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Legislative Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

(Mr. HOYER asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute.)

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I yield to my friend, the majority leader, to inquire about the schedule for the week to come.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman from Maryland, the Democratic whip, for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the House will meet at noon for morning-hour and 2 p.m. for legislative business. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House will meet at 10 a.m. for morning-hour and noon for legislative business. On Thursday, the House will meet at 9 a.m. for legislative business.

The House will consider at least two bills under suspension of the rules on Monday, which will be announced by the close of business today. On Tuesday, we expect to consider a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government for another 3 weeks. On Wednesday, the House will consider one or possibly two more bills from the Financial Services Committee addressing mandatory spending: H.R. 839, the Home Affordable Modification Program Termination Act; and H.R. 861, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Termination Act. Finally, Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, the House will consider a concurrent resolution sponsored by Mr. Kucinich related to the War Powers Resolution.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that information.

He mentioned the CR, the continuing resolution, the continuing authorization to operate government, which I understand will be for a 3-week period.

Can the gentleman tell us what will be in that continuing resolution at this point in time?

Mr. CANTOR. As the gentleman knows, our majority is committed to the process of providing a 3-day notice for all Members, as well as their constituents, to see what we will be voting on. The Appropriations Committee is busy preparing the text of that, and it will be presented online this afternoon. The details will be in that online version this afternoon.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments.

Now, it's my understanding we are not scheduled, according to his announcement, to meet next Friday.

Is that accurate?

Mr. CANTOR. Yes. I would say to the gentleman that is correct.

Mr. HOYER. And I take it the gentleman is reasonably certain, obviously we don't know what the other body will do, but in light of the fact that that CR will be offered next Tuesday, the gentleman's presumption is that, in fact, we will be out sometime on Thursday.

Mr. CANTOR. Well, I would say to the gentleman, we certainly look forward to the Senate acting expeditiously and acting quickly on the House's 3-week extension. Assuming that goes as well, the gentleman is correct in assuming that we will not be in session next Friday.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

The gentleman and I have had this discussion, and I think we both agree that continuing to fund government on either a 2-week or 3-week cycle is not what we ought to be doing. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, a number of economists have indicated that if, in fact, we proceed to funding levels that reflect H.R. 1, which is my assumption of what will happen according to what the gentleman has told me and, I think, said publicly, the funding levels that are included in H.R. 1 on a week-to-week basis, which leads me to believe that if we are having a 3-week extension will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 billion in additional reductions.

Would that be accurate?

Mr. CANTOR. I would agree with the gentleman that, yes, as he and I have discussed, we intend for the 3-week extension to maintain the current formula upon which we are operating today, and that is a reduction of spending of $2 billion per week. I expect the Appropriations Committee, again, to introduce a 3-week, short-term extension cutting $2 billion per week later this afternoon, consistent with the House position as spelled out in H.R. 1.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments, and I would observe to him that with respect to H.R. 1, numerous economists have indicated, including Mark Zandi, who was, of course, one of the principal advisers to John McCain when he ran for President, Chairman Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, Goldman Sachs, Moody's, and others, that the just rejected H.R. 1, if adopted, would lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, in one analyst's point of view, over 800,000 jobs.

In fact, of course, three Republicans voted against H.R. 1 in the Senate, and one of those who voted for H.R. 1 in the Senate said this, Mr. Speaker: Let me be clear that I strongly oppose some of the proposed cuts in the House-passed bill--that was H.R. 1--particularly the drastic cuts that would disproportionately affect low-income families and seniors. Making such deep and immediate cuts to critical low-income heating assistance, weatherization, and Head Start programs in the middle of the fiscal year would cause serious problems for those who rely on these programs. That was Senator Collins, a Republican from Maine, when the bill was on the floor.

