A Balanced Budget for A Stronger America

Floor Speech

Date: March 17, 2015
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROKITA. Mr. Speaker, we are here today to talk about the Republican budget that was just announced today, and I do that with a great amount of pride and excitement as vice chairman of that committee.

I also look forward to working with the gentlelady who just spoke during the 1-minute speeches, not only to create a sustainable budget and priorities for America, but to debunk many of the things that she just said.

I am pleased to be joined by several members of the Committee on the Budget to help me do this.

Before we get into the details, I feel it appropriate, Mr. Speaker, and absolutely necessary to yield to the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Scalise), the majority whip of the House of Representatives, a friend of mine, to discuss some of the things that have happened to the great citizens in Louisiana.


Mr. ROKITA. I thank the gentleman from Louisiana for those eulogies and for being all too appropriate in the honor that we should give these fallen Americans, as great as they have been.

Today, after votes for the day, Mr. Speaker, I want to recap some of the things that happened earlier in the day.

Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor to say that at about 10:45 this morning, the Republican members of the Budget Committee held a press conference where we explained to the American people our vision for our priorities and for the priorities of America to get us back on track. ``A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America,'' is our theme.

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased and proud to say that this theme isn't altogether new for the United States House of Representatives Republicans. In fact, in large part, this is the fifth year in a row that we have proposed these kinds of ideas so that we can live responsibly in the here and now to produce and afford a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.

Isn't that, Mr. Speaker, what we are here to be about? Hasn't it always been the history of these great United States that we would leave the next generation better off than the current generation has had it?

As you know, Mr. Speaker, and as my colleagues will help me point out here over the next hour, we stand here as actually the first generation in American history that is poised to leave the next one worse off by any objective measure.

That is why the budgets that we produce, the spending that we promulgate here in the United States Congress really needs to be scrutinized, really needs to be prioritized.

It is going to take people with a great degree of personal responsibility and leadership, Mr. Speaker, to have a great, truthful conversation with the American people to, number one, tell them what the situation really is, but just as important, number two, to let them know that there are solutions, that we can fix it if we just show them what they are.

Let me quickly go through some of the points of our budget that we will mark up in committee tomorrow and expect to be on the floor next week for a vote.

Again, the first point, this plan will balance the budget in less than 10 years. That is faster than any of the recent House Republican budgets. Mr. Speaker, it is in stark contrast to the President's budget, which never balances, ever.

How can we pay off this $18 trillion-plus in debt that we have right now, plus the hundred trillion that is on the way over the next several decades, if we never first get it to balance? This Republican budget does that. We do it in less than 10 years.

Now, many American families are saying, 10 years? I wish I had 10 years to balance our budget. I have to balance it immediately in our households, some might say. For a government that spends over $3 trillion a year, it takes a while to turn that big aircraft carrier, so to speak, around.

That is why I use the word ``responsible,'' Mr. Speaker. We are being responsible in these reforms, in these priority changes, so that people have time to adapt, so that we can get the economy going again to produce more revenue to make perhaps that 10 years even go by quicker, but this is a responsible way to do it.

All we have to do is show the rest of the world that we have a pathway to prosperity and we will continue to be the best place in the world to invest, to grow a business, to grow a family for the next several decades, as we have been for the last several hundred years.

The other thing our budget does, Mr. Speaker, is it repeals ObamaCare, saving nearly $2 trillion in the process. This is government-controlled health care. It has never worked in the past. It is not going to work now.

We get rid of it, encouraging us to start over with health care reforms in a way that Americans feel comfortable in keeping their doctor, for example, in ways that respect free market principles of supply and demand, in ways that naturally stop us from overconsuming. That is the baseline from which we should have a health care reform debate and policy, not from a government-controlled perspective.

Our budget also proudly relies on a fairer and simpler Tax Code. It is interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the Congressional Budget Office, those that are tasked with keeping track of our economic indicators and scoring the different bills that come through Congress, has indicated that our GDP--our gross domestic product in this country--will be assumed to be about 2.3 percent over the next several years.

Now, that is new information, Mr. Speaker. Never before has our GDP growth been calculated to be that low; yet it is because of our current policies over the last several years that they must calculate our GDP growth to be that low. We call for changing that formula.

