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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 933, Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Rules Committee met and reported a rule for the consideration of H.R. 933, the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.

The rule is a closed rule, which provides for the consideration of fully conferenced Department of Defense and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bills and a continuing resolution for other government programs at the FY 2012 levels. This rule provides for 1 hour of debate, equally divided between the chairman and the ranking member of the Committee on Appropriations. In addition, the rule incorporates a purely technical amendment to the bill by Chairman Rogers.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 933 accomplishes several key objectives.

First, it preserves military readiness and national security capability, while maintaining core commitments to our troops and our veterans.

Second, it ends the current uncertainty of the fiscal year 2013 budget. It seems that over the past year, we have moved from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Rogers and Chairman Sessions, we are able to consider funding the Federal Government through the end of the fiscal year at this point, avoiding the threat of a government shutdown.

Additionally, by considering full-year DOD and MilCon-VA bills, we are able to establish a stable baseline for the Department to act upon, as opposed to having them rely on fiscal year 2012 priorities. This bill realigns the appropriation accounts for Department of Defense and MilCon-VA to better reflect the fiscal year 2013 execution, rather than the fiscal year 2012 levels carried forward in a CR.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation operates under the caps of the Budget Control Act of 2011 as modified by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. There are across-the-board reductions in security and nonsecurity spending to reach the caps of $1.043 trillion. Additionally, there is a provision which ensures that the funding will be reduced to the post-sequester level of $982 billion in total spending, a reduction of $85 billion in overall Federal spending for fiscal year 2013.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to spend a moment discussing the anomalies in this bill. Let me assure my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that none of the anomalies in this legislation, on net, do anything that raise the cost of the bill above the statutory Budget Control Act caps.

Some of the anomalies in the bill are things like turning off the $100 million in convention funding for Charlotte and Tampa, and turning off $31 million in funding for the Eisenhower Commission, where funding has been delayed indefinitely and no funds have yet been expended.

These anomalies are limited. There are only approximately 80 in the entire bill. For reference, in the last full-year continuing resolution, there were over 600 anomalies. The Appropriations Committee has been judicious in its use of anomalies, only providing them in cases where mission-critical operations might be impacted.

Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. I urge support for the rule and the underlying bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I just want to make a few quick comments in reference to my good friend's remarks. You referred to an interesting phrase, ``selective bipartisanship.'' I would suggest to my friend that we've probably practiced that more in 2 months than they did in 2 years when they were in the majority.

These were major pieces of legislation that we did move in a bipartisan fashion. As my good friend knows, I helped on all three of those occasions, was happy to do so, and I'm sure the Speaker will continue to try and work across the aisle whenever he can.

My friend also referred to the nature of the cuts. Let me assure him of this: these are cuts, and they are going to occur; but we've repeatedly told our friends and the President and the Senate that we would be more than happy to redistribute where the cuts are going to occur. We did that twice: in May of last year and in December of last year, after the election, in good faith. In neither case did the Senate pick that up or the White House respond with a serious offer. Now my friend is asking us to do it for a third time in the hopes it will be different.

Perhaps this time you should go first. Perhaps the Senate should actually pass a plan or the President actually lay one out. I don't think we've really seen that. But again, if we see that, we'll be willing to work with our friends and try and redistribute the cuts.

But don't have any illusion that we're going to eliminate them. We're not, any more than our friends eliminated the idea of tax cuts when the Bush tax cuts ran out. This is something we feel is a first step in getting our fiscal house in order.

And let me remind my friend, as I know he knows, this bill, in itself, is an effort to work with the President and the administration. The President has said, and I think quite correctly, that we need to avoid a government shutdown. Mr. Rogers and the Appropriations Committee are acting early and acting, I think, in a very responsible manner to put a vehicle out there and begin to move it through the process.

We are more than willing for the Senate to do the same thing, would expect that they will. They may well add other departments. Frankly, speaking only for myself, I would hope that they do. I would like to recapture a lot of the appropriations work that was done for the fiscal year 2013 and lost during the CR process, and we can have, I think, a good negotiation going back and forth between the two parties.

So this is the beginning of a process. It's the beginning of a return to regular order, and it's an opportunity to work, I think, in a bipartisan fashion.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. COLE. Just for the purpose of response, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I appreciate my good friend's offer on staying in session last week. It would have been nice if we'd have dealt with this 18 months ago. We've known it's been coming. We tried to do that twice.

I'm not sure the President would have been around last week. Frankly, he spent the last 6 weeks crisscrossing the country, campaigning and bludgeoning people, as opposed to having a dialogue. He did not bother to invite the Speaker, the Majority Leader, or the leader of the Senate or the minority leader of this House to a meeting until the very last day--the very last day. Now, that suggests to us there wasn't a great deal of interest in serious negotiations.

