September 24, 2009
Opening Statement of Jerry Lewis
FY 10 Legislative Branch Conference Report
I’m probably not the only elected official in the room surprised by the fact that the majority party is putting the budget for the legislative branch ahead of the budget for our homeland security, our veterans, or our national defense.
To say the least, this is a most unusual precedent. The bipartisan staff of the Homeland Security subcommittee has been working day and night and weekends since August preparing its conference report. My understanding is that the Homeland Security conference report is ready to go.
And yet, even as our law enforcement officials investigate a potential terrorist threat in New York City and Denver, the budget for protecting our homeland is being put on a shelf. How can this Congress possibly justify providing funds for its own use and give less priority to protecting our homeland? I don’t get it.
The decisions our Committee makes reflect the priorities of the House congressional leadership. In this case, to put congressional staff salaries ahead of medical care for Veterans, ahead of funding for law enforcement and homeland security, ahead of funding for our troops—is a signal to me that this Congress has its priorities out of order.
It’s no secret that House Members of both parties have been denied the opportunity to offer amendments during floor consideration of each and every appropriations bill this year. A closed rule on every spending bill has kept Members locked out of the legislative process—until now. Having also been denied the opportunity to offer amendments during the so-called “Conference” on the Stimulus package earlier this year, my colleagues and I do intend to offer several important amendments to the Conference Report before us today. As shocking as it may be to our Senate colleagues, this may be the first opportunity House Members of both parties have had to actually offer amendments to any appropriations bill this year.
It’s also my understanding that our discussion today may not be limited to the Legislative Branch bill but may also focus on funding the federal government under a Continuing Resolution through October.
This has got to be one of the most cynical legislative maneuvers I’ve ever seen. Those Members and Senators who are concerned about approving their own budget before approving budgets for our veterans, our troops, or the homeland are left with few options. They will be faced with the Hobson’s choice of either approving their own budget or shutting down the government. Nothing could be more cynical.
This is the first time the Members have come together to discuss this package. While staff has worked hard to prepare the Leg Branch package, Members have a responsibility to ask questions and offer ideas to improve the bill before us.