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Legislative Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

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

I might ask a preliminary question. When the gentleman refers to the bill that is to be considered next week, I presume he is referring to the cost of living adjustment increase?

With that, I yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. I'd respond to the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, that it is the pay increase that is within the President's executive order.

Mr. HOYER. Which deals with a cost of living increase. Am I correct?

And I yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I would just say it is a pay increase within the President's executive order.

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

I disagree with his conclusion because, clearly, what we're dealing with is a cost-of-living increase similar to that which is given to Social Security recipients and others to make sure that the pay is not degraded that average working people in this country, in this Federal Government, receive, including a large number of people in Virginia and in my State, but that's only 15 percent of the Federal workforce which is around the country. I think it's unfortunate that now, for 2 1/2 years, the only working people in America who have received a freeze or a decrease or who have contributed to solving the debt crisis which confronts us, on which the gentleman and I agree, are Federal workers. I'm not talking about Members of Congress, and I'm not talking about the President or the Vice President. The President doesn't get a COLA adjustment, obviously, but it's a cost-of-living adjustment.

I will say to my friend--and I have worked over the last 20 years with his counterparts, either in the majority or in the minority, to ensure that we made the distinction so that people understood and didn't demagogue that issue--that I regret that we are doing so here again. While it may well be appropriate to, from time to time, freeze even the cost-of-living adjustment, it is also appropriate to refer to it for what it is and not as a pay raise. In fact, the courts have indicated, as the gentleman knows, that it is a cost-of-living adjustment, but we don't need to debate that further unless the gentleman wants to say something.

Mr. CANTOR. I would just say, as to the statement that, perhaps, Federal employees are the only ones who have had to shoulder the burden, I don't necessarily agree with that, because there are millions of people in the private sector who not only have gone without a pay increase, but many of whom don't have jobs anymore. You also have the instance, Mr. Speaker, that many millions of Americans have just received a significant tax increase due to what happened here on the fiscal cliff bill.

There are a lot of implications and consequences for the downturn in the economy. I dare say that there are a lot of people who are struggling out there in the private sector, so I'd just state a little bit of difference from the gentleman in saying that no one else is sacrificing right now, because there are a lot of people who have no pay increase and a lot of people who have no jobs.

Mr. HOYER. In reclaiming my time, the gentleman, respectfully, misstates what I said. There are a lot of people sacrificing and a lot of people who don't have jobs. I want to talk a little bit about that as we deal--or don't deal--with the sequester.

What I said was that the only people we had, as a policy, reduced--and the gentleman is correct. We did raise taxes on those over $400,000. There is nobody in the Federal service, of course, who makes over $400,000. The President makes $400,000. He is at the top, as he should be, and he doesn't get a COLA adjustment, but there is nobody in the Federal service who makes over $400,000. They are the only people we've raised contributions on. Others have, in fact, indeed, sacrificed because they've lost their jobs; they've had their pay frozen because of the bad economic times. This sequester is going to make it worse, and we'll discuss that.

What I am simply saying is that the gentleman is not serving the long-term interests of this institution, in my opinion, in not accurately describing what we're doing. That's what I said and that's what I mean.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I would say to the gentleman again that there are millions of people who have been impacted by the payroll tax going back into effect, and that affects not just the people making $400,000 and over--and he knows that as well as I do--but there are also millions of Americans now who are impacted by the ObamaCare tax that has gone into effect. So there are a lot of things that are going on. People in the private sector, the gentleman agrees, are suffering as well.

I just want to say I understand the gentleman. I think, long term, he and I both are interested in trying to get us on a plan to balance this budget so we can see growth return to the economy again and so everyone can see a day of higher wages and a future of better compensation. That's the goal, I think, all of us are driving towards.

Mr. HOYER. Of course, that's what we all agree on, but, frankly, that rhetoric does not substitute for action. Automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester, as you know, would cut U.S. growth in half in 2013 if allowed to go into effect. The CBO said that what we've already done has harmed the economy.

