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Juan V.
Democrat CA 51

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  • Providing for the Expenses of Certain Committees of the House of Representatives in the 113Th Congress

    by Representative Juan Vargas

    Posted on 2013-03-19

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    VARGAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to House Resolution 115 and yield myself such time as I may consume.



    Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 115 represents the next step in a slow march towards making House committees incapable of conducting the oversight with which they are charged and further limiting the power of this equal branch of government.

    Mr. Speaker, with these cuts, we are not talking about the loss of new equipment, the next computer, or printer. No. With these cuts, we are talking about gutting our capacity to do the jobs we were sent here to do by the American people. The work product of our committees is only as good as the talented men and women that we are able to employ. And they are very able.

    The House is lucky to have such a well-seasoned and skilled group of individuals carrying out the people's business. In fact, this is one of the things we always agree on--the quality of the people that work in these committees. It is at the highest level. But for how long? If this resolution passes, there will be a 21.3 percent reduction in funding for committees since the 111th Congress. More appalling is the 26 percent cut the Judiciary Committee will sustain during the same time, particularly as they move forward to address comprehensive immigration reform that we all seem to agree on now and the initiatives to reduce gun violence.

    As the chairman of the Rules Committee stated last week when he testified before our committee, ``We do not have something we can cut or manage on a moving forward basis. We have by and large taken ourselves down to the bare bones.'' Now we're down to the bare bones. Repeatedly, we heard from committee chairs that the only thing they have left to cut are personnel expenses.

    The Veterans' Affairs chairman stated, ``We have no choice but to find these savings in our personnel budget.'' And the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs said: We want to make certain that those individuals who will make a sacrifice and come up here and work for a reduced wage will stay with us. There is a question of how long, deeply, we can cut.

    Of course there is a question, and I think the question is before us.

    The chairs and ranking members of the House have been responsible stewards--we have heard that already--and they have been. And they have achieved incredible savings. But this resolution's lack of funding also hurts our ability to find governmentwide cost savings.

    In fact, it does just the opposite. The committees conduct oversight over billions and billions of dollars of Federal spending and have found savings within their respective agencies. However, without high quality people that have the institutional knowledge and expertise, they will sacrifice the ability to perform strong, responsible oversight.

    The chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee illustrated this best when testifying about the savings his auditors were able to provide the government. He stated: Cutting back for us is, in fact, an opportunity to lose the very auditors that will [[Page H1593]] guarantee you multiple savings. We would like to work with the committee to allow us and other committees to find similar savings. But we must ask that you not allow the audit committee to be reduced when, in fact, we can return you more than 1,000 times our budget.

    One thousand times. In Mark, it is only 100 times. Fourfold in other parts of the Bible. Here is 1,000 times.

    Mr. Speaker, Members on both sides of the aisle have embraced the idea of doing more with less. We have all grappled with the idea of not filling empty positions, denying requests for travel and forgoing necessary technology upgrades in our offices. But there is a point where additional cuts undermine our ability to do our jobs effectively.

    Based upon the testimony that we have received during our committee funding hearings, I believe that there is a bipartisan agreement that this funding resolution could represent that breaking point. In the end, the American people will be the ultimate victims.

    I urge my colleagues to defeat this resolution. I urge a ``no'' vote, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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