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Requirement in Budget Submission with Respect to the Cost Per Taxpayer of the Deficit

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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

As one of the earlier speakers said during the 1 minutes, this bill simply requires a math calculation, and we have absolutely no objection to doing that. As the gentleman may know, about a month ago we passed an amendment that did virtually the same thing.

I do wonder why it is we think the President is better with a calculator than Congress. Because what this does require simply is that you take the deficit and you divide it by the number of taxpayers. But we're certainly fine to have transparency and have the President put that in his budget as part of his submission as well.

Our concern is that this really doesn't address the fundamental question that we're facing here in the Congress: number one, making sure we get the economy kicked into full gear, and jobs; and, number two, reducing the deficit in a smart and balanced way over a period of time so that we're not balancing the budget on the backs of our seniors, that we're not violating commitments we've made to our seniors, that we're not cutting into education funding for our kids--which is important to making sure that the economy grows and that they have opportunities in their lives--and that we do that in a smart way that doesn't, in the process, result in fewer American jobs.

So the real number we should be focused on here today is 750,000, because 750,000 is the number of jobs that the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says will be lost so long as the sequester that began March 1 remains in place through the end of this year.

So let me say that again. So long as the sequester that started on March 1 remains in place through the end of the calendar year, the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that we will have 750,000 fewer American jobs. That's not President Obama's number; it's not my number; it's an independent number.

The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, was on the Hill testifying just last week and made similar predictions. They have both--both the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, as well as the Congressional Budget Office--said that our economic growth between now and the end of the year will be reduced by a full one-third if the sequester remains in place. So that's what this House should be doing.

Today, a little later today, for the fourth time this year--for the fourth time this year, Mr. Speaker--I will go, on behalf of my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, to the Rules Committee and ask for the opportunity to vote on a piece of legislation that would replace that sequester in a smart and balanced way and in a way that doesn't result in 750,000 fewer American jobs.

Now, you would think our colleagues would want to vote on something like that instead of voting on a bill that just requires a math calculation--which is fine--but it doesn't do anything about jobs, and it doesn't actually do anything to reduce the deficit. But we've not been given that opportunity.

So I would just ask my colleagues: Why is it so important to bring a bill to the floor that asks the President to do another math calculation--which we all can support--and not bring to the floor of the House a bill that actually would prevent the loss of 750,000 jobs and present a balanced plan to reducing the deficit in a way that doesn't harm the economy?

That really is the question here today, Mr. Speaker, and maybe at some point we'll get an answer. And maybe this House will live up to its promise of being the people's House and a transparent House, and we'll actually get a vote on our fourth request. I'm not holding my breath, but it would be nice if those commitments would be kept, as well.

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

The floor manager mentioned that two times our Republican colleagues had put forth an alternative to the sequester. I know the gentleman knows well that we're in a new Congress, and starting in January, all the bills that were put forward in the last Congress were wiped off the books. They don't have any meaning at this point in time. And this year, since we've been in a new Congress, since the election, the number of times our Republican colleagues have put forth a proposal to prevent that sequester to replace it is zero--zero times in this Congress--when it could actually make a difference. Yet, today, for the fourth time, we're going to go and ask for a vote on our proposal.

Now, we're not asking our colleagues to vote for a proposal, although I think that public surveys show the overwhelming majority of the American people would think that our alternative to replacing the sequester is a lot better than the sequester. We're not even asking our colleagues to vote for it. We're just asking for a vote on it. Let's let the people's House do its work.

Now, we talked about the deficit. There's no argument about the need to reduce our deficits. We just need to do it in a smart way and in a way that doesn't hurt the economy and doesn't cost jobs; and our proposal does have a balanced way. It combines additional, targeted cuts over a period of time with cutting tax loopholes that are in the Tax Code over a period of time.

