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April 1, 2011

Budget Compromise

[Page: H2113]  GPO's PDF 

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer) for 5 minutes.

Mr. HOYER. Madam Speaker, at the outset, let me associate myself with the remarks of the gentleman who just spoke on behalf of General Casey and thank General Casey, with him, for his service to the country.

Madam Speaker, in 1998, as a Republican Congress was struggling to compromise with a Democratic President on a budget bill, a Member of the House rose to speak to what he called the ``perfectionist caucus,'' those Members who stood against compromise under any circumstances. Here is what he said:

``Now, my fine friends who are perfectionists, each in their own world where they are petty dictators, could write a perfect bill. It would be about 2,200 of their particular projects and their particular interests and their particular goodies, taking care of their particular States. But,'' this speaker said, ``that is not the way life works in a free society. In a free society, where we are sharing power between the legislative and executive branch, compromise is precisely the outcome we should expect to get.''

Those words were true then when Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House, said them, and they are still true today.

In the last election, Americans voted for shared responsibility. Without both parties' willingness to compromise--to take less than 100 percent of what they want--there will be no solution to our most pressing problems, including our debt; there will be no action on our budget; and the government will be in danger of shutting down, which, in the midst of a fragile economic recovery, would be disastrous.

So the question is this, Madam Speaker: Who is willing to compromise and who is standing in the way?

[Time: 10:20]

Democrats are willing to cut and compromise. We believe that smart, targeted cuts are a part of the solution, and we have offered to meet Republicans more than halfway.

The Republican leadership initially proposed $73 billion in spending cuts. Their conference rejected that proposal and demanded $100 billion in cuts.

Democrats have offered $51 billion, and signal a willingness to move toward the $70 billion figure suggested by the Republican leadership, very near the Republicans' original goal, provided that we can agree on cuts that don't cripple our economic recovery and undermine our shared values.

Cutting 200,000 children from Head Start is not, I believe, a value we ought to support. Adversely affecting 9 million young people's ability to go to college and make us a more competitive society is not one of those values either. Substantially reducing our ability to participate in basic research which will grow our economy, create innovative ideas and spur invention is not one of our values.

In my view, H.R. 1 that passed this House did not represent America's values. Yes, we need to become fiscally disciplined, but we need to do it in a smart way that reflects our values.

Looking at those numbers, Americans are surely thinking there is clear room to come to an agreement and keep the world's largest enterprise, the United States Government, from being funded on a sporadic, uncertainty-creating 2-week or 3-week increment.

So why can't we?

Well, read the news. The New York Times March 28 said this: ``Tea Party supporters are coming to the Capitol this week to rally Republicans to not compromise with Democrats on spending cuts.'' That's the perfectionist caucus wing.

Politico, on March 27, said this: ``Harsh rhetoric Friday night suggests GOP leaders still fear a tea party rebellion.'' That's what Newt Gingrich was talking about with respect to the perfectionist caucus.

The Hill, on March 29 said, ``Striking a deal with Democrats would set off a wave of revolt among the most conservative members of the caucus.'' That's the perfectionist caucus that Newt Gingrich was talking about that brought our government to a standstill and shut down our government in 1995 and early 1996.

We are in a dangerous place, I tell my friends, when compromise, which is essentially the job description of a legislator in a free society, is enough to spark revolt.

Come, let us reason together, Lyndon Johnson said. That is what we need to do. We face partisan opposition to any compromise on spending levels. Some Members' willingness to shut down the government unless they get their way on divisive social issues, even though the Republican pledge to America promised to, and I quote, ``end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with `must-pass' legislation to circumvent the will of the American people.'' In fact, Mitch Daniels, candidate for President, Governor of Indiana, said they ought to be considered separately. He is right.

Madam Speaker, the perfectionist caucus, unfortunately, seems to be alive and well. It just has a new name. Just listen to its own words.

One Republican Member said this: ``If we can't defund health care reform in the spending bill, then we have just got to dig in.'' In other words, shut down government if you can't repeal the health care bill.

Is that an item for substantial, substantive debate? It is. But should we shut down the government while that debate is occurring? I say no.

Another said, ``I think we have to have a fight. I think this is the moment.'' In other words, our way or no way. I don't think that's what the American people voted for.

Another said this: ``I don't see any room for compromise.''

Democracies cannot work that way. As Newt Gingrich said, we're elected from different constituencies by different people with different views, and they expect us to come here, all 435 all of us, and all 100 in the Senate, and make reasonable compromises to move our government forward. Yes, to reduce the deficit we must do that, but let us do so in a way that honors our values and honors our democracy.

For the rest of us, Members of both parties who understand that legislating means compromise, it's time to find common ground and prevent government shutdown.

(House of Representatives - March 31, 2011)

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