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Opinion Several bills to cut spending considered by Congress

Rep. Heath ShulerLast week was a busy one in the House of Representatives, with a schedule that included a bill to cut spending and balance the federal budget as part of ongoing negotiations on spending and the national debt, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, and a bill to make major changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also last week, I introduced a bipartisan bill to improve infrastructure and save taxpayer money.

On Tuesday, I joined a bipartisan majority of the House to pass the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011. While this bill is far from perfect, it does take steps to cut current spending levels, put a cap on discretionary spending, and requires the federal government to balance the budget without cutting Social Security, Medicare, or veterans’ benefits. Therefore, I joined a bipartisan group in supporting it. The bill passed the House by a margin of 234- 190. The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act did not pass the Senate when it was considered on Friday.

On Wednesday, I joined two of my fellow colleagues on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to introduce the bipartisan Fiscal Accountability and Transparency in Infrastructure Spending Act, H.R. 2602. This commonsense legislation will produce dramatic savings on transportation and infrastructure projects across the country, ensure that federal and state governments are maximizing the value of every tax dollar spent on infrastructure projects, and create longer-lasting investments.

This bill will achieve these goals by requiring government agencies to conduct an upfront analysis of full project costs over 50 years, giving state and local governments the flexibility to use alternative infrastructure design and bidding to drive down costs, and increasing access to advanced technology that allows engineers to more efficiently design roads and infrastructure. I am hopeful that with its strong support on both sides of the aisle, this bill will quickly be brought before the House for consideration.

Also last week, the House voted on H.R. 1315, legislation that would have done away with key consumer protection provisions created by last year’s Wall Street Reform bill. H.R. 1315 would have particularly weakened the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in the Wall Street Reform bill to protect Americans from unfair, deceptive, or abusive financial practices and provide oversight on banks and other financial institutions to ensure they are complying with consumer financial laws.

While the 2010 Wall Street Reform bill was not perfect, I support the strong consumer protections that it created and believe these protections must be kept in place. I voted for numerous amendments to H.R. 1315 that would have helped mitigate some of its most harmful provisions, but the majority of these amendments were not adopted. I opposed H.R. 1315 when it came to the House floor, but it still passed by 241-173.

The House concluded the week with consideration of H.R. 2551, the FY 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. This bill provides funding for the Legislative Branch of the federal government, including the House of Representatives and the Senate. While I was pleased that this bill included many bipartisan provisions that will eliminate wasteful spending, I had a number of concerns about the overall bill. Specifically, I had concerns about the lack of adequate funding provided to the Capitol Police. In the wake of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona and continued threats against the U.S. government by terrorists abroad, we must ensure the safety and security of the U.S. Capitol and the millions of Americans who visit it annually. H.R. 2551 did pass the House 252-159.

The House will be in session Monday through Friday this week and potentially through the weekend as Congress and the White House continue to work toward a negotiation on raising the debt ceiling.*

*As of press time on Wednesday afternoon, Congress had not successfully negotiated a resolution on raising the debt ceiling. —Editor


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