WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rand Paul delivered the following remarks on the U.S. Senate floor today regarding his opposition to the two-year federal budget agreement.
For a point of clarification: after Sen. Paul announced his filibuster of the debt bill earlier this week, Senate Leadership moved to end the filibuster by filing cloture. Cloture is the mechanism in the rules to end debate, and thus end a filibuster. If 41 Senators vote with Sen. Paul, the filibuster will continue.
Below is video and transcript of Sen. Paul’s remarks.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. PAUL’S REMARKS ON THE SENATE FLOOR
Sen. Rand Paul: I rise today in opposition to raising the debt ceiling. I rise in particular in opposition to raising the debt ceiling without getting any sort of spending reform or budgetary reform in return. In fact, it will be completely the opposite. We will be raising the debt ceiling in an unlimited fashion. We will be giving President Obama a free pass to borrow as much money as he can borrow in the last year of his office. No limit, no dollar limit. Here you go, President Obama. Spend what you want.
We do this while also exceeding what are called budget caps. We have been trying to have spending restraint in Washington. It hasn’t worked very well, but at least there are some numbers that government is not supposed to exceed. These include spending caps for military spending as well as domestic spending. When I first arrived, I was part of a movement called the tea party movement. We came into prominence and I was elected primarily because I was concerned about the debt, worried about the debt that we were leaving to our kids and our grandkids, worrying that we were destroying the very fabric of the country with debt.
We came here in 2010 and we negotiated and negotiated, and the president said, President Obama said I won’t negotiate with you. He says I won’t negotiate with a gun to my head. The media all said you just always have to raise the debt ceiling. It’s irresponsible to use that as leverage to get reform. But you know what? We did get reform. The conservatives put forward something called Cut, Cap, and Balance. It was passed overwhelmingly in the House, blocked in the Senate, but ultimately there was something passed called sequestration, which put caps on both military and domestic spending. And it did slow down the rate of growth of government for a little while.
This is the problem with Congress. Congress will occasionally do something in the right direction, and then they take one step forward and two steps back. In 2013, we gave up on this sequestration when we added back in about $60 billion worth of money. Now we’re doing the same thing again. We’re going to add back in this time $80 billion, $50 billion in 2016, another $30 billion in 2017. We’re doing the opposite of what we should be doing.
We should be using the leverage of the debt ceiling, saying we’re not raising it again until you reform your ways, until you begin spending only money you have. Instead, we’re doing the opposite. We’re saying here, Mr. President, you can raise the debt as much as you want. You can spend as much as you want while you’re in office, and we’re going to do nothing. In fact, we’re going to help you. We’re going to exceed the caps so everybody gets what they want. So everyone in Washington’s is going to get something.
The right’s going to get more military money, the left’s going to get more welfare money. The secret handshake goes on, and the American public gets stuck with the bill. Now, I think one of the most important things we do is defend the country. If you ask me to prioritize it’s spending, I would say we have to defend the country above and beyond and before all else. But that doesn’t mean we’re stronger or safer if we’re doing this from bankruptcy court. I any the number-one threat to our country, the number-one threat to our security is debts, piling on of debt.
The debt threatens our national security, and yet we just want to pile it on, pill it on. This deal will do nothing but explode the debt. In fact, it doesn’t even limit how much the debt can go up. We’re giving the president a blank check.
We’re in the middle of a filibuster. This filibuster will go on to about 1:00 in the morning and then we will find out who the true conservatives in this town are. If you are conservative, you will say there is no way I’m going to vote to give an unlimited power to the president to borrow money. If you are a conservative, you’re going to say we shouldn’t be exceeding the budget caps. If anything, we should be passing more stringent budget caps. It disappoints me greater than I can possibly express that the party that I belong to that should be the conservative party doesn’t appear to be conservative. This is a big problem.
