Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today about Sequestration. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
The Senate has a great deal to accomplish this work period, including the long-delayed confirmation of former Senator Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department.
This week the Senate will also consider two plans to avert devastating, across-the-board cuts to military spending as well as domestic initiatives that keep American families and businesses strong. To give our economy a foundation for growth, Congress must replace these cuts -- the so-called sequester -- with a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
Senate Democrats would temporarily replace this harsh austerity with a combination of smart spending reductions and measures that close corporate tax loopholes, end wasteful subsidies and ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. And it would avoid harmful cuts that will hurt American families, harm military readiness and hinder our economic recovery.
Families and businesses in every state in the nation -- in red states and blue states -- are at risk because of these haphazard cuts. In the presiding officer's home state, Virginia, 170 teachers who work with disabled children could lose their jobs, thousands of kids will go without life-saving vaccines and 90,000 Pentagon employees will be furloughed.
In Nevada, 120 teachers could lose their jobs, local law enforcement agencies will lose essential funding to prevent and prosecute crime and thousands of Defense Department employees will be furloughed -- losing wages that support their families and our state's economy.
Residents of the Republican Leader's home state would also suffer. Kentucky will lose federal funding that helps police catch and punish domestic abusers, buys meals for needy seniors and keeps at-risk children in Head Start programs. And more than 11,000 Kentuckians who work for the Defense Department will be furloughed.
Nationwide, sequester cuts will cost more than 750,000 jobs. More than 70,000 little boys and girls will be kicked off Head Start. Meat inspectors, air traffic controllers, FBI officers and border patrol agents will be furloughed. Small businesses -- which create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country -- will lose access to crucial federal loans. Thousands of researchers working to cure cancer, diabetes and scores of other life-threatening diseases will lose their jobs.
Congress has the power to prevent these self-inflicted wounds. We have the power to turn off the sequester, protect American families and businesses and ensure our national defense.
In the House and in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats voted to impose these cuts. And it will take Republicans and Democrats working together to avert them. Twenty-eight Republicans in the Senate and 174 Republicans in the House voted to impose these painful cuts. If those same Republicans would work with Democrats to find a balanced way to reduce the deficit, Congress could avert the forced austerity of the sequester today -- right away.
Unfortunately, Republicans would rather let devastating cuts go into effect than close a single wasteful tax loophole. They would rather cut Medicare, education and medical research than ask a single millionaire to pay a single dollar more in taxes.
The overwhelming majority of Americans want us to compromise before their neighbors, friends and family members get pink slips or furlough notices. The overwhelming majority of Americans -- including 56 percent of Republicans -- support Democrats' balanced approach. Once again, the only Republicans rejecting a reasonable, balanced compromise are Republicans in this building -- Republicans in Congress.