BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, before Senator Mikulski, the chair of the Appropriations Committee, leaves the floor, I want to thank her for her very hard work along with several colleagues putting together a plan that is a commonsense plan to avoid this sequester, these automatic, senseless spending cuts. It was not easy to do, but I think they figured out a way to pay for it, as she described, called the Buffett rule, which basically says to a multimillionaire: We think it is only fair that you pay the same effective tax rate as your secretary.
If you were to ask anyone on the street, any party--Republican, Democratic--if they think that is the right way to go, I am convinced 90 percent of the people would say: Of course. I thank her. I know Senator Inouye is looking down and smiling because his successor, Senator Mikulski, is doing such a great job already.
I rise as a Senator from California. Senator Feinstein and I represent 38 million people. Anything that happens around here comes down very hard on our State--or if it is a good thing, it is very good for our State. What we are facing is not a good thing, the sequester. It is a self-inflicted wound that will harm our economy.
I have to say, when I listened to Speaker Boehner over there--he is refusing to do anything about it. He says, and I will not quote him because it would be language not acceptable, but he basically said in the press, and it is written there--I urge everyone to see it--that the Senators ought to get off their ``blank'' and get to work and get something done.
I am proud to say we have an alternative to the sequester. Senator Mikulski laid it out. I believe we have a majority vote in this Senate for that plan.
I hope our colleagues will not filibuster. Let's have that up-or-down vote because when you are looking at job losses into the hundreds of thousands--and that is certainly true in my State and the country as a whole--no one should filibuster a plan that would stave off that pain.
How did we get to this place? In 2011 the Republicans decided to hold our country hostage over raising the debt ceiling. We know if we do not pay our bills--which is what the debt ceiling is about--this country is going to face default, and our credit rating is going to be lowered. Even though we finally resolved this thing at the eleventh hour, we still caused the downgrade the time before. This time we averted another downgrade, but it is very important that we remember why we got to this place of facing this sequester. The Republicans played games with the debt ceiling again.
Even though under Ronald Reagan, their hero--and, by the way, I think even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting into the Republican Party these days because Ronald Reagan said you should never play games with the debt; even talking about the debt is a problem. We raised the debt when Ronald Reagan was President; 18 times we raised the debt ceiling.
But all of a sudden, when there is a Democratic President, they are playing games. That is wrong. Obviously, we didn't want to see another downgrade. We had already seen a delay the last time, which cost us $1.3 billion, in borrowing costs alone.
In order to avert this, on August 2, 2011, we enacted the Budget Control Act. When it became law, we were within hours of defaulting on our debts. The Budget Control Act allowed us to raise the debt ceiling, but on the condition that a ``supercommittee'' find $1.2 trillion in cuts or force a trigger of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.
Straight from my heart, I say this: No one thought the sequester would go forward. Everyone thought the pain to the economy would be so great that everybody would sit down and resolve it. But here is what is going on right now. Democrats say the way to resolve it and avert the sequester is to have dollar-for-dollar spending cuts and increases in revenues. Republicans say 100-percent spending cuts and they would prefer to do no defense cuts and have it all come out of education, transportation, medical research, law enforcement, the environment. That is what their plan was last year. So let's face it. No one thought we would get to this point, but we are at this point.
What is the choice? I think it is pretty clear what the choice is. It is the Democratic plan, which is a growing economy, versus the Republican plan, which is a sequester, which is a slowing economy. When I say that, I mean it.
Mark Zandi, who is one of the leading economists in the country, said if sequestration goes forward, it would cut a half of a point off our economic growth. What does that mean? It means jobs lost. I have to say, when I look at my State, this is not a pretty picture.
The Los Angeles Times, in an article by Ricardo Lopez and Richard Simon today, says: ``California braces for impending cuts from Federal sequestration.'' I ask unanimous consent this article be printed in the Record.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. BOXER. Our Governor makes the point--he has a way of getting to the point: ``We need stimulus, not premature austerity,'' said Gov. Jerry Brown.
The Republicans have become the austerity party and the Democrats have become the jobs party. I think people want jobs. There are still too many long-term unemployed. We have a stubbornly high unemployment rate. There is no question about it.
Jerry Nickelsburg, a UCLA economist who writes a quarterly economic forecast on the Golden State--my State--said: The State's recent economic gains would provide a buffer against sequestration, but would it slow economic growth? Yes. Why would we do something like this, a self-inflicted wound, when there is an easy way to get out of it, which is to put into place a rule that says on a person's second million dollars, once they get to that point, they are going to pay an effective tax rate equal to their secretary? Give me a break. This is the greatest country on Earth, and the people I know who live in California, for the most part, in the wealthy brackets are very happy to pay their fair share. They want to pay their fair share. They want to give back. They love this country. It gave them everything. A lot of them started with nothing.
So we have the two plans. The Democratic plan was outlined by Senator Mikulski and we are going to vote on it on Thursday. I pray to God it is not filibustered and a majority will rule and we will get it done. It will create a growing economy because it is a balanced plan with half cuts, half revenues.
