I come to the floor today to speak in strong support of this conference report. As a result of a lot of long hours, hard work and determination on both sides of the aisle, and both sides of the Capitol, this agreement shows the American people that Congress can govern and Washington can work.
First and foremost, this legislation prevents a tax increase on working Americans – a tax increase that would have meant more than $800 less in take home pay for the average American worker.
As a conservative, I look at the agreement and see some very big wins. Chief among them are the most significant reforms to federal unemployment programs since they were created in the 1930s, all designed to promote reemployment and paychecks instead of unemployment and benefit checks. While extending unemployment benefits through the end of this year, the agreement:
- Creates a national job search standard for the first time, covering benefits from beginning to end, and requires every unemployed American to look for a job if they receive unemployment benefits;
- The agreement allows states to spend unemployment funds on paying people to work, instead of just sending them a check while they are out of work;
- It ensures taxpayer funds are properly spent by permitting drug testing, under commonsense rules that help people get ready for a job;
- It expands work-sharing programs to help avoid layoffs in the first place; and
- It improves fiscal responsibility by not only recovering more overpayments, which currently total a staggering $12 billion per year, but also by making sure that this program is fully paid for.
That last item is something I want to focus on for a moment. All government spending in this agreement is fully paid for – and not with one dime of higher taxes. All spending on unemployment and health care are fully paid for. This is a significant victory for those of us concerned about the national debt and the culture of deficit spending that has gripped Washington for far too long.
For example, the unemployment program has added nearly $200 billion to our nation’s debt over the last four years. No more. We paid for it in December, we are paying for it today, and we have set the clear precedent that Congress must live within its means. No more spending unless it is paid for, period.
Now, I understand this is a compromise and not everyone likes everything in here. If I had my way, the bill passed by the House in December would be law. That was the only bill that extended these programs through the end of the year; it was the only bill that was fully paid for; and it was the only bill that ensured seniors and their doctors were protected from dramatic cuts for at least two-years.
But, we don’t control Washington. Democrats still control Washington – they control the Senate and they control the White House.
Yet, utilizing a process that dates back to our Founding Fathers, House Republicans have scored significant victories in this conference committee. Our Founding Fathers recognized that Washington would not always be united. In their wisdom, they knew that even a divided government must still govern.
And, that is what we are doing here today – governing and providing a solution to the very real problems Americans are facing in their daily lives.
I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in supporting this legislation which pays for new spending with spending cuts; prevents working Americans from getting hit with a tax increase next month; reforms our unemployment programs; and ensures seniors continue to have access to their doctors.