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March 4, 2011

House Legislative Program

For the Week of March 7-11.

(Mr. HOYER asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute.)

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I yield to my friend, the majority leader, to ask about the schedule for the coming week.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the Democratic whip, the gentleman from Maryland, for yielding.

Mr. Speaker,

  • on Tuesday the House will meet at 2 p.m. for morning hour and 4 p.m. for legislative business.
  • On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10 a.m. for legislative business, and recess immediately. The House will reconvene at approximately 11 a.m. for the purpose of receiving, in a joint meeting with the Senate, the Honorable Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia.
  • On Thursday, the House will meet at 10 a.m. for morning hour and noon for legislative business.
  • On Friday, the House will meet at 9 a.m. for legislative business, with last votes expected by 3 p.m.

The House will consider a few bills under suspension of the rules on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, which will be announced by the close of business tomorrow.

The House will also consider two bills that were marked up by the Financial Services Committee today:

  • H.R. 836, the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program Termination Act, and
  • H.R. 830, the FHA Refinance Program Termination Act.

These bills will eliminate two ineffective mandatory programs that, without congressional action, will continue spending on autopilot.

The House has already had a robust debate on the discretionary side of Federal spending, Mr. Speaker, and will continue to do so, but it's time we turn our attention also to the mandatory side of government spending. I expect further debate on mandatory spending throughout the month of March.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that information. He mentions that we will be considering some bills under suspension, as is normal, and two bills, H.R. 836 and H.R. 830, presumably under a rule.

I ask the gentleman, will those be open rules? And before I yield to him for his response, I want to say that I want to congratulate the gentleman on

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the process that we considered H.R. 1. While those of us on this side did not ultimately support H.R. 1, I know that the Speaker and the leader are both pleased with the openness and transparency of the process. There was a preprinting requirement, of course, so it wasn't a totally open rule in that sense. But does the gentleman expect there to be open rules on H.R. 836 and H.R. 830?

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman. And to the gentleman's specific question about next week, I would respond to the gentleman that we are working with the Rules Committee and its chairman, Chairman Dreier, to be able to announce an open process for the consideration of next week's bills.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman. Can I inquire is an open process, is that somewhat of a nuance of an open rule?

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I think the gentleman also indicated in his remarks the preprinting requirement in the CR of H.R. 1 provided for it to be a modified rule. And it is in that spirit that I think the Speaker initially began this session, that we are committed to an open process, to have the ventilation of ideas, to have the participation of as many Members as possible in debate of measures coming to the floor. We continue to want to go in that direction, as we have thus far.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman. Let me say to the gentleman in terms of a constructive discussion that we might have, and I happen to believe that the preprinting requirement is a positive requirement in that it gives notice to people. One of the things, as we know, that it requires, however, is the printing of amendments prior to the time you know the status of the bill at the time you might offer the amendment. I suggest that perhaps we have discussions about how to take into consideration the process where you preprint an amendment, prior to getting to your amendment something is changed by a previous amendment that might require a modification of your amendment in terms of an understanding on both sides that perhaps we would accommodate, either by unanimous consent or some other process, that change.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman for raising the point that did come up during the debate of H.R. 1. I would say back to the gentleman that it is probably a very good discussion to take place within the context of the Rules Committee. And we look forward to having that discussion with the gentleman as well.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

The current CR, as the gentleman knows, expires March 18 that we passed earlier this week, the Senate passed, the President has now signed. Can I ask the gentleman his thoughts on going forward what we might be expecting with respect to funding government from March 19 through September 30 for the balance of the fiscal year?

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman. And as the gentleman has already pointed out, the House, Mr. Speaker, has produced its position in H.R. 1. The difficulty is the Senate has failed to produce a Senate position. So there really is very little foundation upon which to engage in any discussion as to how we are going to get through the remainder of the fiscal year. I know that the minority leader was recently today out saying that the position on the part, I guess, of the Senate, and perhaps your caucus, is that there is a desire to bring about $41 billion of cuts.

I would say to the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, $40 billion is not a cut. That's the status quo. And that's been our position all along, is we want to make sure we change the status quo, that we actually do what most Americans are having to do, which is tighten the belt and to cut spending in order to get this economy going.

So I am saying to the gentleman we would encourage the Senate and Leader Reid to act so that we can move forward. And until then, Mr. Speaker, I would say to my friend from Maryland that I would expect the House to continue its process of cutting $2 billion per week until we can see where the gentleman's caucus and then the Democratic leader in the Senate is.

