Reps. Shimkus and Allen
June 11, 1997
in this forum:
Should soft money be banned? Is adultery in the military out of control? What is going on with the emergency relief bill? Shouldn't there simply be full public disclosure of campaign contributions? Would free air time reduce the need to raise money? Should there be a nonpartisan commission on campaign finance reform?
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A question from Fred Swanson of Augusta, ME:
What is going on with this emergency relief bill? This appears to be a replay of the government shutdown with two sides pointing fingers at each other and ordinary people being hurt. Does either Member see a resolution to this partisan fight in the coming week?
Rep. Shimkus responds:
The White House and Congress are at odds over two issues that are very important to this nation. The first issue pertains to government shut-downs. Many of us remember when the President and Congress shut down the federal government just two years ago. Democrats blamed Republicans and Republicans blamed Democrats. In the end both parties looked irresponsible and pledged to never shut the government down again. In keeping with that pledge, a Republican member of Congress, George Gekas, came up with an idea to prevent a government shut-down in the future. It goes like this: If the President and Congress do not agree on funding levels of particular programs that are controversial, then those programs would be funded at 100% of the previous year's funding level--essentially a freeze in spending. I think this is fair and probably so do most Americans. Unfortunately, the President and some of his Democrat colleagues in the Congress disagree and would like to see funding on programs increase every year.
The second issue that is holding up this legislation is related to the census. As you know, the federal government conducts a census every ten years from which we gain tremendous statistics and information about the nation. The census counts the number of Americans and from that number Congress divides up the 435 congressional seats between the 50 states. If millions of people move out of my home state of Illinois we would lose representation in Congress, and the States with increased population would gain. The controversy is over how the census bureau counts people. The bureau wants to "guesstimate" how many people live in a particular region of the country through a process called "sampling." This method has not proven to be accurate and would result in misrepresentation of the nation's citizens in Congress. It is for this exact reason that our founding fathers wrote into the Constitution that the population must be counted not estimated or "sampled." Every American's right to fair representation is at risk when we start guessing at the population of this nation.
Rep. Allen responds:
On March 19, 1997, the President requested an emergency disaster relief bill that to provide much needed resources to people in thirty-three states that have been hard hit by natural disasters. This includes tens of thousands of people in the Dakota and Minnesota who are struggling to rebuild their lives and communities in the wake of recent floods.
While the disaster relief bill does include $5.8 billion in disaster assistance and $1.8 billion for peackeeping operations in Bosnia and Southwest Asia, the bill was loaded with extraneous provisions that are harmful, specifically one triggering an automatic continuing resolution in case a new budget is not adopted before the end of the fiscal year.
The U.S. Consititution assigns responsibility to Congress to pass annual appropriation bills. It is the constitutionally mandated role of Congress to make the tough choices of which programs to fund and at what level. The provision providing for automatic spending authority undermines this role of Congress. Moreover, the continuing resolution provision would result in an automatic across the board cut in program funding. For example, college aid would be reduced by $1.7 billion, eliminating 375,000 students from the Pell Grant program; the number of women, infants and children receiving WIC services would be cut by an average of 500,000 per month; up to 56,0000 fewer children would participate in Head Start; the number of border patrol guards, FBI agents and air traffic controllers would be reduced; and the goal of closing 900 Superfund sites by the year 2000 could not be accomplished.
I am very disappointed that Congress weighed down the current disaster bill with provisions the President had clearly indicated, time and time again, would force a veto. It is imperative that Congress pass a disaster relief bill that is clean. There is a time for partisan politics and a time when it is not only irresponsible but wrong. Delaying disaster relief to thousands in dire need is simply wrong. The only resolution is swift passage of a clean disaster relief bill.