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The Federal Budget

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Location: Washington, DC


THE FEDERAL BUDGET -- (House of Representatives - April 05, 2006)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 4, 2005, the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, it is budget week here in the U.S. House of Representatives, and sometimes we hear people say, Oh, no, I just dread it when we get around to talking about this budget. And then we will hear others say, I love to just really tackle this budget issue. I love looking at where we spend our money. And I kind of appreciate that attitude because we are the stewards of the taxpayers' money and it is our responsibility to be a good steward and to be diligent in the work we are going to do as we work on this budget and decide what should the priorities of our government be? What should be our concerns? Where should we be looking for ways to achieve a savings?

And over the past several months, actually over the past 3 years, we have come to the floor regularly to talk about waste, fraud, and abuse and find ways and point out ways and to continue to seek ways that we can achieve a savings for the American people.

And from time to time over the past few years, we have talked about lots of different reports. Many different reports from different government agencies, from the General Accounting Office, from some of our friends who are in the media that have pointed out programs that maybe have outlived their usefulness, programs that are wasting money, programs that cannot achieve a clean audit. And some of our colleagues, we have worked on ways that we can go in and investigate and highlight and look at what this drain is on our tax dollars. And we have House committees, certainly the Government Reform Committee, that continue to hold hearings. Oversight and investigations from our Energy and Commerce Committee are certainly looking at ways to achieve a savings and find ways to review how our agencies are spending their money.

We have clear data showing places where the Federal Government is bleeding funds. And the President's budget this year has included more than 100 programs that could and should be targeted, Mr. Speaker. So the target for spending reductions is clearly enormous. We have got 100 programs, 100, that we can look at through so many different agencies and so many different spots in the Federal Government. Now, certainly, out of 100 programs, we are going to be able to find a way to achieve a savings.

One of the interesting things is no matter what part of this country that you are in and no matter whose district that you are in, whether it is a Democrat or a Republican, there is consensus among the American people that we have a problem. Government does not have a revenue problem; government has a spending problem. Government does not have a revenue problem; government has a priority problem. It is time that we begin to fine tune our focus and decide what the priority of government ought to be.

The taxpayers pay far too much of their paycheck in taxes. They are tired of every time somebody comes up with a good idea, they say well let us just go raise the taxes. And, Mr. Speaker, I tell you what, if it were not for the leadership in this House, we would see those taxes going up. If our friends across the aisle had their way, they would be raising taxes, not cutting programs. That is not where we want to go. We know it is tough to eliminate waste.

I often quote Ronald Reagan, who is pretty close to my favorite President ever, I will have to say that, but one of my favorite remarks he ever made was that when you look at Federal programs, there is nothing so close to eternal life on Earth as a Federal Government program. When you get the thing, it is just the dickens to get rid of it. It is so tough to get rid of it, Mr. Speaker.

Sometimes in my townhall meetings in Tennessee, I will have constituents say, Why is it so tough to get rid of these programs? We see the waste. We know the waste is out there. Everybody knows these programs are wasting money. Why is it so difficult to call them into accountability? Why is it so difficult to get rid of these programs?

And to that, Mr. Speaker, I will have to say if you listen to our colleagues from across the aisle this morning when they gave their 1 minute speeches, then you can see why it is so very difficult for us to downsize this government. Those colleagues across the aisle, Democratic Members, Member after Member, came to the floor this morning, as they do on many days, and they decried our efforts to make reductions in Federal spending.

Mr. Speaker, we spend trillions of dollars to support all sorts of social spending programs; yet any reduction or even holding the line on spending, not increasing anything, just holding the line, all of a sudden it is called a ``draconian cut.'' It is amazing how it works.

Most Americans do not get a massive salary increase every year. But we have colleagues that think if they are not giving every agency an increase every year, then they are getting a cut. It is the most incredible, most incredible, program that you have ever seen. If you do not get an increase, then you are getting a cut.

It does not work that way in real life, only in the bureaucracy. We have to look at this and see that it happens year after year after year.

