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Public Statements

Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2015

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Crenshaw), who has done a wonderful job bringing this bill to the floor.

As I do with all of the appropriations bills, it is a focus of mine to come in and ask for an additional 1 percent cut on top of the great work that has already been done.

I think it is important to give credit to our Appropriations Committee. This is a $21 billion bill, and it is appropriating $566 million less than what was appropriated in fiscal year 2014, and it is $2.2 billion less than what the President requested. That is to be commended. Our appropriations team has done a terrific job on beginning to rein in what the Federal Government spends. The Republican House leadership is to be commended for making their focus to get our fiscal house in order.

I think we have to go a step further, and that is the purpose of my 1 percent across-the-board spending cut amendment. What we need to do now is to engage the bureaucracy, engage these Federal agencies, rank-and-file employees, to come to the table with their recommendations of how we continue to cut.

We are $17 trillion in debt. We cannot continue to borrow 30 cents of every dollar that we spend. We have to think about the future for our children, our grandchildren. This is an amendment that we should all support because we do this for our children, for the sovereignty of our Nation, and for the fiscal health of our Nation for years to come.

I think it is important to note that through the years, Governors have used across-the-board spending cuts, Democrat Governors--a former Democrat Governor from my home State of Tennessee. You have got the Democrat Governor in New York. You have got the Governor over in Missouri. They have all used across-the-board cuts.

The American people like this idea. They like having the bureaucracy engaged in saving money. A Washington Post/ABC News poll from March 6, 2013, revealed that 61 percent of all Americans even supported a 5 percent across-the-board cut in Federal spending.

It is time for us to rein this in and get our fiscal house in order. This is a way to save an additional $228 million.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, I do appreciate the work that the chairman has done on this bill, and our Appropriations Committee is to be commended.

I think we do have to recognize Washington has a spending problem. They don't have a revenue problem. They have got a spending and a priority problem. We see it every single day.

What I am asking is to engage those rank-and-file employees, have them find 1 penny on the dollar out of their appropriations that they could save in order to get this burden of debt off the backs of our children and grandchildren--one penny on the dollar. It has worked in the States. It works in our county and city governments. People like that and appreciate that you push for better stewardship, and it is the right thing for us to do as we watch the debt totals climb, skyrocket, and explode.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment that would prevent the Federal Government from bailing out public pensioners in cities such as Detroit and Chicago.

We have been reading for the past several months that the Obama administration has been in talks with the city of Detroit to transfer $100 million to the city.

According to an April 16, 2014, article from the Detroit Free Press, the administration has looked to transfer $100 million from the Hardest Hit Fund to shore up Detroit's unfunded pension liability. The Hardest Hit Fund was created by the Obama administration in 2010 with money from the 2008 stimulus package. The money is meant to help States that have been adversely affected by the housing downturn, and that is according, again, to the Detroit Free Press.

The article adds that:

The $100 million in Federal money was discussed Tuesday night in breakneck negotiations that resulted in a tentative deal to reduce pension cuts for the city's retired general workforce.

Mr. Chairman, I refuse to let Federal taxpayers be on the hook for unfunded pension liabilities made by Big Labor organizations. Cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and others where Big Labor has created extremely generous retirement benefits for public service workers are going to have to find their way out of the mess that they have created.

Now, it is my understanding that the city of Detroit has reached an agreement with the State of Michigan to shore up Detroit's unfunded pension liability for the time being. However, it does not foreclose this as a possibility to occur in the future for Detroit or any other city where Big Labor agreements have caused financial destruction.

According to an April 7, 2014, article from chicagobusiness.com, Chicago's unfunded pension liability stands at $19.5 billion. A February 20, 2013, article in Forbes notes that Federal bailouts of State pension funds ``would implicitly encourage States to keep spending and doling out entitlements, as doing so is popular for politicians, even if unsustainable.'' The article adds that this is especially true in liberal-leaning areas where public-sector labor unions have a lot of control.

Mr. Chairman, we must foreclose the administration's bailout of Big Labor as a possibility. I refuse to stand by and watch hardworking taxpayers be on the hook for the irresponsible decisions of liberal, Big Labor groups.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, I find the gentleman's choice of words so interesting. I think he used ``mean'' and ``mean-spirited'' several times.

Let me tell you what is mean-spirited. Mean-spirited is looking at future generations and saying, you didn't want this, you didn't ask for it, but guess what? You have got a $17 trillion bill on your head. Right now, the birth tax for every child born in this country is $54,000. Is that good? Of course not. Is that mean-spirited? You bet it is. You are saying you owe this money like it or not because Washington can't get its spending habits under control. Washington is spending money it does not have to pay for programs that my grandkids do not want.

You are saying it is not the American way. Let me tell you something. Using borrowed money to pay for debts that have not been created by this government is not the way we do business.

I would remind you of a Congressman from Tennessee who stood on this floor at one point in history, and he reminded the body that this was not their money to give. It is the taxpayers' money. That Member of Congress was Davy Crockett.

This is the taxpayers' money. They expect us to be good stewards. Bailing out cities that have not been good stewards of their money is not what this body should be doing with Federal tax dollars that come into our coffers.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, my amendment seeks to prohibit any taxpayer funds from being used by the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, to preempt State municipal broadband laws.

In other words, we don't need unelected Federal agency bureaucrats in Washington telling our States what they can and can't do with respect to protecting their limited taxpayer dollars in private enterprises.

As a former State senator from Tennessee, I strongly believe in states' rights. I know that is an issue that is important to many of my colleagues in this Chamber. And that is why I found it deeply troubling that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has repeatedly stated this past year that he intends to preempt states' rights when it comes to the role of state policy over municipal broadband.

Chairman Wheeler's statements posed a direct challenge on the constitutionality of States' sovereign functions. It wrongly assumes Washington knows what is best and forgets that the right answer doesn't always come from the top down.

Mr. Chairman, 20 States across our country have held public debates and enacted laws that limit municipal broadband to varying degrees. These State legislatures and Governors have not only listened but have responded to the voices of their constituents. They are closer to the people than the chairman of the FCC. They are accountable to their voters.

Mr. Chairman, States have spoken and said that we should be careful and deliberate in how we allow public entry into our vibrant communications marketplace, a sector of our economy that invests tens of billions of dollars each year, accounts for tens of thousands of jobs, and serves millions of consumers.

Municipal broadband projects have had a mixed bag of results. There have been some successes and also some spectacular failures that have left taxpayers on the hook. For example, look at the failed UTOPIA project that has created massive disruption and is challenging taxpayers. In fact, it was recently reported that the ``residents of 11 Utah cities would be billed as much as $20 a month as part of a plan to salvage the State's once-heralded UTOPIA fiber optic network.''

That doesn't sound like a model the Federal Government needs to force against the wishes of State-elected officials. That doesn't sound like competition, and it sounds like another Federal bailout waiting to happen.

State governments across the country understand and are more attentive to the needs of the American people than unelected Federal bureaucrats in Washington. That is why this past June I was joined by 59 of our colleagues in sending a letter to Chairman Wheeler stating our concerns and requesting a response to a list of questions, questions that we are still waiting for him to respond to. The U.S. Senate also sent a letter to the FCC on this issue, and they are, likewise, waiting for a response. It seems the FCC is content to tell our States how they will manage their sovereign economic affairs, but they won't answer to the Congress who is responsible for exercising oversight of the agency.

Inserting the FCC into our State's economic and fiscal affairs sets a dangerous precedent and violates State sovereignty in a manner that warrants deeper examination. This Congress cannot sit idly by and let an independent agency trample on our states' rights. This is an issue that should be left to our States, and if it comes to a point where we need a national standard, then that debate should be held by Congress, not the FCC, and should be done with the participation of the American people. I urge adoption, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, I think it is important to note that what this amendment does is to allow those citizens in those cities, in those States that have made this decision--this is how they want to handle broadband--to do it.

It gives the power to them. It keeps bureaucrats, sitting at the FCC, from making these decisions and overriding the wishes of our States and of those cities that are located therein. I urge adoption of the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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