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Public Statements

Sequester Impact

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, today I rise to speak on the impact of sequester on the American people, on their safety, their security, our economy, and the way local and State governments can use wise resources to protect their people.

I know we have each been assigned 10 minutes. I have a robust number of Appropriations Committee members who want to speak. I will ask the Chair to let me know when I have used 5 minutes, and if Senator Landrieu arrives, I will then yield to her.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. I come today not only as the chair of the entire Appropriations Committee but as the chair of the subcommittee that funds the Commerce Department, Justice Department, and the majority of our science agencies.

I wish to talk about the impact on public safety and our future, but you have to know I come with a heavy heart.

I note and bring to the attention of my colleagues that a guard was killed in a Federal prison on Monday. This guard worked at the Federal penitentiary in Canaan, PA. He was stabbed and attacked by a prisoner with homemade weapons. The entire Justice Department, the Office of Prisons, the union people who represent them, all mourn at Mr. Eric Williams' death. We don't know the full extent, and I will be asking for a report on the investigation on how this happened. But one of the things I do know as the chair of the committee, we face prison overcrowding. We have Federal prisons, some we don't even open because we refuse to put the money in.

You can say: Well, Senator BARB, you are on the committee. Why don't you put the money in? We are in gridlock, deadlock, hammerlock on not being able to move our bills in regular order with due diligence and oversight. That is why we are at this crisis of sequester: Oh, boy. Can't we just cut 2 percent like American families?

American families don't run prisons. They don't build their own roads. They don't have to put out their own local police department. They depend on their government to do that. They are willing to expend revenue, pay taxes so they are protected. There are reasons people are in Federal prison. They were bad guys and gals who did bad things, and when they are in prison, they still want to do bad things, such as attack a prison guard. Do you know what sequester will mean? Across-the-board cuts. It will have a direct impact on America's prisons.

Oh, sure. The prisoners will still have their food. They will still have their hour to be able to do their exercise. But the prison guards will face furloughs, layoffs, and even reductions in the workforce. We are placing them at risk while they protect us from risk. Where are our national priorities?

One of the ways we can honor this man is to get serious about our appropriations process. I wish to cancel the sequester and come up with a balanced solution of revenues and strategic, targeted cuts, not across-the-board cuts to 1,300 correctional guards who might face layoffs.

About our Federal prosecutors. We in Maryland have one of the best U.S. attorneys going after violent gangs, drug cartels, child predators, mortgage frauds. But we are going to say to those smart lawyers who can make megabucks in law firms, stick with us. But when you do, you can be laid off and furloughed. Why is it that the criminals are able to hire the lawyers, but the Federal Government doesn't want to pay for them? Priorities.

We need to be able to have the right law enforcement at the Federal and State level to catch the bad guys, whether it is white-collar crime, such as mortgage fraud, or street crime, or despicable crimes such as trafficking in women and children.

We have to look out for our FBI, our major force in counterterrorism. They face, again, layoffs, and it will go to our local law enforcement. We will be cutting the funds for things such as the Byrne grants, which enable local law enforcement to put cops on the beat and buy the equipment they need to protect themselves. There is a program here that we have a line item. It is not the biggest thing in the Federal budget, but it is the biggest thing to cops. Why? Because it buys bulletproof vests.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. I could talk another 55. I could talk another 505. But I want everyone to get the point that cuts have consequences. So things such as, oh, why don't we cut the budget as families do--well, let's do what families do. They, first of all, make plans and stick to them. I think it is time we have a regular order.

I want to deal with this sequester now. I want to look at this thing called the continuing resolution so it resolves the funding for fiscal 2013, for fiscal 2014, to work on a bipartisan basis across the aisle and across the dome. Let's look at our spending, how we protect the American people, and make public investments that help create jobs today and jobs tomorrow.

In conclusion, before I turn to my most able subcommittee chair on Homeland Security, Senator Landrieu, I just wish to say to the family of Officer Eric Williams, the entire Senate wishes to express its condolences to the family. I believe we can show our deepest sympathy by making sure it doesn't happen in our Federal prisons. Let's get on and solve the problem of sequester. Let's work together and get the job done.

