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Mr. COCHRAN. Madam President, this continuing resolution results from an agreement reached between the President and the congressional leadership for a 6-month, clean CR that adheres to the fiscal year 2013 spending levels set out in the Budget Control Act.
The continuing resolution does not make reductions in programs for which the President requested less money in fiscal year 2013, nor does it make cuts that have been proposed by the Congress. Neither does the resolution increase funding for programs Congress or the administration deemed to be high priorities, with a few exceptions. The continuing resolution does not contain any new oversight provisions to guide agencies, nor does it include any new riders to limit the activities of the executive branch. In short, it puts the portion of government that we call discretionary on automatic pilot. Enactment of this resolution will, for the time being, avoid a disruptive government-shutdown fight.
The resolution represents a lost opportunity. We have lost the opportunity to provide agencies with at least some certainty about funding for this fiscal year. We have lost the opportunity to make informed judgments about which programs are effective and deserving of additional resources and which programs should be reformed or terminated. Contracts will not be let in a timely and efficient manner, and acquisition and construction costs will rise with delay. The morale of the Federal workforce will suffer. Perhaps most importantly, we have lost a chance to supplant the looming sequester.
Elections have consequences, as they most certainly should, but elections should not have the consequence of rendering Congress unwilling or incapable of performing its most fundamental duties in the times leading up to those elections. In my view, the thoughtful and dutiful appropriation of funds for our national defense and other government operations is such a fundamental duty.
I deeply regret that the majority leader chose not to call up a single appropriations bill. Chairman Inouye has shown impressive leadership of our committee in reporting 11 of the 12 bills out of our committee. Most were reported on a broad bipartisan basis. The chairmen and ranking members of the subcommittees have put a lot of time and thought into the bills. The staffs have worked very hard producing this legislation. The other body has also produced a bill. It has passed seven of the appropriations bills in the other body and I suspect would have passed the others had there been any sign of movement in the Senate.
We can only speculate as to why none of the bills have been considered here in the Senate. Other issues were deemed more pressing or expedient for one reason or another. Perhaps votes on amendments to spending bills were deemed to be politically perilous, whatever the reasons.
At a time when addressing our Nation's fiscal situation is so central to our duty as Senators, it seems more imperative than ever that Members of this body have an opportunity to offer amendments to shape the spending bills. Our problems are sufficiently large that it will require all of our good ideas to make the day-to-day operations of government as efficient and effective as possible. This might mean we have to take votes on difficult amendments. But would that really be so traumatic?
As a result of our inaction, we are compelled to pass this continuing resolution to fund the government. I would have preferred a shorter term CR in order to motivate action on the appropriations bills, but 6 months is what has been agreed to.
Proponents of this 6-month CR argue that the prospect of a government shutdown should be taken off the table so that we can focus on the complex issues facing us in the coming months. But do those issues look any more simple now that we are about to pass this CR?
All manner of taxes are scheduled to go up on January 1. Medicare reimbursement rates will be cut dramatically. The debt ceiling looms. And due
to the inability of the supercommittee to propose a debt reduction package, we are facing a budget sequester that very few people seem to think is a good idea.
Perhaps passage of this CR will help us address these pressing matters. I hope that it will. But I am not so sure it changes things that much.
Regardless of who wins what in the upcoming election, we have a great deal of unfinished business to resolve in the coming months.
None of my colleagues likely relish the prospect of voting in March--up or down--on either a trillion-dollar omnibus bill or a trillion-dollar full-year CR. Yet that is where we are headed if we continue to do nothing.
Appropriations bills are not simply opportunities to spend more money. They provide regular opportunities for effective oversight of Federal agencies. And when we take the time to bring them to the Senate floor, they provide regular opportunities for the elected representatives of all the people to shape, as well as fund the operations of the Federal Government. I hope the Senate will not continue to deny the people that opportunity.
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