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Barbara M.
Democrat MD

About Sen. Barbara
  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2013-09-30

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    MIKULSKI. Madam President, I chair the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is a great honor. I am the one that would go to conference. Hey, I'm ready. However, a motion to tell us to meet in conference without a continuing funding resolution to keep the government open is a hollow gesture and a cynical gesture and a manipulative gesture. To say ``have a conference,'' that means, myself, my Republican vice chairman, other conferees that would be appointed, we would sit down with the House conferees. By the way, we talk all the time. We started something new under my leadership, with the concurrence of Senator Shelby, talking with the House. Do we want to meet in a conference? You bet. But to meet in a conference without the continuing funding resolution included in it means that the government shuts down at midnight without a continuing funding resolution to a date certain.

    You can tell us to meet all you want, but the government will shut down. My whole point is to agree with my colleagues here that the House should take up what the Senate sent them. The Senate sent, in a gesture of comity and so on, a simple continuing resolution. Keep the government funded until November 15. This would give us opportunities to have that conference. We accepted their funding level, planning to negotiate a higher level. We had been waiting and waiting for Senator Murray to be able to go to conference on the budget so that we could arrive at this.

    People might say: Senator Mikulski, I'm confused. Murray is the budget. You are appropriations. Are they not the same thing? No. Senator Murray is the Budget Committee. That is the full revenue. That is the full Federal budget. It includes discretionary spending. I am one part of that. It includes mandatory [[Page S7049]] spending. That is Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, other mandatory spending. It also includes revenue which means that your books ultimately balance and you have a balance in your economy.

    The Budget Committee's job is to arrive at that, working with the House. They then give us, the appropriators, something called a 302(a). It is a section in the Budget Act. That Budget Committee tells us, the appropriators, the cap that we can spend. The appropriators are neither free spenders nor freeloaders. We get a cap, a 302(a).

    I have 12 subcommittees. Those 12 subcommittees, we divide them up in terms of what we think are the important investments that the country should make; that is into the 12 committees. Then they work with their Republican members to arrive at the subcommittees, and we bring them to the floor.

    I have not had a top line. I have not had my cap, because she cannot go to conference. Remember those conferences everybody likes to have? So, had Senator Murray gone to a conference we would have had that number. But in the absence of that, I did something really bold. I took the Senate for its word.

    This spring when the Budget Committee passed their 302(a) allocation, it would have been $1.058 trillion. That is how we Senate appropriators, we Democrats, marked up our 12 bills. Some might say that is a lot of money. It sure is a lot of money, and we did a good job with it. We had smart public investments and every one of my subcommittees had the inspector general at their hearings so we could identify duplicative, dated or dysfunctional programs.

    We are ready to cut. We know how to cut. We are ready to go, and every one of my subcommittees is ready to go. Am I ready to go to conference? You bet. But to go to conference without that continuing funding resolution is, again, a hollow action that once again wastes time and wastes opportunity.

    It is not just those in our country who watch C-SPAN. The world watches C-SPAN. The world is watching us. This is the United States of America. They are watching our parliamentary system, which was once the greatest in the world. We have gone from being the greatest deliberative body to the greatest delaying body, and we delay through hollow gestures back and forth.

    I want to do everything I can--working on a bipartisan basis--to maintain the greatness of America, but in order to do that, the greatness of America needs to work tonight. We need to come to our senses, come to an agreement, come to closure, and keep the government open. I am happy to go to the conference, but I would like a date certain. My preference is November 16. Keep the government open. Keep us in not only our job but keep America working.

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