I’m traveling the country and I ask Republicans everywhere. I have yet to meet a single Republican who supports this deal. In the house, they voted on this yesterday. Do you know what the vote was? Two to one among Republicans to say this is a God-awful deal and we shouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. It’s a terrible deal. House Republicans understood this. We should be doing the opposite. We should be taking the leverage of saying we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get reform. Instead, we went to the president and said here, raise the debt ceiling as much as you can possibly spend over the next year, and we’ll let you exceed the budget caps. It’s irresponsible, it shows a lack of concern for our country, for the debt, and it should go down in defeat.
When I ran for office in 2010, the debt was an enormous issue and the debt was $10 trillion. Some of us in the tea party were concerned because it had doubled in the last eight years. It doubled from five to ten under a Republican administration. And many of us were adamant that Republicans needed to do a better job. We had added new entitlement programs, we had added new spending, and the deficit got worse under Republicans. Now we’re under a Democrat president, and it’s set to double again.
This president will add more to the debt than all of the previous presidents combined. So we’re going to go from $10 trillion now to nearly $20 trillion. We may get close to $20 trillion. Now that we have increased the debt ceiling in an unspecified amount, we may well get to $20 trillion by the time this president leaves. Is it a problem? Some people say it’s just a big number.
I don’t know what a trillion dollars is. Well, if you want to imagine a trillion dollars, take $1,000 bills and put them in your hand. $1,000 bills four inches high is a million dollars. But if you want to have a trillion dollars in $1,000 bills, it would be 63 miles high. We’re talking about an amount of money that is hard to fathom, and you say what does that mean? How does that hurt me or my family?
Economists say that we are losing a million jobs a year to the burden of debt. The economists also say when your debt becomes as large as your economy, that you are in a worrisome place, that when the debt is as large as the economy, there’s a possibility that you may enter into a period when you might suffer a panic or a collapse or a burden so great that your economy can’t withstand it. 2008, we were very close to a panic. I think we get closer with each day.
The number-one priority up here shouldn’t be trying to scrounge around and find new money to spend. It should be trying to conserve. It should be doing something that some say is radical but I say is the absolute essence of common sense, and that is we should spend what comes in.
So often up here things become partisan and people just want to point fingers and say it’s that party that did it, they’re the ones responsible for the debt, but I want to let you in on a secret. This is a secret that goes on and on and on up here. It is something I call the unholy alliance. It is the unholy alliance between right and left. They both have sacred cows they want to spend money on.
So instead of saying you know what, the debt is a real problem and we both have to conserve in both areas, they both get together and raise the money for the secret cows. On the right we are busting the limits because the right wants more military spending, the left wants more for welfare, the unholy alliance a secret handshake, and what gets worse? The debt. We’re borrowing $1 million every minute, and it’s not going to end in a pretty way.
What do other conservatives have to say about this deal? Steve Moore at the Heritage Foundation writes “it’s the worst budget deal to be negotiated by the G.O.P. since George H.W. Bush violated his no new taxes pledge in 1990.”
Rush Limbaugh says, “the Republican party cannot campaign by running around blaming the Democrats for destroying the budget for overspending, for threatening the very fabric of the country. They can’t do it because they’re now complicit.”
Here’s the thing. We can’t point fingers and say oh, the Democrats are the big spenders. We now by this deal become complicit. We become equally guilty of supporting new debt. Now, some say well, gosh, you’ve got to raise the debt ceiling, right? If you don’t raise the debt ceiling, there will be default. Hogwash.
Do you know how much money comes into this place every month? Through taxes, about $250 billion comes in in taxes. Do you know what our interest payment is? About $30 billion. It might be as high as $60 billion, $70 billion, $80 billion. There is never not enough revenue to pay for interest. People say well, we couldn’t pay for everything.
I say well, maybe we shouldn’t spend it on everything. We have plenty of money that comes in every month to spend on interest, to spend on Medicare, to commend on Social Security and to spend on sailors and soldiers salaries and veterans’ affairs. Maybe the federal government shouldn’t be doing much else. These are the questions we have to ask. What would happen if the debt ceiling didn’t go up? You would have a balanced budget. How bad would that be? If your debt ceiling didn’t go up, you would spend what comes in. That’s what every American family does, you spend what comes in. I think this is absolutely what we need to do.
