Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Norm Dicks
Date: Sept. 13, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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

While I would prefer to be doing our regular appropriation bills, I support this continuing resolution. H.J. Res. 117 avoids a government shutdown by continuing the full range of Federal activities at last year's rate of operations, plus six-tenths of 1 percent. The CR also preserves the agreement on spending levels and the reforms in budgeting for disaster relief as set out in the Budget Control Act.

On defense, the CR caps overseas contingency operations at the President's request for FY 2013 at $88.5 billion instead of continuing last year's level of $115.1 billion, a reduction of $26.6 billion.

The CR grants some flexibility for transferring funds within OCO since last year's priorities do not meet this year's defense needs in the region. Beyond that, however, the CR is stringent on defense. DOD requested limited authority for new starts and changes in production and procurement rates. Those requests were all denied.

The CR includes only a handful of spending anomalies, providing additional funding only where absolutely necessary.

Wildland fire suppression receives more funds than last year's level. The Interior Department and the Forest Service have already spent all of their FY12 fire suppression funding, in addition to $400 million that was reprogrammed to respond to a harsh fire season.

VA operating expenses are also increased because disability claims are expected to increase significantly in FY 2013 as more vets return.

Without an increase above last year's level, the launch schedule for the weather satellites would be delayed, causing significant gaps in data collection essential for severe weather forecasting.

Increases are provided for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, child nutrition, and Commodity Supplemental Food program, which all need additional funds to meet current caseloads.

There are even fewer extensions of expiring authorizations. Only those affecting spending are addressed.

The CR includes a 6-month clean extension of TANF. Without the extension, cash assistance and work support for working families would stop at the start of FY 2013.

The CR also specifies the LIHEAP State allocation formula to ensure that States receive adequate funding for the winter heating season.

I must mention two concerns.

First, I am very disappointed that we have yet to enact a single FY13 bill in the Congress even though we passed seven bills in the House of Representatives. I know Chairman Rogers shares my disappointment. A CR is not a replacement for the appropriations process. Federal agencies need much more direction than what is provided in a CR, and I believe this measure serves to underscore the need for timely, regular appropriation bills.

Lastly, I am deeply concerned that the threat of a sequester inhibits current economic growth and slows job creation. The sooner we deal with all the fiscal cliff issues, the sooner our economic recovery will be strengthened. Just yesterday, Moody's threatened a potential downgrade of the U.S. Government's credit rating in 2013 unless Congress averts the fiscal cliff. I wish we could turn off sequestration in this CR and enact a balanced package of deficit reduction to replace it. Unfortunately, any serious discussion seems impossible until after the election.

As Chairman Rogers said, this is a streamlined CR, free of any new riders and negotiated in a bipartisan fashion. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

I want to commend the chairman for working so hard and being so diligent in his efforts to restore regular order in the appropriation process, and I concur in his judgment that we should try to put together an omnibus between now and the holidays in order to get our work done this year. That would be the best course of action, rather than waiting until March.

Again, let's vote for this CR and do our work and get it done.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. DICKS. I want to thank the chairman for his very kind remarks. It has been a deep pleasure working with you and your very able staff. I think one of the reasons for the success of trying to restore regular order is that we've had good staff cooperation at all levels. I want to thank our staff, both the majority and minority, for their excellent work.

It has been a great pleasure working with you. Again, let's hope we can convince people that we should get our work done so when we come back in the lame duck session we can finally put the omnibus bill together for 2013 and get this accomplished. I know that's what the chairman wants and that that's what I want, but I appreciate his kind remarks. I appreciate his courtesy and his leadership of our committee. Thank you.

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