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Legislative Program

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Virginia, the majority leader, for the purposes of inquiring about the schedule for the week to come.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman from Maryland, the Democratic whip, for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday the House is not in session. On Tuesday the House will meet at noon for morning-hour and 2 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10 a.m. for morning-hour and noon for legislative business. On Friday, the House will meet at 9 a.m. for legislative business. The last votes of the week are expected no later than 3 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, the House will consider a number of bills under suspension of the rules, a complete list of which will be announced by the close of business today. I expect the majority of these bills to come from the Natural Resources Committee, and I want to thank Chairman Doc Hastings and his staff for their tireless work in assisting Members on both sides of the aisle with their bills to responsibly remove Federal red tape that stands in the way of local economic development.

Members are also advised that the House will resume consideration of H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, on Tuesday, our first day back next week. Those wishing to offer amendments to the bill should be prepared to do so as soon as they return to Washington.

The House may also consider two additional appropriations bills next week: H.R. 5855, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, sponsored by Representative Robert Aderholt; and H.R. 5882, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, sponsored by Representative Ander Crenshaw. Chairman Hal Rogers and the entire Appropriations Committee on both sides of the aisle should be congratulated for helping to restore the open process of allocating and prioritizing the Nation's spending.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the House will consider H.R. 436, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, a very important bill for jobs and innovation in the medical device industry, that Representative Erik Paulsen is sponsoring. The Paulsen bill will be combined with H.R. 5842, the Restoring Access to Medication Act, sponsored by Representative Lynn Jenkins, and H.R. 1004, the Medical FSA Improvement Act, sponsored by Representative Charles Boustany.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that information, and I want to make the comment that the gentleman correctly congratulated the appropriations leadership on his side of the aisle.

I also want to observe that on our side of the aisle there has been cooperation, and there's not been an effort to either delay or dissemble. That is why this process works. That's the way it should work. It hasn't always been that way, as the gentleman knows, but I'm pleased that it is working. I think that's best for our institution, and I think it's best for the country. So I'm pleased at that, as well.

I tell my friend--and he knows this--according to the schedule I have, the House is scheduled to be in session a total of 28 days until the August break and 41 days from now until November.

Of the 41 days available, 10 are 6:30 days in which we come in for an abbreviated evening session which usually takes a half hour to an hour to conclude after afternoon debate on suspension bills.

With the limited time we have available, Mr. Leader, I am very concerned, as the gentleman knows, of the extraordinarily large number of very big fiscal questions that will be coming to roost at the end of this year. My view is that we need to address those. Hopefully, we will address them in a bipartisan way. If we do not address them, we will put the economy at continuing risk.

The Bush tax cuts, as you know, expire as of December 31. The payroll tax cut expires December 31. The sustainable growth rate--which we affectionately refer to as the doc fix--the alternative minimum tax, and the debt limit all come to bear at the end of the year.

In addition to that, the sequester--which I think all of us believe is not the appropriate way to go, but is the way we set up to force us to take action on a comprehensive, big, bold, balanced plan. Unfortunately, the supercommittee was unable to reach agreement on that.

I wanted to say to my friend, the majority leader, I would hope that you would be urging all of us and I would join with you in that effort in urging all of us to be ready to make some tough decisions, but decisions which need to be made in order to stabilize our economy and stabilize the fiscal posture of the United States. I am hopeful that we can reach a credible and sustainable fiscal path for our country.

The only way we are going to do that is if we work together in a bipartisan fashion. The gentleman and I were very successful in working on the Export-Import Bank legislation in a bipartisan fashion in which we got over 300 votes for on the House floor. The gentleman was unable to make the signing but it was signed this week, I think a very positive step forward. I appreciated the gentleman's work on that piece of legislation.

I would like to urge the gentleman that because of the extraordinarily short number of days that we have left to meet, to focus on what I think is going to be what some people call a fiscal train wreck, some people call it a fiscal perfect storm, some people call it a fiscal perfect cliff. Whatever you call it, it clearly will have a great impact on not only the confidence that Americans have in this body and the Senate to work and to make effective plans for meeting that challenge, but also for getting our country on a fiscally sustainable path. I don't know whether the gentleman has any comments on that.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I agree with him that all of us should be very focused on the months ahead as we approach the date at which this country will, by operation of law, experience the largest tax increase in its history, that sequester will be imposed, that we perhaps will face another debt ceiling vote as well as many of the items the gentleman mentioned. I think all of us understand the gravity of those issues.

Mr. Speaker, I think we have also seen in operation around here, together with the White House, the difficulties that the two sides have had coming together on two very important issues that run throughout all of the matters that the gentleman mentioned, and those two issues are health care and taxes.

As the gentleman knows, we have put forward a solution to the health care entitlement issue, which is the disproportionate cause of the unfunded liabilities of the Federal budget. The gentleman, the President, and his party have rejected our solution that has been validated by the Congressional Budget Office as an actual fix to the deficit.

To date we have not seen any counterproposal with the gentleman, his party, or the President coming to the table saying here's how we would fix it. All we continue to hear, Mr. Speaker, is we need to raise taxes, and we need to raise more taxes on people who have been successful.

The gentleman knows that those are the two issues, the taxes and the health care fix, that we've just had real difficulty in trying to come together. I would say to the gentleman we remain ready to work with him and his colleagues on that other side of the aisle to try and produce a result for the American people so we can re-inject some certainty back into the minds of the American people that the economy is going to get better.

Again, we tried to focus on issues having to do with growth in the private sector. How do we speak to that small businessman or -woman who's having difficulty now assessing what his or her taxes are going to be? How do we speak to that working mother there when she questions whether her health care will still be available given the uncertainty around the Obama health care bill?

These are the kinds of things we are trying to work together on. So many other things elude us because the gulf is so wide philosophically in dealing with taxes and health care.

Mr. Speaker, we remain ready to work with the gentleman. We share the concern about what lies ahead.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman. I was not trying

to make political points or rhetoric in raising the issues that I did. I frankly think that it doesn't get us very far, I would suggest to the majority leader, and we need to get someplace. America expects us to get someplace.

Many of your members have indicated that revenues need to be on the table. The gentleman knows that every bipartisan commission that has dealt with this says revenues need to be on the table. The same entitlements need to be on the table. Neither are easy to deal with, but they must be dealt with if we're going to be responsible stewards of this Nation's finances and this Nation's future.

Political rhetoric is not going to get us there. We all want to help small business, and we believe we have helped small business very substantially. Frankly, if you get into the analysis, small businesses did very well during the Clinton administration under policies that were in place at that point in time.

That aside, we need to deal with this, and I think a number of members on your side have, in fact, indicated that they understand that everything needs to be on the table, and that is what I think as well. I think both sides have things that they don't want to deal with, but Americans expect us to deal with tough things and make tough decisions on behalf of them, on behalf of their children and on behalf of their families.

On small business and economic growth, this leads me to the highway bill. We continue to be very concerned, Mr. Majority Leader, that we have not reached agreement on the highway bill. The Senate was able to reach an overwhelmingly bipartisan agreement on the highway bill, which is a jobs bill.

I was disappointed, and I hope the gentleman was disappointed at the jobs numbers that came out today: 82,000 in the private sector, lost 13,000 in the public sector, net: 69,000 jobs. That does not get us to where we want to be after losing millions and millions of jobs in the previous administration and losing a substantial number of jobs in the administration before. Over the last 26 months, we have grown 4 million jobs, but the hole was very deep, and we're not out of it. If you don't have a job, you know we're not out of it. I would hope that we could at least, with certainly our side believing, that the highway bill is a jobs bill.

Ray LaHood, as I pointed out in the past, a former leader in your party and chairman of a subcommittee in the Appropriations Committee, says that it's a jobs bill but unfortunately concludes that bill is not passing, he believes, for largely political reasons. I hope that's not the case and don't assert it to be the case.

Do you have any idea what kind of progress we're making on the highway bill so that bill can come to the floor before the June 30 expiration of the highway authorization?

I yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I would say to the gentleman, as he knows, the House has passed its bill, the Senate has passed theirs, conferees have been appointed, and obviously we're very mindful, as you see, of the expiration of the current authorizing language and law. We are prepared to make sure that there is no stoppage of transportation programming and funding, all the while desiring a much longer term solution to the problem.

I think the problem remains, as the gentleman knows, just not enough money to address all the things that the country is experiencing in terms of the needs for roads and infrastructure repair, as well as the needed expansion. As the gentleman knows, we all are mindful of the limited resources that are available to address these needs.

Just trying to prioritize, I am hopeful that the conference committee can come to a solution prior to the expiration of the authorizing language in place right now. Again, we are very mindful. We don't want to allow for shutdown of any program at the end of this month.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

I appreciate his observation. Clearly we don't want to have the authority for the highway bill to expire without action, but I will reiterate my offer to my friend, the majority leader, and say that given the bipartisan, the overwhelming bipartisan, support of the bill that came from the other party, that if we brought that bill to the floor, I would tell the gentleman that we will have the overwhelming, perhaps unanimous support, which would be 190 votes on our side of the aisle for that bill because we believe it is a jobs bill. We believe it will grow the economy, it will put people back to work.