A fairer, simpler Tax Code allows for job creators to create those jobs, to create more investment, and to invest more in their people and businesses. That creates a net economic positive effect that creates economic value that ultimately, Mr. Speaker, will allow more tax revenue into the government's coffers to help balance the budget and then begin to pay off our debt.

Mr. Speaker, our budget also proudly provides for a strong national defense. As we have heard now for the last several weeks, months, and years, the global war on terror is very much alive, very much real, very much a serious threat, and it would be irresponsible of us to continue cutting our military at a time when these threats exist. Our budget recognizes that.

Our budget calls for more spending in our military than President Obama, the Commander in Chief, has said he needs; and I think it reflects the reality of the situation around the world today, Mr. Speaker. You will see the Republicans stand strong for our military men and women and the defense budget that they need.

This budget also, Mr. Speaker, gives power back to the States. In legislative parlance and philosophical parlance, that is called federalism. Really what this budget is and recognizes is that those individuals and the States are much better at governing the affairs of their respective lives and their respective people than a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all recipe from Washington.

Our budget calls for flexibility, giving the property of individuals and States, i.e., their tax dollars, back to them so they can run social programs that they think are important, that fit the needs of their constituencies and their communities, and that gets Washington out of the way.

Our Medicaid reform proposals, for example, are a great example of this concept, where we send the States' and the individuals' property back to them--their tax dollars, in terms of Medicaid--and say: You know what, you are better at determining who is really poor in your communities and your States and what kind and what amounts of health care those people need.

Then, finally, the third leg to that is what the delivery system for those services would look like.

Who says that we have the answers to all this? It is no one-size-fits-all, prescriptive policy. The States are where it is at. The individuals and their communities know better than we do how to serve those most in need.

That gets right to the heart of Ms. Bonamici's allegations during her 1-minute speech. Throwing money at something--into a system that is broken, that doesn't work--is no way to fix a problem. It only grows our debt and makes people more dependent on broken programs.

Let's trust our fellow citizens. Let's trust our local elected officials to know their communities and their constituencies best. That is how you get people out of dependency.

Our goal with the Republican budget is to get people off these programs, not to make them lifetime dependents. There is no freedom, there is no liberty, there is no personal responsibility in that.

The Republican budget also recognizes and focuses on the dignity that comes with a job, the dignity that comes with work. That is altogether important and, Mr. Speaker, altogether lost in so many ways in so many places in this city and in this Congress--the dignity of work, earning the success, the happiness that comes with that. This Republican budget reflects all of that.

I am pleased at this time to yield the floor to several members of the Budget Committee, all of whom have helped put this document together, all of whom have worked diligently and seriously on behalf of the American people--and especially their constituents--to make this document not only bold, but accurate, in terms of its numbers and philosophically correct.

First, I yield to the gentleman from West Virginia, a new Member to this body, Congressman Alex Mooney. He lives in Charles Town in Jefferson County in West Virginia and has three children. He is the son of a Cuban refugee and Vietnam veteran.

Alex grew up with a deep sense of appreciation for the American ideals of individual freedom and personal responsibility. That, Mr. Speaker, is what makes him a great member of the House Budget Committee.


Mr. ROKITA. I thank the gentleman. If the gentleman would stay, I would like to engage him in a question if he could.

I am very interested in what you are saying. You come from an area of this country, like so many areas of this country, that understand the meaning of the fact that when you pull something out of the ground and you process it, you have just created wealth. You have just created jobs for people.

That is not a dirty thing. And, in fact, the coal industry and the fossil fuel industry today, they are the cleanest they have ever been and have done so much good work. They have been chided and bullied for so many years now.

But I want you to tell us about how the electricity that comes from coal eventually not just is less dirty than it was before, but that it produces the electricity that gives people clean water, and not just in West Virginia or in Indiana, but in Africa. It raises people altogether out of poverty.

Could you talk more about what happens in West Virginia and the good it brings to people there and around the world?


Mr. ROKITA. Right. Reclaiming my time, I would say that every person we employ in West Virginia, in Indiana, and anywhere else in the country, gets a paycheck for sure. That is a great thing.

The government, both at the State and Federal levels and maybe even the local level, gets a cut of that, right? And that eventually gets here to Washington, D.C.

Sir, does it not make sense then that that would help pay down--excuse me, let's look at your chart--pay down the deficits, eventually getting us to balance, as we stated, in less than 10 years, and then allowing us to begin to work on our surplus over the next several decades?

