Alexander on Debt-Reduction Agreement: “Make No Mistake, This is a Change in Behavior—From Spend, Spend, Spend to Cut, Cut, Cut”

Says, “For every dollar we are raising the debt ceiling, we are reducing spending by a dollar…if Congress did this every time, we’d balance the budget in 10 years”

Posted on August 2, 2011

WASHINGTON – In a speech (video HERE) delivered today on the floor of the United States Senate in advance of the Senate’s vote on the House-passed “Budget Control Act of 2011,” U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that “at a time when the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, this is a welcome change in behavior that I am glad to support.”

“It is time to balance the government’s books and live within our means. These spending reductions are an important step—but they are just one step—and no one should underestimate how difficult the next steps will be,” Alexander said.

A full transcript of the floor speech follows:

“Finally, Washington is taking some responsibility for years of spending money we don’t have.

“At a time when the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, this is a welcome change in behavior that I am glad to support.

“Make no mistake. This is a change in behavior—from spend, spend, spend to cut, cut, cut.

“Let me give you one example: On Christmas Eve, 2010, Congress raised the debt ceiling and attached to it a trillion new dollars in spending over ten years through the new health care law.        

“This time, for every dollar we are raising the debt ceiling, we are reducing spending by a dollar—not adding to it. This reduction in spending is about $2.4 trillion over ten years.

“Here is another example: According to Sen. Portman, who used to be the nation’s budget director, the Congressional Budget Office would say that if Congress did this kind of dollar-for-dollar reduction in spending every time a president asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling, we’d balance the budget in ten years.

“And one more. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that because of these spending cuts, the discretionary part of the budget, which is 39 percent of the entire budget, will grow over the next ten years at a little less than the rate of inflation. If we could control the rest of the budget so that it would grow at anything close to the rate of inflation, we’d balance the budget in no time.

“And balancing the budget is exactly what our goal should be. That’s what I did every year as governor of Tennessee. Families in America do it every day.

“It is time to balance the government’s books and live within our means.

“These spending reductions are an important step—but they are just one step—and no one should underestimate how difficult the next steps will be.

“These spending cuts do almost nothing to restructure Medicare and Social Security so that seniors can count on them and taxpayers can afford them. The President’s budget projections still double and triple the federal debt. Under the President’s budgets, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in ten years we’ll be spending more in interest on the debt than we now spend on national defense. And, in January, 2013, the first thing the next president will have to do is to ask Congress to increase the debt ceiling.

“This problem wasn’t created overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight. But if I were sitting at Union Station trying to catch a train to New York City and someone offered me a ticket to Baltimore or Philadelphia, I’d take it, and then find a way to get to New York from there.

“Today’s vote is an opportunity to take an important step in the right direction—toward stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have.

“We should take it, and then get ready to find ways to take the next step and the next step and the next.”

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