Floor Speech

Date: March 2, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise today to thank my friend from Oklahoma, Senator James Lankford, for continuing the Senate's long tradition of delivering President George Washington's Farewell Address earlier this week. It is an annual reminder of what is great about America, but it is eerie how his warnings ring true today, even though it was delivered some 227 years ago.

President Washington warned of the dangers of putting the will of the political party ahead of the will of the Nation. He also warned against the accumulation of debt and encouraged us to cherish public credit as a very important source of strength and security.

My personal relationship with this and understanding is from my grandfather, affectionately known as ``Papa,'' ``Papa Joe,'' who would always say: Joe, if you have unmanaged debt, you will make cowardly decisions of how you live your life.

Yet here we are today, watching party politics and out-of-control spending threaten the very foundation of our great Nation. This is exactly what George Washington was talking about, and he was so right 227 years ago as to what is so wrong with Washington today and what the American people are really sick and tired of having go on.

The American people have had enough of the accounting gimmicks and budgetary games that we play in Congress, and it has got to stop. I would venture to say that there are very few accountants--professionals in this field and accounting professionals, who have expertise--who could make any sense out of our scoring and how we expense--the scoring and expensing--what we think it will cost and what it actually does, and how they transfer those back and forth. It is almost unbelievable.

The American people deserve the truth, and every Republican and every Democrat has the responsibility to tell them the truth. So let's start with the facts.

Fact No. 1, in 2013, Federal spending was less than $3.5 trillion. Today, it is more than $6.2 trillion. In 10 short years--less than 10-- that is an 80-percent increase. We have increased our expenses voluntarily by $2.8 trillion in a very short time. It is hard to believe. It truly is.

Fact No. 2, last year's total revenues were $4.9 trillion--4.9--which left us with a deficit of $1.4 trillion. No matter what anyone says, this is from the CBO. These are our scoring people.

Fact No. 3, we have been spending more than we bring in. Think about this. All of us, think about it. We have been spending more than we bring in in our government every year for the past 21 years--every year--and the debt that has resulted is absolutely crippling.

Think about 21 years. How many people could do that? How many citizens? How many of your constituents or my constituents? In West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, or wherever they may live, how many could basically run a deficit that long and still have a home, have a family, or be functioning in any way, shape, or form? Most of us couldn't even make it 21 days, OK? You have got to balance things out and make adjustments. I have never seen anything like it. Basically, I guess, if you have a printing press, you don't have to worry.

Fact No. 4, the years of fiscal irresponsibility have brought us to the crisis that we face today. Our debt, as we stand here and speak to you today, is $31.46 trillion--that is our public debt--which equals over $94,000 per every man, woman, and child in West Virginia and in the United States and in New Mexico and in Texas and everywhere else-- $94,000 per person in our great country. This year, we are going to spend more than $600 billion--$600 billion--just on debt, just on basically servicing the debt of the Nation. That is like getting a credit card and your owing $5,000 on your credit card, but you have to pay $340 just in interest that month. All you can do is pay the interest. You can't even touch the principal because you can barely pay the interest.

Think about this. Just the interest on our debt is more than $5,000 per household in America--$5,000 if everyone fulfilled his obligation, I guess. How can anyone, really, with a straight face deny that we have a problem--how can any of us no matter what part of the political spectrum we come from?

It doesn't have to be this way, and the American people deserve better than this. Our problem really isn't a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. It is an American problem. It truly is for every American. We have a problem, and only as we start putting our country first and acting as Americans can we fix it. There can't be this total political division: It is not my fault; it is your fault or it is their fault and vice versa--depending on where you are standing, I guess, in the body here and what political identity you have to you.

President Trump had it, and the people want to say: Whose fault is it?

It is all of our fault. Under President Trump, we added an estimated $7.5 trillion to projected debt levels from legislation and Executive orders, including $4 trillion that was not directly because of COVID-- $7.5 trillion in those 4 years. Under President Biden, we have added more than $5 trillion to the projected debt levels from legislation and Executive orders, including more than $2.5 trillion not related to COVID. So everyone is to blame. We are all at fault.

