Statement of Senator Inhofe on his opposition to the proposed debt limit increase

As Prepared for Delivery

(as prepared for delivery) 

Mr. President, it was just one month ago that I came down to the Senate floor to encourage my fellow colleagues to approve a strong balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would have brought true and permanent fiscal stability to our nation.  Senate Democrats, however, were unwilling to support the amendment because they did not like the idea of making it harder to raise taxes and spend money. 

This is not a unique theme here in Washington.  In the last three years spending has spiraled out of control, and I think what people do not understand is that it’s because of one person: President Obama.  It’s the President who designs and writes his budget, sends it to Congress, and then we have to decide what to take and leave – but the bulk of the priorities are generally established by him, especially since his party continues to control the Senate.  To date, the President has released three budgets, and they all have at least one thing in common: budget deficits over $1 trillion.  His first, in 2010, had a deficit of $1.2 trillion; then the next one in 2011 projected the deficit of $1.3 trillion; and then last year, his budget deficit was $1.1 trillion.  But for the most part, these were conservative estimates, because while the 2011 budget estimated that year’s deficit to be $1.3 trillion, the next year’s budget revised the 2011 deficit upward to $1.65 trillion, or about $250 billion more than expected.  Interestingly, $1.65 trillion was the amount of the entire federal budget in 1996. 

In all, it is estimated that this President will have presided over $14 trillion in spending by the end of this year.  By then, our national debt is expected to be over $16.3 trillion, making this President accountable for increasing the national debt by nearly $6 trillion, which is more than every single President between George Washington and George W. Bush combined.  And this is the reason why I’m standing here today.   

Over the last couple of years, the President has been warned time and again that our nation is heading in an unsustainable fiscal direction that could ultimately yield a debt crisis similar to what Europe is experiencing right now.  But the President has ignored these warnings and – in fact – made the problem worse by doubling down on the single largest contributor to future government deficits: government sponsored healthcare.  He did this with the passage of Obamacare, a bill he heralded as a fiscally responsible.  In reality, the bill will increase federal expenditures by as much as $2.5 trillion in the first ten years following the law’s full implementation.  After that, the cost will only skyrocket further.  Between 2020 and 2029, the bill is estimated to increase federal spending by $4.4 trillion.  Every time I hear a projected cost, I can’t help but think about Medicare.  In 1967, the House Ways and Means Committee predicted that the new Medicare program, launched the previous year, would cost about $12 billion in 1990.  The actual figures were about ten times worse – in 1990, Medicare spending totaled $110 billion. 

As the debate over raising the debt limit reached its peak last summer, the President convened groups, gangs, and commissions to figure out why our nation is going so far into debt.  I always thought that these things were a scam because the problem is actually quite simple – we’re going into debt because we’re spending too much.  If we want to get out of debt, we just stop spending.  But the groups convened and came out with different recommendations to reduce federal deficits by several trillion dollars over the decade.  Some of their ideas were pretty good – others were not.  

Regardless, the President didn’t endorse any of them.  In fact, I believe he was determined to use the impasse over increasing the debt limit as a way to permanently underwrite a larger and more expansive federal government.  If he was going to agree to any real reduction in federal spending, he demanded that the cuts be concentrated on national security spending and that they be complemented by a massive tax hike.    

Now it’s no surprise that I’ve always been opposed to every kind of tax hike out there – but it’s unconscionable to me that any President would demand a major tax hike in the middle of a fragile economic recovery while.  Unemployment is still sticking around 8.5% , the labor market is very weak, and the regulatory train wreck that the President is pursuing is doing nothing but force American firms to put their expansion plans on hold.  This President is doing everything he can to slow down the small economic recovery that we have. 

So after months of going back and forth over different proposals to increase and pay for a debt limit increase, a deal was brokered.  The first phase allowed an increase in the debt limit of $900 billion to the current level of $15.2 trillion, and it was matched by discretionary spending cuts of the same amount.  Then the Supercommittee went to work to find $1.5 trillion in additional savings over the next decade.  But because we all know that it failed, we’re facing additional automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion.  In exchange for this, the President is being allowed to increase the debt limit by $1.2 trillion to the staggering level of $16.4 trillion.   

Today I’m rising in support the resolution of disapproval of the President’s request to increase the debt limit another time.  I know that this resolution has no chance of passing the Senate with the current majority, but I think it’s important to point out that we are nowhere close to finding fiscal solvency today than we were a year ago.  And we’re certainly no closer than we were during the President’s first State of the Union address, where he promised to cut federal deficits in half by the end of his first term. 

Before I will agree to another increase in the debt limit, it must be accompanied by reforms that actually reduce spending to levels that put our nation on a fiscally sound track.  To accomplish this, one of the first things we should do is repeal Obamacare.  As I already mentioned, that law is a fiscal nightmare and it hasn’t even really started yet.  We also need to look at our other entitlement programs and reform them in a way that strengthens them for the future. 

But as things stand, our $15 trillion debt is weighing us down.  And now the President wants the authority to add another $1.2 trillion to it.  We cannot allow this to happen.  Massive government debt levels crush economic growth.  Allowing the debt limit to increase further without true fiscal reforms will kill job growth and slow our already lackluster recovery.  

I urge my colleagues to support the resolution of disapproval so that we can hold the President accountable and force real fiscal reforms that ultimately yield a balanced budget.  I yield the floor.