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Reducing Non-security Spending to Fiscal Year 2008 Levels or Less

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my good friend, again, that this is the beginning of a process. We have been saddled with a situation where for the first time since the implementation of the 1974 Budget and Impoundment Act, we have no budget. And so what is it we've been left to do? Nearly halfway through the fiscal year, we are faced with this challenge. We now are in a position where we are going to begin going through regular order to ensure that we have a budget, which we didn't do last year, and have an open, free-flowing debate on the amendments through the appropriations process. And I will say to my friend, the defense issues are going to be a high priority when it comes to oversight and scrutiny.

With that, Madam Speaker, I would like to yield 3 minutes to my very good friend and colleague, the distinguished chair of the Committee on the Budget from whom we are going to be hearing later this evening, the gentleman from Janesville, Wisconsin (Mr. Ryan).

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

One of the indelible and enduring images of 2010 was that of violent protesters on the streets of Athens following the proposal of the government to impose austerity measures. We all remember very vividly that scene.

Having come to the brink of collapse and nearly dragging the entire euro zone with it, the Greek government had no choice but to scale back its profligate ways. Thousands of public employees took to the streets in anger.

Now, Madam Speaker, I contrast that with the image of tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators across America coming out to express their frustration with excessive government spending. Rather than demanding more Federal largesse, these taxed-enough-already demonstrators actually came together to petition their government for greater restraint and discipline. This might actually have been a first in human history.

It was a powerful illustration of the unique nature of American values. But it was also a testament to just how badly fiscal discipline is needed. This issue is no longer just the purview of budget wonks and economists.

The looming crisis of our national debt is a challenge that working Americans recognize very clearly. While the magnitude of a $14 trillion debt is simply too massive to truly comprehend, those with a modicum of common sense can appreciate the crushing weight that will fall on future generations. If we do not immediately change course, the damage could quickly become irreversible.

Today's resolution is a clear signal that we are making that change in course. House Resolution 38 is the first step, Madam Speaker, in what will be a long and admittedly difficult process over the next 2 years as we pursue the goal of living within our means. This resolution lays down a marker to return to pre-bailout, pre-binge-spending, pre-stimulus levels. This resolution provides the framework under which we will finally dispense with the fiscal year 2011 budget which the previous Congress, unfortunately, failed to do.

Nearly halfway through the fiscal year--we are nearly halfway through the fiscal year--now the imperative is to responsibly finish the work that is really very, very urgent for us to approach and deal with at this moment.

Once we move beyond this task, we will immediately pivot to fiscal year 2012. We will craft a budget, we will consider alternatives, with a full debate, and then this House will pass a budget.

We will then proceed with consideration of appropriations bills. We will return to the traditional, open process that always governed our appropriations bills prior to the last couple of years. This will ensure full accountability and true collaboration and restore the deliberative traditions and customs of this body.

There will be very tough choices ahead. Very tough choices need to be made. There is no doubt that we will engage in heated debate, and I suspect we will in just a few minutes right here. But we simply cannot afford to put off the hard work any longer. Madam Speaker, today we take the first step. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my good friend, again, that this is the beginning of a process. We have been saddled with a situation where for the first time since the implementation of the 1974 Budget and Impoundment Act, we have no budget. And so what is it we've been left to do? Nearly halfway through the fiscal year, we are faced with this challenge. We now are in a position where we are going to begin going through regular order to ensure that we have a budget, which we didn't do last year, and have an open, free-flowing debate on the amendments through the appropriations process. And I will say to my friend, the defense issues are going to be a high priority when it comes to oversight and scrutiny.

With that, Madam Speaker, I would like to yield 3 minutes to my very good friend and colleague, the distinguished chair of the Committee on the Budget from whom we are going to be hearing later this evening, the gentleman from Janesville, Wisconsin (Mr. Ryan).

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Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to respond to my friend by saying a couple of things.

Unfortunately, we have begun by degenerating the debate to the sky-is-falling mentality again, that we're going to be cutting NIH funding; we're going to be gutting FBI agents. We are beginning the process of getting our fiscal house in order.

