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Public Statements

Further Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. POLIS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, in 4 days, the Federal Government will run out of money. We must ask ourselves, how did we get into this dire situation where we are 4 days away from critical Federal services being closed and our Federal Government being unable to meet its obligations.

Today we are racing the clock to avoid this shutdown in large part because we have squandered the past 2 weeks debating H.R. 1, a ridiculous spending bill that contained some cuts so extreme it had no realistic chance of ever being passed into law and left other areas of the budget that both sides have generally agreed need to be cut untouched. H.R. 1 also had every bit of social legislation from the Republican majority, including gutting the ability of EPA to protect our air and our water and defunding Planned Parenthood and family planning, so that it had a threat of a Presidential veto and faces no realistic prospects of passage in the Senate.

So rather than working with Democrats in the House and Senate to craft a real long-term CR that would preserve the gains of our economy and invest in our future, Republicans have squandered the past few weeks to pass their out-of-touch and unrealistic spending bill that would prove devastating to our economy, our safety, our health, and, yes, our values.

Their draconian spending bill would destroy 700,000 jobs, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's and former adviser to Senator John McCain. And as Goldman Sachs said, their long-term CR would ``stall the economic recovery and reduce U.S. economic growth.'' In fact, just this morning more than 300 economists from across the country warned against the massive GOP spending bill, stating that, ``as economists, we believe it is shortsighted to make budget cuts that eliminate necessary investments in our human capital, our infrastructure, and the next generation of scientific and technological advances. These cuts threaten our economy's long-term economic competitiveness.''

Mr. Speaker, today's continuing resolution meets our shared goal of preventing a Federal Government shutdown, but at what cost? And for how long? We are committed to reducing the deficit beginning with an aggressive attack on waste, fraud, and abuse. Every Member in this body owes it to our constituents to responsibly cut spending and balance the budget without sacrificing jobs or weakening our economy.

Time and time again, the Republican leadership has told us that they want to proceed in an open and transparent fashion, and yet here we are again, facing another closed rule, shutting down amendments from both sides and stifling the legislative process and good cost-cutting ideas from both sides of the aisle. In fact, yesterday in the Rules Committee, my colleagues took a party-line vote to block an amendment from the top ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Dicks. Mr. Dicks' amendment would have cut more funds than the Republican bill and, at the same time, restored funds for education programs.

In the spirit of the urgent need for cost-cutting and balancing the deficit, I think this body should consider ideas from both sides of the table and allow a rule that allows for discussion of the Dicks amendment and other ideas to cut costs even further than this CR allows.

This CR may succeed in keeping the government open from March 5 through March 18, which I think we all agree is necessary. But we also all know that 2 weeks is not nearly enough time to negotiate a long-term solution to the enormous spending challenges we face, especially when the Constitution guarantees the President 10 of those days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

The other side had discussed, at the end of last session, the need to have stability with regard to what kind of taxes people and businesses can expect over time. And at the end of last session, we passed a bill that set predictability for 2 years so people and businesses know what their taxes will be. Well, the other side of that coin is we need predictability and stability around appropriations and the general activities of government. It is stifling to the economy and stifling to job creation for people to be uncertain as to whether the largest enterprise in our country, the Federal Government, will or won't be solvent in 4 days' time.

This is my third year in Congress and already the fourth time I've managed a rule on a short-term CR. The shortened timeline set out by this CR sets the stage for a devastating shutdown crisis every 2 weeks that will bring legislating to a standstill, impede hopes of long-term economic growth, and create enormous overhang on the markets because of this great uncertainty that is of our own creation.

[Time: 12:40]

We are also undermining, through this CR, Mr. Speaker, investments in our own future. Take the cuts to literacy programs, for example.

Building an excellent public education system that ensures that each and every child has an opportunity to succeed is the most important investment we can make in our Nation's future and developing our human capital which helps keep America competitive. This is an investment that I have spent much of my life to support and achieve--on the State Board of Education, as a founder of a charter school, and now here in Congress.

What we see now, however, from the proposed short-term CR is the elimination of the Striving Readers Fund, which supports literacy for students from preschool through 12th grade. With American students' reading scores stagnating for the past 30 years, this proposal makes no sense.

Striving Readers is the only targeted Federal literacy funding for preschool through 12th grade. And particularly at a time of State and local budgets cuts, these resources are more important than ever.

Now, we can agree that Striving Readers should be improved. In fact, I am working, along with Congressman Yarmuth, to provide the LEARN Act, which would ensure that teachers and students have innovative strategies and data-backed tools to improve reading and writing. The administration's proposal would build on the progress of the Striving Readers program.

President Obama said in his State of the Union address: It's not just about how we cut, but what we cut. Republicans have mistakenly claimed that the administration also wants to eliminate Striving Readers, but they neglect to mention that the administration's 2012 budget proposes instead to revise, improve Striving Readers. The goal is not to reduce and eliminate Federal support for literacy; it is to consolidate and make more efficient Federal support for literacy, to strengthen literacy performance expectations, scale up innovative methods of teaching reading, writing, and language arts.

In fact, nearly all States, 44, have applied for the first $10 million in the Striving Readers allocation that was available and have developed State literacy plans as a result. My home State of Colorado has been awarded $150,000 for these important projects.

