environmental protections passed over the past 25 years could have withstood this bill.
So let us be careful. Let us vote for the Boxer amendment, supported by the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and in a new poll the vast majority of people believe we should have an Environmental Protection Agency. And Carol Browner has sent to every Senator a letter today saying vote for this amendment. This is smart. She says:
Your amendment, Senator Boxer, will ensure that Congress is free to act to protect the health of our children, pregnant women, and the elderly, and it has my full support.
This bill sets up a process. This is not about helping anybody. It is about a process. It is not about helping anybody. I hope that we will add an exception. That is an exception for the frail elderly, the children, and the pregnant women. I ask my friend from New Jersey if he is prepared at this time to make a few remarks on this amendment, or would he rather the Senator from Texas take her time now? I have the right to the floor, and I am glad to yield if he wishes.
Mr. LAUTENBERG. I thank the Senator from California. I hope the Senator from Texas will excuse my taking advantage of the time offered now. I will not be long.
Mrs. BOXER. Would the Senator like 10 minutes?
Mr. LAUTENBERG. That would be the most that I would need.
Mrs. BOXER. I yield 10 minutes to the Senator from New Jersey.
Mr. LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, I rise to make sure that as we pursue the objective of S. 1, one that I think almost all share here, which is to get rid of assigning States tasks that cost them lots of money without having a good and sufficient reason, that we take important national matters into consideration. One issue that I have mentioned in previous statements is interstate pollution. I am concerned about my ability to persuade the citizens of New York to take on an extra tax so that beaches in my State could remain free of pollution. Yet that is exactly what may happen, because under S. 1, States would not have to comply with Federal mandates unless we pay them to - or unless I am able to persuade a majority of my colleagues to help my State.
As I examined this bill, I came to the conclusion that, while in concept and principle it is an excellent idea, there are certain national interests that are so important that they ought not to be subject to the S. 1 point of order. I commend the Senator from California, whose always thoughtful review of legislation enables her to have a certain uniqueness about finding that one spot or a place in a bill that really calls out for unique or special attention.
In this case she is absolutely right. These exemptions, such as the one that is being proposed by the Senator from California, include Federal mandates relating to national security, discrimination, and international agreements.
So today, I am trying to help secure support for the amendment of the Senator from California, to add the protections of children, pregnant women, and the frail elderly to the list of vital national interests.
Mr. President, I cannot believe that any of my colleagues would act in a way to endanger the welfare of already vulnerable Americans. Yet, this bill, as it now stands, would do just that.
Mr. President, if we leave Federal environmental laws to the States, we risk a situation where some States will enact much stricter legislation than others and in that situation, by way of example, our Nation`s children could be placed at terrible risk. Scientific studies have shown that children, pregnant S 1514 women, and the elderly are all particularly vulnerable to environmental threats. The overall incidence of childhood cancer, which induced, frankly, the review of the Superfund statutes that are on our books, has increased 10.8 percent over the last decade. Noting that, the incidence of childhood cancer has increased 10.8 percent over the last decade. Cancer now is the No. 1 disease killer of children from late infancy through early adulthood.
Unlike legislators and regulators, the disease of cancer does not know State lines. If just one State were to loosen its environmental laws, the fallout could lead to even higher rates of childhood cancer, both in that State and throughout the region.
In his State of the Union Address, the President cautioned that we must maintain our sense of responsibility and compassion as we move to trim the Federal Government.
As it now stands, S. 1 would allow States to decide whether or not, on their own, to protect citizens from serious environmental threats. I am concerned that passing this bill in its current form might be neither compassionate nor responsible.
The Federal Government has a moral responsibility to protect American citizens - especially our most sensitive populations - from grave dangers to their health and well-being. We have a moral responsibility to tackle national problems with national solutions. And we have a moral responsibility to make sure that our national environment is habitable and safe.
Later this afternoon, I plan to offer another amendment that addresses concerns not dissimilar to those raised by the Senator from California. My amendment would exempt from the requirements of this bill, legislation seeking to limit exposure to group A carcinogens. In other words, very simply, if a mandate was issued that one State had to rid itself of the emission of carcinogens to protect another State`s interest as well as its own, I do not think it is unreasonable to ask that polluting State to pay for it, particularly if the effects, like the wind blowing or currents flowing, would be in another State.
Mr. President, I am particularly sensitized now to the well-being of children, as I expect a phone call any minute from my youngest daughter, who is ready to deliver my second grandchild. It is an exciting time, as all know. Also, it is a daunting one. I want to make sure that my children and your grandchildren, Mr. President - you are young and do not have them yet, but you will get them, God willing - and all the children in this land grow up in a safe healthy environment.
I want to make sure that they can breathe in the air without also breathing in toxins of death, that they can drink the water without imbibing lead, and that they can grow up as healthy, productive adults, free from scars of serious birth defects and childhood diseases. That is why I am here and joining the Senator from California to support this amendment.
It is thoughtful, purposeful, and it belongs in this piece of legislation as an exemption. Otherwise, Mr. President, we are going to be putting the children of America and the elderly at dangerous risk. There is nothing more beautiful, in my mind, than my pregnant daughter. We ought to be concerned about pregnant daughters across the face of this Nation. We all instinctively want to protect and admire that cycle of life.
So, Mr. President, I hope this is an amendment that is going to carry by weight of its value and by the persuasive presentation from the Senator from California.
I yield the floor.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I understand that the Senator from Texas is prepared. I will only take 1 minute of my time. How much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 20 minutes 33 seconds.
Mrs. BOXER. I will take, at maximum, 2 minutes to say to my friend how much I appreciate his coming over here. He has been a stalwart in terms of protecting the environment of the State of New Jersey and the health and safety of all Americans. He just faced the voters in a very tough race, where he stood on that record of environmental strength. And I think the fact that he is out here today supporting this very important amendment - which, I tell my friend from New Jersey, Carol Browner, the head of EPA, supports and has sent us a letter which is on everyone`s desk - and the fact that he took the time out of his busy schedule says to me he meant what he said to the people of New Jersey and he is very magnanimous to the Senator from California for helping her.
I want to share a personal note with my friend. I, too, have a daughter who is going to give me, if all goes well, my first grandchild in June. And it is quite an experience to those people who have not had it yet. Your feelings for life and children and future come right to the forefront. What we do here now is going to affect those grandchildren of yours and mine, because if we set up such hurdles that makes it impossible for the Senator from New Jersey to fulfill the pledge he made to his people in his election and impossible for the people to look to me and say, `Please, Barbara, you said you want to act to help the young people and elderly in our environment.` Children who live in Los Angeles have on average 15 percent lower lung capacity than children living in clean air areas. That is wrong.
This bill is a good idea that may well go too far. We are trying to fix this and make it better. I am stunned at my colleagues, that they did not say to me, this is reasonable, let us work it out, let us change two or three words, and let us make your idea part of this bill.
No. No. I have never seen anything like it; vote after vote along partisan lines against amendments that are going to make this bill better. The majority leader said, `They like this bill. Why are they offering these amendments?`
Because we want to make it better. We did not come here to roll over and play dead because there was an election and somebody has a 100-day contract. You know, my contract with my people goes far past 100 days. It goes to the next generation.
I really believe that the Senator from New Jersey spoke eloquently to that point. I am so proud to have his support, and also have the support of the Senator from Connecticut and the Senators from Washington and Minnesota. I thank them all.
I retain the remainder of my time to close debate at a later point.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time?
Mrs. HUTCHISON addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I certainly appreciate the concern of the Senator from California about pregnant women and children and the elderly, and the Senator from New Jersey talking about carcinogens.
A vote today against this amendment or against the Senator from New Jersey`s amendment does not mean that we are for carcinogens in the water. It does not mean that we do not want to take care of the young children and the elderly. We all want to make sure that our young children and our elderly people who need help have it.
In fact, that is the purpose of the bill. The purpose of the bill is to bring the issue down not to whether we take care of people or not but how do we take care of them? What is the best way to make sure that our children have a future, that our elderly are able to be taken care of, that we do not have carcinogens in the water?
The question is who makes the decision and who pays for it?
What we are saying today is that the Government that is closest to the people should be making those decisions and they should pay for it after they make the decisions.