You know, I don't think that asking the Federal Government to reduce its spending, I don't think asking bureaucrats to be accountable, I don't think asking agencies to be accountable and get clean audits and know where they are spending their money is evil. I don't think it is uncaring. But many of our colleagues across the aisle will come down here and demonize those of us who simply want the spending increases to stop.

I have talked a lot about the Great Society government that was created over 40 years of Democratic control of Congress, and I will have to tell you, yes, indeed, they built an enormous monument, a monument of spending to their party's vision of what government ought to be; a vision in which government solved society's ills and took care of every problem by spending more money.

Mr. Speaker, you and I know that that vision is a failure. We know it is an absolute failure. You don't solve problems, you don't solve problems, by throwing more money at them. Many times all you do is mask the problem. In the long run, you make it worse, because you are not addressing the causes of the problem.

The moveon.orgs of the world, the Democratic leadership, they don't want to admit this. They want to protect and expand their monumental government, this huge bureaucracy in this town, huge bureaucracy. So many of my constituents get frustrated with it. They want us to break it apart; to send the money, send the power back to our States and back to our local governments. They want to keep their paychecks in their pocket. They don't want the Federal Government to have first right of refusal on it.

They are a little bit confused many times, and understandably so, I think all of us are, of why the Democratic leadership wants to keep, why the liberal leadership wants to keep, a big, big, big bureaucracy in this town. But it is their party's creation. It is their legacy.

I am joined by some colleagues tonight who are going to share some of their thoughts on the great ideas that we can bring to the table to look at how we are spending the Federal Government's money. This party and this leadership is the one that is keeping the attention on spending less and reducing the size of the Federal Government.

Mr. Hensarling is joining us tonight. He is a member of the Budget Committee, and he has had the Family Budget Protection Act. Mr. Hensarling is going to open our conversation this evening and talk a little bit about the budget, the work that they have done in the Budget Committee, the process reforms that we are beginning to look at and move forward, and add to the discussion that we are going to have this week as we continue to work on our plan to yield savings for the American people and to reduce the size of the Federal Government.

With that, I yield to the gentleman from Texas.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Texas is so right when he talks about the compassion and what is the compassionate thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, in 1994, the Republicans swept in here and took control of this body and have been working ever since to turn this ship around and turn that corner so that we look at how we handled the Federal purse, how we handle the priorities of the Federal Government, how we shift that focus and move it away from saying, let us give government the money, and then task government to go solve all the ills to say, we believe this is government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and we believe the people can solve these problems. They can do it.

We know that most people feel when they see their taxes increase, when they see more of their money going to feed that bureaucracy, they know that their freedom has been cut.

Mr. Speaker, I am joined this evening by Dr. Gingrey, who is a member of the Rules Committee and is going to have a few comments on the budget. Certainly, he is a gentleman who knows of compassion and how we should be working with and for our Federal man.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I thank the gentleman from Georgia, and I appreciate so much that he calls our attention to some of the issues that are at hand.

Mr. Speaker, for any of our colleagues who are looking for more information on the House budget, they can go to the Web site gop.gov, and pull down the House Budget Resolution fact sheet.

Here is some interesting information on it, and it goes back to what Mr. Hensarling was talking about on the budget. It is a $2.7 trillion budget authority. One of the things that is so important in this is when you look at the discretionary, it is a 3.6 percent increase over what we had in fiscal year 2006. We did some interesting things here, and Chairman Nussle is to be commended for this. We have a $50 billion placeholder in here for our war effort cost.

We have money for Katrina or for emergencies such as

Katrina. Then we go in and we look at our discretionary spending, a near freeze in nonsecurity discretionary spending. A near freeze. Quite amazing, is not it, when you think about the growth that year after year after year took place. And I would encourage the individuals that are listening to this over TV tonight to call their legislators. Call us. Let us know what we think. We love to hear from you.

