From the office of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski:
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) today urged her colleagues to come together to prevent a catastrophic default and downgrade of U.S. debt that would force sky-high interest rates on American families.
“We are less than one week away from reaching our debt limit. If we fail and we falter, the United States of America will be irrevocably fractured,” Senator Mikulski said in a statement on the Senate floor, “We’re destroying ourselves by a self-inflicted wound because of political dysfunction, political rigidity, and political ideology.”
“Let’s stop being Democrats. Let’s stop being Republicans. Let’s really call us what we should be called: Americans,” Senator Mikulski said, “Let’s make the tough decisions. Let’s put politics aside, put America number one, and get us back on track.”
For audio of Senator Mikulski’s remarks, visit:
Video of Senator Mikulski’s statement is available at:
Senator Mikulski’s full statement as delivered on the Senate floor follows:
“Madam President, I come to the floor today with a great sense of urgency. We are less than one week away from reaching our debt limit. If we fail, the United States of America will be irrevocably fractured. We aren’t an impasse, we are at the edge of a cliff. Unless Congress acts, we are going to go over it. And what would be the consequences?
“If we do not meet our obligations to pay our debts, it will result in default. And default will result in enormous increases in interest rates for all of America. For Americans that are so worried about tax increases, I’ve got to send a real red alert. When interest rates go sky-high because of our failure to act, it will be the biggest tax on America that we could have. It would be a tax at the kitchen table. It means if you have a variable rate mortgage, it will skyrocket. If you have a student loan, that interest is going to increase. And if you have a car loan, forget it, the payments are going to be enormous. So we need to face what this means.
“Raising the debt limit – we need to prevent default so that our bond rating is not lowered. Now, I’ve never been big on talking about bond ratings, but this is a crucial one. We now have a AAA bond rating, so what does that mean? It means when they buy our treasury bills or other government secured investments, but particularly our T-bills, it is as good as gold.
“If we are downgraded, we would just be a tin horn, tin cup nation. This is not the United States of America. This is not what people fought and died for. When people say they represent a party that wants to defend the Constitution, we all have to defend the Constitution. And right now, defending the Constitution and defending America is to lift our debt ceiling and get to work, the hard work of, number one, dealing with our debt, but also dealing with the issue of job growth. So we’ve got to get to work. Instead we are busy at work playing the blame game. Squabbling is not a solution.
“But I believe we Democrats do have a solution, and I think the solution does lie in the Reid proposal. The Reid proposal that the Senator from Nevada, the Majority Leader, has offered is substantive, it’s real, and it’s achievable.
“Madam President, I was on TV and they said, “Oh, you’re a liberal Democrat.” I don’t know if I’m a liberal, I don’t know if I’m a conservative, but I’m a diner Democrat. I think about the ordinary people and their day-to-day needs. And when people talk about what kind of solutions they mean, they want everything on the table. What I want on the table are the things that affect the kitchen table. And that’s why I support the Reid proposal. It is an achievable framework for avoiding default and avoiding a downgrade of our bond rating.
“What does it do? It has three important elements. One, timing, to take us through 2012. It’s not about the next election. It’s showing that we are serious and we’re substantive. Second, it has really important content, where we really do cut federal spending. It’s observable, it’s quantifiable, and it’s verifiable. And, number three, it gives us a path forward to deal with the important issues of entitlement and revenue reform.
“Wow, so why can’t they take it? I am really puzzled about why they can’t take it. It’s 2012? Okay. Who knows who’s going to be in control of either the White House or the Congress then? But it can’t be about us. It’s not about me. It’s about WE. We, the people.
“Let’s go to the content. There are substantial cuts there in discretionary spending. And there are substantial cuts to defense spending that do not affect readiness or military health care. These are actually cuts that the House voted for in the Ryan Budget.
“So a few weeks ago they say yes to the cuts, but when we say yes to the cuts, they say no to the proposal. I don’t get it.
“But it’s not whether I get it. It’s that we have to make sure we get a solution.
“What I think is important about the Reid proposal is its $2.7 trillion in cuts. I understand the CBO has scored it, and they say it’s $2.2 trillion. $2.2 trillion, $2.7 trillion, that’s real money. That’s real money and it shows that we’re serious. It also provides this important path forward through a joint committee.
“Now, it is not a commission where it’s going to be outsiders who are experts from think tanks and hoo-haw. It’s members of Congress, both sides of the aisle, both sides of the dome. Let’s get together with them and let’s have this committee to move forward on the reform of revenue as well as looking at entitlement reform.
“I want to be clear that if in the horror of all horrors comes where we fracture the standing of the United States of America not only in the financial markets, but in the standing of the world, it will have very serious consequences. First of all, to benefits – the President is going to have to pay the bills based on whatever money is coming in. He won’t be able to borrow. America won’t be able to borrow. So our T-bill will not have the same value that it once did. He’s going to have to pay our bills. So what are the effects on benefits?
“One is paychecks. The first paycheck he’s going to need is the paycheck to our troops. He’s got to makes sure that if they’re fighting to defend America while we’re squabbling around and screwing around, we’re going to pay our troops. My God, did it ever occur to anyone that our troops wouldn’t get paid?
“Yeah, it’s going to be tight, so we pay the troops. We’re going to certainly pay our veterans’ benefits. They might not be in the same amount the first month, but we’ll kind of squeak through.
“Then, it will be Social Security. Well, maybe the checks will go out, but maybe it all would be in half the amount. But the Social Security offices will be closed. So benefits will have a direct impact.
“Where is he going to slow down the trickle of money to state and local governments? So what does that mean? Community development block grant money, education and so on, that’s going to really cause enormous layoffs of public employees and contractors at the state and local level. That asphalt contractor, that person who handles the office machinery and so on, all the small businesses they love to romanticize over. Minority contractors are going to have a big impact.
“Then it takes us to the government. It will definitely slow down, or not pay contractors at all, whether it’s the big defense guys that employ thousands and thousands of people or it’s not going to pay the small to medium-size businesses like in my own state that do information technology.
“Now, we are about to destroy the reputation and solvency of the United States of America. We are about to destroy the reputation and solvency of the United States of America, not just for one day, but for a decade and maybe the rest of the century. And this is not being done by an outside power. We’re spending $700 billion on defense, and we’re destroying ourselves by a self-inflicted wound because of political dysfunction, political rigidity, and political ideology.
“What the heck is this?
“And I could use more intense language. We cannot allow this to happen. One of my colleagues said to me yesterday, “Senator Mikulski, what would it take to get to the table?” I said, “Give me a plan and 30 Republican names behind it. I’ll see if I can support the plan and get 30 others.”
“So, Madam President, I know my time’s up, but I don’t want the time to be up on America. Let’s come together. Let’s stop being Democrats. Let’s stop being Republicans. Let’s really say call us what we should be called: Americans. And what do Americans do? When the times are tough, the tough get going. Let’s get going. Let’s make the tough decisions. Let’s put politics aside, put America number one, and get us back on track.
“Madam President, I yield the floor.”