It will give confidence to the American people, as we did with the Export-Import Bank in my view, give confidence to the American people that we can come together and move forward through reaching agreement.

Obviously, the Senate was able to do that. And they did it overwhelmingly, with over half of the Republican caucus voting for it in the Senate and three-quarters of the Senate voting for it.

I would say to my friend, I think that would be a real shot in the arm for the economy. And I agree with the gentleman, certainty is important. Confidence building is important. And if we did that, in my view, and if you could bring half of your caucus to that vote, we would pass that bill overwhelmingly. And I think it would be a very positive step for the economy, very positive step for the confidence of the American people and our economy and put people back to work.

I don't know whether the gentleman wants to comment on that further, but if he does, I will yield to him.

Mr. CANTOR. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the gentleman I have no further comment.

Mr. HOYER. Lastly, if I might, the student loan interest rate, as you know, will go up at the end of this month from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. That will add substantially additional cost to literally millions of students, some thousand dollars of additional cost to most students at a time when we want to make higher education, so necessary for success in our country, available to as many people as we possibly can so we can be competitive worldwide and, from our perspective further, a Make it in America agenda of growing our economy and getting jobs for our people.

I know that there was opposition to that reduction when it was originally on the floor in 2007. I know there was some opposition to it earlier this year. But I also know that I think both you and the Speaker have indicated now that they support that. We passed legislation on this floor which brought that down when there was, obviously, very substantial disagreement and controversy with reference to the funding source, given the preventive health fund that was used to fund the student aid.

Can the gentleman tell me whether or not he believes there's a possibility for us to reach agreement on how to do this? I know the Speaker said this was a ``phony'' fight, but it is a real fight and it will have real consequences if we don't resolve our differences. Can the gentleman comment on what he believes to be the possibility of reaching agreement with the Senate on the student loan bill?

Mr. CANTOR. I would say to the gentleman that the Speaker and I, together with the Republican leader and whip in the Senate, have sent a letter to the President--perhaps the gentleman has seen it--suggesting a way forward on the issue of student loans so that there will not be an expiration of the subsidy provided to students.

We suggested two options to allow for the continuation of the lower rates for students to be paid for by provisions which the President has suggested that he would agree to. The two options are to limit the length of in-school interest subsidy and the other is to revise the Medicaid provider tax threshold and to phase it down so that we can actually achieve some savings so that we can allow for the continuation of the subsidized rates for students who are struggling on their tuition bills.

These are two options that we suggest. They are bipartisan in nature. There shouldn't be any reason why we couldn't get this done prior to the expiration of the current law.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

Just for his information, I would be a very strong opponent of your first option, which continues to want to reduce the take-home pay of Federal employees. Federal employees, under the plans that you have passed through this House, will have already been asked to pay $105 billion in reduction in pay and benefits over 10 years. That's $10 billion per year you're suggesting that our employees have their net take-home pay reduced.

In addition, the additional proposal in your reconciliation bill would add another $78 billion to that, $183 billion in total, or $18.3 billion per year reduction in pay and benefits for Federal employees. The gentleman, in his State, has a lot of those Federal employees. They happen to be civilian employees.

I know the gentleman supported the pay raise for the military personnel, which I supported as well. The gentleman is aware that largely, through my tenure in the Congress, we've treated our civilian employees and our military employees with parity. I would hope that the gentleman would not think of continuing to go to the Federal employee, as we go to no other employees, and the gentleman is not interested in asking anybody else to participate more in paying for this in terms of revenues. But your side has been continuing to propose reducing the pay and benefits of the Federal employees.

My view is, and I have said this publicly, that if we can reach a big, bold, balanced deal and it's balanced--but just going to one pocket, one group of people, who studies show, depending upon the level you're working at, many are not paid comparably to their private sector, some others are, is not a fair, balanced way to proceed. I would hope that that option would be not on the table. I know the administration put it on the table for a larger deal, but I'm going to urge that that not be an option.

I know that I have talked to some of your side from your State who believe that's not an option that ought to be pursued. As a matter of fact, one of them voted against the MilCon bill yesterday because of a provision dealing with further reducing the net take-home pay for Federal employees.

So I would hope that would not be an option, and I would hope that we can reach an option so we can contain the cost of college for young people, because that's not only good for them, it's good for the competitive stature of the United States of America.

