Floor Statement by Senator Mark Pryor Will We Rise or Will We Fail?

Senator Mark Pryor today made the following statement on the Senate floor to encourage his colleagues to end the budget gimmicks and move forward with a comprehensive debt-reduction plan as part of a debt ceiling solution. His statement is below:

Mr. President, Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

We need to bring people the facts about our nation’s debt. People in my state see through the games being played in Washington. They want solutions, courage and leadership – the kind that puts us on a more secure fiscal path for the future.

Mr. Bryant of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas writes: “We know we have to increase the debt ceiling so let’s get serious about finding a solution….Why is this a problem for our politicians? The public expects responsible leadership not the demagoguery we are getting from both sides of the aisle.”

So here are the facts. For over 230 years, the United States government has honored its obligations. Even in the face of a Civil War, two World Wars and the Depression, America has paid its bills.  Yet, now we stand on the brink of tarnishing the full faith and credit of the United States.  And we stand here because Congress has failed to bring the American people the real facts.  The easiest thing for a politician to do is to say they are for lower taxes and increased spending. This mind-set has rung up a $14.2 trillion debt.  We now borrow 41 cents of every dollar we spend.

Now, under this debt, combined with the theatrics playing out in the House and Senate, the unthinkable could happen. The 80 million bills the federal government pays could come to a screeching halt. That means millions of seniors may not receive their Social Security checks in the mail, troops may not receive paychecks, Medicare patients could be denied care and the stock market could significantly drop.

Moreover, credit rating agencies have warned us that we will likely lose our AAA credit rating without immediate action. Interest rates would permanently rise, piling on additional costs for families. The cost of owning a home, buying food, filling a gas tank, sending kids to college and buying a car will become even more expensive.

There’s one more real fact I want to highlight. A default adds heavily to our deficit. For every 1 percent increase in the interest rates we pay, it adds $1.3 trillion to the debt.  It is no wonder Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last summer said, “Our national debt is our biggest national security threat.

The Gang of Six offers an alternative – a comprehensive roadmap that allows us to tackle the debt in a reasonable, responsible and fair manner. I applaud Mark Warner, Dick Durbin, Saxby Chambliss, Kent Conrad, Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo on this bipartisan effort. By leaving out political agendas, these senators, these statesmen, produced a plan to slash deficits by $3.7 trillion over 10 years.   This plan follows the blueprint put forth by the fiscal commission following a year’s worth of study and collaboration.

In addition to an immediate $500 billion down payment, the plan puts everything on the table. It balances the need to reduce spending, adjusts entitlement programs and reforms our tax code. While I may not agree with every provision, I do like that it calls on every citizen to contribute to debt-reduction.  It allows us to achieve measurable results without jeopardizing safety-net programs meant to protect the most vulnerable among us. Furthermore, it avoids gimmicks such as a constitutional amendment or cut, cap, and balance which offer a nice sound bite, but falls short.

I am hopeful a Gang of 60 will embrace this plan, and that we can include it as part of the final debt ceiling solution.  Congress has created this cliffhanger moment. Americans and leaders all over the world are now watching. The question for Congress remains, will we rise to the occasion or will we fail?