The whole concept of our Government is that we do not have taxation without representation; that if we are going to have a program whoever decides that we are going to have that program should pay for it. That is the issue today. It is not whether or not we are going to take care of the people in this country who need help.
I am a former State treasurer. I have been a State officeholder. My colleague from Idaho has been the mayor of his city in Idaho, Boise. So I think we have to look at the issue of who can best do this job. S 1515
We know the impact of these mandates. We know the tough choices unfunded mandates force States and cities and counties to make. And the issue is, are they going to raise taxes or are they going to cut services, services to the elderly and children? That is the question.
Passage of this bill sends a clear message to our State and local government leaders that have cried to us time after time after time. We want to work with them to reduce the pressures on the taxpayers of America. It will also send a message to them that we intend to return to the proper role of Federal Government.
In my own State, almost one-third of the increase in the State budget over the last 3 years has been the result of unfunded Federal mandates - one-third. It is a stealth tax. The taxpayers of Texas and California and Ohio and Idaho are paying taxes but we do not get the blame for those taxes because it is a stealth tax. It comes from unfunded Federal mandates through the States and local governments. We just cannot afford it anymore. The taxpayers of this country cannot afford it anymore.
Yesterday, I spoke about an amendment and I said these unfunded mandates mean that we may have to increase and have increased the light bill or the water bill or the sewer bill for the very elderly people that the Senator is trying to protect. I think you have to look at the overall picture to determine what the effects are going to be on the people that we are going to try to protect.
Gov. George Bush of Texas, who just got sworn in last week, in his inaugural address said, `Texans can govern Texas. Thank you very much, Federal Government. We can do it ourselves.`
Well, I am sure Tennesseans can govern Tennessee. I am sure Californians can govern California. They are quite competent to do it. In fact, they are better able to make the decisions, because they would not put a mandate on the local governments to test the water supply for proposed carcinogens that that water supply has never had and will never have because they know what the potential carcinogens are in Boise, ID, or Amarillo, TX, or Memphis, TN. They know better than the Federal Government and they do not need to send their money to Washington to have them launder it through their bureaucracy and send 80 cents on the dollar back. They have figured that out.
So the issue is not are we going to protect the elderly and the children and the working people and the jobs in this country. The issue is how is the best way to do it. And the best way to do it is to pass this bill without amendments that are going to gut it as this amendment will, pass this bill to say to the State and local governments: We are not going to tell you what is best for your locality because we know you can make that decision. We know that you are the best source to determine what the quality of air is and what the priority programs to clean up the air is for your area. And it is different in Los Angeles than it is in El Paso. It is different in Houston than it is in Memphis.
That is why we want to pass this bill, so that the local governments can more efficiently protect the people that we are here to protect, because they can do it best at the government level that is closest to the people and they can determine what the priorities are and they will do it in a much better way than the Federal Government, the bureaucrats that may or may not have ever visited Los Angeles or Memphis. They can do it better.
So that is why I am supporting this bill. And that is why I am very concerned about an amendment that would essentially start to take out segments of the potential mandates because when you do that you are saying, `We will be able to continue telling you how you will do your business, State government and local governments.`
And I think the people of America understand that. And I think they understand that this is a bill that will fulfill a commitment that we have made to downsize the Federal Government, to go back to our roots, which is State and local governments have all of the responsibilities in the Constitution except those specifically reserved to the Federal Government. Not the opposite. It is not the Federal Government saying we are going to do everything and we will let the States and local governments do a few things that we decide they might be competent to do. The Federal Government did not create the States in this country. The States created the Federal Government. That is the way our Founding Fathers decided to do it because they knew, they knew, that States and local governments were best able to deal with our problems. They knew that we should have a very limited Federal Government. That is what we are trying to return to with this bill.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield back the remaining time.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, may I inquire as to what the timeframe is on both sides?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. It is 17 minutes and 10 seconds, and 5 minutes and 13 seconds.
Mrs. BOXER. I would be glad to ask the manager if he wishes to retain his time.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, to the Senator from California, I believe I will use the remaining 5 minutes to make closing comments.
Mrs. BOXER. I say to the Chair, it is my plan to close the debate since it is my amendment, so at this time I would like to take 10 minutes of time. I would like the President to inform me when I have reached that 10-minute timeframe.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized for 10 minutes.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I am really glad that the Senator from Texas came over here to talk about her philosophy of government because, really, it goes to my amendment in many ways.
The Senator comes over here and talks about her philosophy of government. I am talking about people, people who are going to be impacted by a bill that is based on an excellent idea. The Senator from Texas talked about how she was in State government. I was in local government. I come out of the grassroots. In my first campaign, I knocked on every door in my county. I lost that one. But I won the second one, 4 years later. And I have won every one since.
The reason I think I won these elections, sometimes unexpectedly, is because I said to the people of my State, `I will go and fight for you. I will walk hand in hand with the Republicans when I agree with them, but when they go too far, I will fight for you.` So the Senator from Texas talks about her philosophy of government. I want to talk about the people. I like the idea of looking at costs when we write laws.
I loved S. 993, which the Senator from Idaho wrote in the last Congress. It had very strong bipartisan support. It forces Members to look at the costs. On this chart, it ended over here. It was very doable and workable. And now it has been changed. We have hurdles set up, not only for the bills but for every single amendment. Maybe there are some here who think that everything we do here is bad. I do not think that everything we do here is bad. Some of the things maybe, but there is a lot we do that is good.
I found it interesting that the Senator from Texas says, `Texans can take care of Texas.` That was not the case when they had a flood, as I remember it. And I was happy to help her constituents. I say to my colleagues, be careful in your rhetoric. There may be times when you will have floods in the Midwest, tornadoes, storms. There was a horrible one in Tennessee, I remember, after my friend who is in the chair was elected. It was a terrible problem.
I believe that all levels of government should work together. We are not enemies of each other; we are not enemies of each other. We are all in it for the same purpose. Sometimes, it will make sense for the local government to be in complete control of everything that goes on. Sometimes it should be a partnership.
My friend from Texas talked about the founders. If the founders took a look at these charts, they would roll over in their graves. They were very clear thinkers; they were very clear thinkers. Why we want to set up these hurdles on every single U.S. Senator is something I find hard to understand.
That is why I am offering my amendments. I would not have offered the amendments to the former bill because S 1516 that bill made sense. This bill goes too far. If there is an outbreak of E-coli in the meat supply, as Senator Murray said, she wants to act. If there is cryptosporidium in the water supply, it kills people. Who does it kill? The frail elderly, the children, and it harms the pregnant women and the children they are carrying. All we are saying is: Make another exception. You have made other exceptions in this bill. If we mean that our children are important, make an exception for those children.
Let me read for my friends here from a very important paper, `Health Effects of Ambient Air Pollution.` As I understand it, my friend from Texas has a bill that would postpone implementation of the Clean Air Act. What does that mean to one part of my State? It would, in fact, reverse the progress we are making and we would see a continuation of the costs of dirty air approach $9 billion, just in Los Angeles. If we clean up the air, we will save $9 billion. Does that go into this formula? No, it does not. We do not believe that savings is in this.
I also have to say to my friend, she says Texans can govern Texas and Californians can govern California. Of course, we can. There is a role for State government, and there is a role for local government and a role for Federal Government. But I have news for her. We had a Civil War. We decided we were one Nation under God. We are not enemies of one another. I love to work with Governors and State-elected officials and local officials, of which I was one. We are not enemies.
The American people, in a recent poll in the Wall Street Journal, a couple of days old, said it is up to this Government to act to protect the health of the people, the environment; only 9 percent of the people think there is no use for the Environmental Protection Agency. Let me repeat that: Only 9 percent of the people think there is no use for the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency supports my amendment. It is unusual for them to send a letter. They sent it on this amendment, because Carol Browner, who comes from the State of Florida, who understands the role of State government, who supports deregulating, says this is an important amendment.
Listen to what the American Lung Association says:
The young, the old and the chronically ill are usually assumed to be at high risk for many forms of air pollution. Much experience leads us to expect that immature, growing bodies will be highly vulnerable to all sorts of environmental stresses in comparison to healthy adult bodies. A more specific concern is that children breathe more air for a given volume of lung tissue than do adults; likewise, much experience leads us to expect that bodies debilitated by disease (that is the frail elderly) or by the inevitable loss of function with advanced age will be highly vulnerable.
