Floor Statement of Senator Daniel K. Inouye on the Six Month Continuing Resolution
DC -- Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) delivered
the following floor statement (as prepared for delivery) today during Senate
consideration of the six month Continuing Resolution.
"Mr. President, today, as we near the end of the current
fiscal year, the Senate is considering House Joint Resolution 117, a continuing
resolution to ensure that the Federal government will remain functioning
through March of next year in the absence of regular appropriations. Last
Thursday, the House passed this bill by a vote of 329 to 91.
"The bill provides total discretionary spending of $1.047
trillion. This is the funding level the Senate Appropriations Committee
recommended on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 27 to 2 and the level agreed
to last year in the Budget Control Act. But, Mr. President, the discretionary
spending in this bill is $19 billion more than was approved by the House in the
Paul Ryan budget. I am encouraged that the House has finally repudiated its own
budget. I am only sorry that it has taken them this long to come to their
senses. One of the primary reasons
Congress now faces a continuing resolution is that the House broke this
agreement on spending.
"I want my colleagues to know I support this measure even
though it is far from perfect. In fact,
I would say that it is not a particularly good bill, but passing it is much
better than allowing the Government to shut down over a lack of funding.
"Mr. President, continuing resolutions are not new. I have
served in this Senate for 49 years and 9 months. During my tenure the Congress
has only completed its work and enacted all of its spending bills without
needing a continuing resolution on three occasions. That is not a record that we should be proud
of, but it demonstrates how difficult it is to agree on funding for each of the
thousands of Federal programs that the Appropriations Committee reviews
annually. However, never before in history has the Congress passed a stop-gap
resolution in September to fund the entire Government for half of the coming
fiscal year. It is indeed unfortunate
that it has come to this.
"Seven months ago as we began this legislative session the
mood was quite different. There was
broad support for acting on appropriations bills. Several members from both
sides of the aisle came to the floor to speak about restoring regular order and
passing 12 Appropriations bills. Both the Republican and Democratic leader
spoke in favor of considering all our bills.
"The Appropriations Committee was urged to conduct our
budget review as quickly as possible and report bills to the Senate for
consideration. Our subcommittees embraced the challenge. We shortened our hearing schedule, conducted
thousands of meetings with Executive Branch officials and the public, and began
to mark up bills shortly after receiving our allocation from the Budget
"In most years, Mr. President, the Senate Appropriations
Committee begins its mark ups in June. This year, the Committee reported its
first two bills in April and had nine bills ready for floor consideration by
the end of June. By July, the Committee had reported out 11 bills, 9 of which
were recommended with strong bipartisan votes.
"Despite the work of the Committee, none of those bills have
been considered by the Senate. The decision by the House to break faith with
the Senate and the Administration on funding levels and the inclusion of
outrageous legislative policy riders in their bills drained the enthusiasm for
acting on the bills. But, the real culprit thwarting the efforts of the
Committee was a handful of Republican members who insist on delaying the
business of the Senate.
"Mr. President, we have heard the Majority leader cite the
statistics. In 382 instances in the past six years he has been forced to file
cloture to break filibusters.
"It is becoming very clear filibusters are crippling the
Senate. This year the Senate has been in session for 105 days. By my count on
31 of those days the Senate has done nothing but consider motions to proceed or
to invoke cloture. That means nearly 30 percent of the Senate's time this year
has been completely wasted. Moreover, the Senate has only voted on amendments
and legislation on 21 of the days that we were in session. On 21 out of 105 days we actually legislated.
The rest of the time was spent working through a backlog of nominations or on
"Mr. President, I have never experienced anything like this
in my years in the Senate. It is true that for some time the use of filibusters
has been increasing, but this year it has truly exploded.
"I do not oppose filibusters. I believe the filibuster is
one of the most critical tools Senators have to protect the rights of their
constituents. This is especially true for small states like mine which are at a
disadvantage in the House of Representatives compared to states with large
"In fact, the first speech I delivered in the Senate was a
defense of the filibuster. Times were different then. A new Senator waited for
months before speaking on the Senate floor and when he spoke it was expected
that the speech would be a significant policy address witnessed by many of his
colleagues. When I delivered my maiden speech legends like Everett Dirksen,
Richard Russell, Mike Mansfield, and John Stennis were all in attendance.
Truly, times have changed. But the most striking difference between then and
now is that a filibuster was used very rarely in those days and only for
matters of extreme importance to members and their states.
"I did not agree with those who used the filibuster in the
1960s to try and stop civil rights legislation. I disagreed with those who used
the filibuster against health care reform in 2010, but in both cases I defended
their right to do so.
"But this year, Mr. President, the Senate has been held up,
delayed, and rendered ineffective for at least 30 percent of its time by the
abuse of the filibuster. These filibusters were not to highlight important
policy differences nor were they to protect a Senator's constituents. Instead,
in virtually every case, they were simply to thwart the ability of the Senate
"So yes, this is a sad day. The Senate is forced to take up
a six month continuing resolution instead of acting upon regular appropriations
bills. The bipartisan zeal for regular order last spring has been crushed by
dilatory tactics of a few members that have wasted the Senate's time. At some
point, this body needs to alter either its behavior or its rules.
"Mr. President, in addition to discretionary funding, the
continuing resolution also provides $99 billion for overseas contingencies, as
requested and necessary for the coming year. Further, it continues funding at
current levels to pay for disasters under FEMA and to fight fraud waste and
abuse in the Social Security Program. Each of these is consistent with the
authorities included in the Budget Control Act.
"In addition, the bill before the Senate provides only the
bare minimum of provisions that is necessary to maintain the functions of the
Federal government. The Administration sought approximately 78 proposals to
ensure that critical programs and authorities could be continued for the next
six months. This bill includes only about half of them because the House was
unwilling to allow more. Provisions deemed essential by the Secretary of Defense
to preserve authorities for on-going programs in support of our efforts in
Afghanistan and Iraq are not in the bill. Special provisions to allow the
Department of Defense to award contracts for a few critical programs were
denied. Additional funding to activate new federal prisons that currently sit empty
was not included. The bill denies necessary authorities for dozens of programs.
In some cases the Administration will find cumbersome work-arounds. For others
it will have to slow down work on on-going programs, increasing cost and
inefficiency. And, many programs will simply have to cease activity and await
additional Congressional action on appropriations bills.
"We urged the House to include many more of the provisions
requested by the Administration, but they refused. The bill would have been far
better had more of these requirements been met. Yet, I would point out that the
House has not played favorites. No Department was granted all the authorities
it required. The Defense Department has not been singled out for special help
by House Republicans. If anything it has been treated more harshly than many
"Mr. President I support this bill because opposing it is not
a responsible alternative. No one should be interested in delaying or defeating
this bill. We simply cannot afford to shut down government operations.
"I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for the bill
which will preserve our government. It is lean and stripped down, but it
contains the funding and minimal authorities essential to ensure that the
services provided for all Americans can be continued over the coming months."