Visclosky Statement Delivered During House Consideration of the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations Act
Washington, DC – Below is the opening statement of Congressman Pete Visclosky, Ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered during the House consideration of the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations Act, as prepared for delivery.
I yield myself such time as I may consume and ask unanimous consent that my full remarks be entered into the record.
Mr. Speaker, this is the third iteration of the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations Act that has been brought to the floor. I, for one, have nothing more to say about the merits of this legislation that would not be redundant. However, I do want to reiterate my profound respect for the exceptional work that has been put into this legislation by Chairwoman Granger, all the members of our subcommittee, and our superlative staff.
Today, January 30, 2018, Congress is 122 days late. We are 122 days past the start of the current Fiscal Year. 122 days past the time that the legislation we are considering today should have been completed, conferenced, and signed into law.
We have a number problem Mr. Speaker. As an appropriator, we need a number to craft a bill that, by law, does not violate the Budget Control Act. As an appropriator, we need a number so that Chairwoman Granger, our subcommittee members, and I can make decisions on how best to move forward so our military leaders are not hindered and forced to comply with the constraints of continuing resolutions. As an appropriator, all I want is a number. Give us a number, and we will finish our work for this fiscal year and give the certainty that is repeatedly being asked for by the Department of Defense and our intelligence agencies.
Unfortunately, operating under a fourth continuing resolution and passing essentially the same defense appropriations measure for a third time does nothing to solve our number problem. Nor does it remedy the slight inconvenience that this bill, which includes approximately $584 billion in base funding, violates the Budget Control Act – the current law of this country – by about $35 billion.
Today’s legislation recognizes this “inconvenience” by obviating sequestration. I guess that’s what passes as “budget control” these days, after the net loss of $1.1 trillion in revenue from the recent tax legislation.
Some may say, we must pass this bill today to support our women and men in uniform. I would respond by saying that today’s sixty minutes of theater continues to avoid meaningfully addressing the needs of our troops. If we were serious about supporting our troops, we would have solved our number problem and negotiated a realistic budget figure last summer, so our committee could have completed this bill last September. That would have helped our troops.
I would also add, if we don’t agree to an overall domestic discretionary number, we will continue to disinvest in the true security of this nation – our people.
We need a domestic number so we can make decisions and give direction to all federal agencies so they can plan on how to best invest in our national economy, jobs, and the health and prosperity of our people. The International Trade Commission needs direction so that they can fully enforce our trade laws. Customs and Border Protection needs direction. Every agency of this government needs timely decisions and certainty.
According to the Department of Defense, 71 percent of the 17 to 24 year olds in the United States would fail to qualify for military enlistment because of physical or mental health issues, low educational scores, or major criminal convictions. General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has testified that, “The strength of the United States military is a direct reflection of the strength of U.S. society.”
Improving the strength of our country is not just a robust defense number. We need a robust domestic number that allows for the critical investments necessary for the success of our economy and the people of our country.
In conclusion, as an appropriator, I can tell you that our number problem is a solvable problem. Give us negotiated budget numbers so we can stop wasting everyone’s time and the money of American taxpayers. Then we can truly start supporting the strength of our national security and our national economy.