It is time for us to get on and deal with real solutions, not message bills as we did this week and as we did 2 weeks ago. That's all we've done. We met 6 or 7 days this month and last month in this Congress. We're dealing with message bills. The bill that we considered this week--the only bill of substance that we considered this week other than suspensions--will not have any positive effect on the sequester. The sequester is going to hurt our people; it's going to hurt jobs; it's going to hurt economic growth; it's going to do exactly the opposite of what the gentleman says--and I agree with him--that we agree ought to be our objectives.

As you know, the fiscal cliff deal postponed the sequester until March 1. Now, an overwhelming number of your folks did not vote for that, of course. The gentleman did, and I joined him in that effort. We've postponed that until March 1, the sequester. We're 20 days away from the sequester. We didn't do anything about it 2 weeks ago; we didn't do anything about it this week; and we're apparently not going to do anything about it next week either. There is no legislation which has been proposed by the majority party to make sure that the sequester does not go into effect.

The President of the United States spoke about that yesterday. Mr. Van Hollen had a proposal to specifically deal with the sequester, to specifically preclude the sequester from going into effect, from specifically precluding the adverse effects that are going to occur to our national security structure and to our non-defense discretionary spending structure. We still now haven't seen anything from your party that would help stop the problem of the sequester. I was deeply upset that you did not make in order the Van Hollen alternative. Clearly, that alternative would have made a very substantial difference on the sequester. The President would have signed that, and the Senate, in my view, would have passed it, but we didn't even get to consider it on the floor.

Mr. Majority Leader, we are either going to consider alternatives--and I read the majority leader's speech yesterday about reaching out and doing things in a bipartisan way. One way we can do that is to allow both sides to offer their alternatives and have an up-or-down vote and to let the American people make a judgment on that. Very frankly, I think that the American people would have said that the Van Hollen alternative was the preferable alternative to the sequester. Now, there are a lot of your Members who apparently think the sequester is okay.

In your own quote, Mr. Majority Leader:

Under the sequester, unemployment would soar from its current level up to 9 percent, setting back any progress the economy has made. According to the same study, the jobs of more than 200,000 Virginians, in my home State, are on the line.

That's what you said on September 13, 2012. I think you were right. I applaud you for that statement, but I regret that we had no legislation put on this floor 2 weeks ago, this week, or in your announcement next week to preclude the sequester from going into effect, which you say, Mr. Majority Leader--and I agree with you--will have an adverse effect on up to 200,000 Virginians.

Another quote from Representative Rooney, with which I agree:

We've tried to replace the sequester with other things, but it seems now that the large portion of our Conference is resigned to the fact that sequestration is okay.

Mr. Rooney correctly says it's not okay--that it's dangerous, a huge mistake, a threat to our liberty. That's what Tom Rooney of Florida said, and I applaud him for that statement, and I think he's accurate.

Bill Young, who has made his whole life's career in making sure that we have a strong national security, said this:

``I'm reading what a lot of different Members are saying, and I find,'' lamentably--that's my word, not his--``there is not as much opposition to sequestration as I thought there might be.''

In other words, a lot of your folks are saying that sequestration is the way to go. In fact, Representative John Shimkus said:

He, President Obama, can announce all he wants, Sequestration is coming. It's coming. We've got to get spending cuts--no new revenue. It's all about spending.

So he is welcoming the sequester.

Tom Coburn:

I think sequester is going to happen. I think people want it to happen.

I don't want it to happen, Mr. Leader. I don't think it ought to happen. I think it's going to be bad for the country if sequester happens.

The President doesn't want sequester, Harry Reid doesn't want sequester, and I don't want sequester. I would hope, based upon your comment that I just quoted, that you don't want sequester, but we're not going to get away from the sequester unless there's legislation that you bring to this floor--and you have the authority to do that--which will obviate going to sequester and will put in place an alternative which will do what you and I both want to do, and that is address the deficit and debt, both short term and long term.

Senator Mike Johanns said:

I just have a feeling sequester's going to happen. I just think there's so much concern about the debt and spending that it overrides most issues these days.

Now, those ``most issues'' are those 200,000 people that you talked about in your statement.

Senator Ayotte said:

Looks like where we're headed, sequestration.

John Cornyn:

The sequester is the only cuts we've got right now.

So that the consequences of the sequester, apparently, are not something he wants to avoid.

Gridlock is leading to spending reductions. If the government does nothing, spending goes down. We have to claim victory.

