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Providing for Consideration of HR 444, Require Presidential Leadership and No Deficit Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this restrictive rule and to vote ``no'' on the underlying bill.

The process here is awful. The bill before us was not even considered by the Budget Committee. They didn't hold a single hearing, no markup, and on a party-line vote last night the Rules Committee denied Mr. Van Hollen, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, the opportunity to offer a meaningful substitute. The Rules Committee also, on a party line, voted against an open rule. To all of the Republican freshmen and sophomores who campaigned on the need for openness and transparency, by voting for this rule, you are officially part of the problem.

This bill before us isn't a meaningful attempt to address the budget; it's a gimmick wrapped in talking points inside a press release.

Two weeks ago, this House passed the so-called ``No Budget, No Pay Act,'' then they went on another recess. There wasn't a holiday, mind you. I guess it was the Super Bowl recess. Now they're back with today's bill. It calls on the President to tell Congress when his budget will come into balance. If his budget doesn't say when it will come into balance, then he must submit a supplemental statement telling Congress when it will come into balance.

Why are we doing this? Because the President is late submitting his budget for the next fiscal year. Okay, fine. The President should submit a budget on time, and I support that. But lost in all of this Republican budget Kabuki theater is the truth: the reason the administration is late with their budget is because they just spent months trying to avert the disaster that was the fiscal cliff.

As the Speaker was trying in vain to corral House Republicans into doing the right thing, we had Plan B and Plan C and Plan--who knows what. Finally, we reached a deal on January 1, technically after we went over the cliff. In the meantime, back in the real world, we are

less than 24 calendar days away from the disastrous sequester taking effect--less than 24 calendar days from massive, arbitrary, and devastating cuts to defense and nondefense discretionary programs, cuts to jobs programs and medical research and education, cuts to military personnel and law enforcement, cuts that will cost jobs and do real harm to the American economy as it struggles to recover.

And the reality is that we don't even have that much time. We only have 9 legislative days left in February to address the issue, 9 days to negotiate a trillion-dollar deal with the Senate and the President. And instead of a meaningful plan to address the crisis that we need to avert, we have this nonsense before us today. This is no way to govern.

The disturbing truth is that many Republicans seem downright giddy when it comes to the sequester cuts. There is news story after news story about how the Republicans are going to allow the sequester to take effect. In the Rules Committee last night, the author of this bill, the gentleman from Georgia, Dr. Price, couldn't support these cuts fast enough. I was shocked.

Mr. Speaker, it was only last week that the economic numbers for the fourth quarter of 2012 were released. Unexpectedly, we saw a contraction in those numbers, a contraction fueled by a massive reduction in defense spending. What do you know: huge cuts in government spending during a fragile economic recovery damage economic growth. The Republican response is to double down on this stupid.

These Republican games of Russian roulette with the American economy must come to an end. It is time to replace short-term partisan political interests with the greater good.

The President today is asking us to consider a thoughtful, balanced plan to stop the sequester. I urge the Republican leadership to bring that plan to the floor of the House for a vote as soon as possible. That's what the American people want and that's what they deserve: a real plan. The bill before us today isn't it, and I urge my colleagues to reject it.

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

I would like to submit for the Record a letter sent to the Honorable Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Committee on the Budget, from the Executive Office of the President in the Office of Management and Budget which explains why the President's budget for this year is delayed--because of the theatrics that my friends on the other side forced us to go through to avoid going over a fiscal cliff. So I think it's understandable why the budget may be a little late.

And I would say to the gentleman, submitting a budget is not controversial. What is controversial to me is the fact that so many of my friends on the other side want to go over this sequester cliff in which millions of jobs will be lost. That to me is controversial. We should be about protecting jobs and creating jobs.

My friends have budgetary plans that would throw people out of work, and I find that unconscionable. I find that unconscionable. We should be about lifting this country up, not trying to put people down.

And the plans that have been proposed by my friends on the other side, including this kind of giddiness about the prospect of going over the sequestration cliff, would cost millions of people in this country jobs. It would hurt our economy.

That's not the way we want to govern. That's what is controversial on our side. We don't want people to lose their jobs. We want people to keep their jobs, and we want to create an economy that creates more jobs.

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

The issue is not whether the President should submit a budget. He should. And he would have submitted a budget by now, but because of the theatrics that my friends on the other side put us through dealing with the fiscal cliff, which was just solved on January 1, things are a little bit delayed. The issue is why is the House wasting time on this while the sword of the sequester hangs over the American people?

The President can submit any budget he wants. That's what the President has the right to do, just like George Bush submitted whatever budget he wanted to do.

We have a job here in this House, and that is to address this looming fiscal crisis called the sequester. What we're doing here today is doing nothing at all to move that ball forward.

In less than a month, arbitrary cuts are going to go into effect, people are going to lose their jobs, and this economy is going to go into a deeper slump. For the life of me, I can't understand why there's not more urgency. We shouldn't be taking vacations. We actually should be working here and trying to resolve this. This is stupid legislation because it is not addressing the crisis. It is doing nothing to advance the cause of trying to get to a solution. This is just a press release. This is yet another gimmick.

I think the reason why Congress and especially the House of Representatives is held in such low regard is because we spend so much time on trivial matters debating passionately, and we skip over debating the important things. We ought to be doing something important here today. We ought to be trying to avert this sequestration. We ought to be trying to keep people in their jobs. And we ought to be trying to create an economy that will create more jobs, not this theater.

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Mr. McGOVERN. This is the 113th Congress. We haven't done one thing to solve this fiscal crisis that's looming on March 1st. This is the 113th.

