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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, we are here to consider the rule for H.R. 933, the continuing resolution for the rest of fiscal year 2013. This is a disappointing bill, Mr. Speaker, and this is a disappointing process.

This continuing resolution, quite frankly, is inadequate. It does not meet the needs of our people. And because it does not address sequestration, it actually will hurt many millions of our people. The Department of Defense and the VA are given some flexibility to deal with the devastating sequestration cuts, but no other agency is given that tool.

This is clearly, in my opinion, a tacit statement by the majority that they are going to keep this harmful sequester, one of the stupidest things ever to come out of Congress.

And that, Mr. Speaker, is the disappointing part of this entire process. The majority has had plenty of opportunity to address the sequester. Time after time after time after time, Democrats, through the efforts of the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Mr. Van Hollen, have offered a sequester alternative. And time after time after time after time, the Republican majority has blocked this amendment from being debated and voted on the House floor.

Yet the Republicans in Congress have yet to put forth a sequester alternative. Of course they will say that they have passed two different proposals, but that was last Congress. As many of my friends on the other side of the aisle know so well, legislation dies at the end of each Congress. Every 2 years, Congress repopulates and every bill must start over. There is no carryover from one Congress to the next. We all learned that in the most basic political science class, Politics 101. So this claim that we did something last Congress is irrelevant to addressing the sequester that the Republicans let take effect last week.

And let's remember the context of those two bills the House Republicans are so proud of. They were the result of, once again, the Republican leadership walking away from difficult bipartisan negotiations just at the moment when a deal seemed to be within reach. They both are completely partisan bills, and they both were dead on arrival in the Senate. So they were not genuine efforts to solve problems. They were all for show. They were simply political theater.

On the other hand, at the end of the last Congress, the House Republican leadership had a bipartisan, bicameral negotiated omnibus appropriations bill that would have taken us through fiscal year 2013, the result of hundreds of hours of careful bipartisan negotiation. But the House Republicans would not let that bill come to the floor for approval, a bill that would have passed the Senate and gone straight to the President's desk for signature.

Instead, they chose to waste the House's time on its two highly touted, highly partisan budget bills that went nowhere. But as I said, Mr. Speaker, that was the last Congress, and we must now start all over to address the sequester and provide funding for the remainder of this fiscal year.

Frankly, I don't know what the Republicans in the House are scared of. Speaker Boehner seems to have moved past the Hastert rule, which is a silly notion that the bill must only pass if it has the majority of the majority, and he has replaced it with selective bipartisanship. That's right, Speaker Boehner clearly believes that the House should operate under a process of selective bipartisanship.

This means he turns to Democrats when he needs the votes to pass important bills, like he did for VAWA, the fiscal cliff, and Hurricane Sandy relief, when only 49 Republicans, only 49 Republicans out of 232 voted to help our fellow citizens on the east coast who were devastated by that storm. The Speaker should do the same thing with the sequester and allow the House to debate and to vote on the Van Hollen amendment.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, this is part of a broader Republican economic plan that is, to put it mildly, extremely disappointing.

First, Republicans brought us to the brink of economic mayhem with the fiscal cliff. At the last minute, the Senate swooped in to save the day with leadership and help from the administration. Then House Republicans allowed the sequester to take effect, once again playing Russian roulette with our economy. Now we are going to consider this hybrid CR that just doesn't pass muster, despite the best efforts of the appropriators.

No one--no one--wants a government shutdown, and we all know that some kind of bill funding the Federal Government through the end of the fiscal year will pass before March 27. The real fights are going to come in the next few weeks and months when the Republicans outline their budget priorities with the new Ryan budget and when the debt limit, once again, needs to be raised.

What is clear is that the Republicans are hell-bent on cutting spending just for its own sake, no matter how mindless or senseless. We know that the economy is slowly rebounding, and we also know that these cuts in government spending--Federal, State, and local--are taking their toll on the economy. Fourth-quarter growth last year was reduced only because of reduced government spending--the cuts to cops, the cuts to firefighters, the cuts to teachers, and other workers--when that showed up in that economic report.

