U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today called out Democrats for pursuing an irresponsible and reckless tax-and-spending spree that would significantly increase already high inflation and raise taxes on South Dakota families. Thune emphasized that Democrats’ massive government expansion would stifle economic growth and jeopardize individual liberty.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, last night’s vote was an exercise in futility, as Democrats knew would be the case.
“For months now, Republicans have made it clear that we will not help Democrats raise our nation’s debt limit to finance Democrats’ partisan tax-and-spending spree.
“If Democrats want to pass a massive partisan tax-and-spending bill without any Republican input, they can raise the debt limit without any Republican input.
“Democrats, of course, have complained that they can’t raise the debt ceiling by themselves.
“The truth is that they don’t want to do it by themselves.
“Democrats want the credit for their social policies and the government handouts they’re planning, but they don’t want to own the price tag.
“Mr. President, Democrats are talking about engaging in a wild, reckless spending spree that will worsen our inflation problem, threaten economic growth, and substantially increase the government’s control over Americans’ lives.
“Republicans can’t support that kind of legislation.
“And we’re not going to help Democrats increase the credit card limit to pay for it.
“If Democrats want to raise the debt limit, they’re going to have to do it by themselves.
“Mr. President, I have come down to the floor more than once to talk about the reckless spending and the massive tax hikes that Democrats are planning.
“And I could spend the rest of my time here on the floor today talking about the irresponsible amount of money Democrats want to spend and the tax hikes they’re proposing.
“But today I want to look at things a little differently.
“Mr. President, last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had this to say in reference to Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill: ‘It’s not about a price tag, it’s about values.’
“‘It’s not about a price tag, it’s about values.’
“Well, Mr. President, she’s partially right.
“Because while the price tag does matter, this is about more than just the price tag.
“This is about values – and visions.
“Specifically, Republicans’ and Democrats’ different visions of government.
“Democrats’ bill isn’t just about spending money – even though it does spend money: a lot of it.
“It’s about a specific vision of government: one where the government is intimately involved in nearly every aspect of your life, from – to quote the New York Times’ article on Democrats’ bill – ‘cradle to grave.’
“Mr. President, someone once said to me that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that ‘Republicans believe in less government and more freedom. Democrats believe in less freedom and more government.’
“I think that’s a pretty accurate description of what we’re seeing here.
“Republicans oppose Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree because it spends an irresponsible amount of money, but more than that, we oppose it because it moves us further and further away from the American idea of limited government.
“Our Founders established a limited government for a reason – because they respected individual liberty.
“And they knew that the heavier the hand of government, the less liberty Americans would enjoy.
“That’s why our Constitution is as much about what government cannot do as what government can do.
“Now, Democrats might protest that they’re not restricting individual liberty.
“That they’re just providing a helping hand or redistributing wealth.
“But when you expand the reach of government, the diminishment of liberty is inevitable.
“When government gets involved in a new area of life, it rarely, if ever, just comes in with benefits.
“It comes in with rules. And regulations. And mandates.
“Take Democrats’ child care benefit.
“Democrats are preparing to offer child care subsidies to parents around the country.
“But it’s not as simple as just taking some money from the government and going out and purchasing child care.
“Because it turns out that Democrats are changing decades-old child care funding programs to favor secular child care providers who provide care at day care centers.
“If you prefer to choose a faith-based provider for your child, you may be out of luck.
“Mr. President, a 2020 Bipartisan Policy Center survey found that among parents who used center-based child care, 53 percent used a faith-based center.
“And they reported that they chose these providers for a variety of reasons – from the quality of the caregivers to the cleanliness of the facility to the values of the provider.
“That number may change if Democrats’ tax-and-spending plan goes into effect – not because parents are changing their child care preferences, but simply because Democrats have set up their benefit to favor secular, center-based child care providers.
“With government benefits comes government control.
“And government picking the winners and losers.
“Secular child-care providers win under Democrats’ massive government expansion.
“Faith-based providers and parental choice, not so much.
“Electric vehicle manufacturers win.
“The natural gas and biofuels industries, not so much – despite the fact that both have been key to producing cleaner American energy.
“Unions win under this bill.
“Americans making charitable donations … not so much.
“Democrats are allowing the charitable deduction to expire – but adding a new tax break to pay for union dues.
“When government is in charge, government dictates your choices … and picks winners and losers.
“Government also gets a lot more involved with overseeing the details of your personal life.
“Democrats are planning to add a provision that would force banks and credit unions to report the details of your financial activity to the IRS, including certain deposits, withdrawals, and other transactions.
“Democrats are apparently still discussing the amount that would trigger the new reporting requirement, which has been proposed at $600 or $10,000, but whichever number they settle on, a lot of ordinary Americans are going to end up having their bank or credit union forced to report their private information to the IRS.
