April 20, 2015

Kaine Pushes For Virginia Priorities In Budget Conference Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a full meeting of the House and Senate’s bipartisan Budget Conference Committee today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, one of 30 conferees, discussed his concern with the current budget proposals being considered by congressional negotiators. Kaine pressed for additional relief from automatic, across-the-board spending cuts dictated by the sequester,  both in defense and non-defense programs. He also expressed concern about deep spending cuts included in both House and Senate budget proposals targeting research, education and infrastructure -- programs which are key to future economic growth.

“I hope we will try to find a serious deal,” Kaine said in his opening statement. “To say that a budget balances when you keep all the revenue from Obamacare but repeal Obamacare – it’s not serious. It’s not seriously balanced, and it also demonstrates a lack of seriousness about the deficit at all.”

Making the case for a “Murray-Ryan Budget Part II,” in reference to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which replaced parts of sequestration for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Kaine argued how foolish it would be to let sequester cuts remain in place at a time when the U.S. faces an unprecedented set of challenges to our national security.

“Chairwoman Murray and Chairman Ryan came up with a serious deal where each side had to give a little bit, where we didn’t embrace the foolish sequester cuts that were going to hobble the nation’s defense and slash non-defense programs,” said Kaine. “Sure, we passed the sequester and the budget caps in the summer of 2011. Since then, we’ve got Ebola, We’ve got North Korea cyber-attacks. We’ve got a bellicose Vladimir Putin. We’ve got a war against ISIL. Are we going to stick by a vote that was taken in August of 2011 about budget caps when the world is throwing curve balls at us every day?”

Kaine also said that any sequester relief should outline all options are on the table, including an examination of tax expenditures, which currently total 8.1% of our Gross Domestic Product.

“If we’re going to be serious about it, we can’t just look at spending programs without looking at tax expenditures. The Senate budget has an amendment in it that has bipartisan support to suggest that we do it if we’re going to be serious,” Kaine said, in reference to an amendment he offered that was adopted during the Senate’s floor consideration of the budget. The amendment called for defense and non-defense relief, as well as creating a pathway for sequester relief to be considered on the floor.

In closing, Kaine criticized the fact that both the House and Senate budgets would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“16.4 million Americans,” Kaine said. “We’re just going to take away their health insurance? … I know they’ve said we’re going to find a replacement. We’ve waited for years for Republicans to put a replacement on the table. There’s not been one put on the table. So we’re going to keep the taxes we’re taking from these people, and we’re going to kick 16.4 million people off health care? It’s not serious.”

Both the House and Senate now wait for further negotiations on the budget for fiscal year 2016.