Congressman Mulvaney from South Carolina said that.

Now, in terms of the sequester, I want to point out to you that there's been some comments on your side that this is the President's initiative. That is absolutely 100 percent inaccurate. In fact, the alternative in your Cut, Cap and Balance bill--and I know the majority leader knows it--is sequester; that's the fallback. We put sequester in place thinking it was so irrational and would have such a negative effect that clearly we would address the matter in the last 14 months. We didn't. We ought not to quit trying to do it, though--getting an alternative. Mr. Van Hollen had an alternative.

As a matter of fact, in terms of the agreement that we reached, Speaker Boehner said, back on August 1, 2011:

When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I'm pretty happy.

That's John Boehner's quote.

So it's not as if this was our deal. The Speaker says he got 98 percent of what he wanted. Now he says sequester is happening because the President didn't lead. Respectfully, I think that is totally, absolutely inaccurate. The President was prepared to be supportive of Mr. Van Hollen's alternative yesterday. You can say you want a plan. That was his plan. We offered it. That was Mr. Van Hollen's plan we offered. That was our Democratic alternative, and it would have avoided sequester.

So I say to the gentleman, I'm disappointed that the schedule does not reflect substantive, meaningful legislation to avoid the sequester which we certainly don't want. I don't know about your side based upon the quotes that I've just given you, but I would hope that the majority leader would, with the Speaker and with others in his caucus, seriously think about next week making in order a substantive alternative to the sequester.

Mr. Price says we did something in the last Congress. The last Congress is gone. You passed something in the last Congress. If you want to bring that to the floor and pass it again, you know the Senate won't pass it and the President won't sign it. The fact of the matter is we've got to get to compromise, Mr. Leader; and if we don't get to compromise, we're not going to get a solution to sequester or to bringing our debt and deficit down.

I'm glad to yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman.

I would just say simply, Mr. Speaker, once again what we hear from the gentleman and his caucus is let's raise taxes; that'll fix the problem. And we all know the problem is spending.

The gentleman correctly refers to two bills that we had on the floor last year, one earlier in the year and one in the fall, both of which were designed to address the real problems as he suggests we need to do about the spending and the growth in the entitlement areas, which he knows as well as I are the main drivers of the deficit. We passed that bill without any help from the gentleman's side of the aisle and without any reciprocation from the Senate--nothing. The Senate did not move, and the White House did not move.

So if the gentleman suggests there's no compromising going on, I'd ask him how is it that the White House or the Senate is compromising at all if all we hear again and again is just take more money from the American people; that'll fix the problem.

No, Mr. Speaker, that's just kicking the can, and that's why we don't want to take up the other gentleman from Maryland's bill that the Democratic whip suggests, because it's just raising more taxes, not to mention the fact that it was not germane today. And the gentleman, as a protector of this institution knows, you can't bring up an alternative or an amendment that's not germane. You can, but it's not protecting this institution.

So I say to the gentleman, please, let's sit down together and address the real problem, not raise more taxes and kick the can. That's the uncompromising position that seems to dominate the majority party in this town, which is that controlled by the Senate and the White House, Mr. Speaker. The Democrats are constantly saying, Let's just raise more taxes. Take more money from the American people so we can fix the problem and keep spending their money. That's not the direction that we want to go in.

And I'll say to the gentleman, we want to do real fixes. We have consistently, as the gentleman knows, we have put out there and said here's our prescription to balance the budget; right? And we've said, Please, Senate, move. Let's hear your plan. Mr. President, please, you've missed the deadline again. Let's see your plan. Let's show it to the American people and have the discussion about the proper way to manage down this debt and deficit.

But nothing; nothing yet.

I will say to the gentleman what he calls a message bill is now law. And so with that bill, we'll see what the Senate says about managing down this debt and deficit. And hopefully, if the PLAN Act were to ever be taken up by the Senate, we'd have the President say, Here's how I'm going to balance the budget, here's how long it'll take, and here's how I'm going to do it.

That's the rational way to approach when you have two sides taking different approaches to the same problem.

Mr. Speaker, we just had a one-way effort here asking the gentleman, Please join us. Please join us in fixing the long-term problems; otherwise, we're going to keep mounting the debt that is facing us, our children and theirs, and we're going to be looking at the end of the situation that's just not what the American people want.