My friend from Mississippi says, `What do you mean by the frail elderly?` I tell you, read the American Lung Association. `* * * bodies debilitated by disease or by the inevitable loss of function with advanced age will be highly vulnerable.`
They cannot put on a pinstriped suit and come in here and take me to lunch and tell me why it is so important to protect them. They just want to be grandmas and grandpas and great grandmas and great grandpas, and live in peace and drink the water, breathe the air, and kiss their great grandchildren, and pass on the family values that are so important to everyone in this Senate. I have yet to hear a Member who did not talk about family values. We better value the family of humanity here in America because if we cannot act with speed, deliberate speed, when there is an outbreak of some poison in the water, some chemical in the water, we are putting those people at risk.
Maybe you will change your mind if it happens to be your mother or your father or your pregnant daughter. I hope we are never in that situation where I have Members coming to the U.S. Senate floor saying: Senator Boxer, you were right; we should have done this. We cannot act. We are tied up in knots. I cannot even offer an amendment.
Why are we here? We are not here to please Governors. We are not here to just deal with the process.
That is why I like last year`s bill. It was sensible, it was sound. It treated us like grownups. Let us get a cost estimate. If we do not have it, there is a point of order against the bill and we have to stand up and be counted if we, in fact, pass a law that costs some money.
By the way, I am very willing to put the money behind anything I believe in. I think that is the right way to be. I think we should move in that direction, but to tie us up in knots?
By the way, I also have to make a point here. In the committee, I say to my friends, I offered a sunset amendment. I said, `Look, this may be a great bill, but let`s analyze it in a few years.` They said, `Oh, no, no, no, we do not want to do that.`
I said, `OK, I`ll offer an amendment for 3 years,` and then I sunsetted it at 5 years, then I sunsetted it out in 2002. No, Republican party-line straight vote, no sunset.
So when I hear my friend say, `If this doesn`t work, we`ll change it,` I think it is a little disingenuous because we offered a sunset provision out as far as 7 years and could not get a Republican vote.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator`s time has expired.
Mrs. BOXER. I yield the floor and reserve the remainder of my time.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, will you please notify me when I have spoken for 4 minutes?
I just came from a press conference. That is why I had to leave for a few minutes. At that press conference, we had mayors from around the country. We had Victor Ashe, from Knoxville, TN. We had Greg Lashutka, who is Senator Glenn`s mayor, from Columbus, OH; Rich Daley, the mayor of Chicago - all of them in strong support.
The press conference was to announce strong support for S. 1 and the fact they appreciated S. 1 has as its core S. 993. But that we have taken a good step forward. That is what S. 1 is.
At any point during this process, if you truly have an emergency situation, you can seek a waiver. These points of order are not self-executing either, Mr. President. Someone will have to raise that point of order, and if you truly have some true national emergency, I really do not perceive someone is going to try to stop the process of dealing with it.
I do not want the Senator to feel that those who may oppose the language of her amendment are against in any way the elderly and children. I appreciate the sensitivity by which she has addressed the issue of the elderly and the children.
I have said many times that S. 1 is a carefully balanced bill. It is a bill that has bipartisan support because we have addressed these issues. A number of Senators have expressed concern that exemptions need to be added to the limited few that are in S. 1. But I do not share that view and for a number of reasons.
First, remember this is a bill that is prospective in nature. It only applies to new mandates contained in legislation considered in Congress after next year. So it is impossible that this bill would harm the current environment, public health, and safety.
S. 1 is a process bill. It reforms the process by which Congress considers legislation imposing mandates. It is a process bill for making better decisions in the future about issues that affect State and local governments and the private sector. So nothing in this bill affects in any way the current health, job safety, or the environment of any citizen.
Let me emphasize a provision in this bill that directs committees to report on the costs and benefits on health and safety and protection of the natural environment. We will have more information to make better decisions. S. 1 is not a ban on mandates. As the sponsor of this bill, I may well vote to waive this point of order sometime in the future.
With respect to the issue of the elderly and children, let me mention what I think is quite straightforward. State and local officials, more than Congress, work on these issues hands on. These are the real world day-to-day facts of life that State and local officials care about. They want clean water, clean S 1517 air, safe working conditions just as we do. They want to care for their neighbors, their elderly and those who need help.
Unfunded mandates, unfortunately, keep State and local officials from taking meaningful action to improve public health and safety. Examples of that are boundless and have often been cited on the Senate floor.
The reason why unfunded mandates are counterproductive is simple: States and cities have to use discretionary dollars that would have been spent on other programs to pay for mandates. States and cities have fixed costs that they must pay. They have to pay for sewers and roads and police and fire.
I noted with keen interest the comments made by the other distinguished Senator from California, Senator Feinstein, when we began debate on this bill. And she said, and I quote:
Let us take Los Angeles County. To meet Federal mandates and still balance its budget, the County of Los Angeles has to curtail significantly other programs. For example, this year -
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator`s 4 minutes have expired.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Thank you, Mr. President.
For example, this year, Los Angeles County employees would have to forgo cost-of-living and other wage adjustments, and aid to indigents will be substantially reduced. Several libraries are being closed * * *. Recipients of welfare and public health services will face longer waits due to minimal county staff.
Let me read a quote from the National School Board Association, President Boyd Boehlge:
The very children Congress is trying to protect are the ones who are hurt most often by proliferation of unfunded mandates.
To accept further some unfunded mandates to the process or exemptions in S. 1 seems it could lead to the imposition of more unfunded mandates in the future. It is a process so that we can have these discussions. This is where those discussions should take place, recognizing that we do have State and local officials who realize their responsibility and are looking for a partnership instead of just dictates from their Federal Government.
Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Five seconds. The Senator`s time has expired.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I yield back the remainder of my time.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, how much time do I have to close?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. You have 6 minutes 14 seconds.
Mrs. BOXER. Thank you, Mr. President. I am going to close debate at this point. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who participated in this debate. I think this was a very important debate, and I think the vote is very important as well.
I want to say to my friend from Idaho that, again, he talks about how the mayors want this. My mayors like the impact of this as well, but when I met with them and I explained the amendment that I had offered, they did not object to what I am trying to do. They understand that we have to be reasonable people.
My friend says, `Oh, its real easy, you come to the floor and you just get everything waived and everything works fine.` I say to my friend from Idaho, the author of this bill, that if it is so easy, why does he have any exemptions whatsoever? I think it is a very important point that he address in his own mind. If this is such a straightforward bill, if any Senator can get on this floor and say, `Look, this is so important, I want a waiver,` why does he have any exemptions in this bill? And he does have exemptions in this bill. It currently shields constitutional rights, discrimination, national security, and implementation of international agreements such as NAFTA.
Now let me say something. It shields international agreements, such as NAFTA.
What about children? Are our American children as important as an international agreement such as NAFTA? Are our pregnant women as important as an international agreement such as NAFTA? I think so. If there were no exemptions in this bill, I think that the manager of the bill would be intellectually correct when he says it is easy; any Senator can get a waiver. Then why did he put exceptions in the bill? And why does he oppose our adding a very narrow group of people who cannot come here and lobby, of people who do not have a powerful voice but are the most vulnerable of populations?
Now, I read to you before that the lung association feels very strongly that children are very vulnerable to chemicals, to pesticides, and to other things in the environment that harm them more than they harm adults.
Right now, when our agencies set limits on chemicals and pesticides, they use a healthy 170-pound man as their model. But now we know that children are more vulnerable than a 170-pound man, that the frail elderly are more vulnerable than a 170-pound man, and certainly a child who is 5 years old or less is vulnerable and they are getting cancers in greater numbers. And we are setting up hurdles here that my friend from Idaho says is just a process. It is just a process.
Well, we know what process means around here. We had enough filibusters from the other side last year. We know what happens to bills when there is a process. The bills die. So therefore when we have a process bill that sets up all this bureaucracy, we have to say to ourselves, well, wait a minute, there are some people in our society that really should not be impacted by this process, by endless chitchat, by unelected officials in the CBO and the parliamentarians.
I say to them, I think you are great, but the people of California did not elect you to decide whether my amendment would get to the floor without a point of order. They want me to be able to offer my amendment. If I can persuade the people here, fine. If I lose the fight, at least I waged it. They do not want me stopped by process. If I am stopped by substance, that is fine. That is why we want to add to the exceptions this very narrow group.
Now, listen to what is stated in this book. I told you before, I lost one of my constituents to cancer, a little girl, Colette Chuda, and her parents are working very hard so that other little babies, our children, our grandchildren, do not have the same fate, and they funded an environmental study. I wish to quote from it in part.
An estimated 8,000 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. Brain cancer and leukemia are the most common childhood cancers.
My friends, I want to tell you right now as we speak I have two friends in the House of Representatives, one who has a little tiny baby with brain cancer and the other who has a youngster about 19, or in his 20`s, with leukemia; perfectly beautiful children.
Incidence rates have increased for the majority of these malignancies with the greatest reported increases occurring for acute lymphatic leukemia and brain cancer.
These are the biggest increases. You can talk about mayors; you can talk about Governors; you can talk about a contract. I admire you. I am talking about kids. I do not want to get them caught up in this maze. You did not have it last year, but you have it this year.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time on the amendment has expired.
Mrs. BOXER. I hope you will join with me and vote for this amendment.
I yield back the floor.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. I appreciate the arguments made by the Senator from California.
I move to table her amendment and ask for the yeas and nays.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
There is a sufficient second.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Also, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that when the Senate turns to amendment No. 187, it be considered and debated along with No. 188; that there be 30 minutes total equally divided in the usual form for debate on both amendments; that no amendments be in order to either amendment; and that following the conclusion or yielding back of time the majority manager or his designee be recognized to move to table amendment No. 187.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. GLENN. No objection.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Also, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that following the disposition of amendment No. 188, the Senate resume consideration of the Graham amendment No. 183; that there be 10 minutes for debate to be equally divided in the usual form, and that no second degree amendments be in order to amendment No. 183, and that following the conclusion or yielding back of time the Senate proceed to vote on the Graham amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. GLENN. No objection.
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, and I shall not, I just wanted to clarify, there will be agreed-upon substitute language offered for No. 183, and I wanted to clarify that the managers understand that and that will not be inconsistent with the prohibition on second-degree amendments.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I say to the Senator from Florida, I am not sure I have seen the modified language.
Mr. GRAHAM. I think the Senator`s staff has seen the modification.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. All right. Mr. President, then I would vitiate my unanimous-consent request with regard to the Graham amendment until I am sure I have seen the language.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The request is withdrawn.
VOTE ON MOTION TO TABLE AMENDMENT NO. 202
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion to table.
The yeas and nays have been ordered. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk called the roll.
Mr. LOTT. I announce that the Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Simpson) is absent due to a death in the family.
I further announce that, if present and voting, the Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Simpson) would vote `yea.`
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Thompson). Are there any other Senators in the Chamber who desire to vote?
The result was announced - yeas 55, nays 44, as follows:
(ROLLCALL VOTE NO. 44 LEG.)
YEAS - 55 NAYS - 44 NOT VOTING - 1
So the motion to table the amendment (No. 202) was agreed to.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.
Mr. GLENN. I move to lay that motion on the table.
The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.
AMENDMENT NO. 173
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that we vitiate the yeas and nays on the next Levin amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, and I will not object. I just want to be certain about this. I do support vitiating the yeas and nays and then we would proceed to the consideration of the amendment, is the Senator correct?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. That is the order.
Without objection, the yeas and nays are vitiated.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the amendment.
The amendment (No. 173) was agreed to.
Mr. GLENN. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. I move to lay that motion on the table.
The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.
Mr. GRAHAM addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
AMENDMENT NO. 183, AS MODIFIED
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I send a modification to the desk on my amendment No. 183.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has that right.
The amendment will be so modified.
The amendment (No. 183), as modified, is as follows:
PAGE 16, between lines 7 and 8, insert the following:
`(iii) if funded in whole or in part, a statement of whether and how the committee has created a mechanism to allocate the funding in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the expected direct costs among and between the respective levels of state, local, and tribal government.
Mr. GRAHAM. I ask unanimous consent that there be 10 minutes of debate, equally divided, on the amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, as modified, the amendment has been reviewed by both managers, and I believe it will be accepted. I will not ask for a rollcall vote on this amendment.
Mr. President, this amendment, I believe, closes the loop to the extent possible on an issue within this bill. A fundamental purpose of this bill is to identify mandates which the Federal Government might, at a future date, be proposing to impose upon States, local governments, or tribal governments, and then as the preferred option, to have the Federal Government pay the cost of those mandates.
This amendment goes to the issue of how that appropriation to fund the mandate will then be allocated back to the States, local governments, or tribal governments, which had created the need for that funding in the first instance because they were the object of the mandate. There are at least two issues which I believe this amendment will deal with. One is the issue of where the mandate is imposed on a particular level of government. For instance, a mandate is imposed on school districts because of requirements made to them that relate to the educational or noneducational activities that are conducted by schools. If school districts are the level of government upon which the mandate falls, then school districts should be the level of government that receives the funds which we appropriate for the purpose of alleviating the financial impact on that unit of government of the mandate which we have imposed. A commonsense approach.
Second is the distribution among units of government. We know that from time to time we will impose mandates that are not uniform across the country. They may be mandates that relate, peculiarly, for instance, to border States that have immigration problems, northern States that have heating problems, States that have specialized geological problems, such as those that would relate to earthquakes. There should be a connection between the distribution of funds and where the mandate falls.
So this amendment states that if a mandate is funded in whole or in part, then the committee which has the responsibility for that particular legislation will contain in its final report a statement of whether the committee chose to allocate the money in a relationship to where the need was. They might indicate that they did not do so because of a deficiency of data upon which to make that judgment, or because they felt that the Congressional Budget Office`s assessment of the locus of the need was irrational and, therefore, for good and sufficient reasons, adopted a different approach. Or should they have adopted the approach which the Congressional Budget Office utilized, how the committee has created a mechanism to allocate the funding in a S 1519 manner which is reasonably consistent with the expected direct cost among and between the respective levels of State, local, and tribal government.
So, in summary, Mr. President, the purpose of this amendment is to link the mandate and the cost of that mandate to the method by which Federal funds will be allocated. I fear that if we do not have that linkage, we are going to end up with a school district - to use my first analogy - which had a mandate that costs that school district a million dollars, but because funds were not distributed in a manner consistent with how the need was assessed, they might only receive a fraction of that million dollars. So while we can say we funded the mandate on a global basis, as it relates to that school district, they are still carrying a heavy burden of an unfunded mandate.
I yield the remainder of my time.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I commend the Senator from Florida for his comments and for his diligence in working through the amendment which he has offered. I think his experience both as a former Governor and as a Senator has been very helpful in getting to this point.
On behalf of our side, I certainly will accept this amendment.
Mr. GLENN. Mr. President, I, too, want to accept on behalf of our side this amendment. I think the Senator from Florida has made a very good point here. He is fleshing out some of the things that needed to be spelled out better in this language. I compliment him on that. One of the things we want to make certain is that this is a workable document when it passes. He is addressing that problem. So we are happy to accept this on our side.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the amendment.
The amendment (No. 183), as modified, was agreed to.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote by which the amendment was agreed to.
Mr. GLENN. I move to lay that motion on the table.
The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I am pleased to rise as an original cosponsor of S. 1, the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995. As a long-time supporter and cosponsor of related legislation in the previous session of Congress, I welcome the leadership of the majority leader, Senator Dole, and the bill`s very able manager, Senator Kempthorne, for bringing S. 1 before the Senate so expeditiously.
In addition to unduly burdening our local governments, Congress, in its Big Brother role, often ignores States` rights in determining what is best for the States. It also demands that the States figure out how to pay for those unwanted mandates.
In the last Congress, officials in my own State of Virginia made a clear case concerning the enormous burden of unfunded mandates. Virginia`s finance committee staff conducted a review on Federal mandates and the burdens they exact. I would like to share some of those findings with my colleagues today.
While Federal mandates are in general the result of well-intentioned congressional action, State governments are all too often left holding the bag. Virginia views the pervasive Federal influence on its budget as a two-edged sword: Federal restrictions on the use of funds hamstring the Commonwealth`s ability to determine spending priorities or respond to changing economic conditions.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, at least 20 percent of the State budget is either driven, defined, or constrained by Federal laws, regulations, or Federal agency decisions. And, bear in mind, this is a conservative estimate - it does not take into account the impact of laws for which no systematic survey has been done.
Let`s take a look at the ways in which the Federal Government impacts the Commonwealth of Virginia`s ability to set budget priorities.
Recently, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality estimated that it will cost local governments at least $1.8 billion over the next 20 years to build the waste management facilities that comply with Federal requirements. In addition to solid waste, the department has estimated that local governments will need at least $4.2 billion over the same period to construct new facilities or upgrade existing ones to satisfy the requirements of the Clean Water Act. And that`s not the end of the crunch. The Safe Drinking Water Act will cost localities some $2 billion by the year 2000. Together, those mandates will demand approximately $700 million per year from local governments.
In Virginia, the greater Lynchburg area has a population of 165,000. Studies conducted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality indicated that the combined sewer overflow requirements of the Clean Water Act for this area will cost an estimated $200 million. The city of Richmond is similarly impacted.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Virginia Municipal League of Cities, the city of Danville, population 55,000, will be required to spend an estimated $1,058,000 to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act for fiscal year 1995. Included in that estimate are monitoring costs, capital costs, and operation and maintenance costs for surface water treatment, lead and copper regulation, the total coliform rule, the fluoride rule, and standards under the national primary drinking water regulations.
ISTEA, section 1038 imposes a mandate to use waste tires - crumb rubber - in hot mix asphalt (HMA) and it will require Virginia to use approximately 4 million pounds of crumb rubber in 1997 and beyond. The average cost of hot mix asphalt in Virginia is about $27 per ton; the mandate to use crumb rubber will elevate the cost to approximately $55 per ton. And, while the requirement will use only 4 percent of the waste tires generated in Virginia, it will impose an annual cost of $6 million.
In addition to must do, no Federal funds, the infamous unfunded mandates, there are may do, must match and may do, must maintain programs, including education and health-related programs such vocational training, substance abuse and mental health block grants. These problems are largely voluntary, but Virginia participates wherever it can.
Finally we have may do, no match, which are largely grants - but Federal funds used for these programs may not supplant general funds provided for similar purposes.
And it is important to note that, unlike the Federal Government, Virginia has no choice but to balance its budget. Congressional good will and benevolence often translates into unexpected and unfunded burdens.
Two areas in which Virginia is constantly challenged are education and health care.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, passed in 1974 to mainstream special education students in public schools, was a vastly ambitious undertaking. Congress committed itself to providing 40 percent of total program cost. In reality, during fiscal year 1993, the Federal Government provided less than 8 percent of the funding necessary to fully meet the mandate.
The jointly funded Medicaid Program presents a particular dilemma for my State. Because of the relative affluence of Virginia, the Commonwealth must provide 50 percent of program costs. But Congress determines minimum eligibility standards for Medicaid recipients, as well as the level of required service. While certainly well intentioned, congressional expansion of Medicaid is projected to cost Virginia more than $300 million over the next 2 years alone.
Virginia must also foot 50 percent of the bill for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and State costs should be close to $115 million per year over the 1994-96 biennium.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government continually uses its own fiscal problems to impose additional mandates on the States. There seem to be few, if any, incentives for Congress to halt the trend: mandates are almost magical, allowing Congress to fund costly programs without raising taxes or cutting other services.
Federal mandates continue to proliferate. In the 102d Congress, 15 bills were passed with mandates; the 103d had over 100 bills which include such edicts.
Several new mandates loom. For example, the Motor-Voter Act, which is expected to cost over $100 million in the next 5 years nationwide. I opposed S 1520 the National Registration Act of 1993 and have cosponsored S. 91, to delay its implementation and put the brakes on a project for which there is no money in the pot.
Recognizing the unbearable burdens imposed by unfunded mandates is not enough. We must take steps to require the Federal Government to either shoulder its share of the burden or relieve the States from theirs. The measure before us seeks to accomplish this by requiring either full funding for costly new mandates or scaling them down commensurate with the level of available resources.
This is reasonable, rational policy which will not only be welcomed by the State and local governments - it will also provide Congress with a better, more structured framework in which to design new laws.
Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to give S. 1 the broadest possible support and move the bill towards final passage.
AMENDMENTS NOS. 187 AND 188
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to proceed en bloc to amendments numbered 187 and 188.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The clerk will report.
The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:
The Senator from Washington (Mrs. Murray) proposes amendments en bloc numbered 187 and 188.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendments be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(The text of the amendments are printed in the Record of January 24, 1995, under `Amendments Submitted.`)
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I rise this afternoon to discuss amendments I have filed on S. 1. I came to the floor last week to raise questions about the possible unintended consequences of this bill. I am not certain all my concerns have been addressed, so I want to talk about them a little more today.
My first amendment proposes that nuclear waste cleanup by the Department of Energy be exempted from S. 1. I filed this amendment because I am very concerned about the implications of this bill for cleanup of former weapons facilities that now pose environmental cleanup challenges.
Mr. President, Hanford Nuclear Reservation is in my State. It has nine shut-down reactors on the Columbia River. It has four processing plants. It has 177 nuclear waste tanks, 45 of which may be leaking. It has numerous waste dumps scattered around the facility. Of all our pollution problems, nuclear weapons plants like Hanford pose the greatest dangers to the environment. They have the greatest potential threats to human health and safety.
Mr. President, we won the cold war at this site. Now the bill is due; cleaning up Hanford is serious business. For the community; for the region; and for the country.
As many of our colleagues know, there is a process underway at Hanford - and many other DOE facilities - that governs the cleanup schedule. In Washington State, that process is embodied in the tri-party agreement between DOE, the State, and EPA. As a coordinating tool, this agreement works pretty well. It ensures everyone has a seat at the table. It sets cleanup goals. It emphasizes economic transition for the community. It gives people in my State access to DOE decision makers.
In reality, there are no unfunded mandates at Hanford. It is safe to say my State issues - and enforces - the largest hazardous waste permit in the world using voluntary authority under RCRA. For these activities, the State levies a tax on low-level waste producers. For its responsibilities under the Superfund law, Washington receives direct funding from DOE.
But these laws - RCRA, CERCLA, Federal Facilities Compliance Act, and others - do contain some mandates. And some day, Congress must act to reauthorize them. What happens if we reauthorize RCRA? If S. 1 is enacted, even the most modest changes in current law could unravel the triparty agreement. As I understand it, this would be possible because the occupant of the chair - or some bureaucrat at CBO - would have the power to:
Bring Senate action to a halt over a point of order; and
Force all kinds of studies and delay that would only confuse the cleanup situation.
What would happen if CBO intervention stalled consideration of the reauthorization, and the law lapsed? Would the Hanford permit expire, and the cleanup stall?
The people of Washington State do not want some unelected CBO bureaucrat arbitrarily deciding the pace of Hanford cleanup in the context of a budget point-of-order on the Senate floor.
My amendment is simple. It exempts nuclear waste cleanup from the procedures in S. 1, from points-of-order, from CBO review, and from any procedural wrangling that might jeopardize the orderly process of cleanup - for any reason. When we act to reauthorize RCRA, I want to be able to tell people in Washington State that we will have a law on the books to support cleanup. When we push through a reconciliation, or an appropriations bill, I want my constituents to know their interests will not fall victim to vagaries in new Senate debating procedures.
I offered this amendment for one simple reason: Some things are too important to subject to a new set of debating rules that we do not know will function as ordered. The bill acknowledges this in section 4, where it excludes a series of critically important areas of Federal law. It exempts civil rights and nondiscrimination laws. It exempts national security. It exempts emergency relief. These things are critical to the national well-being, and therefore kept out of S. 1.
Why not add to this list our most serious environmental challenges? It would seem to me a sensible precaution.
Mr. President, yesterday, the Senator from New Mexico (Senator Bingaman) offered an amendment very similar to mine. I want to thank him and commend him for bringing this very important issue to our colleagues` attention. He knows a tremendous amount about these issues.
Unfortunately, the Senate defeated his amendment, in spite of the very strong arguments he made. It is clear, therefore, my amendment will probably meet a similar fate.
I was disappointed to see the result of last night`s vote on Senator Bingaman`s amendment. He was raising very real questions about important, sensitive, high-risk areas of Federal law. Both his amendment and mine point out the potential uncertainties in imposing an arbitrary new set of debating rules on the U.S. Senate.
At the very least, I am hoping the managers of this bill can provide some clarification of their intentions vis-a-vis defense waste cleanup. I will pose these questions, and then yield the floor in hopes of getting some answers that will allay the concerns of people in my State.
First, do the managers intend that S. 1 have any adverse effects on DOE waste cleanup efforts, and the ability of affected States and communities to participate therein?
Second, do the managers contemplate that S. 1 will lead to the change, repeal, or substantive alteration of any current law that enables DOE cleanup to move forward?
Finally, do the managers believe that consideration of current or prospective mandates pending on the Senate floor should delay consideration provisions in the same bills affecting DOE waste cleanup programs?
I assume no such onerous consequences are intended by the managers. But I do not see it written anywhere, and I would like to have verbal clarification of those issues.
Mr. President, I will conclude by saying the basic idea of S. 1 is good: That the Federal Government ought to help make Federal laws easier and less costly to implement. I support this basic idea, and I want to work with the managers to pass a good bill. But, like so many other broad-brush solutions we are hearing about these days, it is not as simple as it sounds. I look forward to hearing the answer to those questions and I reserve the remainder of my time.
Mr. DOMENICI addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.
Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, I will not speak for the managers in response to the questions the Senator asks, but S 1521 I might ask her to clarify a little further for me why anything has to be exempted here. We have an agreement, is that not right, that exists now?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time?
Mr. DOMENICI. I think the manager yielded me time. I apologize.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I yield 5 minutes to the Senator from New Mexico.
Mr. DOMENICI. Maybe the Senator could explain to me, if you have an agreement out there now, how do you see this bill affecting that agreement? There is nothing in this bill that says this bill calls the agreement to be vitiated, canceled, or changed.
Mrs. MURRAY. I thank the Senator for his question. My question to the managers on this bill is if they see anything in this bill that would cause consideration for us and we do have to reauthorize RCRA, CERCLA, other bills coming up in the future, if at that time a bill has both mandates in it and non-mandates in it and the mandates cause the bill to be stalled in any way because we are waiting for something back from CBO, how will this affect cleanup efforts such as exist in my State and others?
Mr. DOMENICI. Well, they exist in my State also at a different level.
But I would just say to the managers of the bill and in particular the manager on our side of the bill, but I have spoken with Senator Glenn also, it seems to me we cannot say that any agreement predicated upon the laws of RCRA or any other environmental laws, that if those are changed in the future, we will hold anything exempt from it. That is future activities, to future agreements and understandings, but if RCRA is deemed to need reauthorization, we surely could not predict for the State of Washington, the State of Oregon, the State of New Mexico, many States that have DOD and DOE cleanup based on standards, we cannot say it will not have any effect on those. That is my position.
I hope the managers would say we are not exempting anything yet under this agreement or this bill. I do not think we should exempt things we do not even understand. I leave that up to the managers. I would surely recommend we not accept the amendment, and if the Senator desires that we have a clear exception for her State, that she work with the managers in some other way, but not exempt entire situations such as this, that we do not understand. We do not know the consequences of changing RCRA on your State or any other State. I yield back the remaining time.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I yield myself 4 minutes.
Mr. President, I would like to respond to the questions that were posed. Do the managers intend that Senate bill 1 have adverse effects on DOE waste cleanup efforts and the ability of affected States to participate therein?
No, I have no intention, whatever, that this would have any adverse affects on DOE waste cleanup.
I say that, Mr. President, as a resolution of the State of Idaho, which also has significant DOE waste cleanup problems. So I would not be an advocate that in any way would adversely affect DOE getting on with the cleanup of Hanford, for example, or projects in the State of Idaho.
The second question that was asked, do you contemplate that Senate bill 1 will lead to the change, repeal or substantial alteration of current law that enables DOE cleanup to move forward? No, Senate bill 1 will not lead to that. Senate bill 1 is simply a process. It would be a different motivation. Senate bill 1 also is prospective so that those mandates that are on the books now, even under reauthorization, those that are currently on the books would not come under the process of Senate bill 1. Any changes to that, to those mandates, yes, they potentially would be subject to Senate bill 1 and then we would have to go through the process. But, no, S. 1 would not be the impetus to cause that to happen.
On the third point, I am not sure that I understand it so I would be more than happy to have our respective staffs get together and discuss that. Again, I understand your concerns with the Hanford facility. I have concerns with similar situations in the State of Idaho.
I yield to my colleague from Ohio 2 minutes.
Mr. GLENN. Mr. President, I would respond in much the same way. There was this in here, nothing in S. 1, that gives anyone any authority to go change any agreement that is in affect. It could not be interpreted that way to the best of my knowledge.
In the amendment that was proposed by the Senator, the provisions of this act and the provisions made in this act shall not apply to any agreement between the Federal Government, State and local tribal for the environment restoration and waste management.
Nothing in here could change, nothing does change, nor could it change any agreement that is in effect right now. I hope that takes care of concerns.
The cleanup efforts which the Senator from Idaho mentioned just a moment ago, that it would not affect cleanup efforts, is a little bit different than the agreements that were specifically addressed. Cleanup efforts are something that are going on under those agreements, slightly different. But this would not change either the level of cleanup efforts that are provided for by other budgeting and other laws, nor would it change any agreements between the Federal Government, State, local, or tribal governments which the Senator is addressing.
I want to compliment the Senator for looking at this. I know the problems in the State of Washington. Hanford is one of if not the very largest problem areas we have in the way of nuclear cleanup. I have been involved with that ever since 1985 when we started some of the studies at Fernald in Ohio, some of the difficulties in the nuclear weapons plants all over the country and wound up with some 17 different sites in 11 different States of which Hanford is one of the most important sites. It has more problems there for environmental restoration than almost any other site in the country. Many, many, billions of dollars.
I would only add since the cleanup effort was mentioned here, when we first started this back in 1985 and had the first surveys run of all the 17 sites all over the country, it was indicated by the Department of Energy that they thought we could probably clean these up at an expenditure of $8 billion to $12 billion.
Unfortunately, we have taken a new look at this whole thing. It has gone up and up and up, and the current estimate is right around $300 billion over a 20- to 30-year period to do the cleanup that is necessary. And the major place that will need cleanup is in the State of Washington at Hanford. I compliment the Senator for looking out for this and would not want to do anything that would mean we would have lesser expenditures or anything in that legislation would change the agreements that are in existence now between the Federal Government, State, and local governments in that area.
I think, that we have addressed in this colloquy the concerns that the Senator from Washington had. I yield the floor.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I thank the managers of the bill for their responses to these questions and for their obvious concern for continuing cleanup at the Hanford site in my State. It is, indeed, a deep concern to the people of the State of Washington that we do this. We built this facility, used it for a national purpose, and we want to be assured that it is going to continue to be cleaned up and share your concerns about the costs. But we want to know that we are not going to be at some point unable to continue that cleanup. I appreciate your concerns.
I understand the managers are willing to prepare a colloquy for the record to respond to my questions, to protect cleanup at Hanford. I will be prepared to withdraw this amendment after I speak to my other amendment.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I would yield myself 1 minute. In responding to my friend from Washington, not only are we neighboring States, but the concerns that the Senator just expressed, again, echo many of the concerns that we in Idaho have.
I think on this nuclear issue in the future, nuclear waste, et cetera, there ought to be an opportunity for these Senators to begin to forge a partnership to deal with this issue. So I would S 1522 look forward to that opportunity because I think we understand one another.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Idaho, and I look forward to working with the Senator on this very important issue.
Mr. President, I will continue speaking to my second amendment, I want to be assured as we go through this debate that we will not be creating a big, new, powerful bureaucracy at the Congressional Budget Office. Mr. President, I believe that most of my concerns were addressed through the adoption of the Levin amendment and through the defeat of the committee amendment that would have severely curtailed the Budget Committee`s role in this process.
In order to make sure that all my concerns have been thoroughly understood, I do want to make a statement now about what those concerns are. Mr. President, I am troubled by the fact that S. 1 might give CBO tremendous new powers to dictate the Senate`s legislative agenda. I have listened very carefully to the debate on this bill and I think it is fair to say that we all agree it is our responsibility, our responsibility as legislators, to act carefully as we set policy for the people we represent.
I would like to support a bill on unfunded mandates that is reasonable and reflects common sense. Mr. President, before the adoption of the Levin amendment and several others, this bill went too far. The people of this country should understand exactly what this bill does. Everyone of us here in this Chamber, everyone of the people in the galleries, everyone watching us on C-Span, and everyone in this country has to realize that this bill will create a new bureaucracy at the Congressional Budget Office. It will have wide-ranging powers.
The staff of that huge new bureaucracy will not be elected by anyone. They will not be accountable to the American taxpayers but they will have enormous power to control this legislative process. They can bring Senate debate to a halt on amendments or a bill or even dictate legislative schedule.
This vast new power should give everyone of us pause. That is why I asked outgoing CBO Director Robert Reischauer about this morning at the hearing in the Budget Committee. Dr. Reischauer is a fair man, a fine public servant. So I asked him how this bill will affect the operations of CBO. I asked him how the CBO would prioritize requests for cost estimates that will come from the Senate and from the other body. Dr. Reischauer responded that the Congressional Budget Office staff was working `flat out` - those are his words, not mine - trying to fulfill their obligations to the Congress at this point.
Dr. Reischauer said that the CBO would need more resources if we enact this bill. Then, Mr. President, I repeated my question about prioritizing requests. I asked the Director how he would decide which mandate to estimate first. His reply, frankly, troubled me. He said the CBO would rely on the guidance of the bipartisan leadership of the Congress to decide which one to do first. And then he added that the CBO has tried that approach with the health care debate last year, and it was a failure. That should concern every one of us in this country.
Dr. Reischauer`s response has raised even more questions in my mind, questions like: If I offer an amendment that does not have a CBO cost statement, what happens?
If a point of order is raised against my amendment, is my understanding correct that the procedure is for the Parliamentarian immediately to seek the advice of the Budget Committee on the cost statement?
Am I further correct that the Budget Committee will turn to CBO for its advice on the cost estimate?
Of particular importance to me is what sort of timeframe is provided for these cost statements?
Does the bill provide for any time limits on the Budget Committee and CBO`s preparation of cost statements?
If the bill does not impose any time limits on the Budget Committee and, more importantly, CBO, what does the manager envision as reasonable time limits for this work?
How long does the manager envision the process taking?
How long, for example, does the Budget Committee have to get a reply from CBO?
How long does CBO have to reply?
More importantly, what happens while the Budget Committee and CBO are trying to prepare a cost statement? Is my amendment laid aside? For how long? Does the Senate keep working on underlying bills? If so, for how long?
Mr. President, I want to be able to assure my friends and neighbors that this bill will not take away their voice in setting priorities of the issues this body considers. They do not want unelected bureaucrats to determine which bills or which amendments will be brought up on this floor.
For example, the people of my State may feel that education reform should be Congress` top priority. But if the CBO analysts over in the office do not work on that bill, if they do not score it, Congress cannot consider it. The people of my State or your State, Mr. President, might want Congress to consider safeguards for school buses so they know their kids are safe riding on those buses to school everyday. But the bureaucrats at CBO might say, `Tough, I`m too busy; I don`t want to score the bill for` - this Senator or that Senator. I have not gotten any guidance on that one.
The people of my State want to know that no matter where they go in this country, they do not have to worry about E. coli, but the budget bureaucrats can say, `Sorry, Senator Murray, we don`t have time to score that amendment of yours which deals with a public health emergency.`
I do believe we need reform. I believe Congress should be honest and up front with the American taxpayers about the cost of the laws it passes. But I do not believe that we should be creating new bureaucracies or putting American families in jeopardy.
Mr. President, it is my hope that the Levin amendment will go far in addressing some of the concerns I have raised, but I also hope that we are all taking into account this new bureaucracy that will emerge as a result of this legislation.
I thank the Chair, and I reserve the remainder of my time.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Six minutes remaining.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I would like to respond to some of the points raised by the Senator from Washington.
In this bill, we provide for additional funds to the Congressional Budget Office, knowing that we are giving them more assignments in the future to carry out.
Also, I will point out that the Commission that dealt with the staffing levels of the different committees that was headed by Senator Domenici and Senator Mack, at the very outset, we made sure that they knew there would be these new requirements on the Congressional Budget Office and, therefore, when they considered cuts across the board, that is one area we had flagged for them.
Also, in determining the amount of money that we included in this legislation, that was done through the Budget Committee in continual consultation with the Congressional Budget Office, so they provided us the funds. That dollar amount came from the Congressional Budget Office as to what they felt was necessary in order to accomplish the requests and the requirements that we would put on them.
I appreciate the concern and the aspect about trying to bring about great efficiency for Congress, but I am afraid that the amendment offered may improve the efficiency, but it would make it much easier for Congress to go ahead and inadvertently impose mandates on States and cities.
The amendment says that if cost estimates are not available within 1 week for committee bills, the point of order does not lie against the bill. In other words, delay for whatever reason by CBO will moot the relief States and cities need from unfunded Federal mandates. If CBO needs time to do a good estimate, then there would be no estimate at all.
I think in this case it is better to inconvenience Congress than to impose S 1523 mandates on States and cities that taxpayers must pay.
Mr. President, I reserve the remainder of my time, because the chairman of the Budget Committee was here and was going to respond to some of the specifics that the Senator had. He is not here at the moment. So, again, we reserve the remainder of our time.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I am wondering if the manager will yield for a question. I am afraid it will have to be on his time because I do not know if I can use the time of the Senator from Ohio, relative to this amendment. If the Senator will yield.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Yes, I yield.
Mr. LEVIN. Is it the intention, first of all, that the point of order apply to amendments that are on the floor that do not have the estimate?
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. I am sorry; will you repeat the question?
Mr. LEVIN. Is it the intention that this bill`s point of order apply to amendments that do not contain the estimates?
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. With regard to mandates?
Mr. LEVIN. Yes.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Yes.
Mr. LEVIN. And is it the intention then, for instance, if somebody offers an amendment and it has an estimate in it but nobody knew that amendment was going to be offered, and then somebody wants to come and offer a second-degree amendment and then asks the CBO to score that or estimate the second-degree amendment, is it the intention of the manager that the Congress, as he put it, be inconvenienced, hold up consideration of the bill until the estimate can be obtained from CBO? Is that the intention, that we hold up consideration of the bill until an estimate can be obtained from CBO?
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, in response to that, the burden of proof in this case would be upon the Senator raising the point of order. The originator of the amendment is not required to get the CBO estimate. I think that it would be good government for anyone bringing an amendment that potentially could exceed the $50 million threshold in the public sector and $200 million threshold in the private sector, again, through the budget process. I know that has been the normal practice.
Mr. LEVIN. I say, if the Senator will yield, there has never been a point of order based on this kind of an estimate, costs on 87,000 jurisdictions, local governments. There is nothing like this in existence. That is why I phrased my question the way I did.
Somebody could offer a first-degree amendment and have an estimate because he or she knew they were going to offer a first-degree amendment, but nobody else in the body knew, and now with a first-degree amendment with an estimate being offered, somebody may say, `Well, wait a minute; I want to offer a second-degree amendment, and I better go get an estimate or my second-degree amendment is out of order.`
I am just wondering whether or not, if a point of order is raised with that second-degree amendment, is it the intention of the managers then that the body hold up consideration of that second-degree amendment until an estimate could be obtained from the CBO?
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, again -
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The time for the Senator from Idaho has expired.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for 2 minutes so I can complete the thought.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Two minutes.
Mrs. MURRAY. May I suggest we add 10 minutes for debate, 5 on each side, in order to clarify this question?