Now we are going to see a Republican budget that supposedly eliminates the deficit in 10 years. Call it the Ryan budget on steroids. It is going to cut Medicare, food stamps, and nearly every nondefense discretionary program funded by the Federal Government; and during the debt ceiling debate, we will see another attempt to arbitrarily cut these programs.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a responsible way to govern. The continuing resolution before us today is just one more example of how the House Republicans are leading with their heads in the sand. Instead of working to jump-start our economy, instead of engaging in true bipartisan negotiations, House Republicans continue to push on with misguided and ill-conceived budget cuts that do harm, but no good.

Like I said, this is a disappointing bill and a disappointing effort. We should be considering an omnibus appropriations bill. We should work to replace the sequester. We should be thinking long-term about economic recovery. We should be putting country ahead of political party. Instead, once again, we are playing games with our economy. This is no way to run a government.

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

And I have great respect for my colleague from Oklahoma, and I appreciate the efforts that he has made toward bipartisanship on a number of bills; but, quite frankly, the leadership of this House has not adhered to regular order. We haven't seen regular in order a long time.

And when he talks about trying to find an alternative to sequestration, I would remind my colleague that Mr. Van Hollen, who is about to speak, has tried on four occasions--on four occasions--to be able to come to the floor and offer his alternative to sequestration that the Democrats support--I think some Republicans would support it as well--to have a debate and to have an up-or-down vote to avoid these mindless, senseless, across-the-board, indiscriminate cuts that have now gone into place. He's been denied all four times.

Now, by contrast, the Republicans have had zero alternatives. That's right, zero. They have brought nothing to the floor in this Congress to avoid sequestration. We're in March--January, February, March. We're in March, so we've had time to come up with alternatives. We've had an alternative that we have not allowed to be brought to the floor.

And let me just say, the United States Senate did actually pass an alternative with 51 votes. That's a majority. Unfortunately, I think, partly due to the influence of some of the House leadership here, the Republicans said, no, you need 60 votes to get that thing through.

So we have been trying. The White House has been trying. So the fact that we are here and that my Republican friends have allowed sequestration to go into effect, I think, is, quite frankly, unconscionable. We should not be in this mess.

And sequestration took effect last week. We should have stayed in session all week and tried to figure this out. And my friends adjourned the House, recessed the House on Thursday--no urgency, no nothing. And

research to education funding to funding for roads and bridges. It will impact, in a negative way, jobs. People will lose their jobs.

This is not a good deal. This is not a good deal. And, quite frankly, we should be here today trying to find an alternative.

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

Just so there is no confusion, I think it's important that I point out to my colleagues that we have had three rounds of cuts to one round of revenue increases. The cuts have overwhelmed the revenue increases. So the notion that somehow we've engaged in a balanced process I don't think is the case. And the notion that somehow closing these tax loopholes and corporate tax loopholes that even Mitt Romney and George Bush at one time supported in order that we don't cut medical research, research aimed at trying to find cures to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and diabetes--if we found cures for those diseases, not only would we prevent a lot of human suffering, we'd save a lot of money.

But we're cutting medical research and we're pushing farther off the date that we're going to find breakthroughs in order to protect taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies that are making zillions of dollars? They really need a handout from the United States taxpayer? And you're cutting medical research, you're cutting Head Start, you're cutting programs that help people get an education, that protect our communities, our law enforcement officials, environmental protection. We're cutting all those things mindlessly in order to protect these corporate tax loopholes.

This is crazy. I really believe that outside of this little bubble here in Washington there is a bipartisan consensus that what we're doing here is crazy. This doesn't make any sense. This does not make any sense. Mindless, senseless, across-the-board cuts.

No urgency. We're going to go home today. There's a little snow on the ground. National Airport is closed. We can't really go anywhere until it reopens. We ought to stay here and figure out an alternative to sequestration.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, last night, the FAA announced that 173 air traffic control towers will be closed by April 7. So I would say to my colleague, tell the communities whose economies will be devastated by the fact that they will no longer have air service that this is not a cut. I mean, they will be losing an essential service that is vital for businesses to thrive all across this country. That is a cut.

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Mr. McGOVERN. We are prepared to close as well, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I would say to my friend, the gentleman from Oklahoma, that the time to act has long since passed. We are now in sequester.

Budgets across the board and in a mindless and senseless way are being slashed. Air traffic control towers are being shut down. That will result in an adverse impact on local economies. We will lose jobs. You've heard over and over that we're told that we should expect a job loss of 750,000 people.

What do they do? They lose their job, and they go on unemployment. Where is the future? Where is the savings that my friends are talking about when you throw people out of work?

My friends talk about tough choices. Well, we ought to assume tough choices. You're going to have health clinics that are going to be reduced in their funding. You're going to have transportation projects reduced in their funding. You're going to have cuts in WIC; you're going to have cuts in Head Start; you're going to have cuts in programs that benefit the most vulnerable people in our communities.

None of us in this Chamber has to absorb a tough choice. It's the people we represent. It's the people in this country who are getting shafted as a result of this sequestration.

The time to act has long since passed. Mr. Van Hollen has time and time and time again--not once, not twice, not three times, but four times tried to bring an alternative to the House floor. All he's asked for is that we have an up-or-down vote on his proposal, and four times he has been rejected. By contrast, this year, my friends have brought up not a single alternative to avoid sequestration.

All we're asking for is a little democracy here on the floor of the House of Representatives, a chance for us to debate and have an up-or-down vote not on a procedural motion, but on the actual legislation, up or down. We've been denied that.

My friends, if they have an alternative they want to bring, fine. Bring that up there too. We'll have two votes, and we can debate our priorities so the American people know where we stand.

Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I'm going to offer an amendment to the rule to ensure that the House votes on Mr. Van Hollen's bill to replace the sequester and on Mr. Connolly's bill to freeze pay for Members of Congress for the next 2 years.

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment in the Record along with extraneous material immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I just want to again say to my friends that it is important for them to appreciate the devastation of these cuts.

Head Start: the CR will allow sequestration to cut $400 million, resulting in a potential loss of 70,000 Head Start slots for comprehensive early learning and development services.

Job training programs: the CR will allow sequester to cut $282 million, resulting in hundreds of thousands of unemployed adults, dislocated workers, veterans, young adults and students losing access to employment services.

Title I grants, education of the disadvantaged: the CR will allow sequestration to cut $730 million, which is the equivalent of cutting the extra instructional services for more than 2,500 schools serving more than 1 million disadvantaged children who are struggling academically.

Special education grants: the CR will allow sequestration to cut more than $580 million, which is the rough equivalent of shifting the cost of educating nearly 300,000 students with special needs to State and local education agencies. This also may result in more than 700,000 layoffs of teachers, aides and other staff serving students with disabilities.

Child care: the CR will allow sequestration to cut $115 million, which would cause, roughly, 30,000 children to lose access to child care, further exacerbating the fact that only one in six children eligible for Federal child care assistance receives it.

Cancer screenings: the CR will allow sequestration to cut funding for cancer screenings, resulting in 25,000 fewer breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women.

I can go on and on and on, but here is the choice: the choice is either this process, which my Republican colleagues have embraced, or the one that Mr. Van Hollen has outlined--one that would say we're not going to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable, on the backs of the needy, on the backs of the middle class but that--do you know what?--we're going to get rid of some of these corporate loopholes that my friends on the other side used to be in favor of closing. We're not going to continue to have taxpayer subsidies for big oil companies. We're going to have some balance in our approach to dealing with our deficit. The problem with the approach my friends have outlined--the problem with the sequestration--is that it is not balanced. It is wrong-headed; it is mindless; it is senseless; and it is cruel.

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

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