Madam Speaker, I think it is important to note that while both of my friends have used the term ``press release,'' H. Res. 38 is going to be a statement from the United States House of Representatives that we are today, before the President, at 9 this evening, stands here in this Chamber and delivers his State of the Union message, that we are committing ourselves to reduce the level of spending.

At this point I yield 4 minutes to my very good friend and classmate, the distinguished new chair on the Appropriations Committee, the gentleman from Somerset, Kentucky (Mr. Rogers).

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Mr. DREIER. I'm sorry. I was talking to my new colleague, Mr. Mulvaney, here. If the gentleman was yielding to me, I apologize, but he will have to repeat the question.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. McGOVERN. I yield the gentleman an additional 1 minute.

Mr. ANDREWS. The question that I asked was:

Will the bill that eventually gets here that has numbers in it have a 25 percent cut by going back to 2006 or a 22 percent cut by going back to 2008?

Mr. DREIER. If the gentleman would yield, I am happy to answer my friend by saying that the House will work its will. It is one of the things that Speaker Boehner has made very clear.

I thank my friend for yielding.

Mr. ANDREWS. Reclaiming my time, I would ask what the bill that the leadership brings to the floor will ask for. Will it be a 25 percent cut that goes back to 2006 or a 22 percent cut that goes back to 2008?

Mr. DREIER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ANDREWS. I yield to my friend.

Mr. DREIER. I thank my friend for yielding.

Let me say, Madam Speaker, that Speaker Boehner, who is the leader of this House, of both Democrats and Republicans alike, and who is obviously the leader of Republicans, said this morning in a meeting, as he has said repeatedly, the House is going to work its will. We are going to do something that hasn't been done, especially in the appropriations process in the last 2 years. We are going to have a debate that will allow a majority of this institution to determine what those numbers are.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has again expired.

Mr. McGOVERN. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.

Mr. ANDREWS. Reclaiming my time, that sounds awfully familiar. We were promised an open process, but it was a closed process on health care. We were promised an open process, but it was a closed process on this bill. That sounds to me like a promise we have heard before that really hasn't been honored thus far in this Congress.

I would urge a ``no'' vote.

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my friend, as we talk about an open process, my Rules Committee colleagues know that just a few minutes ago, for the first time in 4 long years, the Rules Committee reported out a modified open rule that will allow a free-flowing debate tomorrow right here on this House floor.

I should say, Madam Speaker, that H. Res. 38 is literally one sentence, which says that this institution is committed to getting our level of spending to 2008 levels or less--or less, Madam Speaker--and I think it's important for us to note that.

We have the chairman of the Budget Committee, as I started to say in response to my friend, we have the Appropriations Committee chairman, and we are determined to begin a process.

With that, I am happy to yield 2 minutes to my great new friend from Indian Hills, South Carolina (Mr. Mulvaney).

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Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my very good friend from Santa Barbara that creating jobs and getting our economy back on track is exactly what this resolution is all about.

We all know that, on the sidelines all across this country and around the world, there is capital, there are resources that are waiting to be invested. And once we get our fiscal house in order, the signal that that sends to job creators out there is a very important one.

With that, I am very happy to yield 1 minute to my very good friend from Richmond, Virginia, the distinguished majority leader, Mr. Cantor.

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Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my very good friend from Seattle that I am in complete agreement with the notion of ensuring that we focus time, energy, and effort on paring back waste, fraud, and abuse, especially within the Pentagon. We all know that it's there. And I'm glad that my friend from Worcester raised that issue in his opening remarks. He somehow was arguing that we have left it as sacrosanct. We don't.

The focus today is obviously on non-security discretionary spending, and that's exactly what we are trying to do with this first try.

Mr. DICKS. Will the gentleman yield?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. DREIER. I am happy to yield my friend 15 seconds, Madam Speaker.

Mr. DICKS. I would just say we ought to do it now; it will make it easier. This gives us a bargaining chip with the President and with the Senate. We can make some reductions in defense.

Mr. DREIER. If I could reclaim my time, Madam Speaker, I would say to my friend, he knows very well that we have gone without a budget so far. We are going to go through the standard budget process.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has again expired.

Mr. DREIER. I yield myself an additional 15 seconds to say that I would like to see complete reform of the 1974 Budget Act. I want a joint, bicameral, bipartisan committee to do just that. But then, with the structure we have today, we are going to proceed with the appropriations process so we will be able to do exactly what my friend said.

