Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today on H.J.Res 59, the Bipartisan Budget Act, and the need for a long-term fiscal agreement. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“First of all, let me say that America is advantaged by having two people who work on the Budget Committee who have great intellect, great integrity, and care about America: Mr. Ryan from Wisconsin and Mr. Van Hollen from Maryland. The American public sometimes is not sure that it has the kind of quality, that if they were here sitting in the Budget Committee or on the Floor listening to these two gentlemen, who have disagreements, but who represent their positions well.
“Mr. Speaker, I voted for every budget compromise that has been passed over the past three years, without fail. The results, however, invariably have been an unremitting undermining of our efforts to reach a balanced fiscal policy and to invest in that which will secure our future: the economy, education, infrastructure, national security and innovation. And while each of those bills was preferable to default on our debt or the shutting down of our government, they have been simply stopgap measures that have not prevented continuing lurches from Congressionally-created and all too frequent fiscal crises and shutdown.
“The headlines regarding this agreement put it in perspective. An op-ed in the New York Times said, ‘Congress avoids reality again.’ The Wall Street Journal calls it ‘the least bad budget deal.’ And while a USA Today headline says ‘Minimalist Budget Deal Beats Another Shutdown,’ the editorial concludes with this, however: ‘Unless we come to grips with the fiscal issue, we will be inflicting a huge financial burden on our children.’ I agree.
“The deal before us today does not deal with the fundamental issue of long-term fiscal stability. My friend, Mr. Ryan, says he wants to do that. My friend, Mr. Van Hollen, says he wants to do that. I think Senator Murray wants to do that. We have not done that.
“We have not dealt with the underlying issues that prevent us from being [on] a fiscally sustainable path. It does not replace the full sequester, which Chairman Hal Rogers, who I know has spoken in favor of this agreement, has correctly described as ‘ill-advised’ and ‘unrealistic.’
“I said on this Floor when we considered the gentleman's budget that if there were no Democrats in the House of Representatives, they could not implement that budget. I believe that. I believe it because the figures were not related to the priorities or vision or that which we needed to accomplish as a country, but on a number – 967 [billion]. That's an opinion shared by all of the Republican Appropriations Subcommittee Chairmen [who] wrote a letter to that effect.
“Nor critically does this agreement deal with the issue of the debt limit, which will confront us shortly. And which has historically, over the last three years, been an inflection point to further reduce not only discretionary spending on both sides, mainly on the non-defense side, but also to reach once again into the pockets of federal employees.
“Now, I'm someone who represents 62,000 federal employees, and I recommended zero COLAs the first two years we did zero COLAs. Why? The economy was in trouble and it was necessary for federal employees, like everybody else, to participate.
“If we fail to resolve this issue now, it will simply plunge us into another manufactured crisis, which will quickly undermine the stability and confidence that some believe this agreement is bringing. The fact that this agreement deals temporarily with preventing a cut in Medicare's physician reimbursement rate is welcome, but as with our fiscal sustainability, it needs to be dealt with on a permanent basis. I'm pleased that the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee today marked up legislation to do so.
“However, it is unconscionable that the budget deal before us today does not extend unemployment insurance, which helps those who are most at risk in our society, and if we do not help them, the economy will suffer and 200,000 jobs are predicted to be lost. On December 28, 1.3 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance if we do not act, and they will be joined by an additional 3.5 million Americans in 2014. The House should not leave town without ensuring that individuals looking for work have the safety net of unemployment insurance.
“Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m disappointed this budget deal turns once again to middle class workers. I'll submit the balance of my statement.
“Let me close with this: this agreement is better than the alternative, but it misses a huge opportunity to do what the American people expect us to do, and that is put this country on a fiscally sustainable path. And I would urge my friend from Wisconsin and I would urge my friend from Maryland, my colleague: summon up the courage, much of which you've already shown, to help us put this country on a fiscally sustainable path and, yes, make tough decisions. And I will join with the gentleman from Wisconsin and the gentleman from Maryland in helping us to get the votes for those tough decisions that are necessary. But it needs to be a balanced deal. I yield back the balance of my time.”