Floor Speech

Date: March 2, 2023

"M. President, I rise today to thank my friend from Oklahoma, Senator James Lankford for continuing the Senate's long tradition of delivering Washington's farewell address earlier this week.

"It's 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.

"Washington warned of the dangers of putting the will of a political party ahead of the will of the nation. Washington warned against the accumulation of debt and encouraged us to "cherish public credit…as a very important source of strength and security.'

"And 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 got so right 227 years ago, and what is so wrong with Washington today, and what the American people are so sick and tired of. The American people have had enough of the accounting gimmicks and budgetary games we play in Congress. It's gotta stop!

"I would venture to say that there are very few accountants and accounting professionals that could make any sense of the scoring system we use to estimate costs around here. 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 1: In 2013, federal spending was less than $3.5 trillion. Today, it's more than $6.2 trillion. That's an 80% increase -- $2.8 trillion. Can you believe that?

"Fact 2: Last year, total revenues were $4.9 trillion which left us with a deficit of $1.4 trillion dollars.

"Fact 3: We have been spending more than we bring in every year for the last 21 years. And the debt that has resulted from it is absolutely crippling.

"Fact 4: The years of fiscal irresponsibility have brought us to the crisis we face today, which is $31.46 trillion dollars of public debt which equals over $94,000 per person. This year, we're going to spend more than $600 billion dollars just on interest alone. That is roughly $5,000 per American household.

"How can anyone with a straight face deny that we have a problem?

"It doesn't have to be this way. The American people deserve better than this. Our debt isn't a Republican problem or a Democratic problem, it is an American problem and only as we start putting our country first and acting as Americans can we fix it.

"President Trump added an estimated $7.5 trillion to projected debt levels from legislation and executive orders, including $4 trillion not related to COVID. President Biden has added more than $5 trillion to projected debt levels from legislation and executive orders, including more than $2.5 trillion not related to COVID.

"My Democratic friends don't want to say a word about our out-of-control spending and are outright refusing to even talk to Republicans about reasonable, responsible reforms. They want to pass a "clean" debt ceiling bill without a commitment to fix anything. My Republican friends refuse to offer any specifics, and some have recklessly threatened default, which is something that absolutely has to be off the table. We will never solve this problem by 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.

"It doesn't have to be this way. The American people deserve better. So, what should we do? First and foremost, the President and Congress need to do our jobs right now. No exceptions. No excuses. We need to pass a budget on time. The President is already over a month behind schedule when he submits his budget next week. It was due on February 6th.

"By April 1st, the Senate Budget Committee needs to report their budget resolution. By April 15th, the House and Senate need to reconcile their differences and adopt a single budget resolution. By September 30th, we must approve all spending bills. And we should not go home until this is done.

"If we don't pass a budget, we -- as elected leaders, from the President all the way down -- should not get paid. Period. The American people do not get paid for not doing their job, and neither should their elected leaders.

"That's why, earlier this year, I was proud to re-introduce the No Budget, No Pay Act with my friend from Indiana, Mike Braun, to hold Members of Congress accountable -- we should do our job or not get paid. I have introduced this commonsense bill every Congress since 2011.

"The continuing weaponization of the debt and deficit, and the political games both sides play, needs to end. While this may seem like common sense to most Americans, this would be a huge accomplishment for Congress.

"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 FY 2016. Last year, neither the House nor the Senate Budget Committee even bothered to pass a budget out of committee. If you're listening at home and this sounds pathetic, it's because it is. It is unacceptable that we run the single largest economic entity in the universe without a budget in place. Any business or individual would be bankrupt if they ran their business or finances this way.

"As Governor, I held weekly budget meetings to ensure we were living within our means, just like every family has to do around their kitchen table. Now, as a United States Senator, I'm embarrassed to say that not only are we not living within our means, we don't even want to discuss it on an annual basis.

"We need to stop digging our heels in and work out our differences when it comes to dealing with controlling our spending and lifting the debt ceiling. We need to put all of our ideas on the table and then, just like we did last year on a number of important bills, we need to find where we can agree so we can pass bipartisan legislation to create long lasting fiscal accountability.

"Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries need to -- propose a budget, allow for debate and discussion, and put it up for a vote. The debt ceiling clock is ticking, and we can't afford to wait any longer. We need to serve as true fiduciaries for our country.

"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 the prior record of 106% of GDP set just after World War II.

"Most everyone uses 2050 as a benchmark for accomplishments in different arenas, but if we continue down the path we're on we will have accumulated nearly $130 trillion in national debt and annual interest payments of nearly $5 trillion.

"Now you tell me -- think about our children and grandchildren -- what kind of future are we making for them?

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

"So today, I am asking all of you to join me in calling for an honest budget, without the accounting gimmicks and tricks, 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.

"This commonsense approach offers the accountability Americans want, the responsible approach 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've laid out the seriousness of our financial situation if we continue down the path we're on.

"From President Washington 227 years ago to a more modern-day warning from our then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011. Admiral Mullen was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee and he was asked about the greatest threat facing our nation. Without skipping a beat, Admiral Mullen said, it was our national debt.

"Just like the warning of our Founding Father in his farewell address, those words are even truer now than they were then.

"If you love your children…and if you love this country…you'll stop the madness and start acting reasonably and responsibly to get our government's financial house in order. The partisan politics can wait, the looming debt crisis cannot.

"May God bless and help the United States of America."