Our Republican colleagues keep talking about how bad the deficit is. We say we agree with you on that, but it apparently isn't bad enough that you would close one single tax loophole in order to reduce the deficit. In fact, that Grover Norquist pledge that's been signed by over 90 percent of our House colleagues says that you promise not to close a single tax loophole for the purpose of reducing the deficit. You can't get rid of a tax break for corporate jets. You can't get rid of the special treatment of hedge fund managers under the Tax Code if it's part of an effort to reduce the deficit. How is that serious deficit reduction?

So what we've said is we need to do both. We need to eliminate a lot of those tax preferences and tax breaks for big oil companies and others; and we also need to make sensible, targeted cuts in other areas and reduce the deficit in a smart way. The alternative plan that we have proposed that we're asking for a vote on would accomplish the same amount of deficit reduction as the sequester through this calendar year, but do it in a way that does not cost 750,000 American jobs, because we don't do it so deeply, so quickly.

That's the difference, and that's why bipartisan commissions have recommended the balanced approach to reducing the deficit. So, again, the numbers for this year, which is the only thing that's relevant in terms of congressional action, is that there has been zero effort, zero times that our colleagues have brought to the floor a proposal to replace sequester. We're now asking our fourth time this afternoon simply to have a vote.

I hope that we can finally get one, Mr. Speaker.

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

As I pointed out earlier, but I think it bears emphasis, about 1 month ago we passed a virtually identical provision. So why are we back here on the floor of this House, again without opposition? I think everybody in this House voted to do this calculation and have it put on the books. So why we are here one month later when the sequester just kicked in, doing something that we already did, rather than focusing on the issue at hand, I think is a mystery to the American people. Folks who just read from letters they got and from constituents, I think those constituents are going to be asking, why are you doing now what you did 30 days ago when we have got all these other burning issues on our plate right now, and at a time when we are asking for a vote on a plan to replace the sequester in a balanced way for the fourth time.

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

Listening to this debate on the floor you might think that this bill did something to reduce the deficit and the debt. Just in case anyone is confused, it does nothing to reduce the deficit and debt. It does ask for a calculation, which we agree with.

In fact, the gentlelady just did the calculation herself, which begs the question why you need to go through a bill to get somebody to do the calculation. In fact, this calculation changes, because as the gentleman and all of us have said, the deficit goes up. That number changes every day, and so you have got to do it every day.

The point is, we passed this a month ago. There is no objection to doing a calculation. But this bill does nothing, nothing to reduce the deficit. In fact, it is running up the deficit as we spend time, taxpayer time, right here on the floor of the House while we continue to ask for a vote, up or down vote, on our plan to replace the sequester so that we don't lose 750,000 American jobs.

Today will be the fourth time we have asked for this. Our Republican colleagues have not taken any action in this Congress, not one step, nothing, to replace the sequester.

That is what we should be dealing with. Not a bill that we passed a month ago, not a bill that the gentlelady did a calculation on the floor to achieve the result. Let's focus on jobs and reducing the deficit in a smart way, by targeting spending cuts in a smart way, but also getting rid of all those tax breaks that our colleagues seem so wedded to keeping in place.

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Mr. VAN HOLLEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Again, I have to remind people as they listen to this debate that this bill does nothing--zero--to reduce the deficit--nothing. All it does is ask for a calculation, which we've said we welcome and which one of our Members actually did on the floor of the House here as she gave her presentation, and it's that which we can all do. But by all means, let's say to the President, Put that calculation in your budget--even though that calculation is out of date 3 days after the budget is submitted if we don't get control of the deficit and do it in a smart way.

I agree with the gentleman when he says the best way to deal with the deficit is to grow the economy. That's what we should be focused on, which is why we're asking today--for the fourth time--for a vote on our proposal to replace the sequester so that we don't lose 750,000 jobs; 750,000 jobs is the number of jobs that were created between October of last year and January of this year. According to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, if we continue to allow that sequester to remain in place, we will see one-third less economic growth.

