|5:17 PM EST||
David R. Obey, D-WI 7th
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. This is the 20th time, two-zero, the 20th time that the gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG) and I have been forced to come to the floor and ask the Congress for an extension to keep the Government open while others in this institution and in the other body and folks in the administration decide what the budget ought to eventually look like by considering only macroeconomic numbers. After there is agreement between the leadership
and the White House, I assume that we will be asked to work out how that money is allocated.
So, in my view, the House leadership will be able to talk in very bright terms about what they have accomplished in macroeconomic terms, and then we will be asked to make the impossible choices within the dollar limits that are being suggested by the leadership around here. I cannot begin to tell the House how many times I have received letters from Members of this House, including the leadership on both sides of the aisle, asking that we increase funding for AIDS, special education, National
Institutes of Health, title VI block grants, LIHEAP, Low-Income Heating Assistance Program. I cannot tell you how many times I have received letters asking us to vote for increases in those programs and demanding that we bring to this floor what they refer to as full funding for some
of these programs, while at the same time those same Members vote and those same leaders demand that we provide an overall number for the bill which makes our ability to produce what they ask for at the micro-level an almost impossible act. That in my view is what is happening here.
I am not going to vote for this continuing resolution. Not because the gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG) has not done his job, he and I were here all weekend, but because I believe that the numbers that will be produced in the end will have virtually no room for some of the main priorities which a lot of Members in this body claim that they have. I think that when people put together an agreement about what the overall spending number ought to be in the Labor-Health-Education bill, for
instance, that they ought to have some idea what that number will really mean in terms of its impact on low-income heating assistance, its impact on the National Institutes of Health, its impact on Pell grants, its impact on special education, its impact on Head Start, its impact on child care, and its impact on a whole range of programs.
Yet I think the way that this is proceeding, we are going to have a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, where the overall number is going to be agreed to, and then people like the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. PORTER) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG) and I are then going to have to take Members aside one by one and explain to them why we cannot provide the increases for NIH that we promised the country in the campaign we were going to provide, why we cannot provide the increases
in the Pell grants that we told people we were going to provide, why we cannot provide the funding for special education that we told people we were going to provide. We have got a winter coming where the Federal contribution to help low-income elderly pay their home heating bills will drop by about 50 percent as a percentage of those folks' income because of the rapidly rising energy costs; and yet this bill is going to be asked to savage that program in the out years.
And this has all come about because we are told by a number of Members on [Page: H12069]
that side of the aisle that the agreement that was reached before the election is somehow too rich. I want to compare what that agreement would have done with Labor-H, with all the health and education and job programs, what that would have done with what we did in some other bills.
This Congress passed an agriculture bill which was 2 percent above the President's request. This Congress passed an energy and water bill which was almost a billion dollars above the President's request. It passed an Interior appropriations bill which was $2.5 billion above the President's request, 15 percent above the President's request. It passed a transportation bill which is $2.3 billion above the President's request.
And now we are being told that we have committed a mortal sin and we are all going to go to hell because we passed a Labor-Health-Education program that was a few billion dollars above the President's request. I make no apology for that. I make no apology for that. I think that those increases when compared to the increases in the energy and water bill or in the transportation bill are eminently defensible. Yet we are being told now, oh, we don't have enough room. We may add 7 or $800 million
in more money for the Middle East; but, no, if we do, we have got to take that money out of education and health and worker protection programs. I have a funny feeling that is not going to go down well with the American people.
I do not have any objection to our meeting our international responsibilities in the Middle East or any other area of the world, but I do think that if that is financed out of reductions in the people's bill for programs here at home, that that action will unnecessarily turn even more people in this country toward an isolationist track. And I think it will encourage more people out of frustration to say, Well, if we have to make those kinds of choices, then I'm not for providing funding for various
regions of the world. That is the proposition that we are going to be backed into.
I apologize to the House for taking this time. No, I do not. I do not apologize at all for taking this time. Because we were told that this debate would come up at 6, and instead it has come up at 5, so almost no one is here to discuss it. I really have not had a chance to think through what a more thoughtful response would be if I had an hour to look at what is going on around this town. But I do want to say that I think that this process of extending continuing resolutions time and time and
time again has served only one purpose. It has enabled the majority party leadership to avoid voting on education and health until after the election. And having now escaped the election season, it is now free to pursue the cuts that it apparently wants to pursue in those programs. I think that that is unfortunate.
So I will vote against this resolution. I do not expect that there will be many people who will. But I do not think I am going to like the kind of priorities that are going to come out of this shakedown. And this has been a shakedown. This is what it has been. I do not think I am going to like the priorities very much when I see that we are going to be asked to squeeze these programs because we have at an earlier date on other bills provided very large increases in the President's budget, and
now people seem to feel that we have to recoup that on this bill. I just do not happen to agree with that.
When I was walking the streets in Wisconsin Rapids or Wausau or Superior, Chippewa Falls or anywhere else, I did not find many people who were asking me to have large increases in military spending, to have large increases in the transportation budget, to have large increases in Interior while we were neglecting our child care needs, our family planning needs, our National Institutes of Health and medical research needs. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG) has provided a lot of needed
leadership in the defense area, for instance, on the Subcommittee on Defense in providing supplemental funding for health programs, for bone marrow transplant and other programs.
I am simply going to vote against this continuing resolution because I think that it is simply giving people more time to do bad things.
That is not my bag.