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Providing for Consideration of HR 325, No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me say to my colleagues, both Democratic and Republican colleagues, that they ought to vote against this rule. The bill before us today was not the product of deliberation in either the Ways and Means Committee or the House Administration Committee. There were no hearings. It was brought before the Rules Committee last night, and not a single amendment was made in order. This is a closed rule.

So if my friend from Texas wants to usher in a new policy of openness in this Congress, we should have had this rule open so that Members could have an opportunity to express themselves and to have their viewpoints made known. But, again, it is a completely closed rule.

So this rule should be defeated. It should go back to the Rules Committee. We ought to come back with something that allows this Chamber to be able to do its deliberation.

And Mr. Speaker, we ought to be here today to raise the debt ceiling, not because we like the idea of raising the debt ceiling, but because that's the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do for our country and for our economy.

It is the right thing to do for the businesses of this country, so that they have some certainty that we will not default on our debts. And if they had that certainty, they would then invest in our economy and help create more jobs and help create more opportunity for people.

You know, one of the things I have heard from Republicans and Democrats who I've bumped into at all types of occasions, they may have differences on our tax policy, they may have differences on our economic policy, but the one thing that everybody seems to agree on is that Congress ought to provide certainty. And this is anything but certainty, because what we are doing today, thanks to the Republican leadership, is to bring a short-term extension of the debt ceiling to the floor, which means that they have decided, once again, to play partisan politics with the debt ceiling.

This is a bad idea. This is not the way a mature governing body ought to behave. We ought to do our job.

Next month the United States will hit the debt ceiling and, without action, the United States will default on its debts. Now, the last time the Republican leadership played this dangerous game of economic Russian roulette, they threatened the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in our history. For some reason they seem hell-bent on doing it again.

We need to be clear about one thing. The debt limit is not about new spending, it's not about increasing the deficit. The debt limit is simply the way Congress pays for things that we have already bought, things like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the way, that my friends on the other side continue to insist that we don't pay for; it just goes on a credit card. Things like the Medicare prescription drug benefit that was not paid forward that my friends on the other side of the aisle championed, things that the Republicans have voted for over and over and over again.

Now, we can and we should have an open and thoughtful debate about our spending priorities and our deficit. That is what we're supposed to do. But playing games with the debt limit, threatening to default, should not be an option. But that's just what the bill before us does. It, once again, kicks the can down the road.

Now, instead of passing a clean, long-term debt ceiling bill, one that could ensure that America doesn't default on its debt and obligations, the Republicans have chosen to bring a bill up that would put us right back in the same place that we're in now in May, 3 months from now.

So what's next, Mr. Speaker? A 3-week extension of the debt ceiling? Three days? Three hours?

My Republican friends go on and on about how the business community needs and deserves certainty from Washington, but treating the full faith and credit of the United States like just another political talking point is no way to create certainty.

How ironic, Mr. Speaker, that the Republican Party, the party that took a record surplus and turned it into a record deficit, the party that put two major wars on the Nation's credit card, the party that refused to pay for two rounds of tax cuts and a massive, expansive prescription drug benefit, now wants to pay its bills. Now wants to pay its bills.

The same group of people that got us into this mess are now telling us that they want to get us out of this mess. The fact is, on the issue of the deficit and on the issue of the debt, my friends on the other side of the aisle, I do not believe, have any credibility.

You know, there's an old show business saying, Mr. Speaker: you got to have a gimmick. And my Republican friends never cease to disappoint me. They always have a gimmick. They believe in government by gimmicks. And this No Budget, No Pay bill is another gimmick.

Let's kind of play this out. What their bill says is if the House doesn't pass a budget bill by April 15, we don't get paid. If the Senate doesn't pass a budget bill by April 15, they don't get paid.

Now, I have no doubt that they have the votes to ram whatever they want through the House of Representatives, and I expect that they will bring us yet another budget

bill that has the same extreme, excessive spending cuts in programs that benefit the middle class and poor that they brought before us last year. So I think they will bring a bill to the floor.

And let's say the Senate does bring a budget bill to the floor and they pass it. This bill does not require that there be a conference report that is voted on by both the House and the Senate as a condition of whether or not Members get paid.

So, again, this is not a solution. What this is just more political gamesmanship. You pass something in the House that may be totally irreconcilable, something that will never be able to be conferenced with the Senate. Senate, you pass whatever you want, it doesn't have to be conferenceable with the House, and there we are. And there we are, 3 months from now, in the same position that we are in now.

You know, the way this should be done, and I know this is a radical idea, but the way this should be done is the leadership of the Republican side should speak with the leadership of the Democratic side, and let's see if we can kind of agree on a way to proceed. There ought to be serious discussions.

I'll also point out for my colleagues and for those who are watching, there were a couple of occasions over the last year and a half where Speaker Boehner came very close to coming to agreement with the White House on a bigger deal. And on those two occasions the Speaker walked away and said no after he came very close to saying yes.

Why did he say no?