So I know the gentleman said, you know, let's just keep spending now, keep taxing. That doesn't help. That doesn't help long term. And we're trying to do long-term planning to get this country back on track.

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

It's good spin, but it's not substance. It was a silly bill. The Senate passed it and the President signed it because it was the only way we could make sure that we did not put the creditworthiness of the United States at risk because we're playing this game of chicken because there are some people in this Congress who believe that putting America's creditworthiness at risk is a worthwhile objective. We reject that out of hand.

And I continue to believe that it was a silly bill that we passed. Yes, it was a bill that the President signed because he wanted to make sure that we didn't default on our debts, and we tried to give some confidence, as the gentleman talked about for years, to the economy. So, yes, he signed the bill, but it had nothing to do with obviating the sequester.

The bill that we passed today affects no substantive progress--none, zero, zip. And the gentleman talks about your plan. The Ryan plan, as the gentleman well knows, does not balance the budget until well into the thirties, late into the thirties, 2030s; and, therefore, heaven knows what's going happen in the next 25 years.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I hear the gentleman's objections to our plan and our prior budget. We're going to come forward with another budget that will balance in 10 years.

Mr. HOYER. I'm looking forward to that.

Mr. CANTOR. Where is the gentleman's plan? Where is the President's plan? Where is the other body's plan to balance this budget? That's all we're saying. If we can just get down to an equal level of discussion and say let's do the adult thing and try and resolve the mounting unfunded liabilities of this Federal Government, we can actually make some progress and get on about the business of helping people in this country, making their life better and making their future better, and that's the goal, instead of trying to go in and just intermittently kick the can because there's never any attempt to resolve long-term problems. That's where we're coming from.

Mr. HOYER. Well, as the gentleman knows, I've been one of the leaders, certainly on this side, and in this House, to get to a balanced plan. A balanced plan, yes, does include revenues. You want to say get more money from the American people.

We buy things. As a people, we buy things. People send us here, 435 districts, and we vote on buying things. One of the things we bought, of course, was defending ourselves from terrorists, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It cost us $1.3-, $1.4 trillion when you were fully in charge. We paid zero for it. That's the largest expenditure, other than the two tax cuts which we did in 2001 and 2003, which we did not pay for by cutting spending, which you say is the problem.

You didn't cut spending when you were fully in charge of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. That's one of the reasons the Tea Party was so angry at some of your people, because they felt you all were in charge and you didn't cut spending. Maybe some of the people in this Chamber share that view.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield again?

Mr. HOYER. Let me finish my thought, if I can, Mr. Leader.

So I say to you, right now, you're talking about a plan. Paul Ryan said yesterday the Founding Fathers would be upset with the President for not coming up with a plan. The Constitution contemplates the President having very little, if any role, other than execution of the budget in the budget process. That didn't come until the last century.

The fact of the matter is it is our responsibility. Not a nickel can be spent in America unless the Congress authorizes it to be spent. The President can't spend money on his own. Not a nickel can be raised in this country, of revenue, without the Congress acting on it. The President can't do that.

It is the Congress of the United States, under article I, that has this responsibility. We're not taking that responsibility. We're trying to shove it off on somebody else, in this case, the President of the United States.

The President has a plan. He's offered it a number of times. I just read a book that discussed our discussions for some period of time with the President on his plan. He's sent budgets down here. Your side doesn't like his plan because it involves revenues.

There is not a bipartisan commission that I know of that has not suggested, in order to solve our debt and deficit problem, that we don't have to have a balanced plan, which will involve revenues and will involve cuts in spending, cuts in spending to entitlements, cuts in spending to discretionary spending. I agree with that.

I'll now yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I would just say to the gentleman, we just raised taxes. We just put more revenue in the mix, $650 billion over 10 years, and got no cuts. No cuts.

And the gentleman talked about the 2001, 2003 tax cuts without paying for them. You know, we just extended most of those tax measures and relief to people under $400,000 with no cuts. Nothing. So, again, I don't think it's right to be saying that we need more revenues now. We already did revenues, right? We already have $650 billion.