Then there is a Republican plan which we don't know yet, but the one they passed in the House doubled down on the cuts to education, the environment, transportation, and left defense alone. That is not fair, and that is a sure way we are going to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I wish to share a picture with my colleagues. I don't know if people can see this, but it is on the front page of the Washington Post and it is a picture of a shipyard worker. The look on his face I can only describe as frightened. As a matter of fact, when I saw the photo, without seeing what the story was about, I thought, This man is expecting some terrible gloom and doom to occur. And, yes, it is his fear that he will be laid off. He said his wife is pregnant and he doesn't have a second source of income in the family and he is desperate.
We just went through that. Why would we ever do it again? And people say to me, What is going to happen? How will I feel it back home? Will I have a longer wait at the airport? Yes, you might. Will I go to the National Park Service and it may be closed down? Yes. Will job training centers, some of them, shut down? Yes. There is a list of what will happen.
I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a list of the consequences of the sequester cuts nationwide.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. BOXER. We are looking at 70,000 children not being able to go to Head Start. We are looking at 10,000 teacher jobs. We are looking at 7,200 special ed teachers--we know those special ed teachers; they are angels from heaven who work with kids who can't even sometimes manage to get dressed in the morning by themselves.
Then: 2,700 schools won't receive title I funds, cutting support for 1.2 million children who need help learning to read. Tell me, does this make sense, when all we have to do is ask someone earning a second million dollars to pay the same effective rate as a secretary? I don't get it.
How about 424,000 HIV tests conducted by the CDC won't happen, so someone is going to sneak through and give HIV to someone else? Really, that is not a smart thing. Twenty-five thousand breast and cervical cancer screenings will not take place, and some poor woman who might have had a chance to catch breast cancer at an early stage is thrown overboard. Eight hundred thousand outpatient visits to Indian hospitals and clinics. Food inspections. Just the time to cut back on food inspections. How about 4 million meals will be cut that would have been served to seniors through programs such as Meals-on-Wheels. Four million seniors won't get that. And what if they don't have a loving child to take care of them or what if they don't have a neighbor to take care of them? Six hundred thousand women and children won't receive nutrition assistance, and we have a lot of hungry people in this great country of ours; scientific grants to find cures for the diseases that plague our families, whether they are rich or poor or anywhere in the middle, to find the cures for Alzheimer's, to find the cures for diabetes. Small businesses that do so well when they get that little seed money--$902 million cut from there.
Then: 1,000 FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel, and that is because we are just so safe in our communities. I have gone around my State and not one person ever came up to me and said, I want less enforcement in my neighborhood. It is just too much. It is too safe. Not one person ever told me, oh, don't bother checking my air or my water quality; I am just fine.
So if we take these cuts and we apply them to our States, we will find out what happens and it is not a pretty picture. Los Angeles alone could lose as much as $115 million in Federal grants, just in the first 6 months of 2013. Community development, public safety, I have been through it.
We don't have to inflict this pain on the American people. Everything I said relates to jobs. All of those cuts, what do they mean? Real people who do real things in the community such as law enforcement, teaching our kids, et cetera, will lose their jobs, not to mention people in the Defense Department who are making sure we are always safe and ready. That is why we see the look on his face, because he is potentially one of those people.
In closing, I want to thank those who have put together a package for us, and I have a plea to my Republican friends: Do not filibuster this. Too many lives are at stake. Too many jobs are at stake. Put your plan forward, get a vote on it if you have a plan or if your plan is to let sequester go through, let's see that vote again, and let us have our vote on our plan to avoid this pain and suffering people are going to feel.
I actually have one more point to make and then I will turn to my friend from Arkansas. We hear a lot of posturing from my Republican friends about how the Democrats are such big spenders and all they want to do is spend and tax and tax and spend. What party led the way to the first balanced budget in almost 30 years? I will give my colleagues a clue: It was not the Republican Party. It was the Democratic Party. When Bill Clinton was President, we not only balanced the budget but we left George W. Bush a surplus of $281 billion.
By the way, I happened to be here when we voted on the budget plan and we did not have one vote to spare. We did it ourselves.
What did George W. Bush do with this huge surplus? He squandered it. He put two wars on the credit card, never paid for them; gave tax breaks to people who didn't need them, and handed President Obama a $1.2 trillion deficit, which is now projected to be $850 billion for 2013. It is going in the right direction under a Democratic President. We want to get that down and we can get that down, and we can work together to get that down, but we do not have to do this sequester. History has shown us the balanced approach we used when Bill Clinton was President of smart investments in things that help our people such as job training and education and lifting up our children, and making sure they don't go hungry--those kinds of investments pay off in a society.
We have 23 million jobs. Under George W. Bush, we lost jobs: George W. Bush, we lost jobs. And this President, our President who just got reelected, is following the model of Bill Clinton: a balanced approach to deficit reduction, investments in things we need, cutting things we don't need, and working together.
I say if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. We are coming out of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, and we cannot afford to have this sequester. We need to avert it, come together with a balanced plan of cuts and revenues, not just the cuts-only approach, the austerity approach of the Republicans.
I hope they don't filibuster our approach and let us have an up-or-down vote and pass this with a majority.
I thank my colleagues very much, and I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT