WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today spoke on the Senate floor to urge swift action to avoid the fiscal cliff and bring an end the culture of delay in order to restore confidence on Main Street and Wall Street.
“[W]e need a sense of urgency about solving the fiscal cliff. We need to end the culture of delay in this institution,” Senator Mikulski said. “We need to show that we can govern ourselves and we can put ourselves on a sound fiscal path with the right combination of growth, frugality and ensuring a safety net to the most vulnerable of our citizens. So I’m here to say to my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Dome and even the White House, let’s get the job done.”
Senator Mikulski’s full remarks, as delivered, follow:
“I rise to say we need a sense of urgency about solving the fiscal cliff. We need to end the culture of delay in this institution.
“I’m very concerned that as we talk about solving the problems of the fiscal cliff, there is this whole dynamic going on, there is this whole patina going on; from the staff level to Senators people are saying ‘oh, we’re going to be here until Christmas Eve.’
“I think that is a disaster. I think it’s a disaster for our economy. I think it’s a disaster for our demonstration of our ability to govern. And I think it’s a disaster for our standing in the world. We need to show that we can govern ourselves and we can put ourselves on a sound fiscal path with the right combination of growth, frugality and ensuring a safety net to the most vulnerable of our citizens.
“So I’m here to say to my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Dome and even the White House, let’s get the job done.
“I propose we really conscientiously work hard to make sure that we have a framework that we could vote on by the weekend of December 16. Why do I want December 16 as a deadline? It’s Sunday. Some have said let’s have a Small Business Week. We have had Cyber Mondays. Let’s have a strong economic closing the week before Christmas.
“My point is this. If we show that we could govern and actually pass a bill by Sunday, December 16, that really does exactly what I said; show that we have a sense of frugality and are on a path forward with solving our issues around debt and also have the elements that promote growth and ensure a safety net for the most vulnerable, we could do three things.
“First, we could show that we could govern. That would really be very big in the public’s mind. It would be important to the public and it would be important to the world, particularly those that lend us money. It would be an enormous sense of boosting consumer confidence.
“Nine days before Christmas, we would show that we are on the way to solving our problems. And for those who benefit from either federal employment or contracts with the federal government, there would be stability in their employment. I can also tell you that we would have a floor on the stock market and we might even have a jump in the stock market.
“Just one-third of Americans believe Congress can be counted on to behave like responsible adults. Only one-third of the people believe that. They see no compromise or cooperation. They have seen lip service. We need not to be trading pet rocks over what we need to do, and we shouldn’t throw them either. We have to come together, both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Dome with the White House.
“We do not lack in ideas. The content for a solution is not new. We have had excellent people working on this. We have seen Simpson-Bowles in a report. Domenici-Rivlin. Wise heads giving us good ideas. We have had the Super Committee that fleshed out a lot of these issues and know where the disagreements are. We have had the Gang of Six. We have had the Gang of Eight. Let’s get to the Gang of 100 and pass this bill. I would be happy with the Gang of 51. We don’t lack in ideas. We need the will and momentum to get this job done.
“Now, my principles are simple and straightforward. One, let us have a sense of urgency. Two, make sure that when we look at cuts that we count the cuts that we have already done. For example, the $900 billion we have done in the Budget Control Act. Because that would also include the $450 billion we have done in defense spending, the kinds of issues we’ve talked about here. Let’s also count the $500 billion that we did in reforming Medicare during health care reform.
“We’ve had good words. Now we need good deeds and swift action. Just think what it would mean to reach an agreement by December 16. Unlock to avoid a sequester. Think about what a signal this would be to middle class people on Main Street and also the people on Wall Street. Because business would have a certainty, we would have consumer confidence, and we could have a new self-confidence about ourselves that we could govern.
“I represent a great state that has an innovation economy, both from the federal government and its great federal labs like NIH to its great national security areas like Cyber Command at Fort Meade. Yes, they would be devastated by a sequester. So would our contractors, both defense and civilians. Great iconic institutions like Hopkins would take a big, big, big hit – and not only research and development, but in providing care to the needy, care to the desperate who come from all over the country to get help for a sick child or an aging relative, or to get eyesight restored at the Wilmer Eye Clinic.
“Sure, I’m standing up for jobs in Maryland, but I’m trying to stand up for America. We need to show we can govern and we cannot wait until December 24. That somehow or another this is going to be Santa Claus. Because if we don’t act soon, we’re going to get rocks in our socks, and they would be well deserved.”