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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 2419, Food and Energy Security Act of 2007

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Location: Washington, DC


MOTION TO INSTRUCT CONFEREES ON H.R. 2419, FOOD AND ENERGY SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 01, 2008)

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, it's not my intention to consume the full amount of time, as we had discussed earlier.

At the beginning of this Congress, the Speaker of the House said the following: ``After years of deficit spending, this new Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending.''

Well, the majority did follow through on half of their promise. One of the first things they did when they took control of this place was put in a new pay-as-you-go rule.

But things haven't quite worked out as well on the deficit. This year's deficit is projected to double as spending is projected to rise by over $200 billion. But at least they did put in the rule. And one of the things that makes this rule interesting, that requires this rule, is that the House must use the most recent CBO baseline when determining whether a bill complies with PAYGO. Let me read this rule word for word to be clear:

``The effect of a measure on the deficit or surplus shall be determined on the basis of estimates by the Committee on Budget relative to the most recent baseline supplied by the Congressional Budget Office.''

It sounds pretty straightforward, Mr. Speaker. You've got to use the current baseline when you apply PAYGO, no questions asked.

But despite this, everyone I have talked to about this issue, everything I've heard, everything I've read in the newspapers had told me that the farm bill isn't going to use the updated 2008 baseline but instead is going to use the 2007 baseline, an outdated baseline from over a year ago. Now, I hope that this is not the case. I hope that this does not happen. But it sounds like that's the direction they are headed. And that is what this motion is all about.

This motion is very simple. All it would do is require that the House will follow its own rules and use the current CBO baseline when determining whether or not the farm bill complies with PAYGO.

Why should we care? Why does this seemingly technical issue make a difference?

First of all, economic conditions have changed in the past year. Agricultural profits are way up. Food prices are soaring. And it's simply not accurate to use an estimate that's over a year old.

Second, there's a strong possibility that using the old baseline could hide

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billions and billions of dollars in new spending. We don't have all the details yet, and we don't know exactly how CBO is going to score it, but based on what we've heard, based on rising food prices and other factors, we think it's quite likely that this bill is going to appear to cost billions of dollars less under the old baseline than it really does under the current one.

Now, isn't that convenient? I'm sure that a lot of taxpayers would love to have this type of choice. I'm sure that when they were filling out their taxes a few weeks ago, a lot of people thought it would surely be nice to have the option of paying taxes on either last year's income or this year's income. They could just pick the year where they made less money and save a couple bucks.

But the taxpayers don't have that choice. They are required to play by the rules. They have got to pay taxes on their current income whether they like it or not. And if the majority follows the rules, it doesn't have this choice either. They must use the 2008 baseline, or they will be in clear violation of their PAYGO rules.

Now, the majority has dodged PAYGO before. The farm bill they passed last year had over $5 billion in timing shifts and other gimmicks in it, and I wouldn't be surprised if you saw some of those in the conference report again this year. But if they use an old baseline, this would take it to a whole new level, Mr. Speaker. This would be the first time the majority actually used baseline shopping to violate the PAYGO requirement.

You see things like this, and it's no wonder people think Washington is broken. These types of games are exactly what make people cynical about Congress. And I agree. This just isn't the way the House should operate. The American people deserve better than having the House play games with its own rules and then go home and claim they have entered a new era of fiscal discipline.

You know, some people might find it odd for me to be down here talking about PAYGO, and I will be the first to admit that I have been critical of this rule and don't think it's the best way to proceed with respect to fiscal discipline. But let's put those concerns aside for a minute. Budgetary rules are only as good as the integrity of the numbers that you use to enforce them. So let's enforce those rules with updated CBO estimates. Let's have a strong bipartisan vote for this motion and say that these games have got to end. Let's not manipulate the rules and pick and choose whichever baseline is more convenient.

With that I urge my colleagues to support this motion.

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