July 17, 2009
Ranking Member Jerry Lewis Full Committee Statement
Mark Up of the FY 2010 Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Bill
July 17, 2009
Mr. Chairman and colleagues, I do plan to be brief for we likely have a full day ahead of us with the consideration of these two very important bills.
First, let me recognize the fine work of both Mr. Olver and his ranking member, Mr. Latham, in preparing the THUD Appropriations bill before us, as well as our full committee chairman, Mr. Obey and his ranking member, Mr. Tiahrt, in preparing the Labor-HHS bill.
As the Members have probably noticed, a trend has emerged where bills are written at the subcommittee level in a largely bipartisan fashion. If there is apprehension expressed by Republican Members, it has been the common concern that our Appropriations bill are spending too much. Still, each of the subcommittee markups I’ve attended has been marked by a great deal of collegiality. This level of comity is a good thing for both the Committee and the House and it ought to be encouraged.
Unfortunately, that spirit of bipartisanship rarely extends itself to the full committee hearing room or the House floor. Last week’s full committee markup provides a case-in-point. Our Chairman is known for encouraging our Members to be on time. And yet, last week our 7:00 p.m. markup was delayed by more than 45 minutes as Democrat Members of the Committee were corralled into a separate meeting and essentially told to toe the line.
The result of that pre-markup meeting, like so many others that preceded it this year, was striking and sad. One more time we had a full committee markup where nearly every recorded amendment vote—regardless of the merit of the issue at hand—reflected a partisan divide that has now come to define this Committee. Even the schedule today has been the result of political maneuvering, with a contentious bill being placed at the very end of a long and arduous week, when perhaps the Chairman feels Members may be worn down enough to limit their participation in this process.
Well, I think the Chairman and my colleagues will find that we are not going to stand idly by while this committee continues to spend, spend, spend without regard for the taxpayer or our nation’s financial crisis.
It is NOT my intention to draw out this Committee meeting longer than necessary. However, given the closed rule process by which Appropriations bills this year have been considered on the House Floor, this Committee is now the only place Members on BOTH sides of the aisle can have their concerns heard. Therefore it IS my intention to let our Members exercise their right to fully represent their constituents through amendments to these two bills.
I didn’t come this morning to talk only process, for the Members on both sides know how very strongly I feel about the highly partisan process that now governs the consideration of our spending bills. However, I did want to share a couple of noteworthy conclusions drawn from the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “Long-Term Budget Outlook” study.
First, the current recession has proven how important it is to get—and keep—America's economy on track. The United States is in a period of high unemployment, negative economic growth, and trillion-dollar deficits. Adding to our trillion-dollar deficits—as we are doing with these spending bills—will not put America's economy on a sustainable path. Just the opposite is true.
Nor will these deficits be tolerated by the public—our constituents—as rising deficits will lead to rising interest rates and put even greater pressure on small business, working families, and our overall economy.
Second, the Obama Administration and the majority leadership are now poised to make the budget situation far worse with proposals for new expensive federal programs such as national health care. But let us not forget that the government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
While many policy goals may seem important in isolation, they must still be paid for in the broader context of the entire budget. This is yet one more reason why Congress must confront America's budget situation openly and honestly before passing policies that would make this dire situation even worse.
The CBO’s recent study ought to be required reading for every American. It’s disingenuous at best and economically debilitating at worst, for this Committee and this Congress to spend as if there is no tomorrow while claiming to care about fiscal responsibility.
In closing, the bills under consideration by the full committee today represent the 10th and 11th of our 12 annual spending bills. There is absolutely no reason why these remaining bills cannot be considered on the House floor under an open rule.
I would remind our colleagues that in 2005, each and every Appropriations bill was considered under an open rule and the House completed them by June 30th. We could complete our work far more effectively if we returned to this way of doing business. I yield back.