So, again, this process is going to allow that to occur. We're going to advance our bill through this Chamber. It's going to have incorporated some of the work in the appropriations process. It's going to help the Defense Department a great deal.

We're waiting for our friends in the Senate to do the same thing. They're going to, undoubtedly, add some things. I think there will be a negotiation. I think we will end up in a good place. But we will preserve the spending reductions of the sequester in the final product of the bill.

With all due respect to my friend, revenue's off the table. You had revenue about 6, 8 weeks ago with no cuts. This time I suspect you're going to get cuts and no revenue.

With that, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from the great State of Texas (Mr. Burgess), my distinguished colleague, classmate, and a distinguished physician.

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

Listening to my colleagues, I'm reminded of that old saying that Washington, D.C., is 10 square miles surrounded by reality.

Let's talk a little bit about the definitions we use for cuts. First of all, the Government will spend more money this year than it did last year, just as last year it spent more money than it did the year before. We're not cutting anything. We're slowing down the rate of growth. In parts of the budget there are real cuts. But in terms of overall spending, it's ever and ever higher.

According to the much quoted, much loved Congressional Budget Office, this year we will have the highest level of income for the Federal Government in history. In the history of the United States, we will have more money to spend than we have ever spent before. And yet that same CBO estimates it will run a budget deficit if we keep sequester, if we allow the revenue that occurred in January of over $850 billion.

Now at some point you have to reconcile the highest level of income and an $850 billion deficit. We don't have a revenue problem here; we have a spending problem of historic and massive proportions. This is one small step in the right direction to try and get that under control.

We look forward to what our friends in the Senate do. We look forward to what the administration does. And we look forward to having a conversation over not just this bill but in the next several months we're going to have that opportunity when the Senate finally presents a budget. We'll present a budget. The administration for the fourth time in 5 years will be late but surely will at some point present a budget.

The American people can look at all of those.

We're going to have an opportunity for a great debate, and I suspect we'll continue to try and adjust things as we move forward to get ourselves more in balance. But let's recognize the reality. We've had four trillion-dollar deficits in a row. We have, with these cuts and with additional revenue, an $850 billion deficit, at the minimum, in front of us. Maybe that ought to be the focus.

I can assure my friends--we all talk a lot about polling and what the American people think. I can assure you, I've done a lot of polling in my lifetime. They think the Federal Government is too big; they think it spends too much; and they would like to see us take less of their money, not more. So if we get into a real debate here, I suspect the American people will say: Figure out a way to live within the highest level of income in American history as opposed to coming to us and asking us for more.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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

Just, again, to get back to the big picture for a moment, as my friends know, we're going to spend about $3.5 trillion this year in the Federal budget. These dreaded cuts, in terms of the total budget, amount to 2.4 percent of all spending--2.4 percent of $3.5 trillion. I suspect the American people think: You could find a better way to distribute those cuts than closing our towers.

I agree, actually, with my friend, Mr. McGovern. One of those towers, by the way, is in my district, so I certainly understand it. I have 20,000 Federal defense employees in my district, so I'm quite aware of the problems with the distribution of the cuts.

Now, I'll leave it to my friends on the other side of the aisle and Mr. Woodward to argue whose idea this was and what purpose and how it was constructed, but it's hardly as if the President of the United States or our friends in the Senate were innocent bystanders in all of this.

We tried twice last year to sit down and renegotiate. We moved something through. We've said repeatedly this year we're willing to sit down and renegotiate the cuts. To me, that's compromise.

The President talks a lot about a balanced approach. Two months ago, he got a lot of revenue. That's his side of the equation. This time it should be cuts. That's an appropriate balance. We'll sit down and renegotiate where they should come from--we think we've got some great ideas on that--but they are going to occur. They're the first and appropriate step toward getting our fiscal house back in order.

So when my friends want to work with us about the distribution, I know they'll find a willing negotiating partner in the Speaker. Until such time, we will follow the course that the President laid out, advocated for, and signed into law. If he wants to revisit that, we agree with him, let's revisit it and redistribute it, but the cuts are going to occur.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume for the purpose of response.

First, I appreciate my good friend, whom I have worked with on a number of things, most recently the Violence Against Women Act, where she certainly ably represented the bill in the Rules Committee and on the floor, and I appreciate that very much. I'm going to gently correct in return.

When we talk about cuts that were previously agreed to, with all due respect to my friends, most of those cuts still haven't even taken place. If you look at them, they are far in the future, in the 10-year window.

These were not cuts, by the way, that the two sides found contentious. This was the easy stuff that they all agreed to right up front. It wasn't as if there was some concession.

The real discussion was in the next round of cuts, where the supercommittee wasn't able to come to an agreement. Even there, there were $600 or $700 million in agreed-upon ``cuts'' that both sides acknowledge. There just wasn't agreement about revenue, and so the cuts didn't occur.

