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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2013-01-23

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    JACKSON LEE. Madam Speaker, this measure will continue to ensure funding for all federal government obligations and allow the government to continue its day to day operations through May of 2013.

    The U.S. Constitution is clear on the subject of the debt limit. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment states in clear language that: ``the validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned.'' The American people and our economy are being held hostage to gimmicks driven by polls, and unfettered brinkmanship. On the cusp of the inauguration of our 44th President--a glorious occasion--the people deserve better.

    Americans want a clean debt limit increase, which has been done numerous times, but the normal process by which the Treasury Secretary consults with the President and Congress seems to have hit a major roadblock. This obstructionist governing is based on a practice that seems to put ideology over pragmatism.

    The President has stated: ``The Administration supports a long-term increase in the debt limit that would increase certainty and economic stability. . .Instead of short-term management of self-inflicted fiscal crises, the President believes there is now an opportunity to strengthen the economy by putting the Nation on a sounder fiscal path. Progress has already been made towards that goal.'' I would hope that my colleagues on the other side realize that these are trying times for the American people and brinkmanship is not the answer. This body must come up with a sensible solution to the pressing financial problems which plague our economy.

    It is truly shameful that during the beautiful transcendent inaugural weekend, in which many of my Houston constituents were able to come and enjoy Washington, DC, hospitality; capped off by the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, Congress is back to the same bad sportsmanship which has crippled this body to the point of gridlock.

    The measure provides funding authority for the first five months of 2013, through May 2013, to allow the government to service debts and obligations which we have previously incurred.

    This legislation is filled with gimmickry because it would require House Members' salaries to be held in escrow if we House do not adopt a budget resolution and Senators' salaries to be held in escrow if the Senate doesn't do the same. It appears that my colleagues on the right have opted for form over substance.

    We cannot continue to hold our Nation hostage, keeping the benefits of recipients of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare who have must have sleepless nights because they are worried about the disappearance of their monthly checks.

    I support a long-term increase in the debt limit that would increase certainty and economic stability. The bill before us this morning, H.R. 325, is a short-term measure with unnecessary complications, needlessly perpetuating uncertainty in the Nation's fiscal system, though I would note that the Obama administration has given somewhat tepid support, and only because H.R. 325 lifts the immediate threat of default and indicates that my Congressional Republican colleagues have backed off an insistence on holding the Nation's economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education, and other programs that middle- class families depend on.

    My colleagues want to buy time so that they can figure out how to squeeze the American taxpayer even more by devising bone-crunching cuts and slashes to entitlement programs--all of which is driven by rabid ideology--as opposed to sitting down and working with Democrats to come up with reasonable budget reforms which do not hurt seniors and the disadvantaged.

    That is why Madam Speaker, I submitted an Amendment to the Rules Committee yesterday which: ``Establishes that it is the sense of Congress that the safety net for the most vulnerable among us, the 15.1 percent of Americans living below the poverty line which includes 21 percent of our nation's children, must be protected in any budget negotiations.'' Madam Speaker, Social Security is currently the only source of income for nearly two-thirds of older American households receiving benefits, and roughly one-third of those households depend on Social Security for nearly all of their income.

    Half of those 65 and older have annual incomes below $18,500, and many older Americans have experienced recent and significant losses in retirement savings, pensions, and home values. Today, every dollar of the average Social Security retirement benefit of about $14,800 is absolutely critical to the typical beneficiary.

    Contrary to some claims, Social Security is not the cause of our nation's deficit problem. Not only does the program operate independently, but it is prohibited from borrowing. Social Security must pay all benefits from its own trust fund.

    If there are insufficient funds to pay out full benefits, benefits are automatically reduced to the level supported by the program's own revenues.

    For reasons like these, I may not oppose a short-term solution to the debt limit and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues here in the House and the Senate to provide certainty and foment stability for the economy.

    I would add that instead of short-term management of self-inflicted fiscal crises, I truly believe we have an opportunity to strengthen the economy by putting the Nation on a sounder fiscal path.

    Progress has already been made towards that goal. In 2011, the President signed into law $1.4 trillion in spending reductions, not counting additional savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to seize this template and move forward--not backwards.

    The fiscal agreement the President signed at the beginning of January increased revenue from high-income households by over $600 billion. Together with interest savings, these two steps will cut the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion over the next decade. We should have done more to address our revenue problem.

