Washington, D.C – At the first meeting of the Budget Conference Committee, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, called for a bipartisan budget resolution that produces a fair bargain for the American people that puts progress ahead of politics and creates economic growth.
Budget Conference Committee
Opening Statement as delivered of Senator Tammy Baldwin
Well I’ve heard some real notes of agreement, including the obvious that the American people are sick and tired – they are exhausted - of our governing from manufactured crises to manufactured crisis. We know that their faith in us has been badly eroded. One thing that we have heard echoed around this table today is that we need to pass a budget that grows our economy. So it’s time to do just that. It’s time for both parties to work together, find common ground, and move a responsible budget forward that invests in economic growth.
As we begin this budget conference, I think it’s important that we acknowledge what has been done so far. In the past three years, we’ve made significant progress achieving $2.5 trillion in bipartisan deficit reduction measures. This is more than half way to a $4 trillion target that was laid out by bipartisan fiscal commissions like Simpson-Bowles. While we need to do more, we must do it a way that is balanced and doesn’t put up a road block for moving our economic recovery forward.
Quite frankly, the biggest roadblocks to our economic recovery have come from the broken politics of this city. The government shutdown cost our economy more than 120,000 jobs in October alone and continued sequester cuts are predicted to cost as many as 1.6 million jobs next year if kept in effect. We have the chance in this conference to leave that damaging path.
A new path is before us and the American people expect us to take it…together. The middle class families and small businesses that are working so hard to move our economic recovery forward deserve to have both parties in Washington working across party lines to pass a bipartisan budget that creates jobs and grows our economy.
In order to do this, we know we have to work together. The common refrain we often hear in Washington is that Republicans won’t yield on any revenue and Democrats won’t yield on any changes to programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
To be clear, the Senate Democratic budget includes revenues from cutting tax expenditures and closing tax loopholes, it also includes smart and targeted spending cuts, and it includes $275 billion in entitlement savings – achieved without cutting Medicare benefits that seniors have earned and rely upon. The House Republican budget has significant cuts to Medicare benefits, those are the very benefits that provide economic security to millions of middle class families and is has zero dollars in revenue which could be used to invest in the essential pillars of economic growth – like education, workforce readiness, science, research and innovation.
I believe that there are significant savings can be achieved in our health care system without compromising the quality of care and in fact while improving the quality of care and without slashing benefits that seniors have worked so hard for and earned. The Lewin Group and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill have estimated that we could save 1 trillion dollars per year without affecting health care outcomes by enacting smart, targeted health care delivery reforms. The Institute of Medicine estimated this number to be 750 billion dollars.
No matter what the exact figure or proposal, these are impressive savings that would strengthen our nation’s healthcare system without shifting costs and burdens to seniors and our states. In addition, these reforms have the added benefit of improving quality outcomes within the healthcare system. So before we continue to obsessively put benefit cuts on the table, I would hope that we begin a dialogue about finding solutions that produce healthcare costs savings.
I am confident that if both parties in Washington do what the people do every day in the State of Wisconsin --- put progress ahead of politics --- we can break this destructive pattern and we can make that progress.