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Bonnie W.
Democrat NJ 12

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  • Funding Bill is Reflection of Priorities

    by Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and to include any extraneous material on the subject of my Special Order.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from New Jersey? There was no objection.

    Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, if a funding bill is a reflection of priorities, then the omnibus that we are considering right now is the clearest snapshot of what is wrong with our Nation.

    We are talking about lifting a 40-year ban on the export of crude oil, risking thousands of jobs and rising gas prices for working families immediately after joining the most important climate agreement ever created.

    [[Page H9680]] We are expected to swallow tiny increases to the programs working families need and rely on while we make permanent tax cuts for corporations and millionaires that we have not paid for. We are expected to cheer the extension of vital programs, like the child tax credit, when that credit has not been indexed to cover the rising costs families face.

    Mr. Speaker, these are games. After only a year in Congress, I am tired of playing them. We like the word compromise. It implies that we have done something good, that we have worked together.

    If we pass this bill, we will have worked together to keep America down for generations to come. We are patting ourselves on the back for making it out of sequester, but the incremental spending increases in this omnibus funding package do nothing to make up for the past 5 years of cuts.

    We have spent so much time digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a funding hole that this omnibus seems like level ground. The fact is it is not. It is far from it.

    Regardless of how nice funding increases may sound, the foundations of the American Dream are crumbling beneath our feet right now with stagnant wages, struggling schools and a wealth gap that is only getting bigger.

    Working families need funding that supports their needs. They need a Tax Code that promotes the middle class. They need tax credits and funding for programs to help cover the outrageous cost of child care and preschool education, costs that outstrip tuition at public colleges in 31 of our 50 States. They need funding for higher education that would allow them to graduate without debt.

    They need more support for our highways, our bridges, our rail systems, and broader infrastructure, the kinds of projects that create good-paying jobs and make every community stronger, the kinds of projects that cause people to feel confident that they have enough security in their future and enough money in their pocket to spend some of it and help to stimulate the economy and to create many, many, many ancillary jobs and small business needs. They need a lot more than what is being offered in this legislation.

    A funding bill compromise should not compromise the needs of families across the country who are relying on us to get this right. Any extension of tax credit needs to be protected and uplift every American. We can't afford to pass them without a plan for them.

    Mr. Speaker, we have labored over many things in this House. We have spent a long time talking about less important issues. But we are being confronted right now with a humongous bill that has broad implications on communities that are vulnerable for the next several generations. We are asked to support a piece of legislation that does not seem to address, from a proportionally equal perspective, those needs.

    I want to take a moment now to just draw the House's attention to this front page story in Politico. It headlines ``Congress' half- trillion-dollar spending binge.'' What is fascinating about this is that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, the folks that are responsible for this spending binge, are always the first to condemn government spending.

    Now they want to spend billions of dollars on special interests without supporting Pell grants, without supporting our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, without supporting the programs that combat poverty like WIC, without supporting the working families in this country and supporting the needs that they have in order to prosper.

    Their prosperity helps guarantee the economy's prosperity because the revenues generated from the things that we do to uplift our working families gets put back into the economy and creates a better, fairer, and larger economy.

    The numbers in this omnibus lie. They sound like increases, but they do nothing to pull us out of the rut that the past 5 years have left us in. I know that there are many of my colleagues who feel this same way.

    We look at the modest increases that may be associated with the childcare tax credit. We look at modest increases that may be applied to a housing program. We look at modest increases that may be applied to several programs that, if there were sufficient revenue associated with those programs, would indeed make a difference in these communities.

    {time} 1515 But the proportionality of priority in this omnibus bill and in our effort today and tomorrow does not speak to our acknowledgment that it is the majority of people, that it is the middle class, the working class, and, yes, even the most vulnerable that we are leaving behind.

    We can do better than that. Mr. Speaker, we need to do better than that because we are better than that.

    There are several glaring omissions in the omnibus bill, but none are more illogical than our failure to support Puerto Rico. It is unfathomable that we are unwilling to support a U.S. territory in a financial meltdown just as we offer permanent tax breaks for corporations and special interests who don't even need our help. We are leaving the citizens of Puerto Rico woefully in need. This is not fair. This is un-American. This is not who we are.

    What is our responsibility to the citizens of Puerto Rico who won't have access to good hospitals and medical care and Medicare? What about the children, almost 56 percent, who live in poverty? What are we saying to them? What we are saying in this bill that is before us this day coming forth that is expected to move forward in this House is that we are still only concerned with elevating the status, the well-being, the security, and the happiness of those who already have a lion's share of all of it.

    Mr. Speaker, we are better than that. We have a responsibility to speak up, protect, preserve, and ensure opportunity for all. That is what we have been elected to do.

    I want to take a moment to talk about the giveaway to oil companies that we have in this omnibus. There is nothing positive about this for working families. Ending the 40-year ban on crude oil risks our energy security here at home. It threatens our environmental leadership, and it takes away jobs from American workers.

    We didn't pass legislation to create more access to oil in this country simply to be able to provide wealthy companies the opportunity to sell it abroad at a higher price, to bypass our refineries, to sell crude oil in other countries and have them benefit from the jobs that we fought to create through legislation that we passed. That is illogical. That is counterintuitive to why we did what we did in the first place. But yet it is in this bill.

    Yet the glaring priority of the wealthy multinational corporations versus the interests of the everyday working families is just in your face--unacceptable, totally unacceptable. It serves no purpose that I can identify other than to further appease another of the special interest groups so dear to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but it does nothing for the economy of the United States of America and for the working families here. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because it is not the first time, and I doubt that it will be the last time.

    Mr. Speaker, we can go on and on and on, and I will have additional points that I would like to raise with regard to this omnibus bill, but my friend, my colleague from the great State of New York, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, has come here to share his perspective on the impact of this omnibus bill.

    With that, I yield to my colleague.

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