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Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
November 19, 2013
113th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 159, No. 165 — Daily Edition
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(House of Representatives - November 19, 2013)
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[Page H7192] BUDGET CONFERENCE The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer) for 5 minutes. Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, we have 10 days left in this year's session, according to the schedule. We are supposed to adjourn on December 13-- somewhat ironically, Friday the 13th; and yet, Mr. Speaker, we see time is running out and we are not addressing the critical issue and the critical responsibility of funding the government and of applying resources to our priorities. Time is running out, Mr. Speaker, for budget conferees to send us legislation so we can avoid another government shutdown in January. A budget conference agreement will require compromise from both sides--a step that Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and many of his colleagues seem unprepared to take. Mr. Speaker, it has been my premise that the reason we did not go to conference for the last 7 months, notwithstanding the fact that the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget, is that Chairman Ryan knows there is no compromise that he could reach that he could bring back and have the support of his colleagues on the Republican side; and as a result, we have no compromise. As a result, we have no product to consider. This is an extremely disappointing position, Mr. Speaker, because it is clear that the Ryan budget is not a viable blueprint for governing. It was not when we passed it, and it is not now. It was a pretense of fiscal responsibility without any of the substance of fiscal reality or courage. That fact was made evident this summer as Republicans could only pass funding bills for defense and veterans programs, pulling their transportation funding bill and not even bringing the other appropriations bills to the floor. Yesterday, all 12 of the Republican subcommittee chairs of the Appropriations Committee sent a letter to Paul Ryan, Chris Van Hollen, Senator Murray, and Senator Sessions, saying, We need to have a budget. We need to have a compromise agreement; and we need to have a sequester number eliminated and a rational number replacing it--a number that can work for America. In fact, they said, If you don't do it, we are going to have to have a meat-ax--their verbiage, not mine, Mr. Speaker--not only on the domestic side of the budget--education, health care, the environment, law enforcement--but also on the national security side of the budget. We all know how the budget that was offered by Mr. Ryan achieves balance--severe cuts, in the same vein as the irrational sequester, that target the most vulnerable Americans and place our economic recovery in jeopardy. It is somewhat ironic that on the front page of The Washington Post today we see where Mr. Ryan was not focused on the budget; he is focused on the poor. That is a proper focus, and this Congress ought to be focused on that. But it is interesting that the Ryan budget does exactly the opposite of what we need to do to make sure that the poor are reduced in number and the middle class are expanded in number. That is why, in my view, Mr. Speaker, regarding this budget, so many of his own party could not support appropriations bills within the framework of the Ryan budget. That is why the bills were not brought to the floor. Already, some Republicans are admitting that only a balanced approach will enable us to achieve the level of deficit reduction we need; and contrary to Mr. Ryan's view, this means that revenues--that hated word--must be on the table. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the former chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee is one of them, telling reporters on October 25: I think both sides would like to deal with the sequester. And we're willing to put more revenue on the table to do that. Mr. Cole was one of the signers of that letter to which I referred that said, Let's replace the meat-ax represented by the sequester. Unfortunately, Chairman Ryan continues to rule out any talk of revenues, which is the key to any meaningful compromise that will replace the sequester. Mr. Speaker, as you probably know and as I think my Republicans colleague know, I have said now and I have said in the past that we must also deal with entitlements. We need a balanced plan, not an unbalanced plan; but without a balanced plan, the sequester will remain in place, and it will hurt America. Instead of just saying what he is against, it is time for Mr. Ryan and Republicans to show a readiness to compromise to achieve results for the American people. Mr. Ryan is the chairman of the conference committee. Yet he has to this date not put on the table what chairmen always do--the chairman's mark, chairman's suggestion, or chairman's proposal. Democrats have been clear that we are willing to compromise and are ready to do what it takes to achieve a balanced and bipartisan deal on the budget. This was evident when we voted unanimously alongside 87 Republicans to end the government shutdown, even when it meant supporting a continuing resolution--an appropriations bill for the government--at a level we believed was too low. But we understood compromise was necessary. And so all 198 Democrats voted to open up the government and to pay America's bills, while 147 Republicans-- approximately 62 percent of the Republicans--voted to keep the government shut down and to not pay America's bills. I was encouraged to read the letter sent yesterday, as I said, by Chairman Rogers and the Appropriations Subcommittee chairs, making clear how important it is for conferees to send us a budget by Thanksgiving--that would have to be this Friday, because we are not going to be here next week--rather than risk another painful shutdown and the continuation of the irrational sequester this coming year. Many Republicans now agree with Democrats that the sequester is unworkable. Who says so? Mr. Ryan says he doesn't like the sequester. Mr. Cantor, the majority leader, says he doesn't like the sequester. And Hal Rogers has said it is unworkable and inadvisable. The Budget Conference has a larger mission than to simply rearrange the sequester's severe cuts. This is an opportunity to replace the sequester with a sensible approach that permits Congress to look strategically at our budget priorities and our long-term fiscal and economic goals. If we do so, in my view, it will be the most important stimulus of our economy and job-creating action that this Congress could take. Mr. Speaker, I hope that Chairman Ryan will set his flawed budget aside and instead embrace the approach that many of his Republican colleagues are already recognizing is the only realistic path toward a compromise by this committee. To do so could usher in a historic agreement to achieve real fiscal responsibility for America for years to come. I hope Mr. Ryan's leadership will result in that objective. ____________________