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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 22, 2007)

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.

I want to thank the gentlewoman from California for her leadership on environmental issues and look forward to working with her on continuing the Speaker's leadership on the Green the Capitol Initiative, both in terms of planting of the trees and the greening of roofs, and I look forward and appreciate her input.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, I think it's unfortunate that the gentleman from Georgia, the distinguished former chairman of this committee, has chosen this opportunity as a message opportunity, as opposed to working together in a bipartisan way, like the ranking member and I have done, to make sure that we can provide for the safety and security of the facilities of this institution.

He knows full well that the Capitol Visitors Center and the employees of the subcontractors that have been engaged to build that facility, while moving entirely too slowly, and we certainly have decried the cost overruns, are required to hire people who legally may work in this country and are required to ensure that a background check and a security check has been done on them. So his remarks are unfortunate, but everybody makes their own choices.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, I am really proud of the work that the subcommittee and I have engaged in. We offer this legislation to the House and ask for their support. We have endeavored to make sure that this bill is fiscally responsible, provides for the life, safety and security of the needs of the people who work here as well as the people who visit us here, and make sure that we can engage in Congress's oversight role and provide for accountability for the American people.

I look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Wamp from Tennessee on making sure that we can consistently provide those initiatives for the American people.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, very briefly, I fully support this amendment and appreciate the bipartisan cooperation that was endeavored in moving it forward.

I do want to express some concern about how the light bulbs will be adapted to the historical lighting that we have in this facility, in the Capitol complex.

I look forward to working with the sponsors of the amendment as we move this legislation through conference to ensure that that occurs.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues and Mr. Wamp as we move through the conference process and commend them, as well as Speaker Pelosi, for including the shifting from the light bulbs we use now to energy-efficient and environmentally friendly light bulbs as part of the initiative of the greening of the Capitol.

I yield back my time.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to this amendment for a number of reasons.

While I support the gentleman, who is from the same generation that I am, in his endeavor to make sure that we can communicate and receive information in an electronic format, the approach that the gentleman is taking is absolutely inappropriate and won't accomplish his goal.

We have crafted a tight and fiscally responsible bill. As I outlined in general debate, we have held the bill to a 4.1 percent increase. We actually held it to $276 million below the total request.

In their traditional views, the minority agreed. They said that, on balance, the funding provided in this bill to operate the legislative branch agencies is fiscally responsible. This amendment would add to existing shortfalls. It would add to what is already a growing funding shortfall in this account.

To be fiscally responsible, we have had to make some tough choices, including funding levels for GPO. The bill already, our colleagues should know, holds congressional printing and binding $62,000 below what was provided in fiscal year 2007. GPO is expecting an $8 million shortfall in this account in fiscal year 2007 in addition to a $3 million shortfall in fiscal year 2006. These shortfalls are due to the flat funding provided to this account since fiscal year 2007, in spite of increasing costs and workloads. These shortfalls will continue in fiscal year 2008. Eventually they are going to have to be paid.

This amendment would make that situation even worse. Most of the appropriation for congressional printing and binding goes towards Congress' printing requirements. I want to point out that the gentleman is incorrect when he states that there is a statute. While there is a statutory number in the Code that the GPO is told to print, they only print the number that is requisitioned. In other words, they only print, on a daily basis, the number that they are asked for. We have a deficit in the account that allows them to print the number that is asked for. GPO has no control over those requirements. It's required by law to produce the information.

If the gentleman is concerned about the number of printed materials being produced, he should take it up with the authorizing committee, the Joint Committee on Printing, and seek reductions in the amount of material that GPO is required to print in the Code.

Simply gratuitously cutting out and leaving people with the impression that we are doing something, when we are not, and all we are doing here is cutting $3.2 million when GPO will still be required to print the Code, is the wrong approach. The suggestion that this amendment was accepted previously but then cut out in conference also leads people to believe that we have done something when we have not.

I refuse to be disingenuous when it comes to being forthright with the American people. We do need to make sure that in the future the Congressional Record is produced electronically. This is not the right way to do it. It is irresponsible. I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, I just want to point out that the amendment offered by Mr. Flake does not say anything about reducing the number of copies printed of the Congressional Record. It simply cuts $3.2 million out of the Congressional Printing and Binding account. It provides no direction. It simply cuts that funding. There is no assumption that any of what the gentleman is suggesting would occur. It would simply further add to the deficit.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, I really believe that we should approach this in the appropriate way. If we want to change the statute and go to electronic production of the Congressional Record, that is what we should do. We should not simply hamstring the GPO by requiring them to print a Congressional Record and not ensuring they have adequate funds to do that, when they are already in a deficit situation.

I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Chair, this is a fiscally responsible bill. Again, we have held the bill to a 4.1 percent increase, only $122 million over actual spending in fiscal year 2007, and if you take into consideration the $50 million rescission in the CR, we are at a 2.3 percent increase. That is $276 million below the total budget request.

Again, I want to point to the minority views, where the minority agreed this bill is fiscally responsible. They say, ``On balance, the funding provided in this bill to operate the legislative branch agencies is fiscally responsible.''

