Thursday, September 22, 2011

House Rejects CR To Keep Government Running Past Sept. 30

Sep 21: In a surprise to the House leadership, the House refused to pass the continuing appropriations resolution (CR) to keep the Federal government operating until November 18, 2011. For procedural reasons, the CR was included as an amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2608 to speed passage through the Senate. In substance, it is the same as the Continuing Resolution, H.J. Res. 79, introduced by Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on September 14. Rep. Rogers said the bill would give Congress the time needed to complete Fiscal Year 2012. The Republican Continuing Resolution failed to pass the House by a vote of 195 to 230. If the CR fails to pass by the end of the month, the government would be forced to shut down. The CR would have continued 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.
    The controversial portion of the bill relates to how disaster assistance is funded. In a Floor statement, Chairman Rogers explained, ". . . 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. . ."
    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement after the vote saying, "the bill sets a dangerous precedent by offsetting the cost of critical disaster assistance for states and communities hard hit by recent natural disasters by ending the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program -- an initiative that puts people to work producing cleaner cars and investing in innovation." In a release she said, "Instead of creating jobs, the number one priority of the American people, this Republican bill would have cost good-paying jobs; that is why Democrats rejected it tonight. House Democrats will work tirelessly to create jobs, and Democrats will always provide Americans struggling in the aftermath of a disaster what they need to rebuild. The rejection of this bill that destroys jobs was bipartisan. The House Republican leadership should now bring to the floor a clean CR and the bipartisan relief package already passed by the Senate."
    The bill met with stiff opposition from most Democrats and 48 Republicans. Rep. Pelosi said in a Floor speech, ""All of the disasters that are happening at once -- we don't know when the next one will come -- but what is frightening also is that we don't know where this Majority wants to go to pay for it. I have serious objection to the payfor in this legislation. I have a bigger objection that we would have to pay for disaster. We never paid for the tax cuts for the rich. They never were paid for. We never paid for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were never paid for. But all of a sudden we have to pay, to try to make whole these people who have been affected, who've lost everything. . ."
    In another Floor statement, Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) explained the importance of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program saying, "The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program was started in 2008 to reinvigorate American manufacturing. To date, the program has awarded $7.5 billion of credit subsidy to promote energy efficient advanced vehicles and their component parts. The Department of Energy estimates the loan guarantees have created or maintained 39,000 jobs in California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee.
    "Some have suggested that this program has been slow to spend emergency funding provided in the FY 2009 CR. I say the loan review process is -- and ought to be -- strenuous. One company originally applied under a different loan program in 2006 and received an Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan in 2010; it required four years of due diligence and review to qualify for the loan. By taking away ATVM funding because the program spent time to do due diligence, Republicans seem to be issuing an ultimatum to all loan programs: expedite the review process or see your funding transferred away.
    "By the way, the company in question employed about 400 workers before receiving the loan. Today, they have 1,400 employees in the fields of engineering research and development, design, manufacturing, assembly, maintenance and service, sales, and support. The ATVM program has an additional 18 loan applications in progress that are projected to create 50 - 60,000 more jobs in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. One pending application would support investments at 11 plants in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The company employs over 56,000 workers, having added nearly 9,000 new workers since 2009. Some of these jobs will be at risk by using this offset. This is not the time to put American manufacturing jobs at risk."
    Access the Floor statement from Chairman Rogers (click here). Access a release from Rep. Pelosi (click here). Access Rep. Pelosi's complete Floor statement (click here). Access Rep. Dicks complete Floor statement (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2608 (click here). [#All]
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