My Democratic friends don't want to say a word about our out-of- control spending and our outright refusing to even talk to Republicans about reasonable and responsible reforms. All we hear about is that we have to have a clean debt ceiling.

We are going to pay our debts. We have to pay our sins of the past, but can't we at least sit down and discuss--just discuss: How did we get here so fast, faster than at any time in history? In a 10-year period, how did we accumulate this much debt? Can't we even talk about that and see if there is a pathway forward?

My Republican friends refuse to offer any specifics, and some have recklessly threatened default, which is absolutely not on the table and cannot be on the table. It will not happen, I can assure you.

We will never solve the problem by having each party running in the opposite direction. We will only be able to change course by coming together, embracing common sense, and finding common ground.

Just think of our own lives when we go home and leave these bodies, Congress--when 535 of us go back to our home places and sit down at our kitchen tables, look at our families, and look at where we are financially. Just think about it. It doesn't really have to be this way. They really expect better, and they should be getting better-- every person in America.

So, really, what should we do?

First and foremost, the President and Congress need to do our jobs right now--no exceptions, no excuses.

Now, let me tell you that what I am going to be telling you now is something we have not practiced since I have been here for 12 years. We need to pass a budget on time. Pass a budget on time. That is by September 30. The President will already be over a month behind schedule when he submits his budget next week. It was due on February 6. Now, the dates I am going to give you come out of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. We have a piece of legislation that tells us the guidelines and the timetables that we should use to run this great country of ours.

By April 1, the Senate Budget Committee needs to report its budget resolution. By April 15, the House and Senate need to reconcile the differences they may have in their budgets. Then, by September 30, we must approve all spending bills.

I am just simply saying we shouldn't go home until we get it done. We really shouldn't. If we don't pass a budget, we, the leaders--from the President all the way down--shouldn't get paid, period. Think about this. The American workers don't get paid if they don't get their jobs done. They don't get paid if they don't work, and neither should any of us. I don't know how ever to make us follow the guidelines. We have a piece of legislation we haven't followed since 1985.

The only thing I know is that maybe the money would stop us from not doing our jobs and make us start doing our jobs. That is why, earlier this year, I was proud to reintroduce the No Budget, No Pay Act, with my friend from Indiana, Mike Braun, to hold Members of Congress accountable. We should do our jobs or not get paid. I introduced this commonsense bill with Tom Coburn, my dear friend--God rest his soul-- from Oklahoma. We started this in 2011, when I got here.

Tom said: I think it is something you will like, Joe.

So I jumped on it with Tom and have been on it ever since.

The continuing weaponization of the debt and deficit and the political games that we all play need to stop. They need to stop. While this may seem like common sense to most Americans, it would be a huge accomplishment for Congress if we would just operate in a timely fashion. The savings would be great, and no one would have to bear any cuts just to get it done on time. Talk to the military or talk to anybody about how devastating CRs are--continuing resolutions--and omnibus bills at the end and all of the things that happen.

It has been 20 years since we passed a budget on time. We haven't had a real budget at all, even a late one, since 2016--not even a late one since 2016. We haven't had a real budget in 20 years. I don't know how everybody else does it, but I can tell you, if you are out of sync that bad, you had better sit down and work something out. Last year, neither the House nor the Senate Budget Committee even bothered to pass a budget out of committee. Neither even bothered to do one. It is unbelievable.

If you are listening at home and this sounds absolutely pathetic and crazy, that is because it is. No one is holding our feet to the fire. We aren't holding our own feet to the fire. It is unacceptable that we run the single largest economic entity in the universe without having a budget in place.

Let me tell you: Any household and any business that does not recognize what their income and outgo is will not be in business long. You are not going to be profitable. You will probably be bankrupt as an individual. With 21 years of running deficits as an individual, you can't do it, and as a business, you can't do it.

