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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 933, Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2013-03-06

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Oklahoma, my friend, Mr. Cole, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    (Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, we are here to consider the rule for H.R. 933, the continuing resolution for the rest of fiscal year 2013. This is a disappointing bill, Mr. Speaker, and this is a disappointing process.

    This continuing resolution, quite frankly, is inadequate. It does not meet the needs of our people. And because it does not address sequestration, it actually will hurt many millions of our people. The Department of Defense and the VA are given some flexibility to deal with the devastating sequestration cuts, but no other agency is given that tool.

    This is clearly, in my opinion, a tacit statement by the majority that they are going to keep this harmful sequester, one of the stupidest things ever to come out of Congress.

    And that, Mr. Speaker, is the disappointing part of this entire process. The majority has had plenty of opportunity to address the sequester. Time after time after time after time, Democrats, through the efforts of the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Mr. Van Hollen, have offered a sequester alternative. And time after time after time after time, the Republican majority has blocked this amendment from being debated and voted on the House floor.

    [[Page H988]] Yet the Republicans in Congress have yet to put forth a sequester alternative. Of course they will say that they have passed two different proposals, but that was last Congress. As many of my friends on the other side of the aisle know so well, legislation dies at the end of each Congress. Every 2 years, Congress repopulates and every bill must start over. There is no carryover from one Congress to the next. We all learned that in the most basic political science class, Politics 101. So this claim that we did something last Congress is irrelevant to addressing the sequester that the Republicans let take effect last week.

    And let's remember the context of those two bills the House Republicans are so proud of. They were the result of, once again, the Republican leadership walking away from difficult bipartisan negotiations just at the moment when a deal seemed to be within reach. They both are completely partisan bills, and they both were dead on arrival in the Senate. So they were not genuine efforts to solve problems. They were all for show. They were simply political theater.

    On the other hand, at the end of the last Congress, the House Republican leadership had a bipartisan, bicameral negotiated omnibus appropriations bill that would have taken us through fiscal year 2013, the result of hundreds of hours of careful bipartisan negotiation. But the House Republicans would not let that bill come to the floor for approval, a bill that would have passed the Senate and gone straight to the President's desk for signature.

    Instead, they chose to waste the House's time on its two highly touted, highly partisan budget bills that went nowhere. But as I said, Mr. Speaker, that was the last Congress, and we must now start all over to address the sequester and provide funding for the remainder of this fiscal year.

    Frankly, I don't know what the Republicans in the House are scared of. Speaker Boehner seems to have moved past the Hastert rule, which is a silly notion that the bill must only pass if it has the majority of the majority, and he has replaced it with selective bipartisanship. That's right, Speaker Boehner clearly believes that the House should operate under a process of selective bipartisanship.

    This means he turns to Democrats when he needs the votes to pass important bills, like he did for VAWA, the fiscal cliff, and Hurricane Sandy relief, when only 49 Republicans, only 49 Republicans out of 232 voted to help our fellow citizens on the east coast who were devastated by that storm. The Speaker should do the same thing with the sequester and allow the House to debate and to vote on the Van Hollen amendment.

    Finally, Mr. Speaker, this is part of a broader Republican economic plan that is, to put it mildly, extremely disappointing.

    First, Republicans brought us to the brink of economic mayhem with the fiscal cliff. At the last minute, the Senate swooped in to save the day with leadership and help from the administration. Then House Republicans allowed the sequester to take effect, once again playing Russian roulette with our economy. Now we are going to consider this hybrid CR that just doesn't pass muster, despite the best efforts of the appropriators.

    No one--no one--wants a government shutdown, and we all know that some kind of bill funding the Federal Government through the end of the fiscal year will pass before March 27. The real fights are going to come in the next few weeks and months when the Republicans outline their budget priorities with the new Ryan budget and when the debt limit, once again, needs to be raised.

    What is clear is that the Republicans are hell-bent on cutting spending just for its own sake, no matter how mindless or senseless. We know that the economy is slowly rebounding, and we also know that these cuts in government spending--Federal, State, and local--are taking their toll on the economy. Fourth-quarter growth last year was reduced only because of reduced government spending--the cuts to cops, the cuts to firefighters, the cuts to teachers, and other workers--when that showed up in that economic report.

    Now we are going to see a Republican budget that supposedly eliminates the deficit in 10 years. Call it the Ryan budget on steroids. It is going to cut Medicare, food stamps, and nearly every nondefense discretionary program funded by the Federal Government; and during the debt ceiling debate, we will see another attempt to arbitrarily cut these programs.

    Mr. Speaker, this is not a responsible way to govern. The continuing resolution before us today is just one more example of how the House Republicans are leading with their heads in the sand. Instead of working to jump-start our economy, instead of engaging in true bipartisan negotiations, House Republicans continue to push on with misguided and ill-conceived budget cuts that do harm, but no good.

    Like I said, this is a disappointing bill and a disappointing effort. We should be considering an omnibus appropriations bill. We should work to replace the sequester. We should be thinking long-term about economic recovery. We should be putting country ahead of political party. Instead, once again, we are playing games with our economy. This is no way to run a government.

    I reserve the balance of my time.

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