[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 27 (Tuesday, February 26, 2013)]
[Pages S820-S821]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                             THE SEQUESTER

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I wish to say a word about the 
  The President's top aides proposed this sequester as a way to help 
the White House avoid a debt limit debate during last year's campaign. 
In essence, the deal we struck was that in exchange for avoiding a 
second vote before the election, the debt limit would be paired with 
spending cuts only--spending cuts only--and would not involve a tax 
  The President had more than a year and a half to revisit his proposal 
and to work with us to prevent it. He obviously thought his time and 
energies would be better spent elsewhere. In fact, I note that today he 
is off campaigning again in Virginia instead of working with us to 
resolve the issue.
  So here we are. Here we are. The President has been running around 
acting as though the world is going to end because Congress might 
actually follow through on an idea he proposed--he proposed--and signed 
into law, all the while pretending he is somehow powerless to stop it. 
Well, it is time to put the record straight. As someone who was 
personally involved in the 2011 budget talks, I think I am in a pretty 
good position to do that.
  On the question of who came up with the idea in the first place, it 
originated, as I noted, in the White House. I was less than 100 yards 
from this very spot when Vice President Biden called me at my desk to 
lay it out. He explained the sequester in exquisite detail. And then, 
as has been reported, the administration stubbornly stuck by those 
details throughout the negotiations, refusing any effort by Republicans 
to adjust the design in any meaningful way.
  More important than who came up with the idea of the sequester, 
however, is the fact the bipartisan agreement that included it, and 
that brought us to this point, envisioned $2.1 trillion in spending 
cuts. That is what we voted for in August of 2011. Democrats and 
Republicans agreed to $2.1 trillion in spending reductions as part of 
the 2011 Budget Control Act.
  So we can all go back and talk about what might have been or what the 
President wanted or what he now wants, but let us be clear about the 
facts. Those cuts were to come in two steps: First, through an 
immediate $900 billion spending reduction in the form of budget caps, 
and then by an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts to be achieved in one 
of two ways, either by the so-called supercommittee or, if that failed, 
through the President's sequester proposal, meaning automatic spending 
cuts to both domestic and defense programs.
  While the President tried repeatedly to make tax hikes a part of the 
backup plan, he ultimately gave up on that in exchange for avoiding a 
second vote on the debt limit before his election. The President made a 
deliberate decision to give up on getting any tax hikes or revenue 
enhancements, or whatever the White House wants to call it, as part of 
negotiations over the sequester mechanism. He made the calculation that 
avoiding a second vote on the debt limit before the election was more 
  So any effort to bring taxes into the picture now is a ploy to move 
the goalpost, as the primary chronicler of this whole episode, Bob 
Woodward, has noted.
  Of course, the White House has tried to refute those historical 
facts, but it hasn't gotten anywhere because we know what happened.
  As the chairman of the Finance Committee helpfully reminded us last 
week, ``The President is part of the sequester'' because ``the White 
House recommended it . . . and so now we're feeling the effects of 
  So it is time for the administration to at least accept reality so we 
can all move forward and focus on what the White House is actually 
doing right now. It is asking the American people for permission to 
break its word on spending.
  Look, we reached an agreement to cut $2.1 trillion in government 
spending over 10 years, and we intend to keep our word. Should these 
cuts be implemented in a smarter way? You bet. But the President and 
his Cabinet Secretaries had a year and a half to think about that. They 
just can't show up now at the last minute and expect the American 
people to bail them out of their own lack of responsibility.
  We can either secure these reductions more intelligently or we can do 
it the President's way with across-the-board cuts. But one thing 
Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace 
spending reductions to which we already agreed.
  It was my hope that the supercommittee would succeed. The Senators I 
appointed took their assignments very seriously. They put real skin in 
the game because they wanted it to work. They didn't like the sequester 
idea either. Had the President engaged in a

[[Page S821]]

serious and supportive way at that time, the supercommittee may well 
have succeeded. But he was busy. He was campaigning and, I would argue, 
undermining the process instead.
  But even after the supercommittee failed, Republicans continued to 
work to find another way to achieve these spending cuts. We repeatedly 
called for replacing the sequester with smarter cuts rather than tax 
hikes, according to the original pact. House Republicans actually 
passed two bills to do just that. But again, instead of engaging with 
us, the President just set up more roadblocks. For more than 1 year, he 
resisted and dismissed every Republican attempt at a compromise. He 
refused to offer any kind of reasonable alternative, and he even 
threatened to veto other proposals aimed at averting the sequester.
  Now here we are, with the President presenting the country with two 
options: Armageddon or a tax hike. Well, it is a false choice, and he 
knows it, but the President is a master at creating the impression of 
chaos as an excuse for government action--do nothing, fan the flames of 
catastrophe, and then claim the only way out is more government in the 
form of higher taxes.
  Look, the choice we face isn't between the sequester and tax hikes. 
Remember, we are only talking about cutting 2 to 3 percent of the 
budget. Any business owner or middle-class parent will tell you it is 
completely ridiculous to think Washington can't find a better way to 
cut 2 or 3 percent of the Federal budget at a time when we are $16 
trillion in debt. Every single working American had to figure out how 
to make ends meet with 2 percent less in their paychecks just last 
month when the payroll tax holiday expired. Are you telling me 
Washington can't do the same? It is absurd. It is utterly absurd.
  There is no reason in the world these cuts need to fall on essential 
services or emergency responders. After all, even with the sequester, 
Washington will be spending more than when President Obama got here. We 
are only talking about cutting one-tenth of what the President spent on 
the stimulus bill. Enough. Enough.
  Step 1 in this process of getting to a serious solution is to end the 
White House's denial of historical reality. We are starting to get 
there, slowly but surely. More important, though, is the next step, and 
that is when the President and his Democratic allies actually come to 
the table and negotiate in a serious way, without gimmicks and without 
games, on how best to reduce Washington spending. So let's shelve the 
tax hikes and the endless campaigning.
  Finally, I think there is an even larger point to be made. The 
President has been going around warning of utter chaos if the sequester 
takes effect. While I agree that those cuts could be made in a much 
smarter way and I don't like the fact that they fall disproportionately 
on defense, what does it say about the size of government that we can't 
cut it by 2 or 3 percent without inviting disaster? Doesn't that really 
make our point? Hasn't government gotten too big if just cutting the 
overall budget by a couple of percentage points could have that kind of 
an impact? Personally, I don't believe the world will end if the 
President's sequester takes effect, but our country would be much 
better served if the Democrats who run Washington would get off the 
campaign trail and work with us to trim the budget in a more rational 
  Americans are tired of the manufactured crises. I know my 
constituents in Kentucky are. It is simply time. They want us to work 
together, and Republicans are ready to do just that.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  Mr. REID. Would the Chair announce the business of the day.