The following transcripts cover Senator Sam Nunn's introduction and Senators Saxby Chambliss and Mark Warner's acceptance speeches.
Thank you very much Bob. And thank you for the superb job you do in leading
Concord Coalition. I don’t think it’s ever been more important in terms of mission and in terms of message. You know one of the paradoxes is, when the deficits are very low or don’t exist, it’s very hard to raise money for The Concord Coalition. But boy the Congress is really helping us out now.
I’m delighted to be here tonight to honor two men who put their country before their ideology, their principles before their political parties, and the good of the nation before their narrow interest.
Our Concord Coalition has been described as many things, not all of them attractive: budget watchdog, deficit hawks, even fiscal freaks occasionally. But first and foremost, we are fiercely and fundamentally nonpartisan. Our staggering mountain of debt in this country and the unsustainable path on which our nation is embarked is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem, it is an American problem.
This is not Physics, this is not Calculus, it is not Ideology, it is basically Arithmetic. Winston Churchill said more than once, No matter how beautiful the theory, occasionally, we must look at the results.
Senator Mark Warner and Senator Saxby Chambliss have looked at the results and they both get it. They understand what’s at stake for our nation and at stake for our young people, children and our grandchildren. They understand that if we don’t get our national debt and annual deficit under control, America’s security will be threatened; America’s economic leadership will be in jeopardy, and so will the standard of living of each and every living American.
Saxby and Mark understand that sound bites and extreme partisan positions do nothing to address the serious problems we face that are eroding our credibility and our leadership in the world. They recognize that today’s political wings, yes they are noisy and they are flapping, but they are not likely to keep our country airborne unless we develop a strong fuselage or political center.
Mark and Saxby not only know all of this, but they did something even more remarkable in Washington these days, they’ve taken action. Together Senators Chambliss and Warner, each brought in two colleagues from their own party and together this gang of six worked to turn the broad recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Domenici/Rivlin Commission into national policy.
Indeed for many months, this bipartisan group of senators seemed to be the only elected officials focused on America’s long term budget problems and indeed our long term economic future, and of course they caught heat for it. Senator Chambliss was castigated by many of his fellow Republicans for even discussing Tax Reform and Saxby in what other words, revenue enhancement or what my Republican friends used to use. Nevertheless he did catch heat. Mark caught heat from Democrats for bringing up issues that are essential to any kind of real reform, like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Saxby and Mark, some people might call it political suicide, but here at The Concord Coalition, we call it leadership and we call it political courage.
Unfortunately, today whether you are a Democrat or Republican, on the basic task of fiscal policy, if you are not incurring the wrath of your party, you’re not really protecting our nation’s future.
I am and remain an optimist. I believe that in America today, courage remains contagious. This courageous small gang of six has grown significantly since it was formed. At last count, I believe there are forty-four Senators now signed on to the principal of bipartisanship, subsidy and fiscal reform, and deficit reduction. That takes a lot of leadership in today’s political arena. This development speaks to the courage, the passion, the perseverance, and the persuasive ability of our two honorees tonight.
And so my bottom line on behalf of The Concord Coalition, in recognition of their effective leadership on our country’s fiscal and economic future, it is my great honor and pleasure to present the 2011 Paul E. Tsongas Economic Patriots Award to two very deserving leaders, Senator Saxby Chambliss from my state of Georgia and Senator Mark Warner. Let’s congratulate them.
Well well, I had a forty-five minute acceptance speech that I had planned to give but Nunn had ran a little long and my staff told me I had a minute and a half I’ll cut it down.
You run for public office to hope to have the opportunity to make a difference some day and this is one issue which is the issue of our lifetime that thank goodness I’ve had the opportunity to participate with a great partner in Mark Warner in trying to educate other members in the United States Senate about the serious of the problem and a way forward. And there’s somebody else here that deserves a lot of credit, who really deserves both these awards and that’s Maya MacGuineas over here who has been a dear friend and adviser to us.
When I think about the Paul Tsongas Award; I know what Senator Tsongas’ reputation was, that he was a strong fiscal conservative even though he came from what is now a very blue state. I know that he was accused sometimes, when it came to fiscal idea, he was more Republican than even Democrat but to be recognized in the name Paul Tsongas is very special.
And to have that award to be presented by mentor, my long time dear friend, and sometimes golfing partner. I’m having to give him way too many strokes is my dear friend Sam Nunn. It just means an awful lot This organization is so well respected in this town and the halls of Congress that really is an honor and a pleasure to be recognized by you tonight.
Let me also thank Senator Nunn and everyone from The Concord Coalition. Nobody would’ve thought well, about, almost 2 years ago now when Saxby and I sat down on the floor and said well we have some mutual friends in Atlanta, let’s talk about the debt, that this would develop the king of friendship, relationship, and partnership.
I want to echo what Saxby has said about Maya. But I also want to say in a certain sense, following in the footsteps of the great senator and former governor, maybe in Virginia this was a little easier to do. But for Saxby, and let’s also give credit where credit is due, someone like Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo, Kent Conrad has been an advocate for this for a long time. I think oftentimes people don’t give enough credit to Dick Durbin in this process as well. These five guys have been incredible. We’ve spent literally thousands of hours together trying to build both the trust and the understanding to get to the so called Gang of Six which built simply on the great work of the Simpson-Bowles Commission and Rivlin/Domenici Commission.
I want to thank you as well. I promised I would try to, my Chief of Staff Luke Albee said “See if you can talk less than even Saxby tonight.” Which is a challenge, so I’ll just make two quick points because you’re gonna have to hear us again when we have the panel. One is, while this is an enormous honor and I’m very grateful, this should not be so tough. The notion of trying to get 4 trillion over 10 years with some fair balance should be the regular course of what you should expect as a diminished expectation from your elected leaders not simply a sign of political courage.
So while I give all the great kudos to all of you that have been in the trenches for The Concord Coalition for so long, the one admonition that I would make at this moment when we’re gonna get to the Super Committee and everything and this is one of the reasons why I won’t end up as DSCC chair, but my appeal to all of you would be for those of you who are Democrats tonight, go find a Republican that’s willing to talk truth about revenues and support him. For those who are Republicans tonight, go find a Democrat that’s willing to tell truth about our entitlement programs. Unless we can have that kind of consensus around these two big drivers; they are the only part that keeps us from getting this kind of agreement then we’re not gonna get the problem solved that we need to at this coming discussion.
With that, my thanks to The Concord Coalition and congratulations again to my great, great friend and partner Saxby Chambliss. We’ve had a lot of wine between us over these last two and a half years.