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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

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in very strong support of House Resolution 115, which is providing for the expenses of certain committees of the House of Representatives for the 113th Congress and which authorizes committee budgets for the 113th Congress.

Earlier this month, Mr. Speaker, the Committee on House Administration held two very lengthy and very informative days of hearings with our chairmen and with our ranking members from all of the 19 House committees. Each of them testified about their respective budgets, the commitment to uphold the longstanding two-thirds, one-third allocation between majority and minority offices; and most importantly, Mr. Speaker, they talked about doing more with less, which is a topic that we are all very, very familiar with.

This funding process and these discussions significantly impact the legislative process as these committees are where, of course, the legislation that comprise much of our work begins, where our vital oversight functions occur, which is why throughout this process we adhered, Mr. Speaker, to two very important principles. First of all, we said we need to live within our means, and then prioritizing the finite resources that we have provided to us
in the Congress by hardworking American taxpayers.

As we all know, sequestration went into effect on March 1, 2013, and Congress must live with further cuts, just as every other agency of government must live with similar cuts. As a result of the sequester, the total committee authorization level must be reduced by approximately 11 percent, in the 11 percentile range. And that means if we authorize above that amount, then we will have to take the money from somewhere else.

When ensuring that committees have adequate resources, obviously, we have to consider their legislative objectives; we have to consider their anticipated workload and authorize the finite resources available in a way that best suits the needs of the House of Representatives as a whole.

Although the sequestration is not certainly the ideal way to cut spending, cuts are imperative. They must happen. Our government is too big, too involved, and too costly. As those who are charged with the care of taxpayers' dollars, we need to lead by example, and we must control our spending. We must live within our own means.

Now, this may be a far more strict budget than many had hoped or anticipated, but like so many Americans, we are coping with our circumstances, and we are making cuts to our budgets in a way that any American business or American family would have to, as every local unit of government, every State around the country has had to do. Certainly during these very trying economic times, we also have to make value judgments and budget accordingly.

To match the available post-sequestration funding level, the total authorization amount for House committees must be reduced, as I say, by about 11 percent from the 2012 level; and, therefore, with very few exceptions, each committee authorization has been reduced, again, within that 11 percent range or certainly within a percentage point or so of the 11 percent.

Based on the anticipated workload for the 113th Congress, the Budget Committee, the Committee on Ways and Means, and the Select Committee on Intelligence have been given very much smaller reductions, a very slight reduction from the 11 percent. But every committee certainly will be faced with important oversight responsibilities for 2013. However, given that getting our economy moving again and defending this Nation are the foremost priorities that we face, the dire need for tax and entitlement reform to help grow our economy, to create good-paying private sector jobs and the increasing cyberthreats to our digital infrastructure, it was determined by our committee that these three committees certainly are the tip of the spear in doing some of the most important work for the American people.

We must remain, as well, committed to leading by example in cutting government waste, rooting out inefficiencies, and conducting essential and efficient oversight of our vast administrative agencies.

House Resolution 115, Mr. Speaker, we believe fulfills that mission. I would also point out that this House resolution not only reduces committee expenditures, but it also authorizes total committee funding for the 113th Congress at a level which is lower than 2005. I think that bears repeating--a level lower than 2005. By comparison, overall nondefense discretionary spending by the executive branch has actually increased 16.7 percent since 2008--quite a big difference there.

As I said before, as chairman of the Committee on House Administration, I certainly understand the challenges of stretching committee resources, and I have a very deep appreciation for every committee's ability to absorb these cuts and their commitment to functioning at a high level, even with the reduced resources that they have, and that is due certainly in no small measure to the outstanding leadership that we have with each committee chairman and each ranking member on all of our committees, really, all committed to delivering a very high level of service to the American people.

Some of my colleagues, I know, have voiced their opposition to this measure calling for a freeze in committee spending. They say that freezing spending for committees at 2012 levels is a more balanced approach. But since sequestration, we just don't have the money to cover a freeze. We do not have the money.

So I would simply state that spending beyond our means, in my opinion, is not a balanced approach. In fact, I would say it's a bit irresponsible. As I said before, every American family, every small business, every State and local unit of government must live within their means, and so must the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Speaker, again, this resolution has required us to make some very difficult but very necessary decisions. And I want to personally thank, and certainly all of our committee members thank, each chairman and each ranking member who testified before our committee, and our committee staffs as well, who are often unrecognized for the vital work that they do.

I would urge, Mr. Speaker, all of my colleagues to support House Resolution 115, living within our means and prioritizing our finite resources like the rest of America.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The fact of the matter is that this is all the money that we have to spend.

Believe me, I am sympathetic to the arguments that it would be nice if our committees didn't have to make any cuts. Again, if we don't make some cuts because of the sequestration, this money has to come from somewhere else. I guess we're sort of looking for other ideas of offsets for those who are saying that we should not pass this resolution.

What kinds of things would they offset?

We've certainly watched the White House close tours to groups because they said the sequester impacted the Secret Service's ability to protect the President when the American people came into the White House. I don't know if they're suggesting we should close the Capitol Building or what have you. I don't think that kind of suggestion would go very far.

