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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. VARGAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to House Resolution 115 and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 115 represents the next step in a slow march towards making House committees incapable of conducting the oversight with which they are charged and further limiting the power of this equal branch of government.

Mr. Speaker, with these cuts, we are not talking about the loss of new equipment, the next computer, or printer. No. With these cuts, we are talking about gutting our capacity to do the jobs we were sent here to do by the American people. The work product of our committees is only as good as the talented men and women that we are able to employ. And they are very able.

The House is lucky to have such a well-seasoned and skilled group of individuals carrying out the people's business. In fact, this is one of the things we always agree on--the quality of the people that work in these committees. It is at the highest level. But for how long?

If this resolution passes, there will be a 21.3 percent reduction in funding for committees since the 111th Congress. More appalling is the 26 percent cut the Judiciary Committee will sustain during the same time, particularly as they move forward to address comprehensive immigration reform that we all seem to agree on now and the initiatives to reduce gun violence.

As the chairman of the Rules Committee stated last week when he testified before our committee, ``We do not have something we can cut or manage on a moving forward basis. We have by and large taken ourselves down to the bare bones.'' Now we're down to the bare bones. Repeatedly, we heard from committee chairs that the only thing they have left to cut are personnel expenses.

The Veterans' Affairs chairman stated, ``We have no choice but to find these savings in our personnel budget.''

And the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs said:

We want to make certain that those individuals who will make a sacrifice and come up here and work for a reduced wage will stay with us. There is a question of how long, deeply, we can cut.

Of course there is a question, and I think the question is before us.

The chairs and ranking members of the House have been responsible stewards--we have heard that already--and they have been. And they have achieved incredible savings. But this resolution's lack of funding also hurts our ability to find governmentwide cost savings.

In fact, it does just the opposite. The committees conduct oversight over billions and billions of dollars of Federal spending and have found savings within their respective agencies. However, without high quality people that have the institutional knowledge and expertise, they will sacrifice the ability to perform strong, responsible oversight.

The chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee illustrated this best when testifying about the savings his auditors were able to provide the government. He stated:

Cutting back for us is, in fact, an opportunity to lose the very auditors that will guarantee you multiple savings. We would like to work with the committee to allow us and other committees to find similar savings. But we must ask that you not allow the audit committee to be reduced when, in fact, we can return you more than 1,000 times our budget.

One thousand times. In Mark, it is only 100 times. Fourfold in other parts of the Bible. Here is 1,000 times.

Mr. Speaker, Members on both sides of the aisle have embraced the idea of doing more with less. We have all grappled with the idea of not filling empty positions, denying requests for travel and forgoing necessary technology upgrades in our offices. But there is a point where additional cuts undermine our ability to do our jobs effectively.

Based upon the testimony that we have received during our committee funding hearings, I believe that there is a bipartisan agreement that this funding resolution could represent that breaking point. In the end, the American people will be the ultimate victims.

I urge my colleagues to defeat this resolution. I urge a ``no'' vote, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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

First of all, I'd like to thank the chairwoman from the committee. She was very gracious during the committee hearing, and I learned quite a bit from her. I want to thank her for that.

And I, in particular, want to thank the ranking member. The ranking member gave me the opportunity to speak here. That normally doesn't happen to freshmen, and I really appreciate that. He has a reputation of being very gracious and kind, and I appreciate it. It was certainly demonstrated here today.

I do have to respond, however. There was the issue of immorality that was brought up before, and as a former Jesuit, I'm very comfortable with that type of language. And I believe it was said that leaving bills for other generations, future generations, was the most immoral thing we can do. I certainly would challenge that premise. I think there's a lot more immoral things that we can do. However, when you do take a look at the issue of immorality and saying that we're going to leave this huge deficit, this huge debt to future generations, I think that that is immoral.

However, it's interesting, the argument on the other side is just simply the argument of cuts and not revenue. So, for example, corporate jets, there are loopholes for them now. We could close them. It wouldn't hurt the millionaires and the billionaires to pay taxes on them. It wouldn't hurt them one bit. And that, of course, would cut--it would cut the debt, the deficit that we leave to these future generations, reducing the immorality. We could have the wealthy, instead of paying 12, 13 percent on average, pay what middle class people pay. That certainly would cut the debt and deficit significantly, reducing, once again, the immorality.

But it's interesting, talking about immorality. The Bible certainly speaks to that. In Amos, the prophet Amos, if you look it up, you'll see that Amos speaks about the anawim, and the anawim are God's little ones. The little ones, then, were the orphans and the widows. Because of the condition that they were in, it was very difficult for them to survive. And we then, or at that time, the Israelites, were going to be judged on how they treated the anawim.

That carries forward into the New Testament. If you look in Matthew, Matthew 25, they say: How are we going to be judged? How are we going to be judged?

Jesus makes it easy. He says: whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you did to me. Then he goes through a litany of things. He says: when I was hungry, you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink; when I was a stranger--interestingly, when I was a stranger, we're certainly having that conversation with immigrants today--when I was a stranger, you welcomed me; when I was ill, you cured me. Interestingly, too, when I was a prisoner, you came and visited me. It didn't say if you were innocent, by the way. It didn't say that. It said: when I was a prisoner, you came and you visited me. That's how we're going to be judged.

And these budgets, these budgets should go towards those values. That's what's moral, taking care of those that are thirsty and hungry, those that are strangers. And these committees work hard to make sure that happens, and they do a very good job. In fact, no one's argued that they don't; just the opposite. What we have heard from the committee chairs is: don't cut us because we can do even a better job. And not only that, you're loading the work on us.

So I would conclude, and again thank the ranking member and certainly thank the chair for the opportunity. And I would urge my colleagues to defeat this resolution. I appreciate the opportunity, again.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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