With that, Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, the bill makes defense spending sacrosanct and says nothing about going after fraud and waste in defense contracts.

I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. Stark).

Mr. STARK. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I rise today to oppose the budgetless resolution. It ignores job creation, has no numbers, no specifics, and it gives no serious plan to reduce the deficit.

The Republicans say they want to decrease the deficit and that they will try to cut non-defense discretionary spending back to 2008 levels. They say this will save $100 billion in discretionary spending.

I am giving them a chance to put their money where their mouths are. Today, I introduced H.R. 413, legislation that would reduce defense spending to 2008 levels. We can't be serious about getting our house in order if we are exempting 60 percent of discretionary spending from cuts. My legislation will save $182 billion over the next 5 years. That's $182 billion from a sector riddled with extra planes and engines the Pentagon doesn't even want. We spend more than any other country. The next closest is China; we spend seven times what they do. How about just cutting back to maybe only spending five or six times as much as China does.

I urge support of H.R. 413.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire of my friend how many speakers he has remaining?

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Hoyer and then myself at this moment.

Mr. DREIER. I am going to sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation of Mr. Hoyer's very thoughtful remarks that I look forward to, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland, the minority whip, Mr. Hoyer.

Mr. HOYER. I want to thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Dreier has put additional pressure on me with his thoughtful remarks.

Let me say that there is nobody on this floor who doesn't believe that the deficit is a very, very substantial problem that confronts us; and I would hope that there is nobody on the floor who believes that it's going to be accomplished in a simple fashion to bring this deficit under control. But I fear that there is too much simplistic--not simple--simplistic rhetoric with reference to this deficit.

After borrowing trillions of dollars to finance tax cuts, a new entitlement, and two wars, our friends on the Republican side tell us they are now taking the deficit seriously. All of you have heard my comments about how under the Clinton administration the budget was balanced and how under the Reagan and Bush I and Bush II administrations it was not.

If our Republican friends mean it, if they were interested in the deficit as anything other than a political issue, if they actually use their House majority to back up their words with action, then no one, in my opinion, would be happier than me and our party, the Democratic Party.

Our deficit I think all of us should agree is too big for partisan politics. It cripples our children's opportunities. It makes it harder for them to pay for college education, buy a home, start a business, or plan a future.

I want my Republican friends to take the deficit seriously. I want my Democratic friends to take the budget deficit seriously--to join President Obama in making the hard choices it will take to get out of debt.

But, frankly, so far the opportunity to finally back up their words of fiscal discipline have been a record of disappointment.

A rules package, and I tell my friend, the chairman of the Rules Committee, the rules package provides for $5 trillion in additional deficit spending over the next 10 years--$5 trillion; a vote to repeal health care reform is another $230 billion of deficit; a pledge to cut

spending by a hundred billion, which it has taken them less than a month to break; and, today, a one-page resolution with no numbers and no specifics.

I think this resolution is unprecedented, certainly in the 30 years that I've been here, which gives to one person out of the 435 the opportunity and the authority to set a number that we will consider in this House. I don't think that's precedented. I don't think it's democratic. It's not transparent. And it's not an open process.

Colin Powell has already been quoted, but we're still waiting for the answer of what is going to be cut. At a time when getting out of debt, growing the economy, and creating jobs are our country's defining bipartisan challenges, we need hard choices--not more political theater.

Now, we passed a budget enforcement resolution which was criticized by the other side because we didn't pass a full budget. I think that's, perhaps, correct.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. McGOVERN. I yield the gentleman an additional 1 minute.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding the additional 1 minute.

We were criticized; but in that budget enforcement resolution, we had a number, and when you voted on the rule, you knew the number you were voting on as a House of Representatives. Here you have no idea what you're voting on. You could be voting for 2008 numbers or anything less than that under this resolution.

Mr. DREIER. Will the gentleman yield? And I will yield my friend additional time.

Mr. HOYER. I yield to the gentleman from California.

Mr. DREIER. I thank my friend for yielding.

