Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Posted on 2013-10-08
MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I rise to respectfully say that we in
the Senate and we in the Congress have to do what our constituents
elected us to do and what the Constitution requires us to do: keep the
United States Government open and make sure the United States of
America pays its bills. To do that, we are open to negotiation and
examining a variety of ideas, but the main idea is to go through the
regular order in the committee process.
We can keep the government open and we can meet our responsibility on the public debt if we embark upon two solutions and they are in the hands of the other party. We call upon the House to pass the Senate continuing funding resolution that would reopen government and keep it going until November 15. It is not a long-term solution. If we get to it right now, we will fund it at 2013 levels, acknowledging the sequester level. That was a big compromise. I compromised, as the chair of the Appropriations Committee, to move that continuing funding resolution. It was $70 billion less than what I wanted, but in order to get us in a room and get the conversation going and the negotiations going, I was willing to compromise.
I call upon the House to pass that. I call upon the Senate Republicans who have objected to going to the Budget Committee to lift their objection so we can take the Senate-passed budget and go to conference so we can get a budget.
Why is this important? For those who say we have to control spending, there is nobody who disputes that, but the way we control spending is to go through the regular budget process. I say to many of my colleagues who might not understand the Budget Control Act and I say to the American people who are listening, the way to control discretionary spending is to pass a budget that sets a cap on what the appropriators can spend in domestic spending.
I heard the wonderful Senator and distinguished war hero from Arizona John McCain ask us to get to it today. I agree. Let's get to it today and lift the objection for Senator Murray, the chair of the Budget Committee, to take appointed conferees so they can negotiate on the budget.
I say to my colleagues--again, to explain the Budget Control Act--we appropriators are not wild spenders. We appropriators can't go rogue in terms of wild runaway spending. We have a budget cap imposed upon us through a budget process and something called a 302(a), but we can't get the cap on spending unless the Budget Committee is able to move. This is very serious.
I have the high honor of representing the State of Maryland, and I see my colleague from Maryland, Senator Cardin, on the floor. We represent 5\1/2\ million people and a lot of civilian agencies. I note also on the floor are the distinguished Senators from Virginia, both of whom are former Governors of Virginia.
Between the four of us, we represent the largest concentration of Federal employees in the world. We represent Federal employees from the Department of Defense to the National Institutes of Health, to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. There is a rollcall of honor in service and duty that makes the United States a stronger country, a stronger economy, and so on.
When we speak about government, we know what we are talking about, and we know what is going on. Many have spoken about opening NIH. I want to open NIH. NIH, which is a clinical hospital, is not accepting new patients. This week 200 people have been turned away. Children in the United States of America were turned away. It is not just Barb Mikulski talking, the Washington Post reported on a lady who has cancer and wants to come to NIH, but she can't get into a clinical trial because it is closed down. They say: Senator Barb, open NIH. But we have to open the rest of the government.
Right now the Centers for Disease Control has a substantial number of its workforce furloughed. Having the CDC closed constitutes a danger to public health. Right this minute in 18 States, 278 people have been sickened by salmonella. Thank God there have been no deaths, but it is making people very sick. We don't have CDC on the job to track diseases and alert the public health departments around the United States of America so they can stand sentry to protect people against salmonella. Open the CDC. Open the whole government.
Just this week, in our own metropolitan area, a worker was killed trying to service the Metro. This should be under investigation. There was one death and several injuries. There was a bus crash in Tennessee, but right this very minute the National Transportation Safety Board has the majority of their people furloughed. They can't investigate the Metro accident, and they can't investigate the bus crash in Tennessee.
A few weeks ago Senator Cardin and I were informed that a person had a terrible accident on the Bay Bridge in which a car went over the side of the bridge. We asked for an investigation to make sure our bridge is safe. That was under way, but now it is going to be delayed.
Let's take our FBI. Our FBI agents are on the job. They are being paid with IOUs. A group of FBI agents, called Voices from the Field, said to us, their U.S. Government: Guess what. We don't have gas for our cars. The FBI does not have gas for its cars. The agents' gas allowance is limited to 200 miles per week, and they can't even buy gas out of their own pocket.
[[Page S7292]] Not only is the FBI running out of gas, I think we are running out of gas here. The way we fuel our tanks and get America running and rolling again is to reopen government. The way we reopen government is for Mr. Boehner, the Speaker of the House, in his job as Speaker, to bring up the vote on reopening the government and vote on the Senate-passed resolution.
We say to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to lift their objection to the Budget Committee going to conference so the Budget Committee can come up with a budget with their caps on domestic discretionary spending. We will cap all discretionary spending. We appropriators will abide by the cap. We will not have runaway spending, and we will not go rogue. We will follow the rules, but I think we all need to follow the rules. Under the statutory requirement of the Budget Control Act, they were supposed to bring the budget back April 15. We passed one on March 23 and we have been waiting and waiting.
I wish to join with my colleague from Arizona. Let's get to it. Let's get the job done. Let's reopen government. Let's pay our bills. I am willing to negotiate. I am willing to compromise.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.