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Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution -- Hon. David N. Cicilline

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CICILLINE. Mr. Speaker, on March 29, 2012, less than a year after a similar proposal was defeated, the House Republican leadership held a vote on H. Con. Res. 112--The Republican Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution. This budget proposal sets the wrong priorities for my home state of Rhode Island and the nation as a whole--extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, making deep cuts to programs that serve middle class families, and ending the Medicare guarantee for our seniors.

As the Congressman representing Rhode Island's First District, I have listened to families across my district who are tired of the same old political games that got our country into this mess to begin with. They know that Washington should put politics aside and work on policies that will create jobs, support the middle class, and put the economy back on the right track. Yet, the budget proposed by Representative Paul Ryan (R WI), and approved 228 191 by the House of Representatives, would not only fail to create jobs, it would also give the wealthiest Americans an average tax cut of $150,000, cut education and job training programs by a total of $166 billion over the next ten years, slash transportation and infrastructure investments by at least twenty-five percent over 10 years, and reduce investments in science, research, and technology by more than $100 billion over a decade.

With so many Americans out of work, it's hard to believe that the House Republican leadership would ask members to support a budget proposal that would seriously undermine key investments that are so important to creating jobs. Rather than trying to pass another tax giveaway for the richest among us, House Republicans should join with Democrats and enact public policies that will actually benefit our seniors, and middle class and working families. Instead the Republican budget proposal will undermine our economic recovery, and replace the current health care system for our seniors with a voucher program that could allow Medicare to wither on the vine, create higher costs, and reduce the overall quality of health care services.

That is why I supported an alternative budget proposal introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D MD) that would have preserved the Medicare guarantee, permanently extended middle class tax cuts, and maintained vital investments in transportation jobs, manufacturing, and education--while also reducing the deficit through polices that balance spending cuts and increased revenue. This proposal stood in stark contrast to the Republican plan--and closely aligned with the priorities shared by many Rhode Islanders.

On March 28, 2012, I spoke out against the Republican proposal on the House floor, and the following day I joined all of my Democratic colleagues and 10 Republicans in voting against this bill. With virtually no chance that this radical legislation will ever pass in the Senate, it is unfortunate that some in Washington have once again chosen political posturing over pragmatism.

All of us in Congress need to help reignite the American dream and build ladders of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard, take responsibility, and play by the rules. There were alternative budget proposals presented in the House of Representatives during debate, including options offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Both initiatives were superior to Representative Ryan's Republican budget document, and included provisions that would preserve the Medicare guarantee, eliminate tax subsidies for big oil companies and loopholes that encourage corporations to ship jobs overseas, and maintain vital investments in education, job creating initiatives, manufacturing, and capital access for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Ultimately, while I support a number of the proposals offered in both the CPC and CBC budget alternatives, I believed the Van Hollen proposal aligned most closely with priorities shared by many Rhode Islanders--including a permanent extension of the 2001 2003 tax cuts for the middle class. In addition, unlike both the CPC and CBC proposal, Representative Van Hollen's Democratic alternative adhered to the discretionary spending levels set in the Budget Control Act of 2011--an agreement that represented a bipartisan, bicameral compromise. In order to prevent a first ever default on our nation's obligations, and to avoid the very real potential of an economic catastrophe, I voted in favor of the Budget Control Act on August 8, 2011. To be clear, there was a lot about this compromise legislation that I did not like, but my prerequisite for voting in favor of the bill was that we avoid a default and we protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid beneficiaries, which this bill did. Just as I could not support Representative Ryan's proposal to walk away from this compromise legislation and make further, dramatic reductions to discretionary spending below the caps set by the Budget Control Act, I also could not support alternatives that did not adhere to the bipartisan, bicameral compromise we agreed to less than one year ago.

There were other proposals, including one offered by Congressmen Jim Cooper (D TN) and Steven LaTourette (R OH) purportedly modeled after recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission (so named after the co-chairs of President Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform--former White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton, Erskine Bowles, and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson). The Simpson-Bowles Commission clearly depicted the unsustainable nature of our country's deficit and debt, and delineated a number of policies for serious debate in order to improve our nation's fiscal trajectory. However, the budget proposal offered by Representatives Cooper and LaTourette contained provisions that I believe set the wrong priorities. For example, the Cooper-LaTourette plan contained $1 trillion less in revenue increases as compared to the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommendations--further eroding the balance between revenue increases and spending reductions needed to achieve deficit reduction that does not fall disproportionately on the backs of the middle class and working families. In addition, the Cooper-LaTourette plan includes $100 billion more in discretionary program reductions than recommended by the Simpson-Bowles report, further distorting the ratio between revenue raisers and spending cuts. Furthermore, the Cooper-LaTourette proposal calls for a shift in corporate tax policy that the Treasury Department has argued would increase incentives for corporations to shift investment and jobs overseas. Lastly, the proposal from Congressman Cooper and LaTourette, like the Simpson-Bowles plan, would undermine the benefits and guarantees of Social Security and Medicare.
Ultimately, with so many Rhode Islanders struggling to find work, our fragile economic recovery in the balance, and our seniors in need a strong voice to protect the benefits they earned and deserve, I supported an alternative budget proposal that would have preserved the Medicare guarantee, permanently extended middle class tax cuts, and maintained vital investments in transportation jobs, manufacturing, and education--while also reducing the deficit through polices that balance spending cuts and increased revenue. My constituents in Rhode Island's First Congressional District, and the American people as a whole, deserve nothing less.

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