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, what I would prefer - and first let me ask unanimous consent for 2 minutes so we can resolve this.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. What I will suggest, because I would like to confer with the chairman of the Budget Committee, if the Senator will provide me those questions that she raised, I will be happy to then have a colloquy so we can go into those and deal with it.
But what we are doing in S. 1 is not anything new from what we do with appropriations where, if you have a second-degree amendment, you have the Budget Committee staff that is here make a telephone call to try to get an estimate by phone from the Congressional Budget Office.
So again the process itself is not new that we are suggesting.
Mr. LEVIN. I have no time to yield to myself and comment on that other than to simply say that this is a new estimate, the likes of which has not been made before, involving costs indefinitely into the future on 87,000 local governments. That is very different from any kind of a scoring that the Budget Office has done for a Federal expenditure up to now. I think my friend from Idaho would agree this is a different kind of estimate than has ever been done by the Budget Committee.
Mrs. MURRAY addressed the Chair.
Mr. LEVIN. I thank my friend.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington has 2 minutes remaining.
Mrs. MURRAY. I thank the Chair.
I have very serious concerns because I heard my colleague from Idaho, the manager of the bill, say that CBO had, indeed, requested, I believe, $4.5 million additional to take care of this bill.
It is my understanding - I see the chairman of the Appropriations Committee is in the Chamber; perhaps he can respond - that the legislative branch is going to have to reduce its budget by $200 million, and here we are telling everybody up front that we are going to ask for $4.5 million more for CBO just under a guess estimate of what this might have in the way of an impact on CBO, and I do think that is an important consideration we need to look at.
I appreciate the Senator`s response that you would go into a colloquy with me and answer some of the questions raised both by myself and Senator Levin. I had intended to withdraw this amendment, but I would like to instead ask the manager - I intend to withdraw my first amendment - if he would agree to let me lay aside this amendment until we have the responses for my questions.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I have no problem with that.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent then to lay aside amendment No. 188 and unanimous consent to withdraw amendment No. 187.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment (No. 187) was withdrawn.
Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Ashcroft). The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. EXON. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. EXON. Mr. President, as we move forward on the mandates legislation, I would like to read a portion of a newspaper article that appeared in the Omaha World Herald on January 24. The headline reads: `States Fear Mandates, Expert Says; Balanced Budget Could Mean More,` by David C. Beeder, of the Omaha World Herald Bureau in Washington, DC.
The story reads:
States will not support a constitutional amendment to balance the Federal budget unless it includes a guarantee they won`t have to assume more Federal programs, a former assistant attorney general said on Monday.
Charles Cooper, who practices constitutional law in Washington, said: `The States are already groaning under the cost of implementing Federal policies.`
It goes on to say:
Cooper, who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, said he supports a balanced budget amendment.
I ask unanimous consent that, at the conclusion of my remarks, Mr. President, the full article be printed in the Record.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(See exhibit 1.)
Mr. EXON. Mr. President, I would simply point out that I am not sure that the States, the Governors or, for that matter, maybe some of the people S 1524 in the United States recognize and realize the difficult financial circumstances that the Federal Government - that they are a part of - is in.
I am an original cosponsor and am strongly for passing the mandates bill. I have been one of the floor leaders on this piece of legislation. I predict that we will pass this legislation. I will protect the rights of those who wish to offer amendments. I think they have that right under the rules of the Senate, and I will do everything I can to protect that.
But I would simply say, on a very important bill like this, every Senator, regardless of which side of the aisle, should have the right to get up and offer amendments as they see fit. Then the body as a whole has to vote as to whether or not that is a good concept.
The mandates bill is going to be followed, I suspect, in reasonably short order by some kind of a discussion on the balanced budget amendment. And they are somewhat tied in. While the States are now moaning and groaning - and I think justifiably so - with regard to so-called unfunded mandates, unfunded mandates, unfortunately, have taken on a very big life of their own.
The facts of the matter are that many of the States of the Union, including my State of Nebraska, get more money back from the Federal Government than the State of Nebraska pays in. The last figures I saw are that Nebraska gets back about $1.17 for every $1 that Nebraska citizens pay into the Federal Government in the form of Federal taxes.
Now, one could argue, and probably justifiably so, that the total amount of taxes could be reduced if the Federal Government would go back and reduce some of their spending. And I would agree with that. That is what we are about with the constitutional amendment to balance the budget, when and if that becomes a part of our Constitution.
I simply am rising, Mr. President, to send a signal very loud and very clear that this is not a one-way street. If we are going to exempt the States and hold them harmless, if we are going to start down the list and begin to exempt a whole lot of other people, then it will make it totally `Mission Impossible` to ever balance the Federal budget, let alone by the year 2002.
Everyone should recognize and realize that, when we get spelled out in considerable detail a 7-year budget plan that I think can and should be developed by the Budget Committee and presented to the Senate floor, it will be very evident there is going to be a lot of pain and suffering, a lot of disappointments. And I would simply say that, by and large, I am not interested in starting down this road of exempting this and exempting that, because I think this is going to be a painful enough process.
Therefore, I salute those who are bringing up questions about the mandates. Those of us who have long supported a constitutional amendment on the Federal budget recognize and realize that there are two legitimate points of view. There are those who strongly oppose the mandate legislation and there will be even more that will strongly oppose the follow-on piece of legislation known as the constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
I think those who do not agree with this Senator perform a very worthwhile service, because, as is usual with most discussion and most propositions, there are two sides. All is not white and all is not black or vice versa.
With that, Mr. President, I just want to say that there are some people, including Mr. Cooper who I have quoted from this story, who simply do not understand the situation. And when he says he is for a balanced budget amendment so long as the States are protected, then that is a caveat that I think we cannot accept.
I still am a strong supporter of the bill before us, but I am pleased to see there are some who do not agree with this piece of legislation and have pointed out some shortcomings with this legislation. They are providing a great public service. I suspect that there have been few, if any, bills that we have ever passed in the U.S. Senate, regardless of how well-sounding they are, that are perfect legislation. The mandate legislation is not perfect legislation. It will not cure all of our ills.
When and if we pass a constitutional amendment to balance the budget by the year 2002, and if that is ratified by 75 percent of the States, that is not going to cure all of our problems. The devil is definitely going to be in the details when we get down to such matters as a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
I thank the Chair and I yield the floor.
(EXHIBIT NO. 1) (FROM THE OMAHA WORLD HERALD, JAN. 24, 1995) STATES FEAR MANDATES, EXPERT SAYS (BY DAVID C. BEEDER)
Washington. - States will not support a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget unless it includes a guarantee they won`t have to assume more federal programs, a former assistant attorney general said Monday.
`The states are already groaning under the costs of implementing federal polices,` said Charles Cooper, who practices constitutional law in Washington.
Cooper, testifying before the Joint Economic Committee, said approval by three-fourths of the states will require a constitutional guarantee against giving state and local governments programs without the money of pay for them.
He said passing a law barring unfunded mandates would be inadequate protection for the states.
`The requirements of a balanced budget amendment would increase exponentially the incentives for shifting federal financial burdens to the states,` Cooper said.
Cooper, who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, said he supports a balanced budget amendment.
Cooper`s testimony was followed by a warning from Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger, who said a constitutional amendment to balance the budget could not be forced.
`It would be wonderful if we could simply declare by constitutional amendment that from this day forward the air would be clean, the streets would be free of drugs and the budget forever in balance,` Dellinger said.
`In the absence of enforcement mechanisms such as presidential impoundment of funds or judicial involvement in the budgeting process, a balanced budget amendment is unlikely to bring about a balanced budget,` Dellinger said.
Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla, said Dellinger`s arguments were not `of such magnitude that we should not move forward` with an amendment that would require a balanced budget by 2002 and a three-fifths vote to increase taxes.
Mack said he would recommend enforcement of the balanced budget amendment by a spending-reduction commission resembling a presidential commission that decided on military base closing two years ago.
If Congress did not balance the federal budget by 2002, as required by the amendment, the commission would recommend spending reductions to meet the requirement. Congress would accept or reject the recommendations without debate, Mack said.
Source: Congressional Record, January 1995.