[Congressional Record Volume 146, Number 37 (Wednesday, March 29, 2000)]
[Pages S1853-S1855]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           BUDGET RESOLUTION

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I came to the floor to address an issue 
which is

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pending before the Senate today, and that is the decision to write a 
budget resolution for the next fiscal year, a blueprint for our 
  Just a little over a week ago, Billy Crystal, the comedian, did the 
Oscars presentation show, the Academy Awards. He was referring to a 
movie called ``The Sixth Sense,'' where there was a little boy who had 
some supernatural power to see dead people. Billy Crystal, in one of 
the best jokes of the evening, said: I see dead people all the time. I 
watch C-SPAN.
  Of course, it was a joke at our expense, serving in the Congress. But 
it must be true for a lot of people that when they tune in and listen 
to our debates and, of course, watch the committee deliberations, they 
have to wonder: Isn't it more exciting? Don't these people do something 
that might be more entertaining?
  It may not hit a high entertainment level, but I think the debate 
currently underway on the budget resolution is exciting in terms of 
spelling out America's priorities for its future because in a room just 
a block or two away from here, there will be a decision made on 
spending for America that can literally affect every family in the 
country. It is an important decision.
  Part of that decision comes down to the major issue in the 
Presidential campaign. Governor George W. Bush, who appears to be the 
likely candidate on the Republican side, has made the cornerstone of 
his campaign a massive tax cut. In my estimation, it is a very risky 
tax cut. He believes the surplus we are generating now, because of a 
strong economy and a decision to cut back on the deficit, should go 
into a massive tax cut.
  On the other side of the equation, President Clinton and Vice 
President Gore believe, as I do, that is foolish and reckless and it 
could endanger the economic growth we have seen over the last 7 years. 
Don't just take our word for it. Our colleague, Republican Senator John 
McCain, a candidate in that same Republican Presidential primary, said 
of George W. Bush's tax cut that it was not the thing to do; it was, in 
fact, bad policy. He said it more artfully, but that was his 
  Chairman Alan Greenspan--no partisan, a man who has led the Federal 
Reserve and helped this economy to develop and prosper--has said it is 
the wrong thing to do.
  The George W. Bush tax cut approach really overlooks the most 
important thing, which is debt reduction in America. Two-thirds of the 
American people agree with Mr. Greenspan, Senator McCain, and the 
Democratic Party, that we should take our surplus and dedicate it to 
debt reduction, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, have 
targeted tax cuts--limited, but targeted where they are really needed--
and then spend money on health care and education for the families 
across America.
  Well, the Budget Committee is now debating this. In an hour or two, 
when I return there as a member, I will allow my colleagues on the 
committee an opportunity to decide whether or not they want to vote for 
the George W. Bush tax cut or they believe there is a better way. Now 
it may put some of my Republican colleagues on the spot. But politics 
is about choices. We make choices every day in the well when we cast 
votes, when we announce whether we are for or against a bill or whether 
we will sponsor it or vote for it. My colleagues on the Budget 
Committee will have a choice.
  I think, frankly, they ought to reflect for a moment on some 
realities. Take a look at what has happened in America since 1992. From 
the election of President Clinton up to the year 1999, in virtually 
every income category in America, we have seen rising incomes. This 
economy is moving forward. Take a look at unemployment. In 1992, it was 
7.5 percent. In America today, it is 4.2 percent. The No. 1 complaint 
of businesses across Illinois is: We can't find skilled workers. I am 
sorry for that situation; we are trying to address it. But what a 
welcome change from the days when we had double-digit unemployment.
  We have taken, under the Clinton-Gore administration, a step forward 
in putting Americans to work. Record home ownership: 64 percent of 
Americans owned homes at the end of 1992. The number is up to 67 
percent now. I don't have the chart to show it, but business creation 
is hitting record levels as well. Inflation is down. The economy is 
moving forward.

