I rise today to speak about the debt ceiling agreement that was reached last night. Over the past weeks, as I'm sure you have as well, I have heard from countless Minnesotans who want Congress to come together and reach a compromise on the debt ceiling. They didn't want their interest rates to rise, the value of the dollar to fall, they didn't want to see their retirement savings decimated because some in Washington believe that if they refuse to compromise, the resulting crisis will score them political points. I'd like to share with you some of the comments I received from Minnesotans throughout the state.
Judy from Rochester, Minnesota, wrote this: "As a senior citizen, I understand where our country is compared to where it has been in the last 50 years or so. And I appreciate the sacrifices must be made." She said: "It is almost too far back to remember when people all pulled together, including Congress to solve our issues. All the American people want is for you to represent us and make the best decisions for us using your best judgment, not prejudice or narrow viewpoints, but the best judgment." Paul from Rochester writes: "This is not the place for political stubbornness. It is a time for our elected officials to work together for the good of the United States."
Louis from Lakeville, Minnesota, writes this: "It's time for all you legislator to put your political affiliations aside and act as Americans and do what is right for all Americans, not just those voted for you. We have a tremendous fiscal mess in this country and we cannot waste time blaming each other. It was jointly created and must be jointly resolved."
Bonnie from Osseo writes this: "Please put your ideologies aside and work in a collaborative effort to restructure our debt and to give the USA the opportunity to continue to prosper."
Marla from St. Paul writes: "It is so frustrating to see the same game of political budgetary chicken playing out at the national level that happened at the state level in Minnesota." Tom and Mary from St. Paul write: "If you wanted to wake us up as citizens, you certainly have. We've been told that if you allow a default, that will cost our 401(k). if ever a situation called for compromise, this is it. Raise the debt ceiling and not just for 6 months. Reagan did it many times. But make real promises to deal with the debt and then make the real fight where it belongs: over the next budget, not playing for our current obligations. If you really want the Chinese to call in all our debts now, have a phased saving plan for bringing down the debt, not a forced, false crisis. We're just hardworking Americans trying to go on with our lives. We never write these kinds of messages," they wrote. "This is scary and we won't forget. Get it done, please."
Jake from Minneapolis writes this: "In these upcoming days, as you are faced with difficult decisions, I implore you to work with your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finalize the budgetary issues facing the United States at this time. As a husband who is supporting his wife as she attends a graduate program, I am very concerned about what a default of United States loans would mean in regard to our finances. I am faithfully paying down student loans and my wife and I will begin to pay down he student loans that she has incurred to pay for her education and she finishes her program in May. Paying off loans is never fun. It means cutting some things out of our budget. Things that we like such as going out to eat or movies. And compromising on difficult decisions. I hope that as decisions are made regarding the financial situations facing the United States, you will be a person who reaches across the aisle with a willingness to compromise and make difficult decisions."
Marilyn from Buffalo, Minnesota, writes: "As an independent voter, I am asking you to compromise on the budget issue. I am also asking you to use a balanced approach to reduce the budget deficit."
Jay and Bonnie from Moorhead write this: "We would like to see a timely resolution to both the debt limit issue and deficit reduction by means of genuine negotiation resulting in a nonpartisan compromise which will keep our country financially solvent."
Kim from Duluth: "I am writing to add my voice to the growing number of citizens worried about Washington's inability or perhaps unwillingness to get done the work you were elected to do. In my opinion as a working-class woman, I believe we all are expected to compromise in hopes that we can further the good work of our nation. I firmly believe all of America needs to be accountable to the economic disaster we have known was approaching these many long years. Get the job done."
While no one in this chamber feels the agreement we wills soon vote on is the perfect solution, Mr. President, we are in the bottom of the 9thinning. There are no extra innings here. The time has come to break through the partisan stalemate and pass something to provide certainty so we can move our country forward. That is why I plan on voting for this agreement as it will ensure that our country does not default on our obligations, something that would have caused real pain for Minnesota families and businesses while also providing a down payment on deficit reduction.
This has once again shown we need to change the way Congress conducts its own business. I come from county government, as you do, and I can tell you local governments don't operate this way. I've also represented businesses in the past. Minnesota is home to more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any other state. After fielding many calls over the past few weeks from business leaders from the biggest businesses in our state, like General Mills, to the smallest 1, 2, 3, person operations, they don't run their businesses the way Congress has treated this issue, and there is no doubt that this is not how families balance their budget.
The sooner we can come together to agree on the next stage of this package, the better for our economy and the better for our country. I believe we should look at things like closing the loopholes for oil subsidies. I believe that we should look at things like the tax cuts on the wealthiest expiring at the end of 2010. These are things that should be in the mix as we move forward. It is time to put political differences aside to work on an agenda that strengthens our economy, promotes fiscal responsibility, and increases global competitiveness.
If we insist on using the debate as a vehicle for rhetoric only, we will not just be doing ourselves a disservice, we will be cheating our children and grandchildren out of knowing the America that we grew up in. we already know much of what will need to be done.
Our failure to act has not been because we lack solutions, but because too often Congress has lacked the political will to get behind a consensus proposal. In the Senate, we've had this work going on. We've had bipartisan groups of Senators, including the Gang of Six, working together to find a solution. We now need to take that work and make sure that that is included in the consideration by this committee. It's time for us to work together to show that the American people, what they need to hear. We need to show them that Washington isn't broken, that instead we're willing to put aside our partisan politics to do what we were elected to do, to do what is right for America.
Thank you, Mr. President.