September 21, 2011
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the floor, the continuing appropriations resolution to keep the federal government operating until November 18, 2011. For procedural reasons, this is being done as an amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2608 to speed passage through the Senate, at their request. But in substance, this is the same as the Continuing Resolution, H.J. Res. 79, that I introduced on September 14. This CR will give Congress the time needed to complete Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations legislation and adequately funds vital government programs and services while working to put federal spending on a more sustainable course. Just as significantly, this bill provides desperately-needed funding for disaster recovery and relief.
"I would have preferred to complete the Appropriations process in regular order, and I believe the House made great strides in doing so. The Appropriations Committee moved on 11 of the 12 annual Appropriations bills, and six bills have cleared the House. But we still need time to collaborate with the Senate in order to complete this work, and a short-term bill will allow us to do so. As we saw last year and into the spring, the threat of a government shutdown causes dangerous economic instability, and at this precarious time, we need to bolster the American public’s confidence that their representatives in Washington are working for them – and not let politics come before people.
"The CR continues government operations at a rate of $1.043 trillion – the total amount agreed to by the Congress and the White House in the Budget Control Act. It is clean of most policy provisions to ensure swift passage, but we’ve provided small changes for safety, security and continuity of essential programs. For instance, we’ve extended Federal Flood Insurance availability and the availability of defense survival equipment for coalition efforts abroad.
"In addition, this CR will help meet the needs of the thousands of families, businesses and communities burdened by recent natural disasters. By providing an immediate $1 billion in emergency 2011 funding now, as well as an additional $2.65 billion for the next year, we are helping our citizens get back on their feet. The $776 million in this bill for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund – which is $276 million more than the President or the Senate proposed – is time-sensitive and critical. The DRF is now below $250 million, and is running out of money fast. Unless we provide additional funding within a matter of days, the DRF will soon be empty, leaving millions of people in the lurch.
"The $1 billion in emergency funding for fiscal year 2011 has been offset by a cut to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, which has more than $4 billion in unspent funds in the pipeline. Now is the time to use these idle dollars for true and immediate purposes – aiding our fellow citizens in their times of greatest needs as they cope with the aftermath of wildfires, tornados, earthquakes and hurricanes.
"Now, the notion of offsetting emergency spending has gotten a lot of attention as of late. Let me be VERY clear: Offsetting emergency spending is not a unique practice. In fact, over the last ten years, this body has used offsets in at least 15 of 30 emergency supplemental spending bills. In total, Congress has passed over $60 billion in emergency offsets since 2001 – most of which had large support on both sides of the aisle, including the support of our former Speaker Pelosi.
"The loan program used as an offset in this bill has had excess funds for years, and taking the money will not negatively affect the program. All entities in final loan stages will still get the funding they’ve worked for. Furthermore, this offset is identical to the one already passed by the House in June as part of the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.
"In addition, the Committee will continue to consider additional disaster funding over the next few weeks as we bring the fiscal year 2012 Appropriations process to a close – including reviewing estimates that are still coming in from recent disasters – so that families and communities can get the assistance they need while making sure that every dollar is well-spent. The Budget Control Act – which both houses in Congress and the White House agreed to – provides for 2012 disaster funding in this capacity.
"But with respect to this Continuing Resolution, at this time, we do not have all the necessary information on the cost of recent disasters, nor the time to work out a final, comprehensive agreement with the White House and the Senate. Therefore, we must meet the most immediate need and provide additional funding now for FEMA to keep the program going for the next several months. That is what this Continuing Resolution does and why we – the House and Senate – must pass this bill immediately.
"This CR lives up to the guidelines set in the Budget Control Act, as well as our commitment to responsible and reduced levels of spending. We can right our fiscal ship while still supporting essential government programs, services and disaster aid. With this in mind, it is my intention that Congress complete the fiscal year 2012 Appropriations work without any further delay – and the sooner we pass this CR, the sooner we can focus our attention on long-term Appropriations legislation.
"I urge my colleagues in both chambers to support this bill so we can send it to the President as soon as possible."