[Time: 14:20]

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his response. I might want to pursue that response just a little bit, however.

The Pledge to America, as I understand it, said that you were going to cut $100 billion; is that accurate?

Mr. CANTOR. I would say to the gentleman that the Pledge to America said that we were desirous of reducing discretionary spending, non-security spending, to '08 levels.

Mr. HOYER. And H.R. 1, as I understand it, is scored at $102 billion or thereabouts; is that accurate?

Mr. CANTOR. I would say back to the gentleman, as he knows, the figure of $100 billion was taken from the difference between the President's FY11 request and the '08 levels, which is how that figure has become.

So I would say to the gentleman, if he is trying to make the point about 100 versus 61, the gentleman is accurate when he says that the $100 billion of cuts off the 2011 request by the President is the same as $61 billion of cuts against the current level of spending at FY10 levels.

So if I could make the gentleman's point for him, which is exactly why I say that insistence upon $41 billion or $40 billion in cuts is nothing but defense of the status quo. That's what I would say to the gentleman. That's unacceptable to our side. It's unacceptable to the American people.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for explaining my proposition, but if I might clarify a little more, what the gentleman has said, the way you get to $100 billion is counting that $41 billion that you say is the status quo and adding $60 billion, or $61 billion to it, to get to $102 billion, or a little short of that. My point clearly is that the gentleman and his side of the aisle have clearly counted the $41 billion that he says is the status quo.

The reason he has done so is because, he said, during the course of the campaign, and others said during the course of the campaign, they were to cut $100 billion. In fact, as I recall, the Speaker and yourself and other leaders made the point during the course of your initial consideration and the offer that was initially made to your conference, that, in fact, the $41 billion was, in fact, a cut from the President's request of $41 billion.

We agree with that, but we now believe that your side is saying, oh, no, that doesn't count, notwithstanding the fact it is $41 billion less than the President requested and you counted that $41 billion less as part of the $100 billion you represented was part of the cuts that you had said you were going to make and that you, in fact, made.

So my point is, as the gentleman has pointed out, that your $60 billion, by your side's argument of cutting $100 billion, only gets to $100 billion because you are counting the $41 billion, which we have cut. Now I say that for this reason: You made the $100 billion pledge prior to December. You made it prior to the election. Then we, in fact, cut from the figure you were using as the base, the 2011 base of the President's request, we cut $41 billion by freezing at 2010 levels.

Now, very frankly, my point to you is, as I am sure you know, that we have already come $41 billion, which means 41 percent of the way to where you wanted to get. We continue to want to discuss this matter. Hopefully we can move together and come to a compromise figure.

I know the gentleman has not served on the Appropriations Committee. He serves on the tax writing committee. But in the Appropriations Committee, we found an ability to come together and make agreement. I am hopeful that we can do the same. But I think it unfair and incorrect, frankly, not to count $41 billion because we are now starting at 2010 levels as opposed to the level that you started at and we started at, which was the President's 2011 request, and both of us have come that $41 billion, and the issue is how much further we are going to go.

Mr. CANTOR. I would respond to the gentleman that we have already discussed the math here. The problem is the American people are waiting for us to act. If the gentleman knows the position of Senator Reid and where he would like to go, other than maintain the status quo, then that's what we are looking for. The House has made its position known.

Its position, again, is $100 billion off the 2011 request or $61 billion off the

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2010 levels of current spending. We have maintained that position all along, Mr. Speaker, that freezing spending at today's level is unacceptable. It will bankrupt us if we continue to spend at these levels. We have got to begin to show some fiscal restraint so we can get people back to work in this country.

I am delighted to hear the gentleman say we need to cut more, and I am hopeful that we can continue to see progress on that front. But thus far, the gentleman's colleagues and all of our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol, Senator Reid, has not indicated where his position is. That's what we need to know to move forward.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments.

I ask the gentleman, might I advise the leader on the other side of the Capitol that there is, in fact, a willingness on your side to compromise between zero and 100?

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. I would ask the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, does the gentleman know of any position having been taken, any vote that has been taken in the Senate to indicate where they are and whether they have come off their position of defending the status quo?

Again, I would say to the gentleman, his leader, the minority leader, earlier today was in the press indicating that that is her position. She wants to defend the status quo, $41 billion in cuts. There is not a cut on the current level of spending.

