Chairman Rogers Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 933
Mar 6 -
Mr. Speaker, I rise to present H.R. 933, the Department of Defense and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations, and Full-Year Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2013.
Our nation faces a three-pronged threat to its finances as we deal with sequestration, the debt ceiling, and, most immediately, a looming government shutdown. This bill takes the risk of a government shutdown off the table – funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, while helping maintain our national security, and providing our troops and veterans with consistent, adequate funding.
First and foremost, this bill contains fiscal year 2013 Appropriations bills for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. These bills passed the House with broad support last year, have been negotiated on a bipartisan basis by the House and the Senate, and do not add a cent to the overall top line of the CR.
Last week, I had the opportunity to ask the Joint Chiefs of our Military if they supported this CR package, and the answer was a whole-hearted YES. This legislation addresses severe funding constraints that would put our national security in dire straits. Military hospitals would not be built, veterans would not be cared for adequately, and our readiness would be seriously jeopardized.
With sequestration now in effect, the bill allows the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has. The bill provides $518 billion, the same topline level as last year. Within this top line, accounts have to be reprioritized to ensure adequate investment in critical programs – such as operation and maintenance – while finding savings in lower-priority areas. The legislation right-sizes spending that would otherwise have been wasted. For instance, we eliminate funding for unneeded spare parts, and save funding from outdated programs and projects related to operations in Iraq.
In addition, the bill provides $71.9 billion in discretionary funding for military construction and veterans affairs to ensure that our veterans get the care they have earned for their service, and that the quality of life in our military is continued. This includes an increase of about $2.5 billion in Veterans funding, offset by savings in military construction.
The remainder of the bill funds the rest of the federal government until the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Nearly all funding will remain consistent with current levels, except for the very few exceptions that are needed to prevent catastrophic changes to government programs or to ensure good government. These include provisions allowing critical law enforcement entities to maintain current staffing levels, additional funding for embassy security and critical weather satellite launches, and an extension of the current pay freeze for federal employees – including Members of Congress. We’ve also required every single federal agency to provide spending plans to Congress to ensure transparency and strong oversight of taxpayer dollars.
Nearly all of the funding in this bill is subject to the President’s sequestration, bringing the grand total for discretionary spending to around $984 billion. This bill is designed to help with the damage caused by continually putting off the regular annual appropriations bills – but it does not solve the many serious problems caused by these automatic spending cuts.
A full-year Continuing Resolution is not the way this Congress should be appropriating taxpayer dollars. Each year, we should assess the needs and excesses of our government, and make decisions accordingly in the regular Appropriations process. We must return to regular order, pass individual spending bills on time, and fulfill our Constitutional duty to fund government programs wisely and effectively.
However, in light of the circumstances we face, we must make a good-faith effort to provide limited, but fair and adequate funding for vital government programs and services through the end of this fiscal year. It’s up to Congress to make these decisions to set the course for our financial future. We must act now to make the most of this difficult situation – and that starts with avoiding a government shutdown on March 27th, and providing for our national defense and veterans.
This CR package is the right thing to do, and it’s the right time to do it.
I urge my colleagues to show our nation that we can get our work done, and support this bill.