So we certainly have to cut spending, and that is the main driver of our debt, and reform the social entitlement programs that are driving the debt. But every little bit of economic growth, economic activity that comes with a job, that comes with a paycheck, allows us, if we wanted to, like we do in this budget, to pay down those deficits in the debt.

I yield to the gentleman.


Mr. ROKITA. I thank the gentleman.

Reclaiming my time, I thank Congressman Mooney for his expertise in this area, coming from the State of West Virginia.

Again, I would say he is an excellent member of the Budget Committee and takes his job seriously, and I welcome him to continue with our discussion here.

Mr. Speaker, if I can inquire how much time we have remaining.


Mr. ROKITA. Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn our attention now to another hard-charging member of the Budget Committee, someone else who is new to Congress and who is bringing that energy, along with great ideas, to the discussion. A lot of his ideas are found in this budget.

Congressman John Moolenaar of Michigan was a chemist, or perhaps is still a chemist. He worked in the private sector prior to joining us here. He is an example of a team that created the jobs that better our economy, that allow us to crawl out of this deficit and debt that we are facing because of our overspending, and his experience will allow us to be part--allow the conversation to illustrate the solutions that come with raising our GDP level back to where it used to be not just a few years ago so that we can have a better economy now and a better future for our children.

Before serving in Congress, John Moolenaar served on the Midland City Council and in the State legislature.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Moolenaar).


Mr. ROKITA. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Moolenaar points out some of the obvious and perhaps maybe not so obvious problems the budget faces and what we face as a Congress.

Really quickly, before introducing a veteran member of the committee, I want to illustrate a little bit what, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Moolenaar was discussing.

Here you see, in a pie graph form, what our Federal Government, what your Federal Government spends its money on. I have taken the liberty of dissecting or pushing out two pieces of that pie to show you, really, from a year-to-year perspective situation, what we get to vote on as Members of Congress.

It is defense discretionary, as we call it, and there is nondefense discretionary. In terms of the fund centers and the lines in the budget, we can dial those up or dial those amounts down year to year, Budget Control Act deals and all that notwithstanding.

But it is the rest of this pie that Mr. Moolenaar indicates that is so alarming, because the rest of this pie, I can't, Mr. Speaker, you can't, Mr. Moolenaar can't dial up the spending or dial it down year to year by our vote on the budget or our vote on appropriations bills because the funding formula for those programs is found in the underlying law.

So Congressman Rokita doesn't get to decide how much Social Security an eligible citizen receives year to year, or what the Medicare services are going to be, or what the costs or payouts for them are going to be, or determine right now what the one-size-fits-all Medicaid program looks like. That is all determined by the underlying law.

This spending, until we reform these programs, is on autopilot. It just goes on and on and on and on, and that is why these programs too need to be reformed.

So we have taken the extra step in our House Republican budget and outlined solutions for the other committees, for Members of Congress, for the American people, that would work to not only pay down the deficits but then our debt over time after we come into balance, recognizing, being honest with the American people about what is causing our debt.

If you see from this pie graph, it is only about 40 percent of our budget year to year that we can dial up or down simply by a vote on the budget.

Over 60 percent is on autopilot.

So you can't possibly pay off our deficits and our debt until you address the underlying cause--what is driving our debt--and that is these entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the interest we owe ourselves and other countries for this debt we are racking up, and a smorgasbord of other mandatory spending, mostly welfare programs.

The Republican budget not only recognizes that, not only tells the American people the truth, but then offers solutions of what could solve the situation over a reasonable amount of time.

A fellow who has been integral to making sure that these good ideas have stayed in our budget now for the fifth time in the last several years is a gentleman I have come to know as a good friend, a trusted confidant, a fellow whom I have said from this microphone before represents the people in his district in Georgia so very, very well, and not only that but represents America so well because of his excellent oratory, his good ideas, and his intense work ethic, which we need more of, frankly, around here, Mr. Speaker.

I yield to the gentleman from the great State of Georgia, Mr. ROBERT WOODALL.


Mr. ROKITA. I thank the gentleman from Georgia. As much as I appreciate his comments about the work we have all done on the Budget Committee, they are certainly undeserved with regards to me. It was a team effort from the beginning. It continues to be a team effort.

