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Public Statements

Hagel Nomination and Sequestration

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I just indicated the Senate will vote today for a second time to move forward on the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, serving as Secretary of Defense. Twelve days ago, the Republicans mounted a first-of-its-kind filibuster of Senator Hagel's confirmation. Senator Hagel is the first nominee for Secretary of Defense in the history of our country to have been filibustered. And what has the filibuster gained my Republican colleagues 12 days later? Nothing. Nothing has changed. Twelve days later Senator Hagel's exemplary record of service to his country remains untarnished.

I can still remember going to visit Senator Hagel in his office. I don't remember what we were to discuss, but it was something dealing with Senate business. As I walked into his office, I saw a picture of two young men on a mechanized vehicle in Vietnam. I asked what that was, and his staff indicated those were the Hagel brothers and their time together serving in Vietnam. They had both been wounded--Senator Chuck Hagel more than once--and Chuck Hagel was also credited with saving his brother's life in Vietnam. And this is the person who is going to be our next Secretary of Defense.

I repeat: His record of service to his country is untarnished. And 12 days later President Obama's support for this qualified nominee is still strong. Twelve days later a majority of Senators still supports his confirmation.

Senate Republicans have delayed for the better part of 2 weeks for one reason: partisanship. At a time when our Nation faces threats abroad--and that is an understatement--the President's nominee for Secretary of Defense deserves a fair and constructive confirmation process. Politically motivated delays send a terrible signal to our allies around the world and they send a terrible signal to the tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan, other parts of the world, and those valiant people who are serving here in the United States. For the sake of national security, it is time to set aside this partisanship.

In 3 days, across-the-board cuts to the Defense Department are scheduled to take effect. The Pentagon needs a seasoned leader to implement these cuts. Democrats are working hard to avert the worst of these arbitrary cuts--cuts for which an overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress voted. The so-called sequester was supported by 174 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 28 Republicans here in the Senate--60 percent and 75 percent of the two Republican bodies in this Congress.

We have a balanced proposal to replace those across-the-board cuts for this year with smart spending reductions, which must continue; measures that would close corporate tax loopholes and wasteful subsidies; and revenue from the very wealthiest among us--Americans making millions of dollars each year.

It is critical Republicans and Democrats come together to find a balanced way to avert these drastic cuts. The consequence of the so-called sequester cuts is real, not only for our national defense but for millions of American families and businesses alike. Three-quarters of a million jobs--750,000 jobs--are at stake. Across the country, tens of thousands of teachers, including thousands who work with disabled children, would be laid off; 70,000 children would be dropped from Head Start; 373,000 adults living with serious mental illnesses and children dealing with severe emotional problems will go untreated.

Airports could close due to a shortage of air traffic controllers and other essential personnel. And lines at airports that do stay open will stretch out the door, as TSA workers are furloughed.

At McCarran Airport in Las Vegas last year more than 40 million people used that airport in coming to visit the bright lights of Las Vegas, the Las Vegas strip and downtown Las Vegas. Those lines are going to get longer, waiting to take off from Las Vegas. That is too bad.

From coast to coast hundreds of thousands of civilian employees from the Department of Defense will face furloughs that will devastate their families and devastate our economy. These cuts will take place.

On Friday, when this kicks in, not everyone is going to see these cuts on Saturday, but they are going to kick in for the people who run these agencies, the people who run the Pentagon. I met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before we left for our break. These cuts are going to take place. They are going to be felt in Defense more quickly because the civilian agencies have not rehired the people they could have, and they have done other things because of the essential nature of what the military does. They haven't done that, so the cuts in the military are going to kick in more quickly. The other cuts are not going to come immediately, but as the weeks move on, we will see more and more people who have been hurt in the nondefense fields. The effects are cumulative and they are going to hurt and hurt badly.

We want to work with the Republicans to come to a balanced, responsible way to reduce the impact of this sequester, but my Republican colleagues are standing in the way of a solution. They only want cuts and more cuts. They are willing to sacrifice 750,000 American jobs rather than ask multimillionaires to pay a penny more.

Mr. President, 56 percent--almost 60 percent--of the Republicans around the country support this balanced approach we have. Republicans, I repeat, around the country support this, in addition to the Independents and the Democrats. The only Republicans in America who don't support this balanced approach are the Republicans who serve here in Congress--in the Senate and in the House.

Three-quarters of Americans, I repeat, including almost 60 percent of Republicans, are crying out for a balanced approach. With only 3 days left to protect American families and our economic recovery from this latest crisis, it is time for Republicans to work toward a solution instead of being part of the problem.


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