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Public Statements

Freshman Republican Hour

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. AUSTRIA. I thank the Congresswoman from Wyoming for her hard work here in Congress and for putting this freshman Special Order together this evening. I think it's a great opportunity for us, as new Members of Congress, to be able to give our points of view as to coming to Congress, as to what we're seeing and how we think we can do better in the future. I thank you for putting that together.

As our class president, I think you would agree with me that we have a lot of talent that came in with this freshman class on both sides of the aisle. And I think most of us would probably say it's been very challenging, to say the least, our freshman year, sometimes very frustrating, but we're all committed to working very hard to represent our constituents, and that means listening to our constituents and understanding what they're talking about.

And I think this week marks a defining moment for this Congress and our Nation. You know as we, as freshmen, finish our first year in Congress, our national debt continues to grow. It's now over $12 trillion as government encroaches into every aspect of our life. And I fear that this administration and this Congress, as they continue this outrageous spending and running up debt, that we're reaching a point of no return, and it will take another piece of our liberty with it.

I served 10 years in the State legislature in Ohio before I came to Congress, and in Ohio, we were forced to balance our budget. That meant tough decisions sometimes. We were willing to make those tough decisions. And those 10 years in the State legislature, I think, were a good learning experience and a training ground for Congress, but I don't think anything could have prepared us for what we've seen these first 12 months in Congress. If you think back to when we were sworn in, and when the President came in after his inauguration, in his first sentence of his Executive order, President Obama stated, my administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.

In November 2006, Speaker Pelosi pledged to lead the most honest and most open Congress in history. Yet, what we've seen in our first year is that, time and time again this congressional leadership has rammed through costly bills with devastating consequences for America's small businesses and working families that no Member of Congress, in many cases, has had an opportunity to even read, and I think that's outrageous as a freshman in Congress.

If we put things in perspective, the first 4 or 5 months in Congress, we were faced with voting on the second half of the bailouts, the TARP bill, the $700 billion for the financial markets. We were asked to vote on a $400 billion omnibus bill that contained over 9,000 earmarks. We were asked to vote on a stimulus bill, a 1,073-page, nearly trillion dollar stimulus bill that was posted online at 10 p.m. the night before it came up for a vote and that not one Member of Congress had an opportunity to read before we voted on that, and I think that's unacceptable and outrageous. We should have an opportunity to read the bill before we vote on it. And that bill, as we found out, contained a tremendous amount of infusion of government spending, expansion of government. It wasn't targeted on helping small business create jobs, small businesses that can sustain those jobs over the long run.

Then we moved into the month of June and we took up an energy policy known as the climate change bill or cap-and-trade bill. What we saw was at the very end, a 300-page amendment that was tacked on to a 1,200-page bill, which turned out to be a national energy tax bill at 3 a.m. in the morning that came up for a vote that, again, the Members of Congress didn't have an opportunity to read that amendment and fully understand what was in that bill before we voted on it. That's unacceptable, in my opinion. It was a bill that's not good for Midwest States like Ohio, that I represent, that have a lot of manufacturing in Ohio, and nearly 90 percent of our energy comes from coal. This bill, in my opinion, is going to cause unemployment and raise the cost of energy for Ohioans and Americans across this country. And during a time when we're going through a difficult economic time, that's not a good thing.

This freshman class then came together, as you know, as the Congresswoman from Wyoming, as you know, because you participated in this, Congresswoman Lummis, and that was we had a press conference. We were upset about not having the opportunity to read this bill. And as a freshman class, we came before the national press, and we expressed our concerns about having an opportunity to

read the bill before we vote on it and the importance of having that transparency, the importance of being able to let the American people know what we're voting on here in Congress.

What we saw shortly after that--and we saw a number of people come to Congress the day before or a couple of days before we voted on the health care reform bill. What we saw, what was rolled out shortly after that press conference, was a 2,000-page health care reform bill that we spent days setting up a reading room to try to read through and understand what was in that bill and trying to get that message out to the American public. And what we found was it was a huge spending bill again, a $1 trillion health care reform bill that would raise premiums for many Americans to pay for that, would increase taxes by over $700 billion. Most of that burden is being put on small businesses to pay for the health care reform bill, when we should have been focused on lowering costs and making it more accessible, or more accessible to families and maintaining that doctor/patient relationship. So we can do better.

And what has all this led to? It's led to a tremendous amount of debt. You know, we're now borrowing 50 cents on every dollar that we spend. And I have three teenage boys at home, and I didn't come to Congress to run up these types of debts. And what we are doing is we're further increasing our Nation's debt and placing an astronomical amount of debt and burden on the backs of our children and our grandchildren, and that's unacceptable. And what we're seeing as a result of this tremendous amount of spending, this runaway spending, this huge amount of debt, is we're seeing unemployment now reach the highest it's been in recent decades at over 10 percent, and that's unacceptable.

It's time that this administration and this Congress understand that government spending alone is not going to turn this economy around. We need to be helping our small business. We need to stop government spending. We need to stop increasing our debt, and we need to be focused on helping those that create jobs across this country, the economic engine across this country, and that is our small businesses. We have it backwards.

I think as a freshman class, you know, we meet on a regular basis, and one of the things that we've talked about is how we believe that Americans, that we in Congress should allow Americans, allow small businesses, the taxpayers, give their money back to them, give them an opportunity to spend it to invest it back in the economy and be able to create jobs and sustain jobs, but unfortunately, what's happening here is we've got it backwards.

Congress is taking the American people's tax dollars, and government thinks that it knows how to spend those dollars better than the American people, and they've got it backwards. And unfortunately, what's happening is that this leadership in Congress is brokering deals behind closed doors or not listening to the American people and their constituents. And that message is very clear to me, and that is that more government is not the answer.

And with that, I will yield back to the Congresswoman from Wyoming. And again, I thank you for having this Special Order tonight with our freshman class.


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