Require Presidential Leadership and No Deficit Actby Representative Chris Van Hollen
Posted on 2013-02-05
VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may
I just have to say to my colleagues that, in looking at this bill, it represents exactly what the American people hate most about this body and this Congress. It's a political gimmick that does absolutely nothing to help create jobs. It does nothing to help boost economic growth. If you read the bill, it is another finger-pointing exercise: blaming the President for the late submission of the 2014 budget and demanding not that the President submit a budget--the President is going to submit a budget--but that he submit it in a form dictated by House Republicans rather than dictated by current law.
Now, our Republican colleagues know very well why the President's 2014 budget is late. It's late because we had a big debate in this country over how to avoid the fiscal cliff, and it wasn't until January 2 that this House and the Senate were able to resolve that issue. If we'd gone over the fiscal cliff, it would have created huge economic problems. It would have created a huge contraction. It would have created a huge loss of jobs.
Now, even though a majority of Republican Senators voted for the agreement to prevent us from going over that fiscal cliff, our House Republican colleagues argued against it and against it, and at the end of the day, they were prepared to let the economy go over that cliff in order to protect tax breaks for very wealthy people. A great majority of our Republican colleagues here in the House voted against that fiscal agreement, but we got it done despite that fact. As a result, the economy has continued to move. Now we need to work to make it move faster, but this bill does absolutely nothing to help do that. That's why the budget is a little late, because most Americans know that, unless you know both what your expenditures are going to be and your revenues, you can't submit a budget, and we didn't know until January 2 what the revenue number would be going forward.
By the way, Mr. Chairman, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee have also been delayed in presenting their backgrounds, which have just come out today but were delayed from when they had planned to do it, and it was because of that very reason.
What's really a shame is that here we are on the floor of the House, debating this gimmick, when we should be doing things to help the economy and help grow jobs. On March 1, less than 1 month from today, we're going to see these automatic across-the-board, meat-ax cuts take place to both defense and non-defense. Now, those across-the-board cuts are going to do great damage to jobs and the economy.
You don't have to take my word for it. Here are the words of the Republican House leader, Mr. Cantor, just a few months ago: ``Under the sequester, unemployment would soar from its current level up to 9 percent, setting back any progress the economy has made.'' According to a study which he referred to, ``The jobs of more than 200,000 Virginians in my home State are on the line.'' And that's just jobs in Virginia. He was just talking about jobs lost from the defense cuts. If we don't act to replace the sequester, you're going to see jobs lost around the country. In fact, we're already seeing what would happen from even the threat of the sequester, because, in the last quarter, we saw the economy slowing. Many analysts have said it's because of the fear of these across-the-board cuts--and not just many analysts. The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. McKeon, said this in referring to the last quarter economic report: ``This is just the first indicator of the extraordinary economic damage defense cuts will do.'' Mr. McKeon is right. So why are we spending our time today on a bill that doesn't address that at all? We have not in this Congress, the 113th Congress, had any debate on any measure to replace the sequester--our Republican colleagues haven't brought that to the floor--but it gets worse. Even though our Republican colleagues haven't brought their proposal to the floor of this House to replace the sequester in this Congress, we presented an alternative to the Rules Committee to replace the sequester and to do it in a balanced way, and we were denied an opportunity to have an up- or-down vote here in this Chamber today on that proposal to replace the sequester for the remainder of this fiscal year so that we would avoid those across-the-board, meat-ax cuts and avoid the job losses that both Mr. Cantor and Mr. McKeon talked about.
We had a proposal to avoid all that--not even a vote today--and we proposed to do it in a balanced way, Mr. Chairman: to make some cuts to some of the big agriculture subsidies' direct payments, also with some revenue by closing taxpayer breaks for the big oil companies. Our Republican colleagues continue to stick to the position that they won't close one special interest tax break for the purpose of reducing the deficit, not one. They conceded in the last election that very wealthy individuals benefit from those tax breaks disproportionately, but they don't want to eliminate one of them for the purpose of reducing the deficit in a balanced way, combined with additional spending cuts, which is what our substitute amendment would do. It's important for the people to know that we didn't have a chance to vote on it.
So, Mr. Chairman, it's a sad reflection on this body that we are here debating a meaningless political action and ignoring the real work of the American people in this country to deal with the sequester in a balanced way and to prevent the job losses which Republican Members of this Congress have themselves said are on the horizon if we don't take that action.
I reserve the balance of my time.