Now, if you don't believe the nonpartisan, independent head of the Congressional Budget Office, who does professional work, and if you don't believe the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, who is not a partisan, maybe our Republican colleagues will believe the House Republican leader, Mr. Cantor. Here is what he said on the floor of this House, not that long ago, with respect to the sequester:

``Under the sequester, unemployment would soar from its current level ..... '' He goes on to say that it would set back ``any progress the economy has made.'' He then referred to a study that said, `` ..... the jobs of more than 200,000 Virginians, in my home State, are on the line.'' That's Mr. Cantor.

Here is what the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee said about a month ago. This is what Mr. McKeon said when we got the numbers from the last quarter showing the economy was slowing, in part, in anticipation of these cuts.

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Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, the American public does have a right to know. I don't know how many times we have to say this on the floor of this House: We passed virtually the identical bill 30 days ago, approximately, and I'm not objecting to this bill. People have a right to know. We should have transparency. We should reduce the deficit, and this bill does nothing to reduce the deficit.

What we need to do is make sure that we get our deficits under control, that we stabilize the debt, and that we make smart choices for the people in this country.

Yes, there is a difference of opinion. We believe that as part of reducing the deficit, we should make targeted smart cuts, but we should also cut some of those tax loopholes. Now the gentleman mentioned that we passed a tax increase on $600 billion over the next 10 years. That's right; we finally said, for higher income earners, you're going to go back to paying the same rates as you were during the Clinton administration.

But the gentleman suggested that budget history began on January 1 of this year. We were all here--not everybody, but most of us--when we passed the Budget Control Act in the summer of 2011. What did we do in that act? We capped spending--$1.5 trillion in spending reductions. That was the right thing to do. Now we've done $600 billion in revenue. So I think most people can do the math on this. We're not nearly close to the kind of ratios that the bipartisan commission, the bipartisan fiscal commission, Simpson-Bowles, we're not close to the balance that they talked about in terms of revenue and cuts, not even in the ballpark.

So let's focus on the fundamental question, which is, number one, getting the economy moving again, not losing 750,000 jobs this year, and then reducing our deficits in a smart and balanced way over a period of time. But yes, by all means, let's have the President do a calculation, which one of the earlier Republican speakers did on the floor of the House. We can all do that. Of course as indicated, that calculation changes day to day. But by all means, let's get it. But let's not pretend that this piece of legislation does one thing to create one job or reduce the deficit by one penny.

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Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, it's always good to see a show of Hoosier unity on the floor of the House, and I look forward to joining my colleagues in voting for this bill.

The State of Maryland also has a balanced budget, but we also have a capital budget and other parts that we do differently.

Look, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to support this bill. I support transparency. I supported virtually the identical provision 30 days ago. That's really not the issue. Yes, we want more information, and we'll get it.

But the real issue here is the loss of jobs. Now, the previous gentleman mentioned that the Washington Times has an article saying more jobs were created. Thank goodness we are finally seeing more and more jobs created.

We will have economic growth. There will be jobs created. The question is how many fewer jobs we will have as a result of the sequester. The CBO hasn't said it will stop every job from being created.

What the Chairman of the Federal Reserve has said, and what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said, is that this sequester, if it remains in place through the end of the year, will be a drag on growth, so we will have fewer jobs created. In fact, they estimate we will have 750,000 fewer American jobs by the end of the year if we don't do something about the sequester.

So, Mr. Speaker, I'd just go back to the original question: Why take up something we've already done, already passed virtually unanimously, when we have a much more pressing issue and when we, today, will ask for the fourth time this year, when it counts, to vote on a bill that would replace the sequester in a smart and balanced way without the loss of jobs? That's the fundamental question. And why this House is shirking that responsibility and refusing to hold a vote on a proposal that would prevent the loss of 750,000 jobs is a question I think the American people are asking themselves.

So, Mr. Speaker, let's get on to the pressing business. Let's focus on jobs and really reducing the deficit and not playing these kind of games on the floor of the House.

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