The Sequester

Floor Speech

By:  Harry Reid
Date: Feb. 28, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, Rick's departure from the Senate Armed Services Committee comes during a trying time for our Nation's military, as deep across-the-board spending cuts are set to strike hundreds of thousands of civilian employees at the Defense Department who will be furloughed in the coming weeks and months. Families and businesses across the country are also bracing for the pain of deep cuts in programs that keep our food safe, our water clean, and our borders secure.

But it is not too late to avert these damaging cuts, and cuts for which the overwhelming majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate voted--174 in the House, 28 here in the Senate. We believe we have a balanced plan to remove the threat of the sequester, fully paid for.

Our proposal would reduce the deficit by making smart spending cuts, and it would also close wasteful tax loopholes allowing companies that outsource jobs to China or India to claim tax deductions for doing so.

Our plan would stop wasteful subsidies to farmers, some of whom don't even farm anymore. That is right, there are some farmers who grew rice decades ago, who still get payments from the Federal Government for rice they do not grow. Chairman Stabenow has led the effort to make sure that won't happen anymore, and that is part of our legislation.

Our bill would also ask the wealthiest among us--those making, for example, $5 million a year--to pay a minimum of 30 percent in taxes. I don't think that is too outrageous. It is called the Buffet rule because that multibillionaire said he should pay as much in taxes as his secretary, which he doesn't. So this legislation would make it more fair in that regard.

Almost 60 percent of Republicans around the country favor this balanced approach, revenue from the richest of the rich and continuing with governmental cuts. This
proposition would ask millionaires and billionaires and wealthy corporations to contribute a tiny fraction more, as I have already indicated.

And everybody agrees--Republicans around the country and about 80 percent of the American people agree--it is the right thing to do. Almost 60 percent of Republicans around the country agree it is the right thing to do. The only Republicans in America who don't agree are those who serve in Congress.

Republicans in Congress are going after our proposal because it goes after their special interests. Now, after days of infighting, Senate Republicans have announced their plan. But instead of replacing the pain of sequester with something smarter and more responsible, their plan would embrace these devastating cuts while abandoning any of the responsibility that goes along with them.

One of the Senators in our caucus we had on Tuesday said the Republican plan we thought was coming--and it did--would be like being told you have to have three fingers cut off, and their proposal is to send this to the President and have him decide which finger is going to go first.

Republicans call the plan ``flexibility.'' Let's call it what it is: It is a punt. They are punting. As President Obama said yesterday, it would simply raise the question: ``Do I end funding that helps disabled children or poor children? Do I close this naval shipyard or that one?''

The Republican plan is not a solution. And even members of the Senate Republican Caucus have questioned the wisdom of this proposal, and they have said so publicly. Why would the Republicans, part of the legislative branch of government, cede more power to the White House?

The Republicans should give Congress true flexibility--the flexibility to cut wasteful subsidies, the flexibility to close unnecessary tax loopholes, and the flexibility to ask the richest of the rich to contribute a little bit more. Instead, they have become completely inflexible, insisting we risk hundreds of thousands of American jobs as well as programs that strengthen families and small businesses across the Nation.

I am sorry to say that should come as no surprise. As usual, the Republicans have put the demands of special interests and protection of the richest of the rich--people making up to $5 million a year and not being asked to contribute 30 percent of what they make--over the needs of the American people, especially the middle class.

Will the Chair announce the business of the day.