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Chris V.
Democrat MD 8

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  • Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.J. Res. 59, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014

    by Representative Chris Van Hollen

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    VAN HOLLEN. I thank my friend, Ms. Slaughter.

    Mr. Speaker, I do believe that the budget agreement that was reached was a small but positive step forward, and I plan to talk about that a little later today; but what I want to talk about right now is the abuse of process that has taken place in the last 8 hours and the changing of the terms of that agreement.

    During that agreement, the Democrats from the House and others put forward a proposal that said, as we deal with the budget issues, we should also deal with what we call the doc fix, making sure that doctors are fully reimbursed to help Medicare patients, but that we should also help folks who are about to lose their unemployment compensation. That is what we said, and we put it on paper and offered it. We said, if we do a doc fix for 3 months, we should do a UI extension for 3 months, and if we do a doc fix for a year, we should deal with the UI issue for a year; but that was not part of the budget negotiation even though we wanted it to be.

    [[Page H7707]] Chairman Ryan acknowledged that yesterday as did Senator Murray. They said we wouldn't deal with either of those two issues--the doc fix or the UI--as part of the budget agreement but that we would deal with them outside of that agreement. Yet the ink was barely dry, Mr. Speaker, on that agreement before the House Republicans and the Speaker of the House put forward a rule that injected the doc fix, which we support, into the budget agreement, so it is all going to be one whole thing.

    They did that to take care of a real issue of the doc fix, but what did they leave out? They left out an extension of unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans who are going to lose that important support 3 days after Christmas. They left that out of that last-minute procedure.

    Now, as Mr. Levin said, he and I went to the Rules Committee last night and said, All right. If we are going to fix the SGR issue, let's deal with the unemployment compensation issue, and we presented an amendment. I have it in my hand--3 months. We said we would pay for it, and we paid for it, Mr. Woodall, in a way that has been agreed to on a bipartisan basis, which is in the ag bill negotiations, in the farm bill negotiations. We have already agreed on a bipartisan and on a bicameral basis to get rid of these excessive direct payments-- subsidies--that go to agribusiness. We had agreed on that already. As of now, we have agreed on it. Let's use $6 billion of that savings to make sure that 1.3 million Americans aren't left out in the cold.

    So I would say to my friend Mr. Woodall: If you want to make this a bipartisan agreement, all you have to do is vote for it; and if you want to vote for it, you have got to give this House an opportunity to vote for it. Yet, while we are going to get a chance to vote on the doc fix and on the budget agreement, the Rules Committee and the Speaker of the House have told the American people you won't allow a vote to help 1.3 million Americans who are going to be left out in the cold. It is not just them and their struggling families, but the Congressional Budget Office that tells us that their surrounding communities are going to be hurt, too.

    Why? They won't be able to make the rent payments. They won't be able to go out to the local stores around Christmastime and the holiday season to buy gifts. That hurts local merchants, small businesses. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office tells us that we will have 200,000 fewer of those jobs--private sector jobs--as a result of not extending unemployment insurance.

    So, Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely unconscionable and shameful, after we have reached an agreement in which we had wanted to include a fixed SGR and UI in the agreement but it was decided not to, that we would have this last-minute thing parachuted on and would leave the 1.3 million Americans out in the cold. That is shameful. You should allow a vote, and if you vote against the previous question, we will have a chance to do our job and vote on that.

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