We have another Budget Committee member, and leader who is with us tonight, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett), who is going to have a few things to say, and then we are going to invite some of our other colleagues in.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New Jersey for his thoughts. He is such a thoughtful member of our Republican Conference, and a thoughtful and studious member of the Budget Committee, and the ideas that he brings forth are very important to us, because that is what we bring, ideas. How are we going to work through this process of reducing what the Federal Government spends?

How are we going to work through the process of being certain that Federal agencies are called into accountability for how they spend your money?

This is not the government's money. It is the taxpayers' money, and we need to remember that every single day.

A gentleman who does a great job of reminding us that it is the taxpayers' money is the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. McHenry), and at this time I yield to Mr. McHenry.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from North Carolina, and as he said, it is so important that we keep the attention on both sides of this ledger, that we hone that focus and just target it, what we are taking in and what we are spending.

When we go back and we look at the 2003 tax cuts, we know that 91 million Americans saw a tax reduction of about $1,100. That is real money. We also know that when government takes more of that paycheck, that the individuals are not making choices, that the government is making choices, and that is where we see a decrease in our freedom.

The gentleman is so correct. It is the debate of ideas and putting new ideas on the table that is so very important, and we are joined, as you mentioned, by the gentlewoman from Ohio (Mrs. Schmidt), who has a few thoughts to offer on the line item veto and some of the ideas that are being offered for our budget process, and I yield to the gentlewoman.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman, and it is so true. We are to spend wisely, and this week, as we look at this year's budget, there are some things that you will hear us talking, some themes that will bear themselves out as we talk about this budget this week. As I said, you can go to the Budget Committee Web site, through house.gov or go to gop.gov, our colleagues can, and get more information on the budget.

We are going to talk about strength and how we look at strength and security in this budget. We look at defense, homeland security, national security. We are going to talk about spending control, the issue that we have talked about tonight, how we work on waste, fraud and abuse, how we seek that savings and continue to seek that savings for the American people and how we continue to push for reform, so that government avails itself of every possible efficiency, every possible efficiency that is out there to be certain that the taxpayer is receiving the best buy for their dollar.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman talked about priorities and where the priorities are in this budget. I think that is one of things that our colleagues will want to watch over the next couple of the days because over the past decade, we saw discretionary spending increase by an average of 7 percent each year. What we have done in last year's budget and this budget is to come to a near freeze in nonsecurity discretionary spending.

And that is so important, because that points to the priorities that you have mentioned and the gentleman from Texas has mentioned and the gentleman from North Carolina has mentioned.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. If the gentleman will yield, earlier we talked about our colleagues across the aisle and this morning how they were bemoaning the fact that we were going to freeze spending or reduce spending, or if they weren't going to get everything they wanted, then it is considered a cut. Now that is government speak, as the gentleman from Texas said. That is government speak. It is not really a cut.

But we have to realize that every single time, every single time we start to make reductions in what the Federal Government spends, there are some who try to keep us from doing that. And their answer is always, we need more money. Government can't afford that cut. Government can't afford that tax reduction.

And as you said, it is so important that we differentiate between this.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I want to yield to the gentleman from Texas, because I think it is important for us to bring the deficit back into this. We are allowing the taxpayer to keep more of their paycheck, and the tax reductions in 2001 and 2003 certainly have done that. The gentleman from Texas can talk for a moment about the deficit and how we are speeding along and reducing that deficit faster than we had originally thought that we were because of the growth in taxes and because of the changes we have made in budgeting.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. If the gentlemen will yield. As we wrap up our hour, I want to bring it right back to where we started, talking about the compassionate thing to do is to let the American taxpayer keep their paycheck, be certain that they have first right of refusal on that paycheck and not the Federal Government.

I also want to encourage our constituents to talk to us and our colleagues, to talk to our constituents so that we are certain that everyone understands our goal as the majority party here in this House is to be certain that we preserve individual freedom, that we preserve hope and opportunity, and that we allow the American taxpayer to keep control of their paycheck. And that as stewards of the taxpayers' money, that we are good and accountable stewards.

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