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Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, while the Continuing Resolution we vote on today is a marginal improvement over the version that passed the House, it still fails to replace sequestration and underfunds our Nation's critical needs. House Republicans have repeatedly blocked legislation to replace sequestration and save the 750,000 jobs that the Congressional Budget Office tells us would be lost this year alone under that failed policy. And now we are voting on a Continuing Resolution that keeps those cuts in place for the rest of the year.
I appreciate the Senate's efforts to improve this bill, updating appropriations plans for the several other Departments and including marginal funding increases for several important priorities, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, Head Start, transportation safety, and local law enforcement. It brings transportation funding in line with the MAP-21 policy that passed last year, freeing up more than $720 million for important infrastructure projects. And it includes a necessary extension of the TANF program, which was set to expire at the end of this month.
However, by continuing sequestration and failing to update seven of our appropriations bills to reflect current policy and priorities, this bill shortchanges vital programs. It cuts more deeply into environmental programs than even the House bill, making it more difficult to keep our air and water clean and healthy. It underfunds implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, hampering efforts to expand access to health care, improve consumer protections, and rein in the excesses of the financial industry.
This legislation also continues to scapegoat federal employees, extending their pay freeze through the end of the year. While I believe Congress can afford a pay freeze, the federal workers who care for our veterans, protect our borders, conduct research into life-saving treatments and innovative technologies, and inspect our Nation's food supply cannot. These hardworking federal employees have already had their pay frozen for two years and contributed more than $100 billion to reduce our deficit. They should not be denied a partial 0.5 percent cost-of-living increase.
Unfortunately, our choice today is between this legislation and a total government shutdown. While I would have liked to see a much better bill before us today--one that responsibly replaces the sequester and makes the necessary investments in critical programs and personnel--I will vote for this bill because a government shutdown would be even more damaging for our economy and the civil servants who work on behalf of our country every day.
But once this bill has passed, and we have avoided yet another manufactured crisis, we must work together to address our most important priority--the economy and jobs. We know from Europeans that austerity does not work--it is time to craft a responsible policy that addresses our jobs deficit and puts our Nation on a path to long-term sustainability.
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