Visclosky Statement Delivered During the House Consideration of the Fiscal Year 2017 Continuing Resolution
Washington, DC – Below is the statement of Congressman Pete Visclosky, Ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, from today’s House consideration of the Fiscal Year 2017 Continuing Resolution, as prepared for delivery.
I thank the Ranking Member for yielding me time.
I am sorely disappointed that despite the very best efforts of Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Lowey, and the members of our committee, we yet again find ourselves in the position of considering another Continuing Resolution (CR).
In June, during the debate on the House floor for H.R. 5293, the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations Act, I expressed my concerns with that bill because it did not provide enough funding to support the warfighter for the full fiscal year. Specifically, I stated that our “fiscal year begins on October 1, 2016, not May 1, 2017, and it is the responsibility of those of us holding office in the 2nd session of the 114th Congress to execute the FY 2017 appropriations process,” and that we should demonstrate some legislative pragmatism and not foist our responsibility upon the 115th Congress. Unfortunately, almost exactly six-months later, it is appropriate to repeat myself. Only in this circumstance it is applicable to nearly the entire federal government and not just a small portion of the Defense Appropriations Bill.
With regards to the CR, I grant that it has some positive aspects. Most notably it averts a government shutdown until at least April 28, 2017. It provides much needed funding to the Department of Defense for Overseas Contingency Operations and the European Reassurance Initiative. And it contains $170 million to address the infrastructure and health needs of those communities affected by contaminated drinking water.
However, CRs are no way to run a nation and I wholeheartedly agree with Ranking Member Lowey that there is no practical reason that two months into a fiscal year, we are kicking the can down the road for another five months. Congress has no credibility to demand good government if it is incapable of providing appropriations to the whole of the federal government in a timely and predictable manner.
As the Ranking Member on the Defense Subcommittee, I feel it is important to highlight some of the complications we are compounding in 2017 should the Department of Defense have to operate under a CR for a total of 6 months and 28 days.
First, CRs hinder the DoD from adapting to emerging conditions around the globe. Although we are including a few anomalies and adjustments in this CR, many more programs and initiatives simply did not make the “cut-list” and we will have created unforeseen but real impacts to our warfighters and their families.
Second, the defense budget we are deferring was planned for back in late 2015. Our actions to complete the FY 2017 appropriations by April 28, 2017, will be challenged in synchronizing a final budget solution that is at a minimum 16 months later than when it was drafted and planned by the Defense Department.
Third, it will require a significant amount of interchange with the DoD for Congress to complete the work on the remainder of the FY 2017 appropriations in the spring. Those same individuals and offices in the Department will simultaneously be making adjustments to the FY 2018 budget for the new administration. And while it is likely that the FY 2018 budget request will be delayed beyond the normal first Tuesday in February delivery, the two activities will overlap significantly, which is incredibly inefficient.
Let me just further that thought by acknowledging that the Department will be well into their development of the FY 2019 budget at that same time. They will be presenting the FY 2018 budget to this Congress. And patiently waiting for the resolution of this FY 2017 budget. All the while operating at FY 2016 levels that we extended in two consecutive CRs because we cannot find the initiative and political will to complete our jobs.
And this CR has the likelihood of being particularly disruptive because it also coincides with a change in the Executive Branch. As has been pointed out, no incoming Administration has ever had to inherit a Department of Defense operating under a CR. So while claiming to recognize the difficulty a new President faces by including a provision to allow the expedited consideration in the Senate of legislation that overrides current law in the appointment of the next Secretary of Defense, we add a much greater burden to the incoming administration and Congress by not completing the FY 2017 Appropriation process.
I understand that Chairman Rogers has described the legislation before us as just a Band-Aid to give us time to complete the annual appropriations process. That is unfortunately a refrain we have heard too often in recent Congresses. In what fiscal year will we stop putting Band-Aids over our self-inflicted wounds to the appropriations process? The American people deserve so much more.
In closing, I regret that we again find ourselves on the House floor creating manufactured uncertainty. It is imperative that we bring an end to the reliance on CRs and get back into the habit of completing our budgetary work in a timely manner.
I thank the Ranking Member for yielding.