Sequestration

Floor Speech

By:  Steny Hoyer
Date: Feb. 26, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HOYER. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Today, Mr. Speaker, we continue an unfortunate and unnecessary countdown to the irrational and reckless automatic cuts the Republican policies will impose. The countdown stands at three days. Unless Congress acts by Friday, the cuts will take effect, with dangerous results across the country and in the Fifth District of Maryland, my district.

Approximately, 46,000 civilian defense personnel will be at risk of being furloughed at installations in Maryland, including Pax River, Webster Field, Indian Head, and Joint Base Andrews. This will undermine their ability to serve our Nation and keep America safe.

Federal defense contracts could be canceled or reduced, which will translate into lost jobs--an economic hurt for the communities they affect.

There will be cuts to the FDA, which, as I said, are in Maryland's Fifth District. National FDA cuts could result in fewer food safety inspectors for consumers.

And children will be kicked out of Head Start. There will be longer wait times for those seeking to access job-training and placement services. Our first responders will lose much-needed personnel.

This year alone in Maryland, the sequester could mean up to 500 fewer victims of domestic violence receiving critical services. And around 2,050 children unable to receive vaccines for communicable diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough and the flu. This is not a rational way forward.

Law enforcement could lose about $317,000 in my own State for this year in grants that support crime prevention and drug treatment and enforcement.

Mr. Speaker, the people of my district are hardworking folks who just want the chance to pursue the American Dream. Many of them are Federal employees who have already been forced to cut back as a result of some of the actions that we've taken. Others are defense contractors who support our men and women in uniform who are at the point of the spear and rely on these defense contractors to keep them well-equipped and well-trained. They cannot afford the arbitrary, irrational cuts that are set to take effect in just 4 days.

Even if some here believe Congress does not have a responsibility to create opportunities, at least I think we can agree that Congress has a responsibility not to prevent them. I believe Congress has an important role to play in making sure our businesses can compete, our communities can thrive, and our people can make it in America.

That's what is at stake in the policies that we are confronting today. They remain extremely disappointed that some in this Chamber are actively supporting the sequester's painful and indiscriminate cuts as a viable path forward. As a matter of fact, many Members on the Republican side have said ``bring it on, this is what we want to do.'' To do so, in my opinion, is gravely irresponsible.

Marylanders, and all Americans, deserve a Congress that takes our challenges seriously. None of our challenges are more serious or more immediate this week than the dangers of allowing the cuts to take effect.

That's why I have cosponsored a bill with Mr. Van Hollen and many others on the Democratic side of the aisle to replace the cuts for the remainder of the year with a balanced approach to reduction, a balanced approach which will bring down our deficit, bring down our debt, but will do so in a responsible way.

Mr. Speaker and Mr. Majority Leader, you have the power to bring that bill to the floor today. And if you don't agree with it, don't vote for it. But allow the American people to see their representatives have the opportunity to vote for a rational policy so that we do not pursue an irrational policy that will undermine jobs in America and the growth of our economy.

Only a balanced solution can achieve the savings we need and still afford our investments in attracting middle class jobs.

As we count down to Friday, what are we doing on this House floor? Well, yesterday we did a suspension bill. Today we will do a suspension bill. I dare say, Mr. Speaker, nobody, outside of the particular interest groups will know what those suspension bills are.

And then we will consider a bill on Wednesday and Thursday, an important bill. We should have passed it in the last Congress. But we ought to be dealing with these cuts that are confronting our country starting on Friday and Saturday.

As we count down to Friday, I will continue to work towards an agreement that will avert these arbitrary, hurtful cuts and protect Maryland families and businesses from congressional partisanship gone awry.

And I am encouraging those who live in my district, and anyone else, to visit my page on Facebook and share how the proposed cuts will impact you, your loved ones, and your community.

For the sake of our families, Mr. Speaker, our small businesses, our children, our teachers, our defense contracts, our public servants, our first responders, and others, I urge my Republican colleagues to embrace the spirit of compromise that has been so absent of late in this Chamber. I call on them to work with Democrats to find a balanced, sensible, smart, rational, and responsible solution to our deficits.

Mr. Speaker, we have 3 days left to go. Let's bring something to the floor that's a solution. Let's do it now.