Debt Ceiling Deal Passed By Both Chambers in August Established Funding Level for Next Year
Schumer Urges House GOP Leaders To Stick By Agreement, Ignore House Conservatives’ Calls To Reopen Budget Fight
Washington, D.C. – Senator Charles E. Schumer delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday in response to reports that House Republican leaders are considering ignoring the bipartisan agreement contained in the August debt limit deal by seeking deeper cuts to next year’s budget.
Below are Schumer’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Floor Remarks by Senator Charles E. Schumer
FY2011 Continuing Resolution
September 14, 2011
There has been a promising new tone in Congress since our return from the summer recess. This has taken some by surprise. But even more striking than the new tone is that it has brought with it a few modest signs of a new spirit of cooperation.
The House this week has sent us a highway extension and an aviation extension that are clean. During August, there were clamors from some corners in the Republican party to mount a fight over the gas tax or insist on harmful cuts to road and bridge repair, even if these demands risked a shutdown of road construction projects.
And as recently as last Friday, Republicans were planning to insist on a five-percent cut to the FAA’s budget—a move that could well have threatened another shutdown of that agency like the one we saw in August.
But both these fears have receded. Barring a setback in the Senate, we should be able to extend both the FAA and highway measures on time and without controversy.
This is a very positive sign. There was a sour taste left in everyone’s mouths at the end of the debt ceiling debate. This has caused a change in behavior. It has brought us together.
The debt ceiling process was made unnecessarily difficult because of the extreme tactics practiced by a bloc within the House Republican caucus. The political process broke down. And the public noticed.
In the aftermath of that debate, it seems that everyone finally realizes that there is a premium on reasonableness. The public does not want to see a “may or the highway” approach from anyone anymore.
That’s why it was head-scratching earlier this week to hear a new rumor in the Capitol that the House Republican leadership might consider seeking to reopen the debt ceiling fight by disregarding the agreed-upon spending level for FY2012.
As you know, Mr. President, the deal included a top-line budget number of $1.043 trillion for the fiscal year that begins on October 1. This was a significant cut of $7 billion from the FY11 level.
This agreement was ratified by all those who voted for the final debt ceiling agreement. It was hailed as one of the better aspects of the overall debt ceiling deal because it would mean a lesser likelihood of another budget fight on September 30.
However, since this number was agreed to, some extreme Republicans have started looking to cause trouble. They have tried to say the $7 billion in cuts represented by the $1.043 trillion dollar figure should be considered a “floor, not a ceiling.”
This would be a violation not just of the spirit of the debt limit deal, but the letter of that deal.
The public will not stand for another budget fight. Republicans should understand that more brinksmanship on the budget at the end of September is not in either side’s interest.
Some in the House leadership seem to realize this. Majority Leader Cantor, in a memo sent to the House Republican caucus in August, warned against picking another budget fight on the CR.
Leader Cantor wrote: “While all of us would like to have seen a lower discretionary appropriations ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year, the debt limit agreement did set a level of spending that is a real cut from the current year level. I believe it is in our interest to enact into law full-year appropriations bills at this new lower level.”
Leader Cantor affirmed these remarks earlier this week.
I say to my Republican colleagues: A deal is a deal. I cannot imagine you would go back on the debt limit agreement, but if you are even considering it, please stop.
We already will likely need to take time next week to resolve what level of FEMA funding we should appropriate for FY2012. Early indications are that House Republicans may want to shortchange the level of funding FEMA says it needs for next year.
I can’t imagine why House Republicans would play games with disaster relief. But if they want to debate that, they should not at the same time be re-opening a budget fight that is already resolved and that nearly caused a default the first around.
We have enough debates on the docket without reopening the ones we’ve already settled.
The public is tired of these fights. And the public understands who keeps instigating them. To the House Republicans, I say: don’t go back on your word on the CR. Leader Cantor was right the first time when he said in August you should abide by the level agreed to over the summer. Stick with that decision, and let’s move on to other issues.