    The President has made clear that he remains willing to work with both parties in the Congress to budget responsibly and to achieve additional deficit reduction consistent with the principles of balance, shared growth, and shared opportunity.

    The President has also made clear that he will not have another debate with the Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they have already racked up through the laws that they passed. The President has made clear that the Congress has only two options--pay their bills, or fail to do so and put the Nation into default. And I am in complete agreement.

    According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, spending for Medicare and Medicaid is projected to increase from 21 percent of non-interest federal spending in 2010 to 31 percent by 2020. The numbers are wonkish sounding but in terms of real dollars, the increase is mammoth. That is why we must address the spending issue in earnest but not using the paltry monthly income of seniors to pay for yachts for millionaires.

    National spending on health care has grown about 2 percentage points per year faster than GDP over time. Federal revenues, however, have not kept pace, growing at roughly the same rate as GDP.

    As a result, federal deficits will be driven upward by federal health programs unless their rate of growth is tamed. This discrepancy must be dealt with sooner rather than later, but no matter how you couch it, there is no better translation than the word: b-r-o-k-e.

    [[Page H248]] I hasten to add that community health centers provide much needed, high-quality healthcare to over 20 million Americans. These centers are able to serve vulnerable portions of the American population, including racial and ethnic minorities, as well as rural and low-income Americans.

    I want to give some pertinent facts about my district and why the certainty provided by H.R. 325 is so important.

    The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metropolitan Area consists of 10 counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller.

    The Houston metro area: It ranks sixth among U.S. metropolitan statistical areas with a population of 5,867,489 as of mid-2009, and it covers more than 10,000 square miles, and has a gross product of $403.8 billion, according to The Perryman Group. This area recorded 2.54 million payroll jobs in November 2010, more than the job counts of 31 U.S. states, including Arizona, Colorado and Alabama.

    The Houston economy has experienced a resurgence but let's remember the economic history: The recession hit Houston in September '08. Our region lost 152,800 jobs through January '10. We began to recoup jobs starting in February that year and by October '11, the region had gained 153,000 jobs, or 101.1 percent of what we lost in the recession.

    And though Houston faces some challenges in the near term, the long- term outlook is bright. The challenges are those of managing growth rather than economic stagnation. The long-term outlook for the Houston metro area is positive, and steady growth will be the norm for Houston for the foreseeable future. What Houston cannot afford right now is continued uncertainty from Washington, D.C.

    Moreover, given the uncertainty of final funding decisions and the possibility that across-the-board spending cuts will occur in March unless Congress and the President can reach agreement to prevent the currently scheduled ``sequester,'' it is critical that we work towards bipartisan solutions to our nation's financial woes.

    Given the U.S. economy is showing signs of progress, it is crucial that we continue to fund government programs without interruption.

    Lastly, as a Senior Member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees I understand the importance of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection mission to enforce drug, trade and travel laws in efforts to keep our borders safe; and the importance of ensuring that our nation remains safe from terrorists and others who would do harm to our nation.

    In summation, I urge my colleagues to reject this poll-driven exercise in futility and give a clean debt ceiling vote so that the American people can carry-on with the business of achieving prosperity.

    This is not a new law, new outlay, or some random exercise in the fulfillment of the Obama Doctrine. In fact, according to the Congressional Research Service, since March 1962, Congress has enacted 76 separate measures that have altered the limit on federal debt. Typically, the Treasury Secretary consults with the President and Congress, and the limit has been subsequently raised to accommodate our fiscal needs.

    And I close with the sacred words from our Constitution. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment states in clear language that: ``the validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be question.'' And the President himself was transparent and sincere when he stated: ``H.R. 325 would temporarily allow the Congress to fund commitments to which it has already agreed. A temporary solution is not enough to remove the threat of default that Republicans in the Congress have held over the economy. The Congress should commit to paying its bills and pass a long-term clean debt limit increase that lifts self-inflicted and unnecessary uncertainty from the Nation's economy.'' I echo President Obama's words and wish that this House gets its house in order.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 39, the previous question is ordered on the bill, as amended.

    The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the bill.

    The bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, and was read the third time.

    Motion to Recommit Mr. MURPHY of Florida. Madam Speaker, I have a motion to recommit at the desk.

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