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Department Of The Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. JORDAN of Ohio. I thank the Chair and the Members who are present here.

This is the fourth time I've offered this amendment to an appropriations bill. I don't do it to be a pain in the neck. In fact, I appreciate the work of the chairman, I appreciate the work of the ranking member, and I appreciate the work of the committee and staff. I know they look at these line items, look at these programs, go through and do the hard work that all committees do. I appreciate all that work. I simply bring the amendment forward because I believe government is too big and that government spends too much.

This amendment doesn't cut spending. This amendment, like the previous ones I have offered, simply says we're going to hold the line. We're going to spend the same amount we spent in the last fiscal year. Nothing more than that. That's all the amendment does. It allows the committee who understands these programs, who does the work and puts this bill together, to go back and look and figure out where those cuts should happen using their expertise that they've developed in this committee to do that. It simply says, it's not too much to ask government to do what millions of families have to do across this country, live on last year's spending levels, live on last year's budget.

It is important we do this, in my judgment, for two reasons. Again I have articulated these each time I've brought this amendment forward for the body to consider. The first is there are financial problems, financial concerns, some would even say crisis looming for America if we don't get a handle on the spending. $3 trillion budget. This bill increases spending by over a billion dollars in this one area. The more we run up deficits, the more that leads to debt, the more that leads to less saving, the more that leads to less economic growth, the tougher it makes it in the future to deal with the economic crisis that is in fact coming.

Again, you don't have to take my word for it. All kinds of experts have talked about this, whether it's entitlement programs, discretionary spending, it's government spending and there are problems looming if we don't begin to get a handle on the spending levels that we appropriate. There is no better place to start than right now, saying, let's just do what we did last year. Let's just hold the line on spending.

The second reason that this is so important: whenever you start to spend and spend and spend and have these kinds of things take place, it inevitably leads to greater taxes. I've often heard the phrase tax-and-spend politicians. It's actually more appropriate to say spend and tax. Spending drives the equation. The more you spend, that leads to taxes in the future. If you went out and asked the American people, Mr. Chairman, is government too big or too small, my guess is the vast majority of Americans would say it's too big.

Think about this: government spends on average $23,000 per household. We've got a $3 trillion annual budget that we spend on. Many of those things are appropriate, but overall if you ask the American people is government too big or too small, they would say it's too big. If you asked them the same question, are Americans overtaxed or undertaxed, my guess is the vast majority of Americans would say we're overtaxed. In fact, a typical family, 50 cents of every dollar they spend goes to some level of government in the form of taxes. It's not too much to ask government to hold the line on spending, to live on what we did last year, to live on the same amount.

That's what this amendment does. I bring it forward, not to be a pain to the committee, I appreciate their work, but simply to point out it's time we get a handle on spending if we are going to be able to let or help America have the economic growth that we need to see happen in this country in the future.


Mr. JORDAN of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, before recognizing the gentlelady from Tennessee, I would just point out this, we always hear this, devastating cut. This not a cut. This is simply saying we are going to spend what we spent last year.

In fact, last week we had this big debate on the legislative branch bill and on other appropriations bills, and the majority party was pointing to the President's request. What we spent last year is actually more than what the President requested in this budget.

Devastating cut, I mean, we always hear, it's interesting, politicians who spend the tax dollars of families and individual taxpayers across this country, always say the sky is going to fall if we can't get more of your money and spend it on things we think are important.

All we're saying is you know what, it's not too much to ask that government do what families do all the time, and that is spend on last year's level.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlelady from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn).


Mr. JORDAN of Ohio. Before yielding to the gentleman from Georgia, I would just point out, I love the majority party's logic: because the Republicans spent too much, we're going to spend more. How does that help the American family? It just makes no sense to me.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Westmoreland).


Mr. JORDAN of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I just want to know which is it? We just heard from the distinguished chairman from Washington that Republicans spent too much; so we are going to spend more. We heard about the spending by the Republicans. And we just heard from the other gentleman that we cut, cut, cut. I want to know which is it?

All I know is this, what is in the bill, and in the bill it says this: The Commission on Climate Change, $50 million of taxpayer money for this new Commission. National Park Service, a $199 million increase, 10.8 percent above last year. The National Endowment for the Arts, a 29 percent increase. We heard a debate about this yesterday, an agency that many Americans find offensive using their tax dollars: $160 million, a 29 percent increase. National Endowment for the Humanities, $19 million, an increase of 13 percent.

Which is it? Did we cut all the time or did we spend too much? I want to know which it is.

What I do know is that in the bill, there are all kinds of excessive spending. That is why we just want to say hold the line, let's keep it where it is right now.

And I thank the gentleman for yielding.


Mr. JORDAN of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlelady for yielding me this time, and for bringing this fine amendment forward and for her work on fiscal responsibility in her time here in the United States Congress.

I want to make a couple of quick points here. First, the list that the chairman just went through, he kept using the term ``cut.'' Let's be clear to the American people in particular that the gentlelady's amendment is not a cut, it is an increase of 4 percent. What the gentleman was referring to was the spending levels at 4.5 percent which the bill contains within it. All she is saying is let's increase 4 percent instead of 4.5 percent. Again, only in government-speak, only in Washington can that be termed a cut. She is not cutting at all. She is just saying let's not increase it quite as much.

A couple of other things we have heard in the course of the debate this afternoon which I think has been healthy. The chairman indicated that he wants to move on, we need to limit debate and get out of here. Look, 40 minutes on three amendments, 2 hours total on debate, on the most fundamental question, the most fundamental issue the United States Congress deals with: How we spend the taxpayers' money. So 2 hours debate on what level that should be is not too much debate. Frankly, we should have more on this fundamental question.

The other point that the majority party makes is, and again, I find this logic fascinating. Republicans spent too much, so we are going to spend even more. It is amazing that is the logic that the other size entails and brings forward in each of these appropriations bills.

Talking about the spending contained within this bill, let me just cite a couple of things.

The Commission on Climate Change, a brand new commission, $50 million on the Commission on Climate Change, adaptation and mitigation, a new, additional study on global warming, as if we haven't had enough studies on that already. So $50 million on that.

The National Park Service, $199 million increase, 10.8 percent above last year.

National Endowment for the Humanities, $19 million increase, 13 percent above last year.

Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency that the gentleman said that if it didn't get the right amount of funding, people would lose sleep over, $361 million, or a 4.7 percent increase above last year.

And of course, my favorite, and I am sure the favorite of the American taxpayer, National Endowment for the Arts, a $35 million increase, 29 percent above last year.

There is all kinds of additional government contained in this legislation. I am reminded of the old statement by our third President, Thomas Jefferson. He said: ``When government fears the people, there is liberty. When people fear the government, there is tyranny.'' Now keep that statement in mind and ask yourself the question: If next week when we are back home on break and you are at some friend's business and someone walks up to the door and knocks on the door and the individual identifies himself, I'm Mr. Smith and I am from the EPA, the Agency that gets a 4.7-percent increase in this bill. If you are that individual who owns that business, is your first response, oh, joy, one of my government's servants is about here to help me today.

That is what this debate is about, and 2 hours debate on the most fundamental question that the United States Congress deals with, how we spend taxpayer dollars, is not too much debate.

We should debate this long and hard and we should support the amendment of the gentlewoman from Colorado. It simply slows down the rate of government growth, slows down that government that Jefferson warned us about in his statement. I certainly support the gentlelady's amendment, and thank her for bringing it forward.


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