Senator Akaka on the Debt Limit

Media Release:
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) delivered a statement on the debt limit today on the Senate floor.  The following are Senator Akaka’s remarks as prepared for delivery:


Mr. President, I rise to speak about the budget and the debt ceiling, following the Senate’s failure to invoke cloture on a measure expressing that shared sacrifices from all Americans, including the wealthiest, are necessary to reduce the budget deficit.

As the Senate Budget Committee Chair has proposed, we must reach an agreement that strikes a balance between raising revenues and cutting spending, in which all Americans contribute to the solution.

Congress faces an important task.  Americans are following this debate because they have a stake in its outcome.  If we do not raise the debt ceiling, it will force the government to choose which of its many obligations it will meet.

As President Obama pointed out last week, we cannot guarantee that veterans and Social Security recipients will receive the checks we owe them on August 3 if we fail to reach a compromise.  If we fail, we will damage our credit rating and worldwide confidence in our financial system.

To avoid such a situation, I call on all of my colleagues to negotiate in good faith so that the creditworthiness of the United States is not compromised.  I hope we can reach an agreement that will bring down the debt without placing most of the burden on the vulnerable among us: the sick, the poor, the long-term unemployed, and the elderly.

Mr. President, while we must reduce spending, we cannot forget to continue investing in our nation’s future.  I came of age during the Great Depression and served in World War II, along with my colleagues Senator Inouye and Senator Lautenberg.

We were the beneficiaries of one of the federal government’s greatest investments: the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights.  This visionary federal legislation enabled returning World War II veterans, many who, like myself, came from families of modest means and may never have otherwise attended college.

The GI Bill not only changed the lives of its beneficiaries, it changed the United States by laying the groundwork for the emergence of our middle class, which remains the backbone of our country.  Many other valuable investments made in the years that followed, such as the Interstate Highway System and federal funding for research programs at the nation’s leading universities, propelled America into one of history’s greatest periods of economic expansion, social advancement, and technological innovation.

None of these investments simply happened.  They were made by past Congresses and Presidents from both parties.  These legacies have proven repeatedly that dedicated social and economic investments are effective drivers of recovery, growth, and future success.  As we move forward and make difficult but necessary choices to cut spending, we must strengthen those programs that are restoring our economic health.

Reaching an agreement on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction will undoubtedly require all of us to make difficult compromises on spending and revenues.  As debate on these issues continues, I urge each of my colleagues to remember the obligation that we have to preserve the nation’s creditworthiness and to defend our veterans and those depending on Social Security and other safety net programs from harm as we continue to make needed investments for recovery.

Thank you, Mr. President.  I yield the floor.