Claire calls out Party Leadership for opposing spending caps
March 18, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today took to the Senate floor to talk about her amendment to cap discretionary federal government spending until 2014. The amendment, a bipartisan provision she has now introduced on several pending pieces of legislation with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), requires Congress to show budgetary restraint in an attempt to begin to address the country's growing deficit.
In her speech, McCaskill criticized Democratic leadership who opposed the amendment during a time of growing concern amongst the American people that federal spending is out of control. Several Democrats have offered a weaker version of McCaskill and Sessions' amendment which does little to rein in the budget.
"This is one of those moments that I separate from leadership in my party... America doesn't think we get it. And you know what? They're right. We don't," she said. "A 1 percent growth in government and discretionary spending for the next three years is a reasonable approach to what we are looking at in terms of both our deficit and our debt."
The Sessions-McCaskill amendment holds spending growth at an average of 1 percent per year over 3-years. It does not force cuts, but rather forces choices. Over the past two years, domestic discretionary spending grew by 8-10 percent. The amendment exempts funding for congressionally authorized military conflicts. In case of emergency, a 60 vote majority is required to waive the restrictions.
Read the full text of McCaskill's floor speech below.
Senator Claire McCaskill Floor Speech
March 18, 2010
Madam President, I rise to speak in opposition to Senator Pryor's amendment and in favor of the Sessions-McCaskill amendment on us trying to get our fiscal house in order. Right now in America, most families are figuring out where they can cut the budget. Most families are figuring out what are the extras that we, even though we don't want to give them up, we've got to give them up. That's what America is doing right now.
Most local governments, they're doing the same thing. They're sitting around rooms trying to figure out where they can cut budgets because their revenue is down. State governments, in Missouri the governor has had to cut the budget significantly, even with the stimulus money we sent to Missouri to help them balance their budget, they are cutting programs. They are cutting employees. They are doing what they have to do to balance the budget.
And then we get to Washington. Everybody in America is cutting back except Washington. We came very close a few weeks ago -- 59 votes --to a very modest baby step. We're not talking about something that's earth shattering here. We're talking about just limiting the size of growth. Not cutting anything. The Sessions-McCaskill Amendment cuts nothing. All it does is limit the size of growth of discretionary spending in both the defense budget and the domestic budget. 59 votes to limit the growth of discretionary spending.
Wouldn't it be great if we could do the same thing with mandatory right now? I think it would be. I think it would be terrific if we could limit the size of growth of mandatory spending right now. Could we in fact roll back some of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthiest? I'd be for that. The bottom line is we have 59 votes for a baby step. So what happens around here when we have 59 votes for a baby step? We come up with an amendment, frankly, that is more cover than substance.
I mean, it's time to take a hard look in the mirror. If we can't do Sessions-McCaskill, what can we do around here? What can we do to show the American people that we understand that government can't continue to grow when revenues aren't? We've done some big bold things. I've been supportive of all of them to bring us back from the brink of a recession. They were very important. But I have been so discouraged by what's been going on around here the last few days. The circling of the wagons.
This amendment, with all due respect -- and he's my friend and we've worked together on many things, but 50 votes to waive? Are you kidding? You have to have 60 votes now to waive, and they're lowering it to 50. The only changes we've made to the Sessions-McCaskill amendment since that 59-vote margin we got a few weeks ago is we moved down how many votes you have to have for emergency spending. It's no longer subject to a 67 point of order. This was done to address the concerns that some of the members had about congress's flexibility to respond to emergencies, though it's very hard to find any emergency in history that Congress addressed with more than 67 votes. We moved that number down.
Now the caps only cover three years. A 1% growth over the next three years when every other government in America is cutting -- a 1% growth over three years? Is that so hard? There are no caps on this year in this amendment and no caps for 2014. The Pryor amendment only has one year of caps and it can be waived with 50? And then it purports to try to mandate that the fiscal commission do some things. And by the way, if the fiscal commission doesn't do it in time, then none of this counts. I mean, we're outsourcing our responsibilities here. I was for the fiscal commission. I was a cosponsor.
I think we've got to be honest about what this body is capable of doing and what it's not capable of doing. But did I really think this body was not capable of 1% growth for three years in discretionary spending? I had no idea this body wasn't capable of that. And the pressure that is being put on members that were part of that 59 is really depressing to me. This is one of those moments that I separate from leadership in my party, and I'm proud to separate from the leadership of my party because this is the right thing to do right now. America doesn't think we get it. And you know what? They're right. We don't. A 1% growth in government and discretionary spending for the next three years is a reasonable approach to what we are looking at in terms of both our deficit and our debt.
I am sorry that leadership doesn't agree with me on this. I'm sorry that leadership doesn't think this is good public policy. But I've got to tell you, we worry around here about elections; I'll tell you, the folks that are thinking that this side-by-side is somehow going to cover them from the wrath of the American people when it really sinks in that we are not even willing to limit growth in a meaningful way in this country.
When I'm in the grocery store when I go home on the weekends, that's what I am constantly told when I run into people: It just doesn't feel like you guys get it. If we end up with less than 59 votes today, if we go backwards rather than forwards, you know what I'm going to have to tell them when I see them in the grocery store this weekend? You're right. The majority of my party does not get it. And by the way, I'm willing to stand up right now and cosponsor anything that we want to limit the growth in mandatory. I'm for that, too. I'm for doing whatever we need to do to make sure that we look at the revenue side. I'm for that also. But really, this is a baby step, and if we can't take the baby step right now at this moment in history with this mess we're facing in terms of finances, then I think we're in a world of hurt, just a world of hurt. Thank you, madam president.
Mr. Sessions: I thank the chair. I would just want to express my appreciation to Senator McCaskill who is a person of courage and conviction and who has reached a decision that we need to do better in our country about spending, and as she said - and it's the simple truth -- our amendment is a small but significant step.
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