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Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEWIS of California. I, too, will be brief.

Madam Speaker, Christmas is almost here, and we are no closer to having a budget for this fiscal year--that began in October--we are no closer than we were last Christmas regarding that work. As Mr. Obey would say, I have minimum high regard for the process that has led us to this moment.

The House managed to pass just two appropriations bills this year. I understand the Senate passed none, I heard earlier. The remaining 10 bills never even received full committee consideration. The House has dithered away the year on insignificant suspension bills. We have named hundreds of post offices and praised every sports team in America. But the House has failed in completing its essential work, the work we were elected to do, that is, passing a budget for the new fiscal year.

This isn't exactly how any of us envisioned we would be wrapping up our legislative business this year; but with the hour growing late, it appears that we are limping into the new year with another short-term CR. And that is the best that we can do under these circumstances.

I do want to commend our colleagues in the Senate for making the right decision and resisting the temptation to vote for a legislative Christmas tree, widely known as the 12-bill omnibus. This holiday turkey which had grown to nearly 2,000 pages, with a price tag of $1.1 trillion, simply collapsed under its own weight. The last thing the American people wanted for Christmas was yet another trillion dollars of government spending. So today we are passing a CR that allows the essential operations of government to continue into the new year when the real work of writing fiscally prudent spending bills can begin.

That work will be guided by our new committee chairman, the gentleman from Kentucky, Hal Rogers, who will be my only speaker this evening, besides myself, and Hal's full committee ranking member, the gentleman from Washington, Norman Dicks. I want to wish them both well as they take on their new responsibilities.

While David Obey and I have not agreed on very much this year, let me also pause for a second to express my appreciation to David and wish him and his wife, Joan, good health and happiness as they pursue new opportunities outside of the Congress.

And in the most direct and sincere way, let me say that David Obey is passionate about the things that he's passionate about. I don't agree with him on many policy issues, but I do want you to know this, David, the country and both of our great parties need an awful lot more people with the kind of passion display. And if we had that we'd get our work done in an entirely different fashion.

Before closing, let me make two other brief comments. As frustrating as this year has been for me, I know it's been an even more frustrating year for the highly professional House Appropriations Committee. Our committee is blessed with hardworking, dedicated people who receive very little credit for the fine work they do. They are asked to sacrifice time away from family and friends, and do so willingly, working day and night and weekends and even holidays. For that, and for so much more, I want to express my personal thanks to both the majority and the minority staff of our committee. They are deserving of the appreciation of the entire House. And I wish the entire House was here to express that to them by way of their applause.

But let me also take just a moment to thank my own staff director sitting beside me, Jeff Shockey, who will be leaving the committee to pursue other opportunities after assisting Chairman Rogers and his staff with transition. Jeff is well known and highly respected by every member of the Appropriations Committee, our leadership, and the Members of the House. The committee's loss is indeed a loss for the entire House. Jeff is one of the finest individuals with whom I've worked for over 15 years, and I ask the House to join me in wishing him well. Many don't realize that some 15 years ago Jeff actually began with us as an intern and has worked his way pretty close to the top, and he hasn't broken too many bones on the way.

Madam Speaker, let me close by wishing our colleagues and staff on both sides of the aisle a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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