Well, we're here today, and just as the tax increases were written into law effectively when the Bush tax cuts sunsetted in January, these cuts are also written into law.

Again, since they're written into law, they're going to occur. Now, we're willing, again, to sit down with our friends and redistribute where they come from. We think that would be the prudent thing to do. We tried to do it twice last year. It didn't work out. Nobody was interested in talking to us last year. The President wasn't interested in putting a proposal on until, if anything, recent days, and I really couldn't still tell you what it truly is.

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Mr. COLE. I will finish my point, and I will be happy to yield to my friend briefly.

I think that the reality is we ought to recognize--just as I urge my friends on my side of the aisle to recognize--as we approach the end of the Bush tax cuts, that they're going to end. We ought to sit down and negotiate with our friends some better and more proper distribution, whether we like it or not. That's just the case. It's going to be that way. That's what's going to happen here.

Now, we would rather renegotiate, minimize the harm and spread that 2.4 percent over the entire $3.5 trillion budget. I suspect our friends would like to do that, too, over time, and hopefully we can arrive at that. So I look forward to continuing the dialogue, but the cuts are going to be secured. This legislation will move through the House, and then I'm sure something will move through the Senate and we'll sit down and negotiate in a bipartisan, bicameral manner.

With that, I yield to my good friend from Texas.

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Mr. COLE. Reclaiming my time, if I may, I think the gentlelady asked a good question, and I look forward to working with my friends on the other side of the aisle. I actually think today is the beginning of a process where that will happen. It's one of the reasons I really commend Chairman Rogers for moving early.

We're not in a last-minute crisis atmosphere here, and we're not trying to jam our friends in the Senate. We want them to move as quickly and expeditiously as they can. We would like to move toward the discussion and talks with them, and I'm sure the administration will be involved in that.

To me, that's a step back toward what I would like and what we all talk about around here, which is regular order. While that's going on, we can engage in the normal appropriations process for fiscal year 2014.

So, as difficult as this is--and we've been through a difficult time, I think, in recent months and over the last year plus, honestly--this may be the first step back in the right direction.

Again, I respect that my friends have a different point of view on this, but I'm talking what I would view as political reality to them, just as I did to my friends on my own side of the aisle a few weeks ago. This is going to occur, so let's just be reasonable and rational about how it is. We're going to have a lower deficit because of that. I think that's one of the reasons that Wall Street is doing well. But who knows? It's always hard to predict what's going on there.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to agree with my good friend from Virginia on his point about discretionary spending. It's probably an area that he and I would find a considerable amount of common ground on. I certainly do think that far too much of this is coming out of the discretionary side of the budget, particularly in defense, but I would say across the board.

I have Indian health facilities in my district that will be hit, and I have the National Severe Storms Laboratory in my district that will be hit. I understand my friend makes those points. He's making a very important point.

Now, we've been willing to go where no man has gone before, the nondiscretionary side of the budget. The Ryan budget, which you may like or not like, or the Ryan plan on Medicare is a real attempt to deal with where we all in the room know the real problem is, and that's on the nondiscretionary side of the budget.

I hope that our friends put their ideas out there. The President has put, and sometimes withdrawn, but has put a number of interesting ideas on the table at various points. We never seem to quite get there, whether it's change CPI or raising age over time gradually on some of our programs.

Now, my friends on the other side, at least our distinguished minority leader, has refused to ever do that. Whether it's Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, it's been: We're going to defend this ground; we're not going to make any changes. At the end of the day, that's the kind of thing that we're going to have to deal with.

As an appropriator, as somebody who, like my friend from Virginia, sees the impacts of these discretionary reductions and this squeezing down, I think that is the solution. I think that's at least a big part of the solution.

I have no illusions we're going to settle all our deficit problems with this bill, but we are taking a step in the right direction. Hopefully our friends, and our side as well, will expand the dialogue to include the nondiscretionary side of the budget in the weeks and months ahead, and we can begin to arrive at common ground. But we can't simply allow Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and farm programs--I'll put some of our sacred cows on the table as well--to expand by a matter of law without any effort to look at them.

We've offered to do that. We've actually written a budget that has done that. We've gone through the political fires. I can assure my friends you can do that and still survive as a majority. And we're anxious to do that going forward. If we can find willing partners in that, both on the other side of the aisle, the other side of the rotunda, and the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, I think we'll actually be on the road to doing something.

So, with that, I reserve the balance of my time, Mr. Speaker.

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Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, just very quickly I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to thank my friend. I can assure you that we take this very serious, as well. I have lots of Federal employees, and the real job loss won't be theirs. They will certainly be hard-hit, they'll be furloughed, but the real job loss, as my friend suggests, really is in the private sector, and that's why we should sit down and have a serious discussion about entitlement costs.

