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Sen. Franken's Floor Statement on H.R. 1

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

M. President, I rise today to oppose HR 1, the House's irresponsible and misguided budget bill that we just voted down, and which I will continue to oppose until major changes are made. Now, with some apologies to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. . . While we shouldn't normally take fiscal lessons from criminals, Willie Sutton had it right-he said he robbed banks because that's where the money is. Of course he didn't target places with only petty cash. What's the point in robbing a school, or a homeless shelter?-there's no money there.

But that's exactly what HR 1 seeks to do-instead of tackling our deficits by going after the bank, it's targeting our most vulnerable. Domestic, non-security discretionary spending makes up only 12 percent of our budget. We can't balance the budget with only 12 percent of the budget on the table. We need to be looking at the big picture. . . we need to be focusing on the bank.

In President Obama's State of the Union address, he said that in order to get back on track, we need to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world. Ask any small business owner, and they'll agree-while sometimes you have to trim overhead, you also have to make smart, targeted investments for your business to grow. So why does HR 1 do just the opposite?

The President calls for education and upped the funding that supports afterschool programs from Bemidji to Worthington-yet HR 1 cuts $100 million. In Minnesota, HR 1 would effectively eliminate afterschool programs for nearly 2,000 kids. HR 1 also cuts job training programs, even when 3,000 Minnesotans are on a waiting list to get training for jobs that are going unfilled.

The President calls for infrastructure-yet HR 1 cuts surface transportation projects across the country, including nearly $8 million for a new railroad crossing in Staples, and $250,000 for the Saint Paul Complete Streets Plan. The Department of Transportation estimates that HR 1 would effectively cancel 75 projects in 40 states across the country, and put more than 30,000 jobs at risk nationwide.

The President calls for innovation, and yet HR 1 cuts $2.5 billion dollars in life-saving biomedical and health research at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute. The United States and my home state of Minnesota have been the world leaders in innovative biomedical research, but under HR 1, the United States would be forced to detour from our path toward breaking biomedical frontiers. I think we can agree that we must not be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to investing in our nation's future.

So HR 1 does exactly the opposite of what our country should be doing during an economic recovery. And HR 1 doesn't target Willie Sutton's bank-it goes after schools and roads and cancer research and homeless veterans.

I've got a few ideas for targeting the bank. Let's start with big oil and gas. Over the past decade, the five largest oil and gas companies have made $1 trillion in profit. Not revenues. . . profit. Yet they are benefiting from tax subsidies that have been in place since as far back as 1916. Eliminating these wasteful subsidies will bring in about $64 billion over ten years.

Another bank? Waste and fraud in the health care system. Provisions in the health reform law reduce waste-and the value index that I pushed for with a number of colleagues is going to ensure we reward value, not volume. In Texas, Medicare reimbursements are 50% higher per patient than in Minnesota. Yet, in Minnesota we have better outcomes. Why? Because we deliver higher value care at a much lower cost. Imagine how many 10's of billions, or hundreds of billions of dollars we could save if every state delivered health care like Minnesota.

Also, in Medicare-the government pays too much for Medicare prescription drugs. Because Medicare represents so many people, it could negotiate prices directly with drug companies and deliver the same benefits for seniors at a lower cost. The VA already does this! This change could save taxpayers up to $24 billion a year, or $240 billion over ten years. I'm not the first to point out there is waste in health care-but we can do something about it. And guess what?. . . HR 1 would cut $250,000,000 from health care fraud and abuse control.

Another bank is the Department of Defense. We all agree that we can't skimp on national security. But when the military says it doesn't need or want something, we should listen. When it says it doesn't need the F-35 alternate engine, the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or the Non-Line of Sight Launch System, we shouldn't buy them. This could save billions of dollars.

And then of course there's revenue. H.R. 1 does nothing to shore up revenue at a time when we still have our troops overseas engaged in combat. We've always paid for wars before. This time, we passed huge tax cuts for the wealthy.

And just a few months ago, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle insisted on extending these tax breaks for those making over a million dollars. Ending the tax breaks for millionaires could have brought in around $35 to $40 billion every year. That's $350-$400 billion over 10 years. The President has stated this was only a temporary extension, and I plan to hold him to that. If we're going to be talking about making shared sacrifices, let's make sure they're really shared.

All these ideas need to be on the table, not just 12% of the budget. If we're serious about reforming our budget, it's got to include the bank. Thank you, and I yield the floor.

 

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