This bill funds the must-have's, not the nice-to-have's, by targeting increases towards keeping the agencies running, providing Congress with the tools it needs to perform its oversight responsibility, and funding critical security and life safety projects.

The amendment, if adopted, would eliminate $50 million worth of critical health and safety and security projects that we would be unable to fund if a 4 percent across-the-board reduction were adopted.

This amendment would eliminate funding for things like the $5 million we have in this bill to ensure that the Capitol Police have interoperable radios. According to the new police chief, a new radio system is their number one priority. The existing radio system is 20 years old. It is antiquated and outdated. It is not encrypted nor secure, and it is not interoperable. Hurricane Katrina showed the importance of interoperable communications during a crisis.

It also would eliminate funding potentially monitoring the utility tunnel abatement. We had tunnel workers who were subjected to horrendous conditions and have been exposed to asbestos, and we are endeavoring to make sure that we can make up for that and provide the funding for the abatement. That would be impossible if this amendment were adopted.

We provide $1.2 million for escape hoods for our Library visitors, $1 million for emergency exit signs and lighting in the capital, and emergency lighting upgrades in Rayburn.

The amendment would also impair our agency's work. It would put the legislative branch agencies back to a fiscal year 2006 funding level since there was no increase in 2007.

In practical terms, the impact of this would be less capability on the part of GAO to assist Congress in its oversight responsibilities; fewer and less timely products from CRS to assist Members in their legislative duties, a further reduction in CBO's ability to score Member bills, which was pointed out in the Rules Committee as already being a problem; elimination of the digital talking book conversion program for the blind; a reduced ability for the Office of Compliance to pursue health safety issues around the Capitol complex, even as we get ready to add new space with the approaching opening of the CVC; the Architect's operations would be strained to keep up with increases in utility costs; and, finally, since 77 percent of this bill is labor costs, as is most of the increase, this amendment would surely result in a reduction in our workforce.

It is irresponsible. Mr. Wamp and I have endeavored to put forward a bill that is fiscally responsible, fiscally tight, and ensures the life, safety and security needs of the people who work and visit here.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I want to point out and remind my colleagues that Mr. Wamp and I are proud to report to you that we have brought the legislative branch appropriations bill in at $276 million below the request. The easiest thing in the world to do is jump on the table and to cry waste.

I want to also point out that this is a security upgrade, funding for security upgrades requested by former Speaker Hastert and continued by Speaker Pelosi so that we can ensure that we provide swing space for our very cramped space so that we can properly renovate the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings.

I ask my colleagues to come over and look at these pictures of the deterioration of our facilities. These are pictures of the 100-year-old Cannon House Office Building. If you take a look at the deterioration and life, safety and security upgrades that this facility needs, we can no longer wait to make these upgrades, and to make sure that we can protect the people who work here and the people who visit us. They are deteriorating and badly in need of renovation.

What the gentleman from Georgia's motion to recommit would do is delay for years, if not make it impossible, for us to begin renovation and repairs on our aging House facilities.

My colleagues, this committee does not deal with the sexiest of subjects that confront us every day, and I have only been here for 2 years and the chair of this subcommittee for the last 5 months. You don't earn a reputation as an institutionalist in that short period of time, but it is my hope to be able to do that over time.

We are stewards of this great institution, but we are also stewards just as much of these facilities. My colleague on the Appropriations Committee, José Serrano of New York, recently made a wonderful suggestion to remind us of the history embedded even in what may seem mundane, the space we occupy each day. He suggested that we each have plaques in our offices with the names of our predecessors in Congress who occupied that space before us. My own office, I was thrilled to learn, was once occupied by former Congressman Lyndon Johnson.

My point is they may seem like buildings and office space to the outside world, but we know better. How many of us countless times have found ourselves approaching this beautiful building we are now in and marveling privately to ourselves, wow, I work here, what an incredible privilege.

But with privilege comes responsibility. We must think about the institution, but we must also think about our hard-working staff. The number of hours they toil in these facilities is mind-boggling. You might be surprised to learn that the average work space for each of our staff is about 36 square feet. And I want to show you what 36 square feet is. This is 36 square feet. That is how much space that we allot, on average, to our employees.

GSA recommends an average of 100 square feet of space per employee. We need to renovate so that we can make sure we are not cramming our staff into unreasonable boxes for hours on end. Our staff make incredible sacrifices to serve the public, our constituents, and they help us do our job. We must make sure that we keep these facilities, the place they work every day and night, safe for them. We must make sure we keep these facilities safe and in good condition for our constituents and our successors.

Mr. Kingston's amendment is well-meaning, but it is not responsible, and it is not an eye toward the future with respect for our past. I strongly urge you to vote against the motion to recommit.

Mr. HOYER. Would the gentlelady yield?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I would be happy to yield to the gentleman.

Mr. HOYER. It was my understanding you indicated this is the initiative of Speaker Hastert; am I accurate?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Yes, it is. It is an initiative from former Speaker Hastert.

I strongly urge you to vote against the motion to recommit.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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