So let me ask the gentleman, do we have a plan to proceed so that we can, A, retreat from the uncertainty that we keep creating by these 2 weeks? I know that he and I agreed that this is not the way to proceed, but does the gentleman have a plan, A, to move forward so that we can fund government through September 30, complete funding for this fiscal year, and turn our attention and focus on what I know the gentleman knows the Appropriations Committee is now focusing on, the fiscal year 2012 appropriations and spending plan.

Does the gentleman have in mind when we might get to a plan to fund the balance of government, not on 2- or 3-week cycles but between now and September 30?

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

First of all I want to respond to the first part of the gentleman's discussions regarding Mr. Zandi and the other individuals he spoke to regarding the predictions of doom because of our position on H.R. 1.

I would say to the gentleman, and as he knows, there are as many economists, certainly several hundred, who signed a letter indicating that the cuts were not something that would produce the results that Mr. Zandi and others have predicted.

In fact, it's Mr. Zandi's math that was applicable to the stimulus bill that I think most Americans do know now failed in the promises made that we would see unemployment not rise above 8 percent.

Again, the gentleman and I have had a discussion before that if the answer was just spend more government taxpayer dollars to create jobs, why don't we just go spend it all and then everybody will be employed again. Well, we know that's not true and that doesn't work.

We also know that Chairman Bernanke did not agree with the predictions of the kinds of cuts that Mr. Zandi and others have predicted, according to his testimony. Certainly we believe, very strongly, that if you cut government spending, we create an environment for private sector jobs.

And to the gentleman's direct question about when we can proceed with a longer term solution so that we do not have to continue operating in stopgap ways, I would say to the gentleman, as he knows, it's not just the House, it's trying to work with the Senate as well as the White House.

The Senate did act this week, and we now know that the Senate rejects our $60 billion, approximately $60 billion cut off of 2010 levels, and it also rejected the proposed $10 billion worth of cuts by Leader Reid. In fact, there were more votes in favor of the $60 billion H.R. 1 level than there were for the $10 billion level off of current spending.

The problem is the White House has not indicated where it wants to go. And as we both have discussed before, as I have told the gentleman, I just don't see where the leadership is on the part of the White House.

It is obviously up to the White House to come to the table as well, as the President has got to sign the bill. We agree it is much better for us to be operating with some certainty and not have to be operating off of stopgap measures every several weeks. But we don't want to shut government down, we want to cut spending.

If this is how we are able to do it, we are going to deliver on that promise to cut spending. But I do share with the gentleman the frustration that we don't see any type of coalescence around a notion that we should have some type of longer term agreement on this fiscal year.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his response, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I understand the gentleman's issue with respect to the President. Both the gentleman and I understand and agree that the Constitution, in article I, gives to the House of Representatives of the United States and the Senate the responsibility to raise and spend moneys, so that this is a primary responsibility of

the legislative department of government, which he and I have the privilege of serving in. While I understand that the gentleman is accurate, both alternatives were defeated in the United States Senate.

The President put an offer on the table in his 2011 budget. We then, in December, froze spending at 2010 levels, which was $41 billion less than the President's offer which he put on the table.

We have now had two additional offers put on the table. The next offer was, of course, included in H.R. 1. That passed this House but did not pass the Senate.

The Senate, however, did put an offer on the table, as the gentleman pointed out, cutting an additional $10 billion above the $41 billion, or $6 billion above the $4 billion that was included in the short-term CR which expires on March 18.

What I ask the gentleman again is, does the gentleman now propose, and will the gentleman and his side of the aisle be proposing, a counteroffer, as I said last week, or is the gentleman's position you are staying, as I seemed to hear you say, at the $100 billion figure that was included in H.R. 1, which implies that unless there is an agreement to your figure, that we will have to shut down government or agree to your figure.

I want to make sure that I understand your thoughts on that.

I yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. I say to the gentleman again, it is the House that has taken the position that we want to see cuts of approximately $60 billion off of current 2010 levels. The Senate said it wanted to cut $10 billion off of 2010 levels.

There is a $50 billion difference here. What we believe is we need to do everything we can to try to figure out how to do more with less in Washington.

The American public sent us to Washington to spend their money the way they would. I think most people also, certainly our conference, believe you cut government spending, you create private sector jobs. That's what we are about. We are waiting to see what position the White House will take so that we can move forward and begin the job that we are supposed to be about right now, which is the next fiscal year.

As the gentleman knows, we are here because, unfortunately, the last Congress did not pass a budget, did not pass appropriations bills. We are trying to clean up that mess.

So we are waiting to see what the White House's position is so we can begin to see how we can maximize efficiencies in government, cut spending, so that we can see more private sector jobs.

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his answer. I think I did not receive an answer in terms of whether or not the gentleman is saying it's either $100 billion or nothing, and that there will be no counteroffer to the offer that is on the table, either from the President or, more accurately at this point in time, in terms of the timing from the Senate, which got us to $51 billion in cuts, which, although the gentleman would like to say it's between zero and $60 billion, the gentleman in his Pledge to America said he was going to cut $100 billion. The reason he got to $100 billion was he counted the $41 billion cut from the President's initial offer of 2011 spending.

What has happened, since the gentleman and his party made that offer, Mr. Speaker, is that, in fact, $41 billion of that $100 billion was accepted in the CR that was passed which expired 2 weeks ago.

Since that time, we've put from the Senate's perspective an additional $10 billion on the table to get us to $51 billion. The way I calculate it, that is more than halfway from the gentleman's offer, not of $60 billion in his Pledge to America but $100 billion. And the way he got to $100 billion is the $41 billion that we already cut in the first CR, the additional $10 billion is now $51 billion. I say to the gentleman, we've come halfway, a little more than halfway. And we are now asking the gentleman, is he going to have a counteroffer for us that we can consider from our offer of $51 billion which we believe is more than halfway?

I will tell you further, Mr. Leader, that it is my staff's belief, and I could be corrected on this, that the offer that is on the table represents the single largest cut from one year to the next since I have been in the Congress of the United States, which is largely under Republican Presidents.

We obviously are prepared to agree and have agreed on very substantial restraints in spending, cutting spending, trying to get a handle on this deficit. As you know, I'm concerned about the fact that in the rule we adopted on the first day of the session that you provided for $4.7 trillion in additional tax expenditures, if you will, tax cuts, cutting of revenue, that is projected currently by CBO which will lead to $4.7 trillion of additional spending, while you have proposed a trillion dollars of cuts, leaving a net appreciation of the deficit of $3.7 trillion, increased deficit that is in fact planned for under your rule.

All I am asking for now is, do you have and will you have a counteroffer to our $51 billion offer so that we can then try to move on and reach compromise? If it is simply, no, we want $100 billion or nothing, then we'll have to make a decision, as I have told the gentleman, on our side of the aisle: What do we do at that point in time? We obviously have the majority in the Senate and we have the President of the United States, the American people have elected. And as Newt Gingrich, your former Speaker, our former Speaker, said in 1998, we have to reach agreement. And the way you reach agreement is to get offers back and forth. We think we have an offer on the table and we'd like to hear your counteroffer.

I yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. First of all, the problem is that the $10 billion off of current spending, that that is the largest cut that has ever been proposed since the gentleman has been in Congress, that's the problem. That's the problem.

Mr. HOYER. Reclaiming my time, I did not say it was the largest cut that had ever been proposed in Congress. I said it is the largest cut from one year to the other, from the previous year's spending. And it is $13.6 billion, I believe. Seventeen billion. My staffer, who's brilliant, much more brilliant than I am, reminds me that I am----

Mr. CANTOR. I'm told the gentleman has a lot of those.

Mr. HOYER. Right. Both of us do.

Mr. CANTOR. Yes.

