PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H. CON. RES. 376, CONCURRENT RESOLUTION ON THE BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (House of Representatives - April 06, 2006)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 766 is a rule that provides for general debate of House Concurrent Resolution 376, the bill establishing the congressional budget for the Federal Government for fiscal year 2007, and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2008 through 2011.
As a member of both the Rules Committee and the Budget Committee, I am pleased to bring this resolution to the floor for consideration. This rule provides for 4 hours of general debate, with 3 hours equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking member of the Budget Committee, and 1 hour on the subject of economic goals and policies, again equally divided and controlled by Representative Saxton of New Jersey and Representative Maloney of New York or their designees.
The rule waives all points of order against consideration of the concurrent resolution, and it provides that after general debate the Committee of the Whole shall rise without motion and no further consideration of the bill shall be in order except by subsequent order of the House.
This rule allows the House to begin consideration of the congressional budget. The budget is an important tool of the Congress, allowing us to establish our priorities for the coming year. I am proud that this budget responds to the Nation's complex challenges with the straightforward principles of strength, spending control, and a continued commitment to reform.
The budget resolution continues policies that have helped to reestablish a strong United States economy. We have included savings for working Americans to the tune of $228 billion. We extend the 2001 and 2003 tax reforms, preventing what would otherwise be an automatic tax increase from their scheduled expiration. The budget also assumes the extension of other expiring tax provisions, including the alternative minimum tax relief, a House-passed pension bill, and other important economic growth measures.
While working to give Americans back some of their hard-earned dollars and letting them keep more of their hard-earned dollars, we are also working to enact a responsible spending plan that exercises control and restraint. I am proud that once again this House has delivered a budget that practices conscientious spending. Our goal is to stem the ever expanding outflow of Federal dollars.
House Concurrent Resolution 376 has an overall discretionary spending level that is equal to the President's budget request of $873 billion. It allows for the President's requested 7 percent increase in defense and a 3.8 percent increase for homeland security. As always, the discretion lies with the House Appropriations Committee to determine the final allocation of these funds. This budget essentially freezes nonsecurity discretionary spending, with only a 0.1 percent increase over last year's level, a tenth of a percent. As an additional savings method, the budget caps advance appropriations, spending that is for the year after the budget year.
In the area of mandatory spending, entitlement spending, we provide a total of $1.5 trillion. In an effort to control the automatic effusion of dollars, the budget resolution calls for mandatory spending reforms from several committees. These savings, these mandatory spending savings, total $6.75 billion over 5 years.
This is an important distinction. This is one of the first times in the history of modern budgeting that there has been back-to-back reconciliation instructions in the House budget. Today, over half of Federal spending is essentially on autopilot. Fifty-five percent of Federal expenditures today are going into what is known in budget parlance as mandatory accounts. So all of the discretion that lies within this body and lies within the Senate is not even half of the Federal budget. And within 10 years, if these reconciliation instructions are not implemented, that are embedded in this budget for the second year in a row, then within 10 years it will consume two-thirds of the Federal budget, two-thirds of the Federal budget being on autopilot if we don't implement the reforms that this budget calls for.
Last year was the first year since 1997 that we had made the effort through passage of the Budget Act to get our arms around mandatory spending through reconciliation instructions. This year we do that again. This is an important reform effort. Again, it is one of the few times in modern history where there has been back-to-back reconciliation instructions that allows us to reduce the size of the Federal deficit.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this year the Budget Committee included an emergency reserve fund to help Congress plan for unforeseen costs that may arise in the future. We have set aside $50 billion toward an expected wartime supplemental, as well as $4.3 billion for unanticipated emergencies, such as natural disasters, and $2.3 billion for potential avian flu costs.
As a Congressman from the great State of Florida, I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that the last several years have been very active in the Atlantic hurricane season. We know, without being able to see into the future, we know that somewhere in the next year there is likely to be a hurricane that will make landfall in the United States. Somewhere in the United States this year there will almost certainly be devastating wildfires. Somewhere in the United States in the coming fiscal year there will almost certainly be an earthquake or devastating tornadoes.
Hopefully, we will not have a natural disaster that reaches the catastrophic level that Hurricane Katrina reached. But nevertheless, just like responsible businesses and responsible homeowners who set aside money in their savings accounts for when the hot water heater breaks or when the car needs new tires or when the transmission goes out, the Federal Government, a little bit slowly, but nevertheless has come around to the notion that we should plan for emergencies, particularly those types of very expensive natural disasters that do frequently strike our shores.
With increased spending control, tax relief, and these important budget reforms, this budget makes a sizable dent in our deficits. Under these policies, the deficit will fall by more than half, from $521 billion, which is projected in fiscal year 2004, to $191 billion in fiscal year 2009, which is below the President's planned budget achievements.
I am proud of the work of the Budget Committee this year. I thank Chairman Nussle for pushing forward with fiscal discipline and bringing us this excellent budget for our consideration, and I urge Members to support the rule and the underlying bill.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I think the gentlewoman raises an important point about the need for us to continue to invest in research and development, in health care initiatives that allow us to remain a Nation on the cutting edge of technology both in biosciences, basic research, and the whole gamut of diseases and disorders that afflict the human condition.
This majority takes a back seat to no one on investments in health. The National Institutes of Health are preeminent research institutions run by this Federal Government that are making great strides against cancer, against juvenile diabetes, against HIV/AIDS, against a whole host of orphan diseases and disorders that only afflict a small number of Americans, but nevertheless in a huge, huge way to that individual family.
