BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, earlier today I voted against invoking cloture on the motion to proceed to a 6-month spending bill, a stopgap measure, and I wish to explain to my colleagues and my constituents why I voted that way.
I am deeply disappointed that the Senate has been unable to complete the annual appropriations bills on time before the start of the new fiscal year. This is a failure that only reinforces the public's perception of gridlock in Washington. It is not as if the start of a fiscal year is a surprise to Members of this body. It happens every year on October 1. We know the spending authority is going to run out and we know one of the most important responsibilities of the Congress is to pass the appropriations bills.
While the House of Representatives has managed to pass 7 of the 12 annual spending bills, the Senate majority leader regrettably has not brought a single regular appropriations bill to the Senate floor for consideration.
It is important to note that the Senate Appropriations Committee did its job. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Inouye and Vice Chairman Cochran, we have reported 11 of the 12 appropriations bills, in many cases with strong bipartisan support. For example, as the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, I worked very closely with the subcommittee's chairman, Senator Patty Murray, to craft a truly bipartisan bill for fiscal year 2013. The T-HUD bill strikes a balance between thoughtful investment and fiscal restraint. In fact, this bill honors an allocation that is nearly $14.5 billion or 22 percent less than fiscal year 2010 levels. These deep cuts reflect an even deeper commitment to getting our fiscal house in order.
I am proud of the work Senator Murray and I did on this bill and the strong bipartisan vote of 28 to 1 this bill received from the Appropriations Committee this past April. Like our bill, the Agriculture appropriations bill, the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill, the Department of Defense bill, Energy and Water, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the State Department and Foreign Operations bills were all reported from the Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis.
In putting together all of these bills, the Appropriations Committee functioned the way committees are supposed to function. We worked together to develop thoughtful and fiscally responsible bills that could be brought to the full Senate for consideration, debate, amendment, and, most likely, passage. But, instead, not a single one of those bills--not even those bills for which the counterpart had been passed by the full House--was brought to the Senate floor.
I am very disappointed that House and Senate leaders have announced that rather than consider and complete these appropriations bills, they would instead kick the can down the road by passing a 6-month stopgap funding bill. The House has done just that and will soon leave town.
With 2 weeks left in the fiscal year, it is still not too late. There is no reason why the individual spending bills could not be brought to the Senate floor, allowing Senators to offer amendments and letting the Senate work its will on this important constitutional responsibility. Given the state of our Nation's economy and the need to ensure that tax dollars are wisely and appropriately spent, it is simply unacceptable that we would agree to put our government on autopilot for the next 6 months rather than working together to establish priorities, make the tough choices to evaluate programs, and to restrain spending.
Long-term continuing resolutions such as the one we are about to consider represent an abdication of our responsibility and often end up with government departments and agencies, particularly the Department of Defense, incurring additional costs due to delays and uncertainty. Think how difficult it is for Federal managers to decide whether they can enter into long-term contracts to consider changes in programs, to manage the dollars they have, when they don't know what is going to happen 6 months from now. In some cases we do even shorter continuing resolutions that create chaos and additional costs throughout the Federal Government.
As our Nation struggles to recover and to regain its economic footing, we must provide more certainty by completing appropriations bills on time. I am extremely disappointed this did not occur for fiscal year 2013 and, therefore, I will continue to oppose the continuing resolution to protest what I believe is a failure of leadership.
Let me be clear: I do not support a government shutdown, but it is unacceptable that not a single one of the regular appropriations bills has been brought to the Senate floor for consideration. Indeed, it has been more than 3 years since the Senate has passed a budget. This is simply wrong. We must do our work. The American people deserve better.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT