Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following floor remarks on the Senate’s vote to increase the national debt limit. Years of Republican mismanagement of America’s budget has driven the nation deep into debt. While Republicans have rubberstamped President Bush’s dangerously incompetent economic policies, Democrats believe America can do better and are fighting for a fiscally sound budget that protects America and makes life more affordable for the middle class.
Senator Reid’s remarks as prepared follow below:
Remarks of Senator Reid on the Debt Limit
“Mr. President, today the Senate is considering a bill to increase the nation’s debt by $781 billion, which would push the nation’s borrowing limit to nearly $9 trillion. If adopted, it would be the fourth such increase in the five years this Administration has been in office. I will be opposing this latest request and I would like to spend a few minutes telling my colleagues and the American people why.
“Any objective analysis of our country’s fiscal history would have to conclude this Administration and this rubberstamping Republican Congress are the most fiscally irresponsible in the history of our country. In fact, no other president or Congress even comes close.
“Over the past five years, rather than running record surpluses and reducing record amounts of debt, our nation has suffered record deficits and debt increases. In fact, when it comes to deficits, this president owns all the records. The three largest deficits in our nation’s history have all occurred under this Administration’s watch.
“Certainly some of that was the result of events beyond their control. But much of deterioration in the federal government’s finances is the direct result of the misguided priorities of this Administration and this rubber-stamping Republican Congress. These deficits have resulted in an unprecedented and dangerous borrowing spree. Total debt during this spree has grown by more than $2 trillion and now stands at $8.2 trillion.
“The legislation on the floor today will push the nation’s borrowing limit to nearly $9 trillion. Compounding matters, the President’s most recent budget – much of which Senate Republicans have placed before the Senate this week – would make matters substantially worse, leading to $12 trillion of debt by 2011, just as the first wave of baby boomers is beginning to retire.
“Not only is debt exploding at the worst possible time, M. President, increasingly we are borrowing from foreign lenders. Since this Administration took office, U.S. debt financed by foreigners has more than doubled, increasing by well over a trillion dollars. That’s more foreign held debt in five years than the nation accumulated in its first 224 years!
“By contrast, during the last three years of the Clinton Administration, we paid off more than $200 billion in debt to foreign lenders.
“Mr. President, given the explosion of debt in recent years, it is long past time for Washington to change course and adopt a new fiscal policy. After all, the future of our economy, and our nation, is stake. The Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker, told the Senate Budget Committee earlier this year, ‘continuing on this unsustainable fiscal path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security.’
“This is a matter that deserves considerable debate in the Senate and an opportunity for all senators of both political parties to participate. I am pleased that the Majority Leader and I were able to reach an agreement that allows us to discuss this legislation and the Bush Republicans’ legacy of debt.
“There was reason to believe that this debate would not occur. Some on the other side of the aisle would prefer that this debate not take place, or at a minimum happen when few were listening. Well, M. President, that’s not how the Senate is supposed to work. It’s not how a great democracy is supposed to function. We should welcome public scrutiny of our actions, not try to hide what we’re doing out of embarrassment or political expediency.
“M. President, if my Republican friends believe that increasing our debt by almost $800 billion today and more than $3 trillion over the past five years is the right thing to do, they should be up front about it. They should explain why they think that more debt is good for our economy. They should explain why they think it’s fair to force our children and grandchildren to finance this debt through higher taxes. And why it’s right to increase our nation’s dependence on foreign creditors.
“Maybe they can convince the public they’re right. But I doubt it. Because most Americans know that increasing debt is the last thing we should be doing. After all, the baby boomers are about to retire. Under the circumstances, as almost any credible economist would tell you: we should be reducing debt, not increasing it.
“The President often speaks of personal responsibility. In a speech before African American leaders early in his Administration, the President stated that a President is judged not by the words he speaks but by the work he leaves behind. By that benchmark, unless this President and this Republican-controlled Congress dramatically and immediately change course, they will not be judged very kindly with respect to his stewardship of our nation’s finances.”