Mr. LEE. Mr. President, a number of us, myself included, have been arguing since January--ever since we arrived here and were sworn in this very room--that the national debt is a permanent problem. The almost $15 trillion that we now owe as a nation is permanent. It is going to take a long time to pay off. There are people who are not yet old enough to vote. There are people who will be born in a few years who are not even here who will one day have to assist in paying off that debt.
The fact that this is a long-term problem means it requires a long-term solution. That is why we have been saying all along that we ought not raise the debt limit yet again--extending our national debt by another $2.5 trillion, more or less, without a permanent solution in place.
Herein lies the problem. It is difficult or impossible for one Congress to come up with a set of budget numbers that would necessarily bind future Congresses. We can come up with a plan to cut $2 trillion or $3 trillion over a 10-year or 15-year period, but if future Congresses don't want to go along with that, they can find their way out of it. This has happened again and again as we have seen with Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, as we have seen with the pay-go rules. Congress becomes a walking, breathing waiver unto itself. We need a permanent solution. This is why we have settled on the need for a balanced budget amendment.
As my distinguished colleague--the junior Senator from Kentucky--has just pointed out, there is no intransigence in our position. Those of us who identify with the Republican Party, those of us who identify with the tea party are people who want a solution. We were sent here with a mandate by voters, a mandate that says the Federal Government is too big and too expensive.
Now, resistance to this message from the other side of the aisle, as vehement as that resistance may be, is not genuine if what it says is, in this instance the insistence for a balanced budget amendment is itself reflective of an unwillingness to compromise. There are myriad opportunities to compromise within that general framework. We have offered that. We have extended that.
Republicans have now submitted no fewer than two bills that have passed the House of Representatives to address the debt limit issue, both of which have been stopped dead in their tracks over here without further opportunity, most importantly, without a response by the Democratic Party in the Senate or otherwise.
If there is either party in this discussion that is refusing to compromise, it is not ours. If there is any group that has failed to offer solutions, it cannot be described as the tea party movement.
I ask my colleague--the junior Senator from Kentucky--do you see any element within the tea party movement, any element within the Republican Party that is unwilling to compromise or that is wanting to block just for the sake of blocking?