Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning urging the budget conference committee to reach agreement on a balanced and bipartisan budget. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, we have ten days left in this session, this year's session, according to the schedule. We're supposed to adjourn on December 13 – somewhat ironically, Friday the 13th – and yet, Mr. Speaker, we see time is running out, and we're not addressing the critical issue and the critical responsibility of funding the government, of applying resources to our priorities.
“Time is running out, Mr. Speaker, for budget conferees to send us legislation so we can avoid another government shutdown in January. A budget conference agreement will require compromise from both sides, a step that Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and many of his colleagues seem unprepared to take.
“Mr. Speaker, it has been my premise that the reason we did not go to conference for the last seven months, notwithstanding the fact that the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget, is that Chairman Ryan knows there is no compromise that he could reach – that he could bring back and have the support of his colleagues on the Republican side, Mr. Speaker. And as a result, we have no compromise. As a result, we have no product to consider.
“This is an extremely disappointing position, Mr. Speaker, because it's clear that the Ryan budget is not a viable blueprint for governing. It was not when we passed it, and it is not now. It was a pretense of fiscal responsibility without any of the substance of fiscal reality or courage. That fact was made evident this summer as Republicans could only pass funding bills for defense and veterans’ programs, pulling their transportation funding bill and not even bringing the other appropriation bills to the Floor.
“Just a few days ago, actually yesterday, all twelve of the Republican subcommittee chairs of the Appropriation Committee sent a letter to Paul Ryan, Chris Van Hollen, Patty Murray – Senator Murray – and Senator Sessions and said we need to have a budget, we need to have a compromise agreement, and we need to have a sequester number eliminated and a rational number replacing it, a number that can work for America. In fact, they said, if you don't do it we're going to have to have a meat ax - their verbiage, not mine, Mr. Speaker - a meat ax not only the domestic side of the budget – education, health care, environment, law enforcement – but also on the national security side of the budget.
“We all know how the budget really achieves balance, that was offered by Mr. Ryan: severe cuts in the same vein as the irrational sequester that targeted the most vulnerable Americans and place our economic recovery in jeopardy. Somewhat ironic that on the front page of The Washington Post today we see where Mr. Ryan is not focused on the budget, he's focused on the poor. That is a proper focus, and this Congress ought to be focused on that, but it is interesting that the Ryan budget does exactly the opposite of what we need to do to make sure that the poor are reduced in number and the middle class are expanded in number.
“That's why, in my view, Mr. Speaker, regarding this budget, so many of his own party could not support appropriation bills within the framework of the Ryan budget. That's why the bills were not brought to the Floor.
“Already some Republicans are admitting that only a balanced approach will enable us to achieve the level of deficit reduction we need. And contrary to Mr. Ryan's view, this means that revenues – that hated word – revenues must be on the table. Representative Tom Cole, the former Chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee, of Oklahoma, is one of them, telling reporters on October 25 that, and I quote Mr. Cole: ‘I think both sides would like to deal with the sequester, and we're willing to put more revenue on the table to do that.’
“Mr. Cole was one of the signers of that letter to which I referred, saying let's replace the meat ax represented by the sequester. Unfortunately, Chairman Ryan continues to rule out any talk of revenues, which are the key to any meaningful compromise that will replace the sequester.
“Now, Mr. Speaker, as you probably know, and as I think my Republican colleagues know, I have said now and I've said in the past, we must also deal with entitlements. We need a balanced plan, not an unbalanced plan. But without a balanced plan, the sequester will remain in place and will hurt America.
“Instead of just saying what he is against, it's time for Mr. Ryan and Republicans to show a readiness to compromise to achieve results for the American people. Mr. Ryan is the Chairman of the Conference Committee, yet he has to this date not put on the table what chairmen always do, the Chairman's mark, or Chairman suggestion, or Chairman's proposal.
“Democrats have been clear that we are willing to compromise and are ready to do what it takes to achieve a balanced and bipartisan deal on the budget. This was evident when we voted unanimously, alongside 87 Republicans, to end the government shutdown, even when it meant supporting a CR - a continuing resolution, appropriation bill for government – at a level we believed was too low. But we understood compromise was necessary, and so we voted, all of us. All 198 Democrats voted to open up the government and to pay America's bills, while 147 Republicans, approximately 62% of the Republicans, voted to keep government shut down and to not pay America's bills.
“I was encouraged to read the letter sent yesterday, as I said, by Chairman Rogers and the appropriations subcommittee chairs, making clear how important it is for conferees to send us a budget by Thanksgiving – that would be this Friday, because we're not going to be here next week – rather than risk another painful government shutdown and the continuation of the irrational sequester this coming year.
“Many Republicans now agree with Democrats that the sequester is unworkable. Who said so? Mr. Ryan says he doesn't like the sequester. Mr. Cantor, the Majority Leader, says he doesn't like the sequester. And Hal Rogers has said it is unworkable and inadvisable. The budget conference has a larger mission than simply to rearrange the sequester's severe cuts. This is an opportunity to replace the sequester with a sensible approach that permits Congress to look strategically at our budget priorities and our long-term fiscal and economic goals. If we do so, in my view, it will be the most important stimulus of our economy, job-creating action that this Congress could take.
“Mr. Speaker, I hope that Chairman Ryan will set his flawed budget aside and instead embrace the approach that many of his Republican colleagues are already recognizing is the only realistic path toward a compromise by this Committee. To do so could usher in an historic agreement to achieve real fiscal responsibility for America for years to come. I hope Mr. Ryan's leadership will result in that objective.”