Let me just say to my friend, Mr. Speaker, that this is the beginning of a process. This is a one-sentence resolution that will allow this House to go on record making a strong commitment to reducing the level of spending. And my friend was absolutely right in his opening remarks when he said that everyone wants us to reduce the deficit. And he's right.

This may be unprecedented, but we're in unprecedented times.

I would yield my friend an additional 30 seconds.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his generosity.

But let me say to the gentleman, it may be unprecedented times; but it does not warrant this unprecedented abdication of democracy in this House in setting what is probably the most critical question that confronts government: How much are you going to pay for it? I think we all agree on that. That's what is at issue here.

And this resolution does not allow Members of Congress to engage on that. It simply gives to one person the ability to set that number. It's not only unprecedented; it, in my opinion, is undemocratic--with a small ``d.'' It does not provide the transparency and the openness of which the gentleman has correctly spoken and I hope we pursue.

And I hope that we oppose this resolution.

Mr. DREIER. I continue to reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. McGOVERN. I yield 1 1/2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee).

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts.

I consider the gentleman from California a colleague that I've known for a good while, and I know that there are certainly good intentions; but I always believe that when you're elected to this powerful body that represents over 300 million Americans, as the census has given us new numbers of how many Americans we have the privilege of representing, you do have to speak about the future.

When you begin to talk about generic numbers going back to 2008 levels, you are speaking generally without substance because it is our commitment to be able to move America forward. And I hope the President will stay in the blue column because you can see the red column in the past administration: there was no job creation.

So when you talk about reducing the deficit, it must be with a plan; it must be with substance. Because you can repeal with no substance.

And I would just raise the question: Do we want a Nation that does not invest in education? Do we want a Nation that does not help our businesses invest to create jobs? And do we want a Nation that says that security, the FBI, the DEA--someone called in today and talked about how important it was to ensure that we had the right kind of law enforcement. Or do we want to tell those who are on Social Security who have worked, literally worked, or are disabled, that there are no more dollars for them because we have just without any guidance gone back to 2008 levels?

I would just ask that we move this country forward, Mr. Speaker, and I ask that we invest in America.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself 1 3/4 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, the problem with this resolution, as has been stated over and over and over again, is that it is a press release. It contains no number. People on the other side talk about tough choices. It doesn't talk about any of the tough choices. It exempts defense spending from any cuts, so fraudulent defense contracts are somehow okay, that it's better than waste and abuse in domestic spending programs. Everything should be on the table when we're talking about getting this budget deficit under control.

The reason why the number is so important is because that number determines how much we're going to allocate to the various appropriations committees; and that in turn determines really the severity of a lot of the cuts that are going to have to be made: cuts in medical research--research to try to find a cure to cancer; cuts in programs to help feed hungry children; cuts in programs to provide emergency fuel assistance to low-income people during the winter months; cuts in small business loans that can help small businesses get the capital they need to grow and create jobs.

We should be talking about jobs in the opening of the session. Instead, what we have talked about are the old ideological battles of the past. Last week we repealed the entire health care bill. This week, we're passing a budget resolution that has no number in it. I mean, this is a first. This is unprecedented. And I think the American people who are watching are wondering why in the world can't you tell us what the number is; why in the world can't you give us a sense of what you're going to cut.

Why in the world can't you even vote on it? There are 435 Members of this House. Only one Member is going to be able to determine what that budget number is.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have remaining?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman has 1 minute remaining.

Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, we are engaged in political theater today. We know the CBO will come out with numbers tomorrow, but the Republicans feel it's important to do this today because somehow they think the press will pay attention to this and they'll be able to have a countermessage to the President's State of the Union address. They are blowing a major opportunity.

There is bipartisan concern about the budget. There is a bipartisan consensus that we need to find cuts. And rather than working in a bipartisan way, we have a bill that comes to the floor under a closed rule. We are told that the chairman of the Budget Committee can unilaterally come up with a number; the rest of us are irrelevant to this process. That's not the way it's supposed to be. And I think that the Republican majority owes it not only to the Members of this Congress, but they owe it to the American people to tell us what the number is and where they're going to cut, how deeply they're going to cut, who's going to be impacted. Because I will tell you this: Who's going to be impacted are real people, and they're going to feel the real pain of some of these cuts.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against this misguided resolution, this press release.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

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