With respect to the reconciliation bill that you mentioned, you mentioned the fact that you were dealing with the deficit. In fact, as the gentleman knows, in terms of your health care provisions, they do not, within

the next 20 years, get the Federal budget to balance in the Ryan budget. So although you deal with that in some respects, it doesn't get us to balance and therefore does not, in my opinion, give the confidence and certainty that the American economy needs and that American citizens need.

I want to ask the gentleman, lastly, if he expects all 12 appropriations bills--I know we're going to do Energy and Water; we've now already done two of our bills--whether or not he expects all 12 appropriations bills to be on the floor, considered, and completed prior to the August break.

Mr. CANTOR. If I could, Mr. Speaker, just point the gentleman's attention back to the student loan issue.

I specifically did not offer up the option of the Federal employee pay-for because I do know that we have a difference on that. So the gentleman explained the differences. We understand that. That's why we're trying to avoid differences and come together where we can agree, which is why I discussed the two other provisions which are bipartisan in nature and that the President has said he supports, which could, in a responsible fashion, allow us to continue the lower rates.

Mr. HOYER. I don't want to interrupt, other than to clarify.

As I understand the two options, one was the option of making additional--in the letter I read. Maybe I'm incorrect. If you can correct me.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, there were two options: One was the Federal employee pay-for in and of itself, the reductions in the size of the Federal Government, would have taken care of the pay-for, if you will, for the student loan issue. The other option was composed of two different provisions, both of which are bipartisan in nature and the President says he supports. One of those is to limit the length of in-school interest subsidies; the other was to revise the Medicaid provider tax threshold. It was those two components that comprise option two. That is my point.

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

Mr. CANTOR. I'm not quite sure about the note he made about our budget not balancing within the budget window. I would say to the gentleman, we understand that, but it is a plan that we could adopt that would provide a blueprint for getting us back on track as far as managing down the debt and deficit. And my point originally was, Mr. Speaker, there's been no such plan, there's been no such proffer from the President or the gentleman's side of the aisle.

So in order for us to move forward, we need participation from both sides. We can't just have one side providing a solution without the ability to get that solution put into place because the gentleman's party is in control in the other body and in the White House. So how do we go about trying to find commonality if there is no proffer of solution? That was my point, Mr. Speaker. And there has been no solution, balanced or not, provided by the other side.

And I would say lastly to the gentleman's inquiry about the appropriations process, we certainly maintain the position we'd like to see all of our bills brought to the floor through regular order, consistent with the Speaker's policy of an open debate that we have seen thus far in the appropriations bills. We had a successful completion yesterday, and we are continuing in the Energy and Water appropriations measure today and as we come back next week.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that information, and I want to say to the gentleman that I disagree that there is no plan. Mr. Van Hollen, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, did in fact have a plan, presented that plan, and it was voted on on the floor of the House. It did not prevail, but that is a plan which, frankly, was a more balanced plan from our perspective. Obviously, the House did not agree with that. But it is a more balanced plan that would have reached balance in fact more quickly, I believe, than the Ryan plan.

So we do have a plan. We presented that plan. We offered it on the House floor. I voted for that plan. The overwhelming majority of the party on this side of the aisle voted for that plan. So there is a plan, so I think the gentleman is not correct in saying that we haven't offered a plan. We have; the plan has not passed, the gentleman is absolutely correct on that. The Senate and the House have not agreed on a plan. I'm not sure that they will be able to agree on a plan. I think that's unfortunate, but perhaps we can agree on the appropriations bills.

We are hopeful that the appropriations bills will be agreed upon consistent with the agreement that we thought we had at the funding levels of $1.047 trillion for discretionary spending. The bills that have been offered are closer to that number than I think we will find as later bills come, we don't know that, but that is the speculation. The Senate has agreed that we ought to mark up to that figure, but we haven't marked up to that figure in the appropriations bills. But if we complete the appropriations bills, as the gentleman says he wants to do, I think it would be good to do.

Is it the gentleman's perspective that we will mark to $1.047 trillion or $1.028 trillion? That's a $19 billion difference, a substantial difference, we understand that. In the Senate, the Republicans and Democrats have agreed to mark to the higher number. Can the gentleman comment on whether or not at the end of the day we'll be able to get agreement on the agreement that we thought we had in the Budget Control Act?

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I would just say to the gentleman, he and I have discussed this before in these colloquies, and I would suggest turning attention to a Senate that hasn't even begun considering its appropriations bills, to suggest that we would come to an agreement with the Senate, I think, you know, the Senate has got to really start to do its work as far as the appropriations process is concerned.

I yield back.

Mr. HOYER. I don't have a rebuttal to that, so I will yield back my time.

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