Mr. HOYER. I want to clarify so the public understands as well when they hear us, what we're talking about cutting from is 14 percent of the budget, the discretionary, non-defense, non-security, part of the budget. So let me focus on that. And when I speak of the cut, and it is $17 billion in non-security, that from year to year, since I've been here since 1981, is the largest single cut in non-defense, non-security discretionary spending from one year to the other. Yes, it is. And that's in a very small 14 percent slice of the budget. Frankly, the discussions we have had to date ignore the other 81, 82, 83 percent of the budget. Obviously interest rates are not subject to being reduced. We need to pay our debt.

So I just want to clarify, A, that I am speaking of the discretionary part of the budget, non-defense, non-security; and, yes, from year to year it is in fact what's sitting on the table as an offer to you the largest cut we've had in non-defense, non-security discretionary spending in the last 30 years.

Mr. CANTOR. I would say to the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, that's exactly the problem still. Because, as the gentleman alludes, we have over a trillion and a half dollar deficit this year alone. I understand the gentleman's point about there being just a smaller piece of the budget from which these cuts are being taken. But the bottom line is, that's the problem. We've got to work harder to cut more so that private sector jobs can be created.

I would say to the gentleman two things: One, I look forward to his support, then, of the budget that we bring forward, because we are, as the gentleman knows, going to be dealing with how to reform the entitlement programs, which are the significant driver of deficits into the future as he knows. So I do look forward to

that. We will be dealing with that within a month's time. I look forward to that debate.

But I would lastly say, Mr. Speaker, does the gentleman know what kind of cuts the Senate can support at the 60-vote level? Because I don't. So I don't see a counteroffer there. I don't see a position that the Senate or the gentleman's side of the aisle has taken. I don't see the President having come down at a level that is acceptable at all because he hasn't come down to a level.

This is the problem, Mr. Speaker. We have made our position known. The House wants to cut 60 some billion dollars off of the 2010 levels or $100 billion off of the 2011 proposals. We don't want the status quo. We want to continue to cut spending. We can't come to any agreement when the other side doesn't come forward with any offer, and that's why we have been forced into this situation where we are once again proposing a stopgap measure so that we can see the government operate, so it doesn't shut down, in the name of trying to do more with less.

Mr. HOYER. I thank my friend.

Let me make a point here, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, the gentleman continues to take the position until we get to 100, there is no credible counteroffer. Two billion a week.

The gentleman served with a very conservative Member, also a great Member of this Congress, a guy named Joe Scarborough. Most of America knows Joe Scarborough. Let me give a quote from Joe Scarborough:

"There are elements of the GOP spending plan that cause me great concern. The belief of some on the right that America can balance the budget by cutting education, infrastructure, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and home heating assistance for the poor is tantamount to budgetary witchcraft."

That's not a Democrat. That's Joe Scarborough, conservative Member from northern Florida, with whom I served. Now a lot of people see him on Morning Joe every day. The fact of the matter is that's what he said. Now we're looking for a counteroffer, because we don't agree with some of H.R. 1, as you well know. As a matter of fact, every conservative Democrat, every liberal Democrat and everybody in between voted "no" on H.R. 1, as did three of your Republicans over there and Susan Collins, who voted for it, said she didn't like the elements in it.

So what I am saying to my friend, very sincerely, is, he can preach all he wants about we need to cut spending. We agree with that. And the issue is where you cut it from. What impact does it have? Does it sustain the economy or does it deflate the economy? Does it create jobs or does it lose jobs? Does it help people who need help or does it abandon people who need help? That's the issue.

And what I am saying to my friend with all due respect is, we have made an offer. The gentleman wants to talk about the President. Article I of the Constitution says we need to do this. This is our responsibility. The people elected us to do it. And the people elected us to reach agreement.

And how do you reach agreement? This is what I want. This is what you want. We have come up. We have moved; pretty substantially. We think it was appropriate to move. Now we are asking you, are you prepared to move from the position you have taken consistently at your figure, which a lot of your folks think has problems in its constituent parts?

