March 26, 2015

HIRONO: BUDGET FAVORS THE WEALTHY & SPECIAL INTERESTS, HURTS OUR MIDDLE CLASS & ECONOMY

Hirono Introduces Amendments To Improve Disastrous Republican Budget. Hirono Amendments Would Make College More Affordable, Invest In Clean Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor to highlight how the Senate budget resolution, which provides a policy framework for funding and other legislation Congress will debate in the future, proposed by Republicans favors special interests and the wealthy and would hurt our middle class and economy. Senator Hirono also spoke about two of the amendments she has filed in an attempt to improve the budget:  an amendment to restore year-round Pell Grants for college students and an amendment to invest in clean energy and preserve the environment.  

From Senator Hirono’s floor speech:

“I can’t support this budget. This budget favors the wealthy and special interests on the backs of middle class families, seniors, and students in Hawaii and across the country.”

As Senator Hirono stressed in her remarks, Democrats have tried to improve the budget resolution including proposals to eliminate the sequester in a fair way, make sure our commitments to those on Social Security and Medicare are fulfilled, close a few tax loopholes to invest in our communities and create jobs, and give students the opportunity to get an affordable college education but Republicans rejected each commonsense proposal.

Watch Senator Hirono’s floor speech here:

 

Senator Hirono’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I’d like to set aside the pending amendments in order to call up two of my amendments en bloc: Amendments 877 and 878.

Thank you Mr. President. Before I briefly outline my amendments, I need to say a few words about the budget before us.

The vision outlined in the budget before us is truly a disaster for the middle class and our economy.

This budget lays out priorities that would undermine the gains that millions have made in getting affordable health insurance.

It would undermine the ability of millions of students to get a college education.

It puts tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of giving even a modest wage boost to those working hard to get ahead.

This budget would give big corporations the opportunity to write their own rules, while reducing the opportunity for the disabled, veterans, and children to live a decent life.

Democrats have tried to improve this budget.

We tried to eliminate the sequester in a fair way.

Republicans said no.

We tried to make sure our commitments to those on Social Security and Medicare remain iron clad.

Republicans said no.

We tried to close a few tax loopholes to invest in our communities and create jobs.

Republicans said no.

And we tried to give students the opportunity to get an affordable college education.

Republicans said no.

Given all these problems, I can’t support this budget.

This budget favors the wealthy and special interests on the backs of middle class families, seniors, and students in Hawaii and across the country.

But I want to offer two ideas that I hope can improve it just a little bit.

Amendment 877 would restore Year Round Pell Grants without increasing the deficit.

Many college students juggle work and family schedules.

To balance these commitments they need to attend college year-round.

But Pell Grants can only be used in two semesters currently.

My amendment would allow students to access Pell Grants year round—like they could from 2009 to 2011.

This has been a bipartisan idea in the past. In fact, Senator Collins has a similar amendment, amendment 810, that I also support. We should adopt this commonsense, bipartisan policy.

The second amendment I’m offering, amendment 878, is very simple as well.

The underlying resolution allows for energy legislation, provided it’s paid for only with cuts.

It also lays out what I think is a very limited view of our nation’s energy priorities—particularly the heavy focus on fossil fuel development.

My amendment would provide a broader, more forward looking view of our nation’s energy priorities.

My amendment allows for energy legislation that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, increases energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment and innovation, and addresses carbon pollution.

Hawaii relies on imported oil for energy.

The U.S. military recognizes that over-reliance on fossil fuels is a national security risk.

We have to recognize that our future can’t be based on fossil fuels.

Hawaii and other states are leading the way in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

My amendment would ensure that Congress’ priorities are more in line with where Hawaii and our nation are heading in the future.

I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting these two amendments.

I yield the floor.