With all due respect to my friend, Mr. Van Hollen, my friends on the other side of the aisle, I don't think that proposal would pass. I certainly wouldn't vote for it. I want that very much in the Record.

If our friends want to do something, they do have control of the United States Senate. That's a body that can do whatever it wants to do, and we'll see what happens going forward.

Again, what I'm pleased with is, I think this is the beginning of a real discussion and the beginning of a real dialogue. We're going to do some good things in terms of giving flexibility to the Defense Department and our friends that deal with military construction and the VA. We're anxious to hear ideas on the other side. But we are going to reduce spending, and we're going to reduce it not by an extraordinary amount, but by 2.4 percent of the entire $3.5 trillion Federal budget, and we're willing to renegotiate where those cuts come from. I think that's a pretty reasonable position to have.

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Mr. COLE. Reclaiming my time, I'd be happy if the United States Senate decided to operate collectively instead of individually, but I didn't write their rules and neither did my friends. I'm sure if we got to write them--although we've both sent a lot of our friends over there, neither of them seem to be willing to sit down and change the rules to make them a more functional body.

But I'm glad you've moved the discussion to where we both agree away from our adversarial discussion toward the real enemy, the United States Senate, which has a hard time acting.

In this case, honestly I think they are going to act, and I say that with a great deal of respect to Senator Reid and to Senator McConnell. I think that they will produce a product to make sure that something doesn't happen that we all agree shouldn't happen. The President doesn't think the government should shut down. We don't think the government should shut down. I don't believe our friends in the Senate think it should shut down.

This is actually a pretty good day. It may not be the perfect bill from my friends's standpoint. I certainly respect that. It's probably not the perfect bill from all of our Members' standpoint.

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Mr. COLE. I will in a moment. Let me just finish my point.

But we will move in the right direction. We will actually move to avoid a government shutdown. We'll leave open an avenue of negotiation with our friends in the Senate. I'm sure the President will be involved in discussion at some point too. So I take some heart from that.

With that, I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey.

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Mr. COLE. Reclaiming my time, we'll have an opportunity in the sense of the previous question. We'll see how the majority shakes out on that issue. I'm sure my friends will regard that as effectively a vote on their proposal.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time, Mr. Speaker.

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Mr. COLE. I yield myself the balance of my time.

I want to begin by, frankly, agreeing with my friend. The time to act has long since passed. We tried to act a long time ago. We tried to act in May, but nobody in the Senate chose to pick up our bill. They sent us back something different, which was their right, but it didn't do anything at all. We tried to act in December, but nobody did anything in the Senate then.

We offered to negotiate with the President for weeks. Instead, we saw a 6-week, an 8-week campaign all over the country. There was no time, evidently, in the President's busy schedule in city after city, at photo op after photo op to simply get on the phone, call the Speaker and say--How would you like to come down and talk?--until the very last day before the sequester, when it had become evident that this type of political bullying wouldn't work.

So we believe the time has passed to act. That's why we're acting today. We are actually going to secure the cuts that are in the legislation that the President advocated for. He originated the idea--I accept the Woodward version of that, I suppose--and he signed it into law. He had 18 months to do something about it. We offered two opportunities in that timeframe to do something, and the Speaker has always been available to sit down with the President and do something.

We are going to take a small step in the right direction. Now, let's not overestimate what we're doing. We could probably take more pride in this than is warranted. Our friends, I think, are shouting more alarm than is necessary. This is $85 billion in a $3.5 trillion deficit--2.4 percent. We ought to be able to do that in our sleep. Quite frankly, we are willing to sit down and renegotiate with our friends from where they come. We are not willing to renegotiate the total amount of the money involved. Over time, it does add up to $1.2 trillion. That's a lot of money, but it's not anywhere near what it's going to take to get our budget in balance.

I look forward to the debates we're going to have on that in the budget discussions ahead; but let's right now, while we have that debate and while we go through that process, take the responsible step that the President urges us to take and that we all agree on, which is simply to make sure that the government doesn't shut down while we have our discussion and sort out our differences.

I applaud Chairman Rogers and Chairman Sessions for making that possible, particularly for bringing this bill in a timely fashion, giving us enough time when we're not going to be jammed. I know our friends in the Senate are going to try and do the same thing. They're going to produce, I have no doubt, a different product than we have. That's fine. We'll negotiate it out, and we'll avoid a government shutdown, but we will secure these savings for the taxpayers of the United States, and we will then take the next step in a longer discussion.

I believe we've had a good debate on the rule. I believe the underlying bill provides the American people with the hope that we can do the basic functions that we were sent here to accomplish--funding the government. I would urge my colleagues to support this rule and the underlying legislation.

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