I'm asking you, and I can't get an answer, and you apparently are not going to make a counteroffer as to, okay, we took 100, we passed it, couldn't pass the Senate, you offered something in return. And what I mean by "you," the Senate didn't pass it. The gentleman is absolutely correct. But we Democrats have made the offer here and there of the $51 billion. The President has indicated he could sign that. He said that publicly.

Now, that's our offer sitting on the table. My suspicion is you've rejected that offer. And if you have rejected it, what is your counteroffer? That is my question.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman again.

Not to belabor the point, but I did say, Mr. Speaker, that there were not 60 votes in the Senate for the offer he speaks of. In fact, there were more votes for the $60 billion off of the current funding levels that is our plan. So there is really no offer on the table that is valid because it can't pass the Senate.

What is the Democratic Senate's offer on the table? The gentleman rightfully says it is up to us in Congress. The people elect us to try and come together and agree upon a spending plan. What is the offer? There is no offer that could pass in the Senate. We passed the House version. We know where the House stands. So I'm just having difficulty in understanding where the offer is.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I think the gentleman has made his points. He is frustrated because he sees there is no movement because the Senate has been unable to get an offer on the table that can garner 60 votes. So the gentleman wants us to negotiate with ourselves. No. We want to cut spending and keep the government open. That's why we're in the position we are, to do another stopgap measure so that we can hopefully iron out some differences, cooperate in trying to keep the government open, and cut spending so that people in the private sector get back to work.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

As I understand what the gentleman is saying, if the Senate can't get 60 votes--which, of course, we have seen the gridlock for a long period of time where the Senate can't get 60 votes--that we're not going to go anywhere from the offer that he's made to pass something that can, in fact, garner 60 votes in the Senate.

I regret that the Senate, frankly, didn't get 60 votes for our offer. And he is correct that he got a few more votes for H.R. 1 than was gotten for the Senate majority leader's counteroffer. But the fact of the matter is this is really an issue between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Senator McConnell has said, as I know the majority leader says, we'll pass what the House passes. That's what he said. Now, if that's the case, then we need to pass something that can garner 60 votes over there. We know that H.R. 1 couldn't get 60 votes. We know that Senator Reid's proposal couldn't get 60 votes.

And if we're going to move this government forward and not fund it on 2-week cycles--and Senator McCain has said that funding the Defense Department on 2-week or 3-week cycles is undermining our national security. So there is no disagreement that doing things 2 weeks at a time does not make sense. And if the gentleman's view is simply you will not make some offer that we think--and we can have a discussion about trying to come to agreement on that--that we can get 60 votes for in the Senate and we're going to fund it on 2-week cycles, I say to my friend, that's going to be damaging to the economy, create great uncertainty, and undermine our national security. And I would hope that the gentleman would see fit to determine where we can meet somewhere in the middle.

We think we've come 51 percent of the way towards your hundred. Towards your hundred. You keep talking about 60. That was not your pledge. Your pledge was 100. And the way you got to 100 was to count the 41. We've done that. We've done another 10. So we've come, we think, 51 percent of the way. You don't count it that way, and we understand that. But whatever way we come, we need to move on.

You won the majority. God bless you. I'm sorry about that, but I live with it, and there it is. You have the majority. And with the majority, you have the responsibility to see if we can move this country forward. That's what Newt Gingrich said. And you can't be the perfectionist caucus, as he referred to, of sticking just at a number that doesn't have the votes in the United States Senate.

And if we're going to be on this 2-week cycle, I will tell my friend, you may keep passing these 2 weeks at a time. None of us want to shut down government. But I will tell you that while I and my colleagues, some of my colleagues, may vote to do this one more time, for me, it's the last time. We need to have a plan to fund this government for the balance of the fiscal year to September 30. It is irresponsible for us not to have that. And just each of us sticking to our number, you sticking to your number, and just pointing fingers at one another saying "the Senate can't get 60 votes for anything we propose" will not serve our country or our people.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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