Mr. HOYER. If that's the status quo, then I suggest to the gentleman he is not going to get to $100 billion, which he represented and his side represents they want to get to. We will see whether or not they are prepared to

do that. But I will tell my friend, if that's the position, then I think we will not be able to reach agreement because there appears to be no ability to compromise in that context.

The gentleman counted the $41 billion during the course of the campaign. The gentleman counted that $41 billion when he made a representation to his caucus as to why you were offering a $32 billion cut because, together, given the fact that it was halfway through the year, that that would, in fact, be tantamount to. But again, in each one of those instances, the gentleman counted the $41 billion. He is now saying, oh, no, that is the status quo.

Does the gentleman know of any budget that President Bush signed in '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, and '06 that maintained either the status quo or cut below the so-called status quo, when your side was in charge of both the House and the Senate and the Presidency?

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman and I have had similar conversations over the last couple of years. I really think it is best for all of us to see how we are going forward, not looking back. I know the gentleman would make the suggestion we could learn from past history. I am all about that.

But what I could say, Mr. Speaker, is we need a position by the other side in order to go forward so we can actually do what the American people want, which is to cut spending from current levels.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

I would simply suggest to the gentleman and hope that we can work together, as the gentleman suggests, come to resolution for the balance of the fiscal year.

The gentleman has made a number of comments in the past, with which I agree, that uncertainty undermines the economy. A quote that the gentleman said on the floor last year: Working families and businesses remain gripped by economic uncertainty, and to this day Washington has only made the problem worse. If we want to cut into the 9.8 percent unemployment, Mr. Chairman, we have to instill confidence in the economy and begin to foster an environment for job creation.

I suggest to the gentleman we will not do that until we come to an agreement. Both sides need to work toward that end. I agree with the gentleman on that. I am hopeful that the Senate will, in fact, make a suggestion in the near term; I mean, hopefully, in hours and a few days rather than weeks.

The 18th will be on us, as you know, very soon. If we don't reach an agreement by next Thursday, in my opinion, we will not be able to get the paperwork done to get a bill ready to pass by Friday the 18th, 2 weeks from tomorrow.

[Time: 14:30]

I think that will be unfortunate and will lead to uncertainty and disruption, both in the public sector and in the private sector.

Let me ask you one more question on the issue of compromises. Assuming the Senate makes an offer and assuming it passes an offer or reaches an agreement, when it comes back, will there be any hearings on the proposed cuts and the ramifications of those cuts?

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. I would say to the gentleman, first of all, as to his suggestion about our adding to uncertainty and perhaps facilitating a government shutdown, we have said all along we do not want to shut down the government. We want to cut spending. And as I've said before to the gentleman, it is our intention to continue to go forward reducing spending at the rate of $2 billion a week until we can see some signal from the Senate that they're serious about wanting to cut spending.

As for the gentleman's inquiry about hearings on specific cuts, as to a potential bill that will govern the route forward for the rest of the fiscal year, I would bring the gentleman's attention to ongoing hearings now as we proceed throughout this fiscal year about the 2012 budget and spending that we should be about anyway.

And let us not forget the reason why we find ourselves where we are is because the majority from the 111th Congress did not finish the business of this fiscal year, which, again, is why we find ourselves in the position of these expiring short-term CRs.

We are dedicated to the notion of open process, as the gentleman knows, and I know he shares that goal as well, and we will continue to operate in that manner.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that answer.

The reason I ask that question, however, I don't know whether the gentleman had an opportunity to read a column in The New York Times by David Brooks, a relatively conservative columnist in The New York Times, as the gentleman knows, in which he wrote a column called, ``The New Normal,'' and in paragraph 4 in which he stated, ``In Washington, the Republicans who designed the cuts''--which are included in H.R. 1--``for this fiscal year seemed to have done no serious policy evaluation.''

He goes on about four paragraphs later to say, referring to his austerity principle--there are three austerity principles that he propounds. He said, ``Never cut without an evaluation process.''

I think that we need cuts. I've said that. The gentleman said that. We are proceeding. In fact, we have done some of those and we have agreement on some of those, as the gentleman knows. But there were no hearings. That's why Mr. Brooks says that they seem to have done no serious policy evaluation of those cuts. That's why I asked that question. But I understand the gentleman's answer.

I will bring this to a close. We have some concerns by the fact that a number of economists, a large number of economists, have expressed concern about the economic ramifications of some of the cuts and the magnitude of the cuts that are included.

As you know, Ben Bernanke indicated that this spending plan could cost a couple of hundred thousand jobs, a number he called ``not trivial.'' And according to Goldman Sachs, we might adversely affect GDP by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters compared with current law or as the gentleman refers to, the status quo.