Since 1998, NIH funding, because of the investments that this majority has made, has more than doubled. More than doubled since 1998. Funding in 1998 was at $13.5 billion. Today this Nation invests nearly $28.5 billion in the National Institutes of Health.
We take a back seat to no one in recognizing that it is fundamentally important that America remain on the cutting edge of innovation, that it is fundamentally important that we continue to produce graduates in the health sciences, in engineering, in mathematics to keep us on that cutting edge. We take a back seat to no one in recognizing that it is important to have in place economic policies, tax policies that encourage people to make those investments in this country instead of in other countries; that we have in place incentives to people to add new lines of scientists at their workbenches and their laboratories in Silicon Valley, California, or at the CDC in Atlanta.
We recognize it is important to have a growing economy that allows us the luxury of being able to invest in research that may not bear fruit for decades to come. And we take a back seat to no one in the commitment we have made for the last dozen years in funding the National Institutes of Health.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to the gentleman's concerns about funding for veterans, and I would remind him again that since 1995 veterans medical care spending has increased from $16 billion to more than $31 billion, an increase of 92 percent. The funding increase for next year, over this one, year-to-year increase is nearly 4 percent, a substantial jump, especially relative to other discretionary programs who will see a tenth of a point cut.
They are getting a 4 percent increase.
We recognize the sacrifices that veterans make. We recognize our lifelong commitment to them for the sacrifices that they have made and continue to make. This budget builds on that strong foundation. It accommodates general veterans funding at $75 billion, and it is $800 million above even what the President requested. This Congress is meeting the needs of America's veterans. In addition to increasing over the President's request, it does not increase the fees that were called for in his request.
Frequently on this floor we get sucked into these debates based on what the President's proposal is, and that is not the document that we are debating here this morning. This is the House budget. In fact, in the budget markup, we had an opportunity to vote on the President's budget, and we chose to go a different path with the document that this House is producing.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, perhaps in the gentleman's stack of letters that we are entering into the RECORD, he could find the thank you notes from the veterans who thank us for finally, after decades of inactivity under the previous leadership, acting on concurrent receipts giving veterans what they need; doubling funding for veterans in 10 years; a 4 percent increase next year over this.
We budget year to year, and the gentleman knows it. Every year this majority has come through for our veterans. Every year we have been there, and we will continue to be there for America's veterans.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I would remind my friend from Massachusetts in the conversation about insatiable appetites that nearly every amendment offered by the Democratic minority on the Budget Committee spent more money. There was no amendment offered by the Democratic minority that changed the Tax Code in any way. In previous years they had sought to raise taxes. They have learned that lesson, that it does not fly with small business men and women across the America, that it is not particularly popular, and it is terrible economic policy to raise taxes. So they dropped that. But nearly every amendment offered in the committee markup was to spend more money and to pay for it using the mythical potential of what is called the ``tax gap,'' which is the difference between taxes owed and taxes collected. That is money that may or may not appear based on an aggressive IRS. That was their pay-for to feed their insatiable appetite for more spending.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, the myth is this: in your plan, you assume that the $200 billion tax gap will magically appear tomorrow. If we knew where the $200 billion was, we would find it now. You assume that the $200 billion in uncollected taxes are available to be collected and then be spent under your budget plan the day your proposal passes. It wouldn't be uncollected if we knew where it was. It wouldn't be uncollected if we could go get it. Somebody has to go hassle these people to pay their taxes.
That is the myth. Does it need to be done? Absolutely. Should we close it? Absolutely. But that is a crap shoot. You will not have 100 percent collections of all income taxes due by the day that your bill passes, if it were to pass tomorrow. That is the myth.
You point out that our deficit is different than the CBO baseline. You are correct. The CBO baseline assumes, and your budget assumes, that you will allow the tax reforms that passed in 2001 and 2003 to expire. So capital gains taxes go up; dividend taxes go up; taxes on middle-income brackets go up; the 10 percent bracket disappears; AMT relief, no action.
You allow those things to expire. The CBO assumes those things will expire. We assume they will stay in place because we believe that those are the drivers of the economic engine that is giving this country 4.8 percent unemployment, which is lower than the average of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. It is what allows this government to collect 15 percent more revenues, more money from the taxpayers this year than last year, even though the tax rate is lower.
That is the difference. That is the myth. That is the problem with the competing budgets as ours stacks up against yours.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, it has been a good debate. We have 4 more hours to go. We need to pass this rule.
The gentleman has grabbed the veterans issue by the horns, and appropriately so. We will stand by our veterans funding. It is a 4 percent increase in an era when the rest of the budget is assumed to be reduced by a tenth of a point.
This is a two-step process, and the gentleman knows it. The budget lays out the fences, the appropriations process decides what is spent within those fences. We have doubled spending per veteran, not spending on veterans, spending per veteran in the last 10 years. We have doubled spending on veterans medical care. These are issues that are hugely important.
I am proud of the way this debate has been conducted, because this budget lays out the competing visions for America, one that inspires economic growth through sensible tax policies, and one that wants to spend, spend, and spend some more based on the myth of the tax gap collections that would miraculously appear tomorrow under the Democrats' proposal.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time, I move the previous question on the resolution and urge the adoption of this rule.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT