Opening Statement of
U.S. Senator George Voinovich
Ranking Member, Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
SUBCOMMITTEE MARKUP OF FISCAL YEAR 2011 HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that you have been asked to hold this subcommittee meeting to consider the fiscal year 2011 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill. However, in my view, it is premature to meet this afternoon because the full committee has not determined the 302A top-line appropriations number. There is clearly a need for a long-term plan to bring our nation's debt under control, but it is also clear that the Congress will not be given the opportunity to debate a federal budget this year. Without a House and Senate passed budget resolution and conference agreement, the Appropriations Committee will not receive an allocation for fiscal year 2011. The budget process has broken down and our committee is compelled to determine its own discretionary top-line number and to allocate that 302A number among subcommittees to do its work.
As of this afternoon however, the full committee has not met to debate, let alone agree to a top-line number--and there are no subcommittee allocations. I understand that will be the first order of business at the full committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Yesterday, the Republican members of the Appropriations Committee sent a letter to Sen. Inouye, the chairman of our committee, asking that the top-line number for fiscal year 2011 discretionary appropriations be set at the Sessions-McCaskill proposed level which a tri-partisan majority of the Senate has supported a number of times this year. That proposal provides an increase over 2010 of just under 1 percent for non-defense. This level essentially freezes non-defense spending and would result in significant reductions from the president?s proposed budget.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that we should defer this markup until after the full committee has had a comprehensive debate on the appropriate levels to be set for fiscal year 2011 discretionary appropriations. The Sessions-McCaskill freeze is a reasonable proposal--as I indicated earlier--one that has been voted on by the Senate four times this year with tri-partisan support. The last time the Senate took a vote related to the Sessions-McCaskill freeze 57 senators supported it, including 16 Democrats and 1 independent.
The letter sent to Chairman Inouye yesterday on this topic points out that we have seen a 17 percent increase in discretionary spending over fiscal year 2008, not including stimulus spending. With stimulus spending included the increase soars to over 84 percent. There is no restraint on 'emergency' appropriations. The emergency designation is being used too liberally and for items that should be included in regular appropriations bills.
Reducing our 302A top-line appropriations number and reducing our 302B allocations to subcommittees is quite reasonable. For example, the Department of Homeland Security budget has increased astronomically over the past few years, from $30.6 billion in fiscal year 2005 to $42.7 billion in fiscal year 2010, not including emergency appropriations. That is a 40 percent increase in 5 years. I'll never forget going to the floor after 9/11 indicating we would have to spend a lot more money but we needed to make sure it did not turn into revenue sharing. It has in many instances, with no bearing on homeland security or assessments of threat or risk in allocations.
The reduction from the working allocation to which the bill in front of us has been written could be as little as 1.6 percent to a $45.2 billion bill if the Session-McCaskill levels are distributed among subcommittees on a pro rata basis.
I have spoken before in Appropriations Committee meetings about the unsustainable situation this country is in now with our national debt. Just this last May as we discussed an emergency supplemental bill, one by the way I voted against on the Senate floor, I said that: " . . . The emergency that we have today in this country is the unsustainable national debt that we have, a debt that is very much, in terms of GDP, like it was after the Second World War, only the money that we borrowed back then we borrowed from our own people. Today we are borrowing over 52 percent from foreign nations. [For every dollar we spend we borrow 41 cents.] Our emergency is that we have budgets that are not going to be balanced as far as the eye can see."
I think Erskine Bowles, co-chair with former Sen. Alan Simpson of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, described it well when he reportedly told the governors a few days ago that, "The debt is like a cancer. It is going to destroy the country from within." And, as our letter to Chairman Inouye indicates, "The enormity of the federal debt poses a direct threat to our national security and demands restraint of federal spending." Restraining appropriations is part of the solution to this national problem.
I close by just indicating it is with a heavy heart that this subcommittee will consider funding for the Department of Homeland Security without the leadership of its chairman for the last four years, Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Chairman Byrd was a strong proponent of funding the security needs of this country--and he will be missed. One of my regrets is that because of Sen. Byrd's health problems, we did not get together as often as I would have liked. He referred to me as his good friend from Ohio. Quite frankly, there is not a senator from another state that did more for Ohio than Sen. Byrd. Sen. Lautenberg, you have big shoes to fill and I look forward to working with you. Although on occasion we don't agree, I have always considered you my friend and have enjoyed working with you on our other committees.
I appreciate the courtesies you and your staff have extended to me and my staff and the members on this side of the aisle as we have begun our work on this bill. However, it is my preference that we defer action on this bill until after the committee takes up the matter of allocations tomorrow afternoon. Mr. Chairman, I believe it is possible for us to reach agreement on a subcommittee allocation and a way to reach that allocation that we can both support.