U.S. Representative Jared Polis

Floor Speeches

Polis Amendment Would Save Taxpayers $640 Million

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Washington, June 7, 2012 | comments
Mr. Chairman, our Nation continues to struggle under an increasing mountain of debt. My constituents sent me to Washington to do something about the budget deficit. That's why I was one of the handful of Members who voted for the Simpson-Bowles budget--the only budget, I might add, of the five budgets considered by the House of Representatives that had bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats have voted for it. So, too, I joined my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, in some, but not all, of the across-the-board cuts and cuts that have been proposed to various agencies in different appropriations bills.

This amendment is simple. It's a straight 2 percent cut across the board to this bill, exempting counterterrorism accounts. We shouldn't choose between protecting our country and cutting wasteful government spending. This was designed to protect the most politically sensitive and important accounts in this bill, namely, FEMA and antiterrorism activities, which was, of course, the original purpose under which President Bush composed the Department of Homeland Security, and it's an area that we should not sacrifice.

My amendment is really about safeguarding the American people without continuing to squander taxpayer dollars. The best thing we can do to safeguard the American people is balance our budget. The longer we fail to take action with regard to making the necessary cuts, the more we make ourselves economically beholden to foreign countries such as China. During this time of budgetary constraints when our deficit is spiraling out of control, we need to take every opportunity to eliminate unnecessary government spending.

Now, cutting government spending is never easy. It might mean jobs in different agencies, it might mean missions that we agree or disagree on. But I think cutting $640 million from an overall bill of $46 billion is a reasonable first step.

Now, in particular, the Department of Homeland Security has significant waste and abuse that can be targeted for reduction. It's had massive failures; and in these economic times, we shouldn't continue to reward failure of an agency.

There are so many frivolous programs in the Department it's really hard to know where to begin. Now, in the 2011 report, the independent GAO suggested 11 actions that DHS or Congress could take to reduce the cost of government operations; and yet of those 11 actions, only one has been fully addressed.

Take, for example, one example from the report that GAO found is that CBP's Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan is not accomplishing its goal to support Arizona border security. The GAO made three recommendations last year to the program, and DHS has not taken them into action. This year's GAO report suggests Congress should consider limiting future funding to the program until DHS can show that they have addressed the flaws and they're able to work in conjunction with Arizona border security.

We can't continue to increase funding for a Department that fails to deliver. If this Department succeeded, Mr. Chair, why do we have 10 to 15 million people in this country illegally? Is this Department making a dent in that number? I think not. Will they make less or more of a dent with 2 percent less funding? I think not. We can't afford to continue to throw money down the toilet trying to build virtual or real fences at the border that can't prevent crossing, hurting our own stalled economy trying to police our way to restore the integrity of our laws.

Look, this country needs to address our broken immigration system. There are 10 to 15 million people in this country illegally. The Department of Homeland Security has failed. They have failed. Are we going to reward failure by increasing their budget, or are we going to penalize failure? Maybe if we finally do a 2 percent cut, they'll get the message that they can't just keep telling Congress they need more money. Every agency tells Congress, we need more money, give us more money. That's why this country is in this mess.

Look, make no mistake, if my amendment passes, the bill would still appropriate tens of billions of dollars to this Department, enough to continue all necessary activities and fully continue the funding enhancements to our antiterrorist programs. But it's imperative to the future of this country that we take real action to achieve fiscal sustainability and spur economic growth. We can take that first step today--and I've joined my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in support of similar amendments in the past with regard to different appropriations bills--by reducing government spending in this bill.

I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote for my amendment.
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