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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I thank my colleague, Mr. Moran, for allowing me to speak and join him with this amendment today.

I rise in support of this amendment, which would prohibit us from using taxpayer money to stock the House cafeterias with polystyrene, or, as most Americans call it, Styrofoam. Maybe to some this seems like a small thing, but stocking our cafeterias with Styrofoam sends a terrible message.

When I was first elected to Congress in 2008, it was such a pleasure to see biodegradable materials in the cafeteria: cardboard containers, paper cups, even bamboo forks--which maybe didn't always work right, but they still were recyclable and biodegradable. We ate out of containers that looked a lot like what we now see in most fast food restaurants.

When the Republicans took control, that instantly changed and we are back to eating from Styrofoam. When my constituents read about it they were, frankly, quite shocked. They couldn't imagine why Congress was moving backwards.

Styrofoam takes hundreds of years to biodegrade and is a suspected carcinogen because of the chemical it leaches into food and liquid. I urge my colleagues to support our amendment to get rid of Styrofoam in the House cafeterias.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Madam Speaker, every day my colleagues on the other side of the aisle talk about cutting spending. In fact, a fair number of them came here after getting elected by promising to slash wasteful spending and be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars. And they have voted for some pretty big spending cuts.

They cut spending on food stamps, making it harder for struggling families to put a meal on the table. They cut spending on unemployment benefits, making it harder for the millions of Americans who are looking for work to make ends meet. They cut spending on Pell Grants, making it harder for working families to put their kids through college.

But the problem is these cuts my colleagues have passed put the entire burden on working families and seniors who are already struggling to get by and none of it on big oil companies or wealthy money managers. The problem is the burden of spending cuts is not now being shared equally or distributed fairly.

Today, Madam Speaker, I am offering my colleagues a chance to share that burden by cutting our own spending on fancy taxpayer-funded mailings that our constituents don't always want us to send. The amendment I'm offering represents a 10 percent cut in our franking budget. This would mean giving up expensive, glossy, self-promoting mailings and getting back to straight talk to our constituents. Don't get me wrong: Part of our job is communicating with our constituents and letting them know about the work we are doing here in Washington and in our home districts.

In my office, we've designated simple, straightforward mailings in-house to communicate directly with our constituents. We've designed them in-house. We've been able to cut the costs of this communication dramatically but still effectively communicate. In fact, we've recently sent an update to veterans explaining the programs available to them, and two or three constituents have received their lifetime veterans benefits because of that update.

Asking working families to sacrifice and bear the burden of spending cuts while protecting big banks, Big Oil, and congressional perks is one of the reasons our approval rating is at an all-time low.

Madam Speaker, we all agree we need to get budget deficits under control, but asking seniors, young people, and working families to feel the pain while passing tax cuts for the rich, protecting tax breaks for Big Oil, and spending millions of dollars on glossy, self-promoting mailers is unfair, and Americans know it.

If we want the American public to think we can be responsible and serious about cutting wasteful spending, we will pass this amendment today and take a big chunk out of our franking budget.

Let me be clear: this is the final amendment to the bill. It will not kill the bill or send it back to committee. If adopted, the bill will immediately proceed to final passage as amended. And if adopted, the American people might have a little more faith that the people they send to Congress are really serious about cutting wasteful spending, and not just protecting the perks that they think will get them reelected.

I urge you to vote ``yes'' on my final amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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