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Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, listening to the distinguished Republican leader, I am reminded of that quotation from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said that our records of predicting when we will use military force since Vietnam is perfect--we have never been right once.
We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. We also know the global economy is in dire straits, in some places worse than others. In Europe, relevant to the national security question, we can no longer necessarily depend on our NATO allies to step up and do what they have done heretofore because they have their own economic and budgetary problems. Talking to some of our counterparts in the United Kingdom, the British Army is being cut by 20 percent because of austerity measures. So at a time when the world continues to be a very dangerous place--and Secretary Gates said we cannot know where the next threat to America or our allies will come from--we are finding the capability to address that threat reduced because of the budgetary cuts and thus increasing the risk to not only the United States but to our allies as well.
I wish to make just one point clear. National security is not just one thing on a laundry list of the things the Federal Government can or should do, it is No. 1. It is the ultimate justification for the Federal Government to provide for the safety and security of the American people. When the Federal Government treats national security just like any other expense on the government ledger, I think it denigrates the priority it should be.
When I heard the Senator from Washington the other day speaking at the Brookings Institute, she made an amazing speech in which--I am summarizing--she suggested that she and her colleagues will be prepared to trigger a recession unless this side would agree to raise taxes. It is not just the expiring tax provisions on December 31, which would be the single largest tax increase in American history, it is this $1.2 trillion sequester that cuts not only into the muscle but into the bone of our Defense Department and our ability to provide for our national security needs. It also has collateral impact on private sector jobs across the country. By one estimate, it is 90,000 jobs in my State alone. So why we would see our colleagues and the Commander in Chief himself wanting to play a game of chicken with our national security and our economy is beyond me.
Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CORNYN. Yes, I will.
Mr. McCONNELL. With regard to the impact on the economy, I wonder how many Boeing employees, for example, there may be in the State of Washington. Does the Senator have a number on that?
Mr. CORNYN. Responding to the question, I don't have an exact number, but I do know that by one estimate as many as 1 million private sector jobs would be affected if this sequester goes into effect as currently written.
We made it clear under the leadership of Senator McCain, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, that we are willing to work with our colleagues to try to change the structure of this sequester. We all believe Federal spending needs to be cut. But this is something that would, as the Republican leader said and Secretary Panetta admitted, would hollow out our national security and would be disastrous. Why the President won't listen to his own Secretary of Defense is beyond me.
Mr. McCONNELL. So I say to the Senator from Texas, it is not just the impact on the military, which is devastating enough, but on our economy as well, correct?
Mr. CORNYN. That is exactly right. The consensus appears to be--I remember that Alice Rivlin, a former budget director under President Clinton, said that if the sequester goes into effect as currently written and this tax increase occurs at the same time, we will be in a recession.
This is the part I really don't understand. I think we all have been around politics enough to know that people act in their own self-interest, but how in the world could this be in the President's or his party's self-interest--it is certainly not in the national interest--to see the economy bouncing along from the bottom, with slow growth and the threat of a recession going into a national election? That makes no sense to me whatsoever.
I know we have other colleagues from the Armed Services Committee here who have something to say about this. I will reiterate something the Republican leader said. We stand ready to deal with this issue now--sooner rather than later. To ignore this until after the election, creating not only more uncertainty but the inability of our Department of Defense and our military to provide for the protection and the security of the American people, is completely irresponsible.
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