Under the Constitution, when a new Congress begins, we have to start all over again. Okay?

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Mr. McGOVERN. This is the 113th Congress. We haven't done one thing to solve this fiscal crisis that's looming on March 1st. This is the 113th.

Under the Constitution, when a new Congress begins, we have to start all over again. Okay?

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

Let me just respond to the gentleman from Texas by saying he's wrong. He's on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Affordable Care Act had hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee--and markups. There were multiple hearings on that bill. I'm not sure what he's talking about.

Then to the gentleman from Georgia who says that he didn't mention the fact that the President missed the deadline, I thought he did, but the bill that he's touting here mentions it in these very political, inspired findings. Read your own bill. It's three pages long. I know that may be too much, but we're all told to read the bill.

Look, rather than being here and telling the President what to do--he's going to submit a budget--we've got to do our job. Our job is to avoid this sequestration because, if we don't, there are millions of people in this country who will be without work. There are programs that will be arbitrarily cut, and this economy will be hurt. Now, if you want sequestration, then you can continue to take your recesses and do this kind of trivial stuff on the House floor, but we ought to be finding a way to avoid going over this sequestration cliff.

At this point, Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee).

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

We all want to make sure that our children are protected, but embracing a sequester that cuts things like Head Start, that's no way to protect our children.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I'm prepared to close as well, Mr. Speaker. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very frustrating debate, in large part because it's much ado about nothing. What we're doing here today is a press release. It's doing nothing at all to avoid this prospect of sequestration in which arbitrary cuts will go into play. This is just more talk and talk and talk and talk.

Again, that's one of the reasons why the American people are so frustrated with this place. They want less talk and more work. We should be working. We should be coming to some sort of agreement to avoid the catastrophe of sequestration; but, instead, we're doing this.

Mr. Speaker, I want to put some things in perspective. The Center for American Progress reported that since the start of fiscal year 2011, President Obama has signed into law approximately $2.4 trillion of deficit reduction for the years 2013 through 2022. Nearly three-quarters of that deficit reduction is in the form of spending cuts, while the remaining one-quarter comes from revenue increases. Congress and the President have cut about $1.5 trillion in programmatic spending, raised about $630 billion in new revenue, and generated about $300 billion in interest savings, for a combined total of more than $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction. That's a quote from the Center for American Progress.

So three-fourths of the deficit reduction we've achieved so far was from spending cuts. But my friends on the other side have the nerve to continue to claim that Democrats are ``loathe'' to agree to spending cuts. I mean, give me a break, Mr. Speaker. Give me a break.

The CBO projects the Federal deficit to be about $845 billion, which I think is very high; but it's the first time the nonpartisan office forecast a deficit below $1 trillion. So we are going in the right direction, and the President wants to continue to move in that right direction in a fair and balanced way.

Now, here's the deal. My friends keep on referring to what they did last year which, again, was last year. We have to get them to think about this year because they have to act now; it's a new Congress.

But last year the proposals they came up with to try to bring our budget into balance were all about lowering the quality of life for our citizens. Their budget proposal ended Medicare as we know it. Ended Medicare. It's gone.

My friend from Florida talked about Social Security. Their plan for Social Security is to privatize it. And deep reductions and cuts that provide support for people who are most vulnerable. That's their plan.

And now, we see, because we're not trying to address this latest fiscal cliff, I think they really do want the sequestration to go into effect. I think that is outrageous. I think it's going to be dangerous to our economy. But their plan, by allowing sequestration to go into effect, is basically to try to balance the budget by making more people unemployed.

You know, we will lose jobs. In the defense sector that's already happening. But then we're going to see losses in jobs in other areas. There'll be cuts in education. Police grants are cut. Payments to Medicare providers are cut. And The New York Times reports that even the aid just approved for victims of Hurricane Sandy will fall under the sequester's axe.

I mean, this is how we're going to solve our budgetary problems?

Yes, we do have a big debt. A lot of it has to do with these unpaid-for wars, with these tax cuts that weren't paid for; and it's going to take us a while to get out of it. But as we get out of it, we can't destroy our country. We need a balanced approach. We need to cut where we can cut, we need to raise revenues where we need to raise revenues, but we also need to invest.

Cutting the National Institutes of Health, which will happen if sequestration goes into effect, will not only cost jobs, but it will prolong human suffering. If we could find a cure to Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease, not only will we prevent a lot of human suffering, you would end up solving the budgetary challenges of Medicare and Medicaid. There's a value in investing in these things, not arbitrarily cutting them.

Now, last night in the Rules Committee, we tried to bring some substance to this debate. Mr. Van Hollen had his amendment, which was blocked. The one substantive thing that we could have done here today to avoid sequestration was blocked.

So, Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to ensure that the House votes on Mr. Van Hollen's replacement for the sequester which was, again, blocked last night in the Rules Committee.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, again, I would urge my colleagues to reject this rule which, again, is illustrative of how closed this process has become in this House. We ought to reject the rule because it is not open. The Budget Committee never even considered this bill.

But we ought to also reject the underlying bill because this is nonsense at a time when we should be doing something real to avoid a real catastrophe in this country, to avoid something that will have an adverse impact on our economy. Instead, you know, we're all fiddling while Rome is burning.

This is outrageous. We can do so much better. We ought to work. You know, you're passing resolutions asking the President to do X, Y, and Z. We ought to pass a resolution to instruct us to do our job, and that's what we ought to do. That's what the American people expect.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question. I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule.

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