“Talk about Big Brother.
“Mr. President, probably the biggest reason that Republicans believe in limited government is because we believe in individual liberty, and we know that the more government expands into your life, the more your choices and liberties are curtailed.
“But there are other reasons that we believe in limited government.
“One big reason is that we know that the federal government simply isn’t the best way of delivering many services.
“There are some things that the federal government is well-suited to do.
“Handling our national defense, for example.
“If our country is invaded or attacked, it’s a lot more effective for a national military to respond rather than for each state to respond on its own.
“But there are a lot of other things that are better handled at a state level.
“Or at a local level.
“Or, in some cases, not by government at all.
“Our state government in South Dakota is a lot more familiar with the needs of South Dakotans than the bureaucrats at Washington agencies.
“And the city government in Sioux Falls – or Rapid City, or Pierre, or Box Elder – is even more familiar with, and more able to respond to, the needs of its individual residents.
“That’s why a lot of things are better handled at the state or local level – or, as I said, at times not by government at all.
“Big government is impersonal and inflexible.
“It’s not familiar with, and can’t take into account, the particular and sometimes opposing needs of each state or each community.
“Big government is one-size-fits-all.
“Big government is also inefficient.
“Anyone who thinks the federal government would do a good job running Americans’ health care hasn’t dealt with a federal agency very recently.
“And big government is unaccountable.
“Think about it.
“If you have a company that offers a bad product, what’s going to happen?
“People are not going to buy your product, and you’re going to go out of business.
“It doesn’t work that way with the federal government.
“The federal government is not going to go out of business because it isn’t doing a good job delivering the services it’s promised.
“If the government is in charge of your health care and it isn’t delivering quality health care, you have very little recourse.
“Sure, you can try to vote in new members of Congress to reform things.
“But even then, change can take a while.
“Real reform of an existing government program is rare.
“And elimination of a bad government program is even rarer.
“As Ronald Reagan used to say, ‘The nearest thing to eternal life that we'll ever see on this earth is a government program.’
“Mr. President, I could go on.
“I could talk about how big government tends to stifle the innovation that leads to economic growth.
“Or ask why Democrats think that a group of bureaucrats in Washington are the best decision-makers for American families.
“But I want to touch on one other point before I close.
“And that is that Democrats believe in government dependence as the goal.
“They might dispute that characterization.
“But you only have to look at the tax-and-spending package they’re putting together to know that that is their vision.
“They envision a future where Americans rely on the government for everything from child care to education to health care … and on and on.
“And that is a vision with which Republicans fundamentally disagree.
“Our vision is not a future of government dependence.
“Because government doesn’t bring prosperity.
“It doesn’t bring the American dream.
“At best government is going to help you survive.
“It’s not going to help you thrive.
“Yes, government can be an important backstop in difficult situations or national emergencies – like the COVID crisis.
“But the goal should always be to get people to a place where they don’t have to rely on government.
“Permanent government dependence robs people of the purpose and pride that comes with work and personal achievement.
“And, as I said, it denies them the opportunity for prosperity.
“No one ever became prosperous on government benefits.
“Mr. President, if you asked most Americans what the American dream means to them, I’m pretty sure you would hear things like ‘a good job,’ ‘a rewarding career,’ ‘the chance to pursue my ambitions,’ or ‘the chance to improve my circumstances and make life better for my children.’
“That’s what Americans envision – not a future of government dependence and government subsidies.
“People are looking to achieve the kind of prosperity where they don’t need government involvement in every aspect of their life – and can choose their path for themselves instead of having to follow the rules and regulations that come with government benefits.
“That’s a vision that Republicans share.
“And it’s what we’re committed to fighting for on behalf of the American people.
“And that, Mr. President, is another reason we’re committed to maintaining limited government.
“Because the bigger the government grows, the more that vision of opportunity and prosperity shrinks.
“And so, Mr. President, Speaker Pelosi is partially right.
“She’s wrong to dismiss the bill’s price tag – because it is profoundly irresponsible to mortgage our children’s and grandchildren’s future with a massive government spending increase.
“But she’s right that it is about values.
“And Republicans aren’t opposing Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree simply because it spends a lot of money, but because it advances a vision of government with which we profoundly disagree.
“We don’t believe that the American dream is government dependence.
“We don’t believe in an ever-expanding role for the federal government.
“And we don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington are a good substitute for the judgment of the American people.
“And that, Mr. President, that is why every Republican in the Senate will be voting against Democrats’ reckless spending legislation – not just because it spends too much money, but because it fundamentally undermines the American tradition of liberty and limited government.
“It is about values, Mr. President.
“And it’s about visions.
“And Republicans do not share Democrats’ vision of a future of big government and Big Brother.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”