I would say, Mr. Speaker, that the gentleman from Georgia is exactly right, though, that every Member of this Chamber--and that is Republican or Democrat--can be proud of this budget. This honestly and accurately solves this country's Federal Government fiscal problems. And they should also be proud of the fact that, as the gentleman mentions, other ideas are going to be accepted in regular order and be voted on. And it really doesn't get more American than that. That will be an honor that has continued to be our tradition, and I see no reason that that won't continue.

If the gentleman would, I would like to hear his thoughts on the Medicare part of our budget.

The gentleman heard me reference the fact that the autopilot spending, these social programs need to be reformed. And I want to be very clear not only with my colleagues, with the gentleman from Georgia, but also with the American people, Mr. Speaker, that we are not cutting, we are not slashing, we are not ending Medicare or these other programs, as I know perhaps there will be some scare tactic language presented. I hope that is not the case. I continue to hope. But the fact of the matter is, we save and we strengthen Medicare.

I yield to the gentleman for his comments in that regard.


Mr. ROKITA. If the gentleman will yield, that is so very important and critical to understanding our reform efforts because of the fact that our proposed changes don't even have to affect anyone who is on these programs or near to being on them.

Our modeling, our reform, our ideas would start in 2024. So the younger guys--men and women, of course--in America, those of the age group that the gentleman from Georgia referenced, would have time to prepare.

And it is not like these changes would be draconian. They would just reflect how we live now and how long we live in the 21st century. Again, the main part of our reform is giving people choice.

We believe and we know from data and from experiences in the States--those laboratories of democracy that I referenced earlier, the notion of Federalism, where the best government comes from those that govern closest to the people--that if you give people a choice, no matter their socioeconomic background, now matter how old or young they are or how smart or simple some may think they are, they can make the best choices for themselves in all facets of their lives. And that includes health care. Once we do that, once we have folks invested in the decision-making process, you will see costs naturally go down.

That is a large part of our plan. Let people choose what works best for them, what works best for that time in their lives, and you will see them take an ownership interest just like they would an ownership interest in any other thing that they have a vested interest in, whether it is repairing their automobile, buying an automobile, or even their health care. It will work the same way. That is a good portion of our plan.

Again, anyone who is on these programs or near to be on them can take the promises that were offered, the deal that was given, and can continue on with their lives and planning for their future.

The gentleman from Georgia, I, members of the Budget Committee, and previous Congresses now for 4 years in a row have talked to the American people about this idea of down the road let's change the system, not so it goes away, but so that it can be strengthened and saved so that it can be around for those in the future. I think what every parent and every grandparent ultimately wants is a better life for their children and grandchildren.

Now, if we contrast that for a minute with the President's idea, you see a much different picture. First of all, in order to fund his government-controlled health care plan, Mr. Speaker, he basically takes from Medicare. The President's health care law makes drastic cuts to the Medicare program without improving the long-term solvency of that program. In addition to the reductions already proposed in the law, ObamaCare created the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a Board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who will cut Medicare in ways that would deny care to current seniors. That is not the way forward. That doesn't save and strengthen these popular programs. That is what will end up destroying them for future generations.

Some may ask--I know the gentleman from Georgia has heard this question--well, didn't the President's health care law improve Medicare's solvency? No. It absolutely did not. The President's health care law raided Medicare to fund ObamaCare. Advocates of the President's health care law claimed that the law both improved Medicare solvency and paid for the new entitlement at the same time, but this claim is contradictory. Medicare's chief actuary testified before the House Budget Committee that the Medicare savings had been double counted.

The House Republican budget stops the raid on Medicare and ensures that any current law Medicare savings are devoted to saving Medicare. So that is what I mean when I say and when the gentleman from Georgia says that this is an honest budget. It is truth telling to and for the American people, but it also offers the solutions that can honestly and responsibly get us out of this situation.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.


Mr. ROKITA. I thank the gentleman from Georgia again. He is not only a blessing to his State, he is a blessing to this Congress and to this country for his integrity, his hard work, and for his oratory. Thank you, sir, very, very much.

Mr. Speaker and Members of this body, please pay attention to the House Budget Committee tomorrow as we mark up this bill, hopefully not for 12 hours, but maybe so. We will be there for as long as it takes. And be ready--be ready and be proud--to vote on the floor of this House next week for a budget that offers honesty, real solutions, a balanced budget for a stronger America.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.