But, again, where do you offset if you're not going to cut any spending here?

I will also say this: I come from southeast Michigan, which arguably was ground zero during the most painful economic transition, certainly in my lifetime, that happened in our Nation here recently, and we're trying to get ourselves out of that. We were number one in all of the categories you didn't want to be number one in. If I'd have told our local county or our local units of government that they'd have to cut 11 percent, they would say thank you, because they've cut anywhere from 30 to 40 percent. There were just incredible amounts of cuts that happened. Furloughs have happened with employees. That has been going on for years, actually. That's my neighborhood.

When we think about the amount of borrowing that we're doing as a Nation--as everybody knows, we are now to the point of $16 trillion in national debt with no end in sight, and we've been running deficits for, certainly, the last 5 years of well over $1 trillion and, in many cases, $1.5 trillion annually, and we're borrowing 42 cents on every dollar that we spend--if we do not have the political will to make any kind of cuts ourselves to where we can't even cut our own committee budgets here in the House while these kinds of cuts are being absorbed by other areas, I just think that this resolution will be a very vivid demonstration of the differences of what we think ``leading by example'' actually means.

I will tell you as well, as a grandmother, I do not want to look at my two little grandchildren and say, Hey, do you mind paying the bill, because I don't have the political will. I just can't do it. Too hard for me. I don't want to break a sweat here. Would you mind paying?

I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I just cannot get to that place. I think this resolution is very, very important. I recognize the painful cuts that are happening. It's not easy. That's why the American people sent us here--to have the political will and to make the hard decisions. I would hope that my colleagues would support this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minority whip's comments. I have great regard for him as well. I thought it was interesting, Mr. Speaker, listening to him talk about the President's sequester as an irrational kind of a thing. Of course, it was the President's idea. I don't dispute that it is not the best way to cut spending. Many may say it's an irrational approach. Again, the President's sequester, the President's idea.

Mr. HOYER. Will the gentlelady yield?

Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. I yield to the gentleman.

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.

Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. I thank the gentleman for pointing out the sequencing of the sequester, the President's sequester, the President's idea of the sequester, and I appreciate that. I still say with the President's sequester that what's going to happen with this vote is a very vivid demonstration, again, of who is actually committed to doing more with less. My colleague, the gentleman, the minority whip, also has given us sort of a historical lesson of various things in his observation of the way things had gone earlier on, and I would point something out as well since we are talking about committee budget cuts.

In 2007 when the other party, the Democrats, took control of this House, they immediately increased the amount of spending on committees by 8.9 percent, almost 9 percent; immediate increase. Then in 2009 as they kept control of the Congress, again they increased committee spending, that time by 8.9 percent. Now keep in mind, this was at a time--which I had mentioned previously, being from southeast Michigan--everybody else, it seemed like, certainly every State government, every local unit of government, every school district, many, many businesses, certainly American families, were making cuts. That was not happening here with committee spending.

In 2010, this House shifted control. The Republicans took control. And what did we do with committee spending as a way to show that we wanted to do more with less, that we understood that we needed to get a handle on this out-of-control Federal spending, we actually cut committee budgets by 9.5 percent for the 112th Congress, and as we are debating now, another 11 percent cut that we're looking at.

This is at the same time that the House, under Republican control, has also cut what we call our Members' representational allowances, our MRAs, which has been very painful for all of us as well. We cut 5 percent, then in the 6 percentile. Now just a couple of weeks ago, effective immediately with the sequester, another in the 8 percentile cuts for all of us. All of us are doing more with less. And believe me, I understand there's no sympathy for Members of Congress, but I certainly point that out.

At the same time if you look at non-defense discretionary for the executive branch, almost a 17 percent increase during that same time. So I just think when we look at this resolution, we see how important it is. Again, I am not minimizing how painful it will be for the committees, but it's really the new reality, I think, and it's important for those of us here in the people's House to do the people's work with the amount of money that we have available, and to do it to the very best of our ability. And I know certainly Republicans and Democrats are committed to doing that.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

First of all, I certainly want to thank Mr. Vargas for controlling his time. Mr. Speaker, he did a very good job. We certainly welcome him to the committee and look forward to working with him, as we also thank the ranking member, Mr. Brady, for his extraordinary work on behalf of the committee, and we look forward to continuing to work with him.

Obviously, we have a bit of a disagreement, Mr. Speaker, on the committee budget cuts here; but I certainly would also applaud the work of all of our chairmen of our committees, as well as all of the ranking members, who very diligently went through their budgets trying to make the appropriate cuts and will continue to do that now, when this resolution is certainly passed, as we go forward, I think, for all of us, really, trying to create a fiscally responsible level of funding here and, again, something that allocates resources in the very best way that we can, that allows this House to complete its work on behalf of the American people.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would say, I believe that we are leading by example with this resolution today, and we need to show that the important work of government can certainly be done, and we can do it well with less. Doing more with less, that's a very well-used term, but it is certainly appropriate for this, during times of tight budgets.

So I would urge all of my colleagues to support this resolution, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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