  Now the obvious question is: Shall we change things?
  We believe the tax cuts that should be enacted are limited and 
targeted, not massive tax cuts that would go to wealthy people. If we 
are going to have tax cuts, let's help families with an elderly parent. 
The President proposed that. Let's expand education so if you have a 
child in college, you can deduct all your college education expenses up 
to $10,000. That is going to help some families pay for the college 
education expenses the kids face. A bipartisan proposal to eliminate 
the marriage penalty--we need that. Let's help people prepare for 
retirement with new accounts for saving. Let's expand the earned-income 
tax credit. These things are consistent with bringing down the debt and 
strengthening Social Security and Medicare.
  Look at what the other side proposes in the George W. Bush tax cut, 
which is the cornerstone of his campaign; it goes to the wealthiest 
people in America.
  Fairness is an important question when it comes to Government policy. 
If you happen to be earning over $300,000 a year--and you know who you 
are out there--George W. Bush thinks you need a $50,000-a-year tax cut. 
I think you can get by without it if you are making more than $300,000 
a year. Frankly, it troubles me that the bottom 60 percent of wage 
earners in America, people making less than $39,300 a year, get a 
measly $249 from the George W. Bush tax cut.
  When you take a look at that, you have to ask yourself, why would we 
jeopardize our economic growth, forswear an opportunity to bring down 
our debt and reduce the burden of paying interest on that debt for our 
children, why would we jeopardize our economy--in the estimation of 
Chairman Greenspan--for a tax cut for the wealthiest people in this 
  This is a further illustration of people making incomes of $31,000 a 
year--$501 in tax cuts, and 60 percent of the people are going to see 
very little tax relief. Those with higher income figures will see 
dramatic increases.
  When you look at the tax cut and what it means, the sad reality is 
that you cannot reach the tax cuts proposed by the Republicans without 
raiding the Social Security trust fund. Oh, they say, of course you 
can. All you have to do is freeze spending.
  Does anyone really believe we will freeze spending on the military, 
that we won't give the men and women in uniform a pay raise? Does 
anybody believe we should deny to everyone who works for the Federal 
Government any kind of cost-of-living adjustment for the next 5 or 10 
years in order to pay for a tax cut that gives $30,000 or $50,000 in 
tax breaks to wealthy Americans? That is not going to happen.
  Even under Republican Congresses, we have increased spending in 
budgets by about 3 percent a year. It reflects inflation plus a little 
bit. But now they would have us believe that is no longer the case, 
that we can somehow, in the next 5 or 10 years, not provide any 
additional spending in a lot of key areas to pay for what I consider to 
be a very risky tax plan.
  It will, in fact, raid Social Security. Take a look at this chart, 
for example. The Bush tax cut would raid Social Security trust funds to 
the tune over 5 years of $483 billion; the Republican budget plan, $150 
billion. I thought we kind of reached an agreement around here, a 
bipartisan agreement, that the Social Security trust fund was off 
limits, that we weren't going to get into it, we were going to protect 
it for future generations, and we were going to keep Social Security 
strong. Sadly, that is not the case.
  Mr. President, one last issue I want to raise, which I will offer as 
an amendment, is the question about violent crime and gun crime in this 
country. There is a breakdown in the debate. Some people believe, as I 
do, that we should close loopholes so criminals, convicts, and children 
cannot get their hands on guns through gun shows and other means; that 
we should have trigger locks to keep guns safe; that we should close 
the loopholes. Others argue we should have more enforcement; that we 
have plenty of laws, let's enforce them. I, frankly, believe we need 
both--close the loopholes and better enforcement.

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  Look at the Republican budget now being presented to the Senate. Hard 
as it may be to believe, this Republican budget is going to cut the 900 
FBI agents proposed by President Clinton. It is going to reduce, as 
well, the number of personnel in the Drug Enforcement Agency. It is 
going to reduce by over 400 the proposal by the President to put more 
guards at the borders to stop drugs. It completely eliminates the 
President's proposal for 500 new ATF agents to keep an eye on gun 
dealers who are selling to criminals. The President proposes 1,000 new 
prosecutors for enforcement, the same enforcement you heard Charlton 
Heston, Wayne LaPierre, and other folks on that side talk about. We 
need more enforcement, and the Republican bill doesn't provide a penny 
for this Presidential initiative for more enforcement.
  You can't have it both ways. Your rhetoric has to catch up with 
reality. The Budget Committee room is a dance studio where we have the 
Republican majority side-stepping the George W. Bush tax cut, saying, 
we are not sure we want to go with that--a Texas two-step if I have 
ever seen one--and waltzing away from a commitment for more enforcement 
to stop gun crime in America.
  That isn't going to wash, folks. People across America will look at 
this and say that is not a recipe for America's future, it is a recipe 
for disaster--on the economic front and when it comes to bringing peace 
to our neighborhoods and schools.
  So I certainly hope those who watch C-SPAN will not be lulled to 
sleep, as Billy Crystal suggested, but will, rather, see there are some 
pretty important issues being developed and debated. I hope before this 
all ends, we will stick with the economic plan that moves America 
forward, that provides opportunity for more and more Americans, for 
businesses and for home ownership, that we will dedicate ourselves to a 
sensible reduction in our debt rather than a risky, dangerous, and 
massive tax cut, as Governor Bush has proposed.
  I hope we will follow Chairman Greenspan's advice and keep this 
economy moving in such a way that we create opportunity for everybody.
  When it comes to gun safety, let's do both. Let's close the gun show 
loophole. Let's have trigger locks for the safety of guns. Let's not 
let the Sunday morning talk show rhetoric about enforcement die by 
Sunday evening. On Monday through Friday when we are in session, that 
rhetoric should be very much alive. I sincerely hope that during the 
course of this debate we can put together a bipartisan majority to 
achieve it.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, what is the business before the Senate?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there are 30 seconds 
remaining in morning business.