Nobody in this type of an economy and this type of structure of a government can operate and survive. As a Governor, I used to hold weekly--and Governors are responsible because, I think, there are 46 or 48 States that have a balanced budget amendment. That means we, as the chief executive officers in our States, are responsible for balancing the budgets. We would sit down every week like clockwork. My financial people would come to my office every Tuesday afternoon. It was baked in every Tuesday. We would sit down and go over any adjustments that might need to be made, and we would make them. When the financial crisis hit in 2008 and 2009, we were doing it sometimes twice a day to stay ahead of the curve--by not falling into the trap of having a deficit. We had to make tough cuts. We lived with it, and West Virginians came through it, and we were better off financially than we ever were before because we stayed ahead of the curve. Now as a U.S. Senator, I am embarrassed to say that not only are we not living within our means, we don't even want to discuss it and talk about it, what the problems may be. We need to stop digging our heels in and work out our differences.

When it comes to dealing with and controlling our spending and lifting the debt ceiling, at least we can talk about it. At least we can agree that we have a problem. At least we can basically maybe come together and find out how did we get to where we got to so quickly. We need to put all of our ideas on the table, just like we did last year with a number of important, bipartisan bills, so that we can pass and we can agree on bipartisan legislation and create long-lasting fiscal accountability.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressperson Kevin McCarthy, and Congressperson Hakeem Jeffries--they need to propose a budget, allow for debate and discussion, and put it up for a vote. This needs to happen.

The debt ceiling clock is ticking. We can't afford to wait any longer. We need to serve as true fiduciaries for our country. That is what we are here to do.

The projections are that in a few short years, the national debt, as a share of the economy, will be the highest it has ever been in the history of this country. The debt will exceed--will exceed--the prior record of 106 percent of GDP, which we set after World War II.

Think about when we had the highest debt ever until now--the highest debt--and what happened to cause that debt. The United States of America entered war on all fronts. We saved the world from fascism. We basically helped rebuild Europe. We have something to show for that. What do we have to show for it now? What do we truly have to show for the debt we have incurred right now?

Most everyone uses 2050 as a benchmark. I hear 2050 in so many scenarios for accomplishments in different arenas. Pick whatever you have heard about 2050 that you may fit in, but 2050 has been the high- water mark. But I want to tell you what happens. If we continue down the path that we are on, we will have accumulated by 2050 nearly $130 trillion of public debt. We are at 31.46 right now--$130 trillion. Just to service the interest on the debt--just to service the interest on the debt--will be $5 trillion a year. This is by CBO; this is not me or anybody else coming up and trying to scare the bejesus out of you. This is what these young Americans are going to be facing with their children and grandchildren by 2050.

Not only that someone can tell me that this could even be plausible, but think about everyone here. Think about everyone in this great body. Think about your family. Think about your constituents. Our national debt weakens our economy, it weakens our national security, it weakens the trust Americans have in their government, and it weakens our role in the world. It weakens our role in the world.

I tell you, my grandfather, again, Papa said: Unmanaged debt--which we have a runaway train right now--unmanaged debt will make cowardly decisions. You will make cowardly decisions.

Fortunately, we still have time this year to prevent the catastrophic financial forecast.

I am asking all of you to join me in calling for, first, an honest budget without accounting gimmicks and tricks; second, a short-term deal to bring down our out-of-control spending right now, this year; and a plan to deal with our longer term fiscal challenges. The commonsense approach offers the accountability Americans want, the responsibility approach that we need, and the results we deserve.

My constituents have begun to ask me: How serious a crisis could we face if we continue to ignore our Nation's debt?

I think I have laid out the seriousness of our financial situation if we continue down the path we are on.

From President Washington, our Founding Father, 227 years ago to a more modern-day warning from our then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011, ADM Mike Mullen, at my first Armed Services meeting--he was testifying before the Senate Armed Services. He was asked the question: What is the greatest threat our Nation faces? We thought it was going to be China, Russia, whatever it may be. Without skipping a beat, without missing a word, he said that the debt of our Nation is the greatest, greatest threat we face--the debt of our Nation. Just like the warning of our Founding Father in his Farewell Address, those words are even truer today than they were then.

If you love your children, if you love this country, you will stop the madness and start acting reasonably and responsibly to get our government's financial house in order. It is long past due. The partisan politics can wait. There is always time to have arguments and disagreements, but the looming debt crisis cannot--it cannot--basically have the disruption that we have and the discourse and the political toxic atmosphere that we have here. We have got to come together for the sake of our great country.

As I close, I want to say may God bless--which He has blessed--this great country and by all means help the United States of America to be even better than what we are today.