Jeanne Shaheen

Budget Floor Statement - March 31, 2009

Jeanne Shaheen
March 24, 2009— U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of the underlying budget resolution we are considering today. I want to thank the Chairman for his leadership and for all the good work he and his staff have put into developing this budget resolution.

The American people chose a new direction, and that’s what President Obama and this Congress are working to deliver.

I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far:

  • An economic recovery package that’s already putting Americans back to work and investing in local economic development projects.
  • A children’s health insurance bill that expands access to health insurance so our children can receive health care services, no matter what circumstances their families face.
  • The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which ensures all Americans are paid the same wage regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity.
  • A national service bill that taps into the strong desire of Americans to do their part to help our country recover and prosper through volunteerism.
  • And a public lands bill, which is the most significant conservation legislation passed by Congress in 15 years.

We’re off to a good start, but there are a lot of challenges left to tackle.

We have inherited the worst economic crisis in generations. We need to get our economy back on track, and that means finally addressing challenges that have been ignored for far too long.

And we have the opportunity to begin this process now, by passing a comprehensive and sensible budget to guide our next year.

I share President’s Obama’s priorities. Like the President, I believe we must reform our health care system, move our country toward energy independence, expand the promise of education in America, and cut our national deficit in half over the next four years.

Right now, we spend 16% of the national GDP on a health care system that is broken. This is the time when we need to reform health care to bring down costs, expand coverage, and improve the quality of the health coverage we receive.

Our nation can save billions of dollars through health information technology, and I’m pleased this budget builds on the funding in the economic recovery package dedicated to modernizing health care through the use of electronic medical records.

This budget also makes a significant investment in comparative effectiveness research, a field in which the Dartmouth Atlas Project in my home state of New Hampshire has been long been a leader.

And states like New Hampshire that are experiencing health workforce shortages will benefit from Health Professions & National Health Service Corps, which will significantly increase the number of health professionals practicing in medically underserved areas. This will not only address a dangerous shortfall of health professionals, but will create jobs.

Our national energy strategy has been on an unsustainable course for some time. We are overly dependent on foreign oil and we must begin to address the threats of climate change.

These challenges call for a paradigm shift in the way we produce and use energy and I am pleased that the budget resolution before us makes investments in clean energy technology, energy efficiency, and modernization of our energy infrastructure. I believe these investments in clean energy will create new, green collar jobs here at home and save consumers money.

We also have to invest in education, so our children can compete in this global economy. That’s why I’m pleased that the budget resolution expands opportunities for students to go to college and graduate by increasing Pell grants to $5,550 per student and providing education tax incentives. This budget recognizes the critical importance of the early years for children by providing significant support for early childhood education and Title I programs.

The long term strength of our economy is dependent on each of these issues. We need to act now to make these critical investments to stimulate the economy in the short-term.

But we also must do this in a fiscally responsible way that puts us on a path toward reducing our deficit. Our budget deficit has been growing for eight years, and we won’t erase it overnight, but we can work towards significantly cutting the deficit over the next few years. And the budget laid out by Senator Conrad and the Budget Committee puts us on an aggressive course toward a balanced budget.

Spending nearly doubled under the prior administration and revenues have now fallen to the lowest level as a share of the economy since 1950. The Obama Administration inherited record deficits and a national debt that doubled during the eight years of the Bush Administration.

This Congress, this President, and this budget are reversing course and putting our country back on a path to a balanced budget. This budget cuts the deficit by two-thirds to $508 billion by 2014, and at the same time it makes wise investments that will lead to economic growth in the future.

As a former governor, I understand how important, and difficult, it is to balance a budget. It takes a lot of hard work, patience, and compromise.

I never expected the New Hampshire state legislature to rubber stamp my budget. I knew it would change to reflect the interests and priorities of legislators, and that’s exactly what’s happening in Congress.

Mr. President, I’d also like to speak about an amendment I intend to offer. My amendment, #776, is simple and straightforward. It would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to monitor FHA-approved loans. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) plays an increasingly critical role in promoting homeownership during these tough economic times. The FHA insures 1/3 of all new mortgages.

In the run-up to the subprime crisis, many fraudulent lenders pushed borrowers into mortgages and refinancings that they could not afford in order to collect commissions and fees. We need to make sure that we prevent that activity from migrating to federally insured loans, which would put taxpayers at risk of footing the bill for another bailout.

This amendment addresses the need for HUD to be able to properly investigate and remove fraudulent lenders from the program, as appropriate.

Mr. President, I am confident we will be able to pass a budget that invests in the future of America, and I’m hopeful my colleagues will join this effort to strengthen the middle class and restore fiscal discipline.

I urge my colleagues to support my amendment, and to support the 2010 budget resolution. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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