But even myself, I’m willing to compromise, so I’ve put forward a compromise. I’ve put forward a compromise that we tried in 2011. It’s called Cut, Cap, and Balance. My compromise would cut the deficit in half in one year, a dramatic lessening of the burden of debt. That’s the cut. The cap is that my bill would actually cap spending at 18% of G.D.P. What does that mean? 18% of the total amount of money spent in the economy. Why do we pick 18? Because that leads to a balanced budget.
The last part of my bill, the Cut, Cap, and Balance, is that we would pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. And I have kind of jokingly said but probably seriously, if we pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, we pass term limits, I will go back to being a doctor, which is my first love anyway, but we’ve got to fix the country. We’re destroying the country with debt. We’re drowning in a sea of debt, and neither party seems to be concerned with it anymore. So what I would do is I would say yes, I’ll compromise. I’ll raise the debt ceiling under those three conditions – cut the deficit in half, cap the spending and pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, and people say well, there aren’t the votes for that.
Why don’t we have a vote? Why don’t we allow a vote on Cut, Cap, and Balance, the conservative alternative to this deal that we’ve got on the floor? Why don’t we vote on an alternative, because there won’t be any amendments allowed? This will be pushed through without amendments. And I really object to that. This is supposed to be the body of deliberation.
We’re supposed to be able to deliberate over whether or not how we’re going to fix the problems of the country. And I think this is the number-one threat to us. We’re accumulating debt at a million dollars every minute. Someone’s got to stand up and do something about it. Taxpayers for common sense say about this we’re not a fan of this new agreement.
Cato writes the gipper, Ronald Reagan’s ghost, is probably to go down from heaven at the new budget deal between Congressional leaders and the Obama administration and saying there they go again. So let’s rephrase the question. What do advocates of fiscal restraint get in exchange for raising these spending caps? Well, if you peruse this agreement, it’s apparent they don’t get anything. So what we have traded is not just an increase, an unspecified increase in the debt ceiling.
We have said to President Obama, you can spend as much money as you want throughout the rest of your presidency, no limits. The National Taxpayers Union writes, “If the question on the budget and debt ceiling package is deal or no deal, taxpayers should clearly opt for the latter.” While the agreement contains a few meritorious provisions, it fails other savings and reforms necessary to address our nation’s $18.1 trillion debt problem. The debt is, without question, the number-one problem in the country. We will have a vote this evening and that vote will be, do you care?
Are you willing to do something to slow it down? Do you think we ought to use the leverage of the debt ceiling to slow down spending, or are you a profligate spender who will vote to bust the caps and who will vote to give President Obama unlimited borrowing authority? I think it is a clear-cut question. I will vote “No,” and I will continue this filibuster as long as there are enough votes here to allow it to continue.
At this point, I’d like to ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of my bill, Cut, Cap, and Balance, which is calendar number 274, S. 2182. I further ask that there be an hour of debate equally divided in the usual form, that following the use or yielding back of time, the bill be read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be made and laid upon the table.
I agree with the senator from Oregon that bipartisan agreement is necessary in this body, but I think we have in this agreement, bipartisan agreement in the wrong direction. The bipartisan agreement we need is to conserve across the board, for both sides to say that our sacred cow, whether it is military on the right or domestic spend on the left that they all will have to be conserved. We won’t be able to spend money that we don’t have.
And I think we’re becoming weaker and a nation the more we borrow. If we pass this bill, it isn’t a difference or a choice between calamity and continuing to add to the debt, which this bill will do. I fully believe that we can continue to make our payments. We have $250 billion a month that comes in, interest payment $30 billion. There’s absolutely no reason why we would ever default.
I have a bill called default protection act, which would ensure that Social Security, and Medicare and our soldiers’ salaries and the interest on the debt were paid for. So I think what we should be doing is doing the opposite kind of compromise.
Right and left should come together and say, you know what? I really want spending on this. And the right says I really want spending on the military. And they should come together and say, we don’t have any money. We’re borrowing $1 million a minute. So I think this bipartisan compromise goes in the wrong direction. What I would ask for is a bipartisan compromise to actually save money and borrow less. Thank you, Mr. President.