Mr. REID. Mr. President, this week, Speaker Boehner made some harsh accusations. I will not repeat them here on the Senate floor. Suffice it to say he thinks the Senate isn't moving quickly enough to avert the sequester--the across-the-board-cuts that will cost 750,000 Americans their jobs unless Congress acts and acts quickly.
The Speaker's charge is really weak sauce, considering that House Republicans spent 2 months refining the art of doing nothing. The allegation is stranger still given the Speaker doesn't even have his own proposal to prevent the deep cuts that will strike within 2 days. In fact, the House Republicans' entire strategy for the Congress is to sit on the sidelines.
And Republicans won't work with Democrats. The Republicans have failed to make their own proposals and refuse to compromise on a balanced plan to avoid harsh austerity measures. Democrats, on the other hand, have proposed a balanced solution to this sequester--a proposal to reduce the deficit by making smart spending cuts, closing wasteful tax loopholes, and asking multimillionaires to pay a little bit more.
We will vote this week on our plan--a plan supported by three-quarters of Americans and almost 60 percent of Republicans. But once again, Republicans are too busy fighting amongst themselves to unite behind a course of action. They are, instead, doing nothing--zero.
Benjamin Franklin once said:
The man who achieves makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all--doing nothing.
Republicans appear poised to make the biggest mistake of all. They are prepared to let the sequester's painful arbitrary cuts take effect.
Across the country, meat inspectors, air traffic controllers, FBI agents, and Border Patrol agents will be furloughed and 70,000 boys and girls will be kicked out of Head Start.
These cuts will not be felt in the next few days, but they will start quickly, Lord knows. The notices that go out in 90 days will cut off all contractual payments to whoever gets a warning notice. So within a matter of weeks, we are going to feel these cuts and feel them really painfully.
As I said, 70,000 boys and girls will be kicked out of Head Start, thousands of researchers working to cure diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and other dread diseases will be laid off, hundreds of thousands of Defense Department employees will take forced furloughs, creating hardship for their families and threatening national security.
To make sure everyone understands, this is not President Obama's sequester, because 174 House Republicans voted for this and 28 Republican Senators voted for this. That is 60 percent of Republican Senators and 75 percent of the House Republicans Members who voted for this. Congress has the power to avoid these self-inflicted wounds, but Democrats can't do it alone. Republicans must do their part. Compromise is never easy, but surely it is better than doing nothing at all.