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Public Statements

Sequester Impact

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to thank the Senator from Maryland and commend the very energetic way she has taken on her new responsibilities as Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. She has played a leading role in educating other Senators and the American people about the real impacts of sequestration.

While most of the media has focused on the projected consequences for programs and jobs here at home, there are also consequences for the budget of the Department of State and foreign operations, which is directly related to the national security of the United States.

It might interest people to know that the entire Department of State and foreign operations budget amounts to one percent of the Federal budget, not the 15 or 20 percent many mistakenly believe.

That one percent is what we have to operate our embassies and consulates in over 290 countries, to process visas, carry out diplomacy, respond to humanitarian crises, and build alliances with security and trading partners. There are dozens of examples of how sequestration would harm these efforts, but I will mention just three:

Cuts in diplomatic security at a time when everyone agrees we need to do more to protect our Foreign Service Officers overseas. Funding for local guards, diplomatic security personnel, and embassy security would be reduced by $181 million from the current level.

This would force the Department of State to choose between reducing the number of local guards at overseas posts, delaying maintenance at existing facilities, or postponing construction of secure facilities to replace those that do not meet current safety standards at a time of increasing attacks against U.S. overseas diplomatic posts.

Global Health programs that prevent the spread of AIDS and pay for vaccines for children, women's health, and to combat malaria and tuberculosis, would be cut by $468 million from the current level.

A reduction of this size would end life-saving drugs to more than 165,000 people infected with the AIDS virus. It would result in thousands more deaths from malaria. Tens of thousands of people infected with TB will not receive treatment. And the health of millions of Americans who travel, study, work, and serve in our Armed Forces around the world would be put at greater risk.

Funding for disaster and refugee aid would be cut by $156 million from the current levels. With 750,000 Syrian refugees and 5,000 fleeing the country each day, now is not the time to cut these programs. Other funds to help victims of drought, famine, and extremist violence in Mali, Somalia, and Sudan, and to prevent those crises from getting worse, will also be cut.

These are just a few examples of the real world consequences, not only for the people of those countries but for the security of the United States. People need to know what is at stake.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, sequestration was included in the Budget Control Act as an incentive to negotiate. The idea was that it would have such catastrophic consequences that rational minds would replace it with a thoughtful and balanced approach to deficit reduction.

That has not happened. To the contrary, just days before the sequester is to take effect our friends in the minority party whose only answer is to slash government programs and particularly those that help the neediest, have apparently decided that sequestration is not so bad after all.

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