Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014by Representative Chris Van Hollen
Posted on 2013-12-12
VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may
I would like to start by commending my friend and colleague, Chairman Ryan, for working on this bipartisan agreement. I also want to congratulate our Senate colleague, Senator Patty Murray, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, for her efforts to get this done, along with many of our colleagues.
This agreement is far from perfect. It is not the budget agreement I or many of my colleagues would have written, but I do believe that, on balance, at the margin, it represents a small but positive step forward.
Mr. Speaker, I would not have been able to say that as recently as this past Monday and early Tuesday, but as a result of changes made, I think this is a positive step forward; and I want to commend my fellow conferees on the House side--Mr. Clyburn and Mrs. Lowey--as well as the efforts of Leader Pelosi, to make the changes necessary.
As a result of those changes, this is an agreement that many of our colleagues can now support, and that is for many reasons; but most of all, it results in a situation in which we will avoid the very deep and harmful cuts from the sequester, which, if this Congress does not act, will automatically take effect a few weeks from now. Those very deep and unproductive across-the-board cuts will create an unnecessary drag on the economy at a time when economic growth is building but still not nearly where it is. It will have a negative impact on job growth, and it will eat away at important national priorities and investments.
As a result of this agreement, in fiscal year 2014, we will be able to invest $25 billion more in vital national areas than we were in fiscal year 2013. Of those $25 billion investments, $22.5 billion will be in important areas of domestic investment: in areas of education, in areas of important scientific research like medical research at the National Institutes of Health. It will also provide, as Chairman Ryan has said, some certainty, which is very important at this point in time; and without this agreement, you would be guaranteed additional furloughs of Federal employees in the coming year, so I think it is a positive step forward.
I do, Mr. Speaker, want to express my extreme disappointment in one area. In the agreement, itself, as Chairman Ryan has acknowledged and as Senator Murray has recognized, we decided not to include what we call the doc fix and decided we would not include the unemployment insurance compensation extension. Many of us argued that we should include both of those in this agreement. In fact, House Democrats proposed an agreement along those lines. We believe that, if we are going to do the doc fix, which we think is important--making sure that doctors who provide services to Medicare patients are fully compensated--we should also make sure that individuals who are on long- term unemployment will not be left out in the cold 3 days after Christmas. It was decided that those elements would not be in the agreement, itself.
Yet, last night, at the 11th hour, the House Republican majority decided to insert the doc fix within this agreement. We support that doc fix, but we are very troubled that we have not even been allowed a vote to extend unemployment compensation.
The reality, Mr. Speaker, is, even without that, if we leave here without this agreement, we are not going to get the extension of unemployment insurance because the Speaker won't allow us to have a vote on that, so the only thing we would accomplish by defeating this budget agreement would be to go home with a lot of uncertainty and with the sequester guaranteed to hit in January. That is not a good result. This agreement is a better result. I will talk a little bit later about what we believe we should be doing in this Congress.
As the chairman said, this agreement doesn't match his vision nor does it match ours. We put forward a proposal that would focus a lot more on job creation, to try and invest more in our national infrastructure--in our roads and in our bridges and in our broadband-- so that we can put people back to work right now and accomplish important national priorities. We believe we should be focusing on early education, investing more in our future so we have job growth not only now from additional investments but so we ensure greater job growth in the future. There are other things that we think were important and part of this agreement which are not in here but that we will continue to fight for in the days ahead.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.