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Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin

Pocan Op-Ed: Inability to Pass Budget Signals Soul-Searching for House Republicans

Apr 21, 2016
In The News

Huffington Post

By: Rep. Mark Pocan

While much of the media coverage these days is focused on the Presidential contest, April 15th marked a significant day here in Congress. April 15th was the last day Congress had to pass a joint budget resolution. This failure to pass a budget transcends the halls of Congress and the Washington echo chamber because a budget is a statement of our values. It is a blueprint of our priorities for the American people. With Congressional Republicans incapable of moving forward on the most essential legislative priorities, why should the American people entrust their party with even more power this November?

Last week, Congressional Republicans signaled loud and clear their lack of a governing majority when they breezed through the April 15th requirement for Congress to pass a joint budget resolution. We’re not even going to “deem” a budget, but rather just move forward with no further discussion of a budget. And yet somehow, that’s not a failure of leadership?

In Budget Committee, Republicans put forward a proposal, which continues their tradition of balancing the budget on the backs of low-income families. But even that didn’t satisfy the most extreme right wingers in Congress who have once again ground the work of Congress to a halt. Rather than forcing tough discussions on what comprises their priorities for the American people, House Republicans decided to leave town for two weeks because these radical Tea Party members think the budget does not go far enough. The Republican race to the bottom in Presidential politics has trickled down to Congress. Instead of tackling real issues, we’ve spent our time in Congress these past few legislative weeks naming post offices, voting on brick kilns, nonbinding resolutions, and other legislation which will certainly not improve the lives of everyday Americans.

Republicans can’t even agree on what their values are or who they are as a party.

Here’s what was too weak to satisfy the radical Tea Party forces that have seized control of the Republican Party; a budget that would:

•                Demand $6.5 trillion in cuts — the most extreme cuts ever proposed by Republicans on the Budget Committee.

•                Abandon seniors by ending the Medicare guarantee.

•                Cut over $202 billion dollars over ten years from the Pell Grant program.

•                Increase poverty and erode our nation’s promise of basic economic security for all Americans — continuing to stack the deck for the wealthiest and well-connected at the expense of everyone else.

Not only are Republicans are abandoning their promise to pass a budget, they are taking us back to the radical trickle-down agenda, which shattered our economy and hollowed out the wages of hard-working Americans.

Democrats and Republicans are always going to have disagreements on the best course for our country, but what is really scary is the inability for House Republicans to even lay their cards on the table because they can’t even agree on what hand their holding.

In contrast to the lack of transparency or urgency Republicans are displaying, I am so proud of the work the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest values based caucus, has done this year putting together The People’s Budget: Prosperity Not Austerity; Invest in America. This aspirational document is a statement of our progressive values which puts down payment on a brighter future for all Americans.

While House Republicans are scrambling to find enough votes from their own ranks to pass a budget, The CPC People’s Budget is gaining grassroots support every day.

As of today more than 170,000 Americans have signed a petition in support of The People’s Budget and 48 groups ranging from Planned Parenthood, to the Human Rights Campaign, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, to Friends of the Earth have endorsed our budget.

The People’s Budget is a reflection of progressive values that reinvests in our country after years of austerity policies, which have cut the social safety net and resulted in crumbling infrastructure across the country.

Our budget invests in infrastructure, invests in education, and invests in wage growth to increase opportunity for all. It’s a down payment on a brighter future for all Americans, ensuring every family struggling to make ends meet has a fair shot at the American Dream.

What’s clear from the people I talk to throughout my District in south central Wisconsin is that more than anything they want action and leadership from Congress on issues they care about. People across the country are forced to put together a budget to balance their expenses; Congressional Republicans should follow their example. That begins with figuring out what their values are.

Instead we have a Majority party unwilling to tackle serious legislation. If Republicans truly want to govern — they should go back to step one — figuring out what their values are.