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Public Statements

Sequester Impact

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I appreciate--and we all do--all the Senators, even Senators on the other side of the aisle I think admire her tenacity and her leadership and, most importantly, her knowledge and understanding of the importance of the Federal budget on the private sector economy. Obviously, the Senator from Maryland understands its impacts on Maryland, but she also understands the impacts to our Nation.

No one speaks more passionately and more knowledgeably about the challenges before families than Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland, from a working-class family herself. Her parents and grandparents, immigrants to this country, operating a small business, a bakery--a wonderful business--not only understanding how to run their own business themselves but for all the neighbors who came in every day to talk about their problems.

When the Senator says she knows what families do in tight budget times, she is correct. Families do cut back, but they plan their reductions. They don't pull the rug out from underneath the college tuition for their kids. They don't kick grandma out on the street and put her in a homeless shelter. They make smart decisions about budgets. Let me say to my colleagues on the other side who fail to understand the other part of the equation, they also try to bring in more revenue to the family base. Either the wife gets a job or the husband gets a job or the wife goes back to school to get a nursing degree so instead of making $6 an hour, she can bring in $16 or $18 an hour.

Families work on both sides of the equation. But for some reason, we have half this Chamber that only wants to work on one side of the equation. It is only about cuts, cuts, and more cuts, even though they are senseless, they are dangerous, they do not make sense for our country, and they most certainly don't just impact the government--of course, which is the enemy of the other side--they impact our economy. They impact our ability to grow this economy. Every cut that comes down in a senseless way, and even cuts that are planned, are harmful to the private sector.

I know this not only as a Senator from Louisiana and chair of the Homeland Security Committee but particularly as chair of the Small Business Committee. Our phone has been ringing off the hook with small businesses--not government workers but private sector workers and contractors--that are afraid, and have every reason to be, about the results of this sequester to their bottom line because they are providing the government a good service or a product the government needs, whether it is in health care, whether it is in education or whether it is in homeland security. But I digress a little bit. So let me get back to the central message as chair of Homeland Security.

I rise to speak in opposition to the damaging sequester that is scheduled to take effect this Friday. There is no question Congress must act to reduce our annual deficits--must continue to act. Let me underline ``continue.'' We have been reducing spending. We have set targets of spending lower than what would have normally been set because we are tightening our belts. We were trying to tighten our belts even at a time when the economy was shrinking. Most economists will tell us that in times of economic constriction, governments need to spend more money to try to prime the pump to get the country moving in the right direction. The President has led in this direction. We have helped to follow his lead; therefore, avoiding the worsening of a depression and a recession.

But contrary to the evidence all over the place that this is working, the other side is going to ratchet it down with these senseless reductions--and even well-planned reductions at this point are very difficult--and rejecting a balanced approach which Democrats have called for. Most independent observers understand we have to have an increase of revenues coming in because we are at the lowest level to the GDP since Eisenhower was President and some continued reductions. But they are rejecting that and going cuts only, cuts only. They said: We raised revenues. That is it. We raised $600 billion. We can't go any more. I am here to tell you, we have to go a little bit more, and the sooner we do that, the better we are going to be.

There are people who make over $1 million in this country or companies that are enjoying loopholes they shouldn't be enjoying at the expense of the middle class and at the expense of the economic growth potential of this country, which is substantial, contrary to the laments on the other side of this aisle that the sky is falling.

Every businessperson I talk to says: You know what, Senator. There is such promise out there. This energy industry is getting ready to boom. Natural gas is a great blessing to our Nation. But we may not experience any of that because we can't get 5 cents to invest in an airport or dredge one of the bayous or rivers in my State because of the tightening down of these spending cuts.

The other side of the aisle, despite the mounting evidence, continues to argue against any revenues. Their cuts-only approach, cut it all, cut it now; don't worry about what you cut, just cut it, is not going to lead this country to economic prosperity.

The reality is our deficit reduction so far has been completely lopsided: 72 percent has come from spending cuts, only 28 percent from revenues. It is not balanced, and we have to find a balance. We have already cut $1.5 trillion from discretionary spending over 10 years. In recent years, revenues coming in to the Federal Government as a percentage of GDP were at the lowest levels since Eisenhower. I said 16 percent. My notes say 15.1 percent. So let me correct myself. I didn't realize it was that low. I thought it was 16.7.

So while I support cuts--and have supported them in the past and continue to try to find them in my own budget, $42 billion for Homeland Security--we must have a balance.

This sequester that is going to go into effect in Louisiana will cost us $15.8 million in funding for primary and secondary education. Early Head Start services will be cut to over 1,400 children who desperately need a better start in life. Our ability to develop oil and gas will slow down due to Interior Department cuts. Louisiana's Department of Defense civilian employees--over 7,000--will be furloughed, costing Louisiana residents $36 million in gross pay.

As chairman of the committee, I am asking for the Senate to consider the impacts of these cuts on securing our homeland. We have made a tremendous amount of progress. We have avoided attacks, and some have been very close calls. This is not done because of a wish and a prayer. This is done because of smart research, investing in border security, investing in cybersecurity, investing in training of local police officers who can identify threats on the ground, whether it is in New York or Baton Rouge or New Orleans. We have avoided some attacks. As the Senator from Washington State knows, this does not just happen by magic. This happens because we are making investments in people, in their training. This is at risk today.

The sequester would effectively decrease the number of Border Patrol agents by 5,000.

I wish to make a statement and ask for 2 more minutes. I understand the Senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain, and the Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, met with the President to talk about immigration reform. I am very glad we may make some progress on bipartisan support for immigration reform. Clearly, the country is asking for it, the business community needs it, our agricultural sector needs it, and the Latino population deserves it. But are we going to try to do education reform on a reduced budget in Homeland Security? What do they expect us to do in a Homeland Security budget without giving us some additional resources to hire the additional judges who are going to be needed, the additional patrols, et cetera? So I ask Senator McCain, how are we going to afford this in the Homeland Security budget?

I look forward to having that discussion with him. On cyber security, the sequester would delay for a year the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to deploy technology to protect our Federal computer systems from attack.

In the last minute I have, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter we received this morning from Secretary Napolitano, who is preparing her agency for difficult tasks.

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Ms. LANDRIEU. One of the issues I have been very focused on is international travel. I do not have the time to go into the details. It is an important industry for our country, not just for Louisiana and New Orleans, which are way up on the list of places people want to come. The travel industry is important.

Last week Roger Dow said:

Travel has led the nation's economic recovery--generating more than 50 percent of all jobs created since the beginning of the recession. The indiscriminate sequester cuts threaten to derail travel-led recovery. These across-the-board cuts may punish travelers with flight delays, long security lines at [TSA] checkpoints and multi-hour waits to clear Customs and Border Protection.

This is not a time to cut back on investments we have made in increasing travel, 10 years after 9/11 ground this industry to a halt. Now is not the time to put up a yellow light or a red light, and that is what the sequester is going to do--it is going to be blinking yellow at a time when we need green all the way.

We need to find a way to break through. This Senator is willing to compromise.

I yield the floor.

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