I ask the gentleman: Is that of concern to you or do you believe that those evaluations are incorrect?

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman.

I would say I am always mindful of opinion makers, commentators, and economists and their view as to what's going on here in Washington. But I would say to the gentleman, I think we've been down the road that the gentleman suggests is preferable before. We, on this floor, passed a nearly $800

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billion stimulus bill, at least on the gentleman's side passed it, and we saw the effects of spending that kind of money did not produce the kind of job creation that was desired or was promised. And if I recall, some of the economists that the gentleman refers to probably were ones that supported the notion that the stimulus bill would make sure that unemployment didn't exceed 8 percent if we went ahead and spent that money. I think we've tried that before.

The gentleman also knows that we are borrowing nearly 40 cents out of every dollar we are spending. That is unsustainable. And so if the gentleman's focus is to spend more money from Washington to create jobs, then essentially we are creating jobs and paying people we can't afford to pay.

So what the position is from our side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, is we want to be honest with the people. We want to look for long-term solutions that get this economy going again.

We all know that most jobs are created in the private sector. We all know that most jobs come from the entrepreneurial aspirations of the people of this country. It is they who continue to point to Washington as the problem. It is they who say that government's explosive growth, government's continued and increasing appetite for capital is making it so we can't see investment occur here in this country. And if you want to fix the economy, deal with the deficit. That's what we're trying to do, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comment.

And certainly, I agree with him that we need to deal with the deficit. As the gentleman knows, I've been pretty vocal about that and indicated that we need to look at the whole spectrum of spending. Focusing on 14 percent of the budget will not get us there. I think the gentleman probably agrees with that proposition. I know the chairman of the Budget Committee agrees with that proposition. I may not agree with the chairman of the Budget Committee on how he wants to get there, but I think we do agree that we have to look at all of the spending that we do, and that bringing down the deficit is of critical consequence.

Let me say to the gentleman, however, when he speaks about jobs, as he knows, we lost 3.8 million jobs in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration. The last

year of the Obama administration, the last 12 months, we have gained 1.1 million private sector jobs. So when the gentleman says that the Recovery Act did not have the effect that the administration hoped for, he is correct. We went up above the 8 percent unemployment. But the gentleman, I'm sure, knows that during the last 12 months we have gained jobs on an average of 569,000 over the last 5 months, so half a million jobs.

Is that enough? It's not. Frankly, we are going to have to be at 300,000 or 400,000 per month to overcome the number of jobs that were lost prior to or during the recession which started, of course, in 2007.

So I want to agree with the gentleman and hope that we can work together on looking at the entire challenge that confronts us in bringing this deficit down. But I tell my friend to continually focus, as the gentleman has been doing in this colloquy and in other colloquies, on simply the discretionary spending, non-defense and non-security spending, while we certainly need to cut fraud, waste, and abuse, cut duplication and make government simpler and more accessible and more cost effective for the American people, we also need to be, as you said, honest with the American people that if you cut out every penny of the portion of the budget at which you are looking, we will not solve the deficit problem.

So I say to my friend, I will look forward to working with him. Our side looks forward to working with him and his side. I have had discussions--I see Mr. Dreier on the floor. We need to work together on this issue because the gentleman is correct; it is a critical area.

Unless the gentleman wants more time, I will yield back.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. I would just say to the gentleman--and thank you for the courtesy of yielding--that is exactly why we are turning to mandatory spending next week. As the gentleman knows, we'll be fast on the discussion of the budget as well. As the gentleman knows and can expect that our budget will approach the issue of entitlements, and we feel it very necessary for us to begin that discussion. And, frankly, we're dismayed by the fact that the White House did not include any mention or discussion or did not deal with entitlements in its budget proposal.

So we hope, and I know the gentleman is earnest in his desire to want to try and deal with the deficit both on the discretionary and the mandatory side. I look forward to working with him toward that end.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

Just in concluding on that, the administration did, of course, appoint a commission, Mr. Bowles and Senator Simpson, which did, in fact, look at the spectrum of spending and made some very substantive recommendations. The administration has commended those recommendations to us for consideration.

[Time: 14:40]

But the administration also said that we need to make sure that we invest in growing our economy if we expect to bring the deficit down, investing in the education of our children, investing in our infrastructure, investing in innovation and invention. I agree with the administration on that. I think we need to be very careful that we pay attention to both the investments and to the reduction of the deficits.

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