Literacy is the foundation of learning. It is the gateway to other content areas that are increasingly important in the global society, like science and math. Destroying the foundation of literacy is cutting off our Nation's own legs. Education is an investment in our future. By pulling the rug out from under our schools and children, Republicans seem willing to sacrifice our future prospects as a Nation. Education is how America can reclaim our edge in job creation, bring jobs back to our shores, become better business leaders, and provide a livable wage for working families.

We all agree that cuts must be made. But as the Romans said, caveat emptor, may the buyer beware. By agreeing to cuts in repeated short-term CRs, we run the risk of opening the door to a spending agenda that arbitrarily kills jobs, hurts our communities, completely undermines education reform, and we do nothing to promote the stability of the Federal Government that markets require to allow businesses to thrive and grow.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. POLIS. I yield myself 30 seconds.

The gentleman from Georgia said let us do more to save money, and yet this rule shuts down the process and doesn't allow amendments from the minority, including one by Mr. Dicks that saved over $1 billion and would have reduced the deficit by over $500 million. And yet again, through this closed rule, we are unable to do more, thanks to this restrictive rule by the Republican majority.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to respond.

H.R. 1 cannot be looked at as a serious budget document. Now, it's not about the cuts--$61 billion, $70 billion, we can come to a number that we can agree. And by the way, you can't come to a serious number without making sure that defense is also on the table. But what we have with H.R. 1 is a bill that loads up every piece of the far-right social agenda in one bill, from restricting a woman's right to choose, to preventing government from protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink. So if we want to have a discussion about a serious budget document and serious cuts, that's one thing. If we want to have a far-right dream list, that's another.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. POLIS. I yield myself 30 seconds to respond.

I join the gentleman from Washington in praising the gentleman from California, the chair of the Rules Committee, with regard to the modified open process that this body was able to undertake.

But again, with regard to this particular bill before us, what the gentleman from California said is that the Democrats would be allowed to offer an amendment that would spend more but not allowed to offer a substitute amendment that would spend less. The Democrats, in fact, don't have a desire to offer forward a substitute amendment that spends more. We do have a desire to offer a substitute amendment that Mr. Dicks came forward that does spend less. The rule doesn't allow for that.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. POLIS. I yield myself as much time as remains.

Mr. Speaker, we all share the goal of reducing the deficit. But if we are serious about deficit reduction, we need to look at defense as one of the line items. I am a member of the Spending Cuts and Deficit Reduction Working Group, and I have worked with my colleagues to identify more than $70 billion in savings that could be used for deficit reduction.

If Republicans truly claim to be committed to deficit reduction, then why, as they cut millions from programs like Even Start and LEAP, do they spare defense spending? The short term CR carries forward the 2010 defense budget, but the policies, priorities, and levels proposed for 2010 no longer apply. Our current military expenditures support bloated troop levels and bases across Europe that quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, are relics of a bygone era. Rather than fighting the demons of the past, we need to focus on the very real threats of the present and future.

[Time: 13:30]

Who are we fighting? The Nazis, the Soviets, the French? It's time for us to rethink our defense spending. It's clear that the current strategy is one that we cannot afford.

The expenditures in Afghanistan are $100 billion. It's been estimated that there is only, at most, 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. That's a spending level of $1 billion per al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan. Most of al Qaeda's operations have moved across the border to Pakistan, and they have also gained a foothold in Yemen. Meanwhile, we are bogged down in a costly war with no clear end game.

Let's get serious about balancing the budget. Let's find savings in every agency, including the Department of Defense. Until we get serious about controlling defense spending, the largest component of the discretionary budget, we will never achieve our goals of reducing the deficit.

This CR claims to only cut earmarks, but in reality we are playing a shell game. This continuing resolution states that earmarks have no legal effect, which means that agencies have not been funding these programs. It means the Department of Homeland Security, for example, will have $264 million less to prepare and respond to threats and disasters and protect our ports.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Speaker, Members from both sides of the aisle proposed amendments to enact even more cuts. My friend from New York (Mr. Nadler) proposed cutting funding to Afghanistan so that we could have a responsible withdrawal, saving $90 billion. My friend from Arizona (Mr. Flake) proposed a very reasonable cut to the Department of Defense's operation and maintenance budget so that we could get rid of funding for unneeded boards and commissions.

I have also heard from many of my Republican friends that we want to go back to 2008 levels. Well, my colleagues from California, Mr. Stark and Ms. Lee, proposed to do just that with the defense budget. Let's get real on deficit reduction and lead the way with real cuts that actually balance the budget.

The President is proposing real change for public education through funding for the Investing in Innovation and Early Learning Challenge funds. We see none of these solutions in the proposed CR. As we look to agree on a budget for the rest of the fiscal year, it's critical that we have meaningful resources for our public schools, particularly at a time when they are under increasing budget pressure from districts and State cutbacks. Education of our children in their youngest years is a research-proven return on investment.

We have no second or third chance with kids. They are only young once. By ending literacy support for our children and restricting proven school improvements in repeated short-term CRs, we run the risk of opening the door to a spending agenda that eliminates jobs.

Mr. Speaker, it is critical that we give the markets and businesses the predictability that they need with regard to the ongoing operations of government. A 2-week continuing resolution simply fails to do that. We will be back before this body, again, to do it again regardless of the outcome today. But I hope, Mr. Speaker, that we can work across the aisle to put together a real long-term solution to keep the Federal Government open.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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