It had nothing to do with the Senate not having passed a budget resolution. It had everything to do with the fact that when the Speaker came back and talked to his Republican rank-and-file Members, they all said no. They said no. It doesn't cut Medicare enough. It doesn't cut Social Security enough. It doesn't cut food stamps enough. It doesn't cut education enough. It doesn't cut job creation enough.

There are people on the other side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, who are using this not as an opportunity to balance our budget, but they're using this as an opportunity to gut government, to end the public sector. They see this as their opportunity. And as a result, we have this uncertainty. And as a result, the American people pay the price. As a result, this economy is not recovering as quickly as it needs to be.

I would urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule, this closed rule. This is not the way we should begin this session.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, enough of the gimmicks. It's time to get serious about doing the people's business, and this is not doing the people's business.


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I'm glad the gentleman from Texas agrees with Harry Reid. I hope he agrees with Harry Reid on more things in the future. But the fact of the matter is this show business before us does nothing other than postpone this debate on the debt ceiling for 3 months. It doesn't require a finished product. It does not require that we actually have something that amounts to a deal that goes to the President's desk. The House will pass their extreme budget, like they always do. The Senate will probably do something. And then nothing else is required. There's no requirement for a deal in order to get your pay.

This is show business. And what we should be doing is providing certainty to the business community that we're not going to default on our obligations in 3 months. And we ought to come together and figure out a way to be able to get this budget in balance without destroying the social safety net in this country. Again, the problem has always been--and let's be clear about this--as much as I get frustrated with the Senate, the problem on this is not the Senate. The problem is the rank-and-file Republicans in the House Republican Conference who, every time the Speaker of the House goes to them with a deal, they say, No. They always say it doesn't cut deep enough, it doesn't eliminate programs that help the poor, it doesn't eliminate programs that help the middle class, it doesn't eliminate programs that help create jobs. Because the ultimate goal of so many on the other side is not about a balanced budget. They don't care about balanced budgets. They're the ones who took this balanced budget that Bill Clinton had and turned it into one of the worst deficits and debt in our country. They don't care about that. They care about eliminating the public sector. That's what this is about. Three months? Please. Three months? What kind of certainty is that?


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to tell the gentleman from Georgia that I appreciate his many, many, many, many years working here in Washington, not only as a Member of Congress, but his many years as a congressional aide. So you have a perspective here based on many, many years of service in Washington. But I would just say that if someone were to tell me that the Republican leadership were to bring yet another closed rule to the floor, I'm sad to say that I'd respond: I'm not surprised.

This is a closed rule. This is a bill--whether it's five pages or a hundred pages, it doesn't make any difference--that did not come out of a committee process. The Ways and Means Committee didn't hold hearings or a markup. The House Administration Committee didn't hold hearings or a markup. This did, as my colleague from New York said, basically come out of your retreat, and you hand a bill to all of us here. What's even more startling is that you do not allow anybody, Democrats or Republicans, to amend it. Completely closed. Completely closed.

Look, I would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle--especially the freshmen who campaigned on the platform of openness and transparency--you vote for this rule, you're the problem. You're the problem if you vote for this rule. So I would again urge my colleagues, just on the process alone, this is not the way that we should proceed.

The other thing I would remind my friends who are saying that somehow this is going to produce a result, this doesn't require a result. This requires the House to once again pass its budget--which, as we all know from last year's experience, represents the extreme of the extreme; I mean, it's irreconcilable with the Senate--and the Senate can pass whatever they want, but it doesn't require a finished product. What the American people want is a finished product, not a gimmick to kick the can down the road for 3 months. Yeah, everybody is happy we're not going to default today. But 3 months, that's it? I mean, I think we can do a heck of a lot better than this.


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds. Let's be clear. This House is not open to new ideas. If it was, we would not be coming to the floor with a bill that is a completely closed rule so that Members cannot offer their ideas in the form of amendments.

Secondly, their gimmick even has a gimmick to it. They say that if the Senate doesn't act or the House doesn't act on a budget, they don't get paid. Really what they do is they get paid at the end of the year. So their pay is not taken away.

This is show business. Instead of show business and instead of gimmicks, we ought to be coming to the House floor in a bipartisan way trying to figure out how to solve some of these budgetary problems. I regret very much that this is the best we can do, kicking the can down the road for 3 months.


Mr. McGOVERN. We have a gimmick before us that withholds pay if we don't pass a budget, but not if you don't get a deal. It doesn't matter whether the budget is irreconcilable or partisan. Here is the other gimmick. It doesn't really withhold anybody's pay. It just delays when you get the check.

The problem is not the United States Senate, I want to tell my friends. It is my friends on the other side of the aisle who do not want a deal, who want instead to basically annihilate and eviscerate the public sector. I say to my friends, if you want to balance the budget, pay for your wars, pay for your tax cuts, pay for your giveaways to the very wealthy in this country. What is before us is not a solution.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no,'' to not kick the can down the road, to deal with the problems as we see them right now. And I also urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, those especially who call for transparency, vote ``no'' on this closed rule. This is a closed rule. Nobody has an opportunity to offer any other ideas. This is not the way we should be dealing with budget issues. Vote ``no'' on this closed rule.


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