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Public Statements

Providing for the Expenses of Certain Committees of the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I heard the gentlelady from Michigan's comments. I have three grandchildren of my own and two great grandchildren. The gentlelady said we don't want to turn to them and say, We don't want to pay our bills. You pay them.

That's what we did in '01 and '03. We cut revenues. We cut revenues deeply. We didn't cut spending--we increased spending--on the theory that the people who were going to get the benefit were voting and that the people who were going to get paid and who were going to have to pay the bill weren't voting. It worked to some degree; but we didn't pay, as the gentlelady suggested we ought to, our bills. As the gentlelady probably knows, we had a provision in place which said we ought to pay as we go. If we buy a war, we ought to pay for it. If we buy a tax cut, we ought to pay for it. If we buy a prescription drug, we ought to pay for it and not ask my children or my grandchildren or your children or your grandchildren to pay for it. I agree with the lady, but that's what we've done.

Now we are about the process of undermining the people's government by slashing its funding so it cannot provide the services that the people want and need and vote for, and now we will slash the ability of this House to do what the people expect us to do. I'm sorry the former Secretary of State left the Chamber. He's the Secretary of State. He says we ought to lead by example. By golly, I'll tell you: the people in my constituency, they hope we're not the example of how to work. They hope we're not the example of the dysfunction that they ought to follow, that we're not the example of ``do it my way or no way,'' which is what we've been doing.

The people of the United States of America send us here, and they want us to make sure that we adopt policies that will help them and their families, that will create jobs and grow our economy. That's what they want. What the people of the United States also want is to make sure we can conduct the oversight of their government. That's our responsibility. The previous gentleman said, Well, the executive ought to lead, and then we wouldn't need to do oversight. I didn't get that, frankly, at all. The executive is a separate and equal branch of government, but we are the first branch of government. We are article I. We are the people's House. We represent the people, and they expect us to make sure their government is operating properly. To the extent that year after year we reduce our ability to conduct the oversight necessary to ensure that the people's government is operating consistent with law and on behalf of the people of the United States--to the extent that we undermine that ability--we undermine free government, a free people, a free country.

We undermine the ability of this government to make sure that the executive is doing the right thing. And to the extent that the population of this country keeps growing, as it does every year, it needs us to be on the job. And what we're saying, of course, is: Well, we have a sequester. Sequester starts with ``S''; it stands for stupid. It is an irrational policy that we've adopted. And we've adopted it. It just didn't happen. It didn't come out of the air. It didn't fall from the trees. We adopted sequester. It's an irrational, ineffective, inefficient, negative policy that we've not only allowed to go into place, but in the budget we passed, we adopted it one more time, not by mistake but by policy. It was a bad policy. I didn't vote for it. It's irrational.

I tell people around the country, you know, it's like the family has a budget. You have a food budget and you have a movie budget. Somebody loses their job and so your income goes down. So what you do is you sit around the table and say: We'll cut food by 10 percent and movies by 10 percent. What rational human being would do that? Nobody. They'd say we're not going to go to the movies this month so we can put food on the table and make sure that our family is well fed.

But that's not what we're doing. The sequester that we're now pursuing, somewhat mindlessly, in my opinion, with respect to our ability to do the job that the people expect us to do, is to cut food by 10 percent and movies by 10 percent.

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Mr. HOYER. My friends, I rise in opposition to this resolution. I want the American people to know we've cut committee funding for 2 years in a row because we understand that we're asking everybody to notch in their belt by one or two notches, and we ought to do the same. And we have. But if you undermine the people's ability to do their job, you're going to be in trouble.

Woodrow Wilson once wrote: ``Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition.''

That's what we are here, we're on public exhibition. The TV is on, people are watching us, and people are seeing us.

But what Woodrow Wilson also said was: ``Whilst Congress in committee rooms is Congress at work.''

That's where we really do our work. We vote on it here, but committees are critically important creatures of oversight and of action.

I think the gentlelady is a good Member of this House, and she's been given a tough responsibility. She laments the fact that we have no money. We have no money because we said we didn't need it; we have no money because we can operate government without it.

Mr. Speaker, I hear your gavel, and I will close, but I urge my colleagues to vote against this resolution. Let's make sure that the Congress of the United States can do the job that the people expect.

[Begin Insert]

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this committee funding bill, which would hurt the ability of Congress to do its work effectively.

This bill would cut the funding for House Committees by an additional 11% in order to meet the irrational demands of sequestration--on top of huge cuts imposed last Congress.

Committees have lost around a quarter of their funding in the past few years, and this has meant fewer staff positions and the possibility of furloughs.

Most, I think, do not realize just how important committees are to the work we perform on the American people's behalf.

Woodrow Wilson once wrote:

Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work.

Eroding the ability of committees to do their work seriously limits the ability of Congress to engage in the people's work.

The Speaker and majority leader have said many times that this House ought to follow regular order.

To do so, we must have strong and fully functioning committees.

I urge my colleagues in both parties to oppose this bill.

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Mr. HOYER. Just so we're pretty accurate, as the gentlelady knows, your side offered a bill which was called Cut, Cap, and Balance. The alternative in Cut, Cap, and Balance was sequester. I didn't vote for that. I'm not sure how the gentlelady voted on it. It passed this House overwhelmingly with Republican support and with opposition on our side before Jack Lew suggested to Harry Reid that that might be one way to get off the lack of action in making sure that America paid its bills. The only reason I interrupt the gentlelady is because I think it is important to understand that your Cut, Cap, and Balance, passed before that suggestion was made, included sequester as the fallback if we didn't reach the numbers. If it's the President's, it's the President's via Cut, Cap, and Balance which your side of the aisle passed and sent to the Senate as presumably good policy.

I thank the gentlelady for yielding. She was very kind to do that.

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