Van Hollen Files Sequester Replacement Bill

June 12, 2013

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, testified before the House Rules Committee in support of two amendments that he offered to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. Congressman Van Hollen filed his sequester replacement bill for the seventh time this Congress, as well as a bipartisan effort to reduce unnecessary spending in the Defense Department’s Overseas Contingency Account (OCO) by funding the account at the President’s budget request. Below is a transcript and video of his remarks.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thanks to you and the other Members of the Rules Committee for the long hours you’re putting in on behalf of the House of Representatives.

“Let me - I have two amendments today. The first is amendment number 54. It’s an amendment that is familiar to Members of the Committee, because what it would do is replace the sequester cuts.

“I would point out that the defense authorization bill that’s going to be on the floor, like the defense appropriations bills that we expect to come afterwards, will provide overall funding at approximately the level requested by the Defense Department in the base budget, but that both of those bills are going to be subject to a sequester, which comes to about $50 billion in fiscal year 2014.

“What this amendment would do is replace the sequester in the remainder of fiscal year 2013 and in fiscal year 2014 – and, on top of that, reduce the deficit by $30 billion.

“I would just bring to the Committee’s attention - I think many already know - but this fall, as part of the fiscal year 2013 sequester, you’re going to see the students of servicemen and women who go to school on military bases like Fort Bragg lose five days of school this fall, because their teachers are being furloughed. And that was after special accommodation because other defense civilian employees are going to be furloughed for a longer period of time. I don’t think any Member of this Committee thinks that’s right.

“This sequester replacement would address that issue. It would also address the sequester related to the non-defense component. And it is a mix of targeted cuts and also reductions to tax expenditures, and we would just urge the Committee to allow it to have an up-or-down vote in the House.

“The second amendment is amendment 247, which I’m pleased to report is a bipartisan amendment.

“So, what this amendment does is provide the amount of resources for what’s known as the Overseas Contingency Account – the OCO account, the war funding account – in the defense authorization bill at the level that the Defense Department says that it needs to be funded at.

“One of things I think we should all watch in the days ahead, as we reduce our footprint in Afghanistan, is a temptation on behalf of the Defense Department, like other agencies, to try to put in there – in the Overseas Contingency Account – monies that, really, are properly funded in their base budget. In fact, we’re already seeing signs of exactly that happening.

“But, this is an amendment, I’m pleased to say, is supported by Mr. Wooddall, another Member of the Budget Committee; by Mr. Moran; as well as Mr. Mulvaney. And what it does is provide funding for the OCO account at the levels that Secretary Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey today testified were what they needed.

“So you have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say that the amount that they requested for these funds are sufficient for fiscal year 2014. The defense authorization Bill added $5 billion on top of that. And I think it’s the view of the bipartisan group recommending this amendment that we not fund the OCO accounts at a level beyond what the military itself has said is necessary for fiscal year 2014.

“And again, I would argue that even the OCO accounts requested by the Defense Department already includes some funding that really belongs in the base budget. So we shouldn’t add on top of that an additional $5 billion. And that, again, is consistent with the testimony of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Thank you.”

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