I yield to Senator Landrieu, the chair of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, a very crucial committee.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from South Dakota, the Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, for presenting a stark and compelling explanation of the impact of sequestration on veterans and military installations, and the consequences these ill-advised budget cuts will have on local communities.

I am particularly troubled by the impact these cuts could have on Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who are already struggling to find jobs, many of whom are also coping with combat-related physical and mental health issues. The unemployment rate among women veterans is truly shocking. These brave Americans have served on the frontlines of our war on terrorism, and they should not be subject on their return home to a manufactured budget meltdown that could further complicate their job prospects and job security.

Of course we need to rein in the federal debt, but we need to do so in a thoughtful, constructive way that brings both reasoned budget cuts and additional revenue to the table. The President has called for, and Senate Democrats are proposing, a balanced way forward.

NNSA AND CCE

Ms. MIKULSKI. As the Chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, I would ask the Senator from California to describe the impact of sequestration on the Department of Energy and the Corps of Engineers.

Please provide specific examples that would help Members of Congress and the American people understand the consequences of sequestration on basic and applied research for future energy technologies, nuclear weapons modernization and nonproliferation activities, and maintaining critical water infrastructure.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. It is my understanding that NNSA also funds nonproliferation activities. Would sequestration undermine the 4 year goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world by the end of December 2013?

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. NNSA has sufficient funding to meet the 4 year goal, but securing materials is not the same as permanently removing and disposing of them. Even with the 4 year goal nearly complete, thousands of kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium enough materials for dozens of nuclear weapons still present a terrorism risk. Terrorists are indifferent to sequestration.

The sequester would impose cuts of nearly $200 million from the nonproliferation program. Efforts to remove additional nuclear materials would be delayed In addition, NNSA would not be able to deploy additional radiation detection equipment at border crossings that are most vulnerable to nuclear and radiological smuggling. Of particular concern is NNSA missing the deadline to build and deploy new, more accurate sensors that can detect other countries' nuclear weapons tests. NNSA would not be able to build the sensors before the Air Force is scheduled to launch its satellites.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Equally important to our national security are efforts to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil and mitigating the effects of global warming. What impact will sequestration have on basic research needed to accelerate future energy technologies?

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. The Department of Energy maintains U.S. leadership in scientific and technological innovation by supporting basic research through its Office of Science. The goal is to advance energy technologies and operate world-leading facilities to accelerate scientific discoveries.

Sequestration would cut about $250 million from the Office of Science. Specifically, these cuts would result in hundreds of layoffs at national labs, universities, research facilities, and private sector companies that rely on Office of Science funding grants for energy research, reduce operations of major scientific facilities, meaning less research and development in one of the highest priority research areas designing novel materials which is critical to advancing energy technologies, stop almost all construction projects that are replacing aging infrastructure at the national labs that are needed to support science missions and attract the best scientists from around the country and the world, and allow no, or very few, new awards to advance high performance computing to stay ahead of Chinese competition and develop the next generation system, known as exascale, before the U.S. reaches the limits of current technology.

These cuts would come at a time when many other countries are making significant investments in energy research and development. Many experts are already warning that current investments are not sufficient to maintain U.S. competitiveness in energy technologies.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Before our time is up, let's also discuss the impact of sequestration on water infrastructure. What will be the impact on the Civil Corps of Engineers?

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. With sequestration, the Corps would likely have to close 57 recreation areas and partially close 186 recreation sites. There would also be no funding for 52 ongoing studies that were funded in FY 2012, 65 construction projects that were funded in FY 2012, and 43 dredging projects that were funded in FY 2012.

As the studies and construction projects are cost shared with non-Federal sponsors, over 115 local sponsors would be left with no Federal share to match their contributions for these studies and projects, further delaying completion of these studies and projects. In addition, only the bare minimum funding for dredging of ports and harbors will be available. This will lead to inefficiencies in transportation due to required light-loading which will ultimately lead to increases in consumer costs.

The long term effect of these delays is increasing the costs of construction projects. More money needed to complete current construction projects means less or no funding for future projects already planned.

I thank Senator Mikulski for the colloquy today on this issue.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I thank Senator Feinstein for her sobering assessment of the impacts of sequestration.

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