Why does the gentleman continue to think, Mr. Speaker, that that's what we have to keep doing? It's not the answer.

Let's get to the problem that is causing the mounting deficits. It's a lack of growth, and it's the spending that's out of control.

Mr. HOYER. We're not going to resolve this argument, Mr. Speaker. It's the same litany on both sides. The difference is, the gentleman cannot name a bipartisan commission that doesn't say that we need both sides of the equation addressed if we're going to get from where we are to where we need to be.

On my side, we have to deal across the board with spending. You're correct on that. On your side, you're going to have deal with revenues. A lot of your people understand that, like Mr. Coburn and others. I won't mention anybody on this side of the aisle because I don't want to get them in hot water, but they all understand that.

And what you're saying is, the Senate needs to compromise, the President needs to compromise by doing it your way. That won't work. Your way or the highway is not the way we're going to have compromise.

Mr. CANTOR. What about the revenues we already have now done? These are $650 billion, Mr. Speaker, already raised, no cuts.

Mr. HOYER. Reclaiming my time if I can, the gentleman voted for the Budget Control Act. How much in cuts were in the Budget Control Act? $1.2 trillion, as I recall, or $1 trillion, excuse me, $1 trillion, which is why we had the Supercommittee to get the additional 1.2 that the Speaker said he wanted.

So your side assumed that we'd already done a trillion of the $2.2 trillion that the Speaker said was necessary. So the Speaker and your side, I presume, already adopted the premise that we'd cut $1 trillion in the Budget Control Act.

Now, do we need more? I think the answer to that is yes.

Mr. Van Hollen, in his proposal, made some cuts. I'm not saying you should have supported it. I'm saying you should have allowed the American people to have that alternative on the floor to consider.

You say it wasn't germane. You and I both know--you know the Rules Committee process as well as I do--we could have waived that because the issue in front of us immediately--we're talking about the long term--immediately, is in 22 days, or 23 days, we're going to have a sequester. Almost everybody agrees that the sequester will have an adverse impact on the economy, and on our national security, and on discretionary programs because it would be irrationally done, across the board, without recognition of priority status.

So that I tell my friend, I regret that we're not dealing with the sequester. I would hope the gentleman would put legislation on the floor next week to deal with the sequester, deal with an alternative to the sequester, not talk about what we did last Congress. We didn't agree with that. You're right. We voted against it. But put something on the floor that deals with the sequester.

And I will tell my friend, I liked his speech. And he said again today he wants to work in a bipartisan fashion.

The fact of the matter is, we had an election, and in the election the American people said they thought the President's view had merit, which was a balanced approach. Yes, revenue, but also cuts in spending. And the Senate expanded its numbers, notwithstanding the fact that they agreed with the President's position and not with yours. And, in fact, more people voted for Democrats in the House of Representatives than voted for Republicans, but the redistricting resulted in your continuing to have the majority.

So we have a joint responsibility to get there. And I would urge the gentleman to please consider putting something on the floor, not these message bills, but putting something on the floor that will substantively deal with avoiding the sequester.

Now let me go on to another issue that I know that the gentleman's been working on, and that's the Violence Against Women Act. I know he's been working, he said, with Vice President Biden, who was very involved in this. Can the gentleman tell me the status of that piece of legislation?

Mr. CANTOR. The gentleman knows that my office and his have been in discussions about this bill. I have had daily meetings to try and get to a point where we can bring this forward. You know, I, as the gentleman does, care very deeply about women and the abuse situation, that we need to get them the relief that this bill offers. That's what we want to do. That's our priority.

We must move and act on this bill, and I've, as well, been in touch with the Vice President and his office about trying to assist in bringing the parties together because, as the gentleman knows, there's been the introduction of some issues that are not directly related to the situation of domestic abuse on tribal lands because that's what we're trying to get at. We want to protect the women who are subject to abuse on tribal lands.

And unfortunately, there are issues that don't directly bear on that that have come up that have complicated it, as the gentleman knows. But in working with his office, as well as the Vice President's, I hope to be able to deal with this, bring it up in an expeditious manner.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments. I thank him for his work on this as well. This is a critically important issue, and I am hopeful that we can come to an agreement which will provide for the passage of that piece of legislation and send it to the President. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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