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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PETERS of California. Mr. Speaker, this is the final amendment to the bill. It will not delay or kill the bill or send it back to committee. If adopted, the bill will proceed immediately to final passage, as amended.

This past November, San Diegans and people across the country sent a strong message to Congress. They are tired of Washington putting politics before people, and I was honored to take my oath of office in January with a mission to be part of the solution. Like probably every member of this freshman class, Republican and Democrat, I ran for office because I was tired of the gridlock, and I believed I could make a difference. I still do.

When I was president of the San Diego City Council, it would never have occurred to me not to allow my colleagues to vote on a measure because I disagreed with it. I docketed items for votes because that's how we worked through issues and moved ahead. But the reality of Congress is that leadership has the ability to kill legislation before Members are even allowed to vote on it.

This Congress has been in session for 61 days. During that time, the majority has not offered or allowed even one vote on any proposal to repeal, amend, or replace the sequester, a measure that was designed to be so nonsensical that it was supposed never to have taken effect. That means that this Congress, 20 percent of whom are new Members, has not had even one chance to vote to avoid the loss of at least 750,000 jobs.

Until we're allowed to vote on the sequester, those of us who think it's bad policy--who prefer a regular budget process--can at least start by striking the sequestration language in this bill.

Since coming to Congress, I have used my time at home and here to emphasize how these budget decisions--and nondecisions--affect our constituents, large and small businesses, and our national defense. People in San Diego and across the country are counting on us to find a solution to the sequester so that we can continue our recovery, our economic growth, and we can continue to stay safe.

I've explained that two of the main drivers of San Diego's economy are our scientific research community and our military. In fiscal year 2012, San Diego firms received more than $130 million from the National Science Foundation and $850 million from the National Institutes of Health. It's these types of investments that have created hundreds of thousands of jobs, boosted our economy, and allowed San Diego to become the second largest life science cluster in the United States.

A student pursuing a degree in the sciences recently wrote to me to express the hope that we will find a way to fund an NIH project that would map the active human brain. That project would do for neuroscience what the Human Genome Project did for genetics. But he worries that if the United States is unable to fund projects like these that we will lose our place as a leader in scientific discovery to countries like China, England, or Israel, who are making those investments today.

The immediate cuts to NIH from sequestration are 8.2 percent, which is equivalent to a cut of $2.5 billion. This could result in the loss of 33,000 research-related jobs in 2013 and a $4.5 billion decrease in economic activity.

I've also explained how devastating the sequester is to our military. Just yesterday, an admiral testified at the House Armed Services Committee about how our best and brightest, whom we need for cyberdefense and who are interested in cyberdefense, are worried about pursuing their careers here because they don't know if they can count on Congress to provide the support.

And in San Diego, where almost one in four jobs are defense-related and nearly 25 percent of defense contractors are small businesses, 10 shipbuilding and maintenance contracts have been canceled. Nationwide, manufacturing companies that rely on defense funding could lose 223,000 jobs. And as we have heard in Armed Services, neglecting ship repairs and other maintenance and not making these investments not only leads to job losses, but threatens our very readiness as a nation.

I know protecting these areas of investment and ensuring economic recovery and growth are ideas that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Now is the time to ignore party pressures and to do what is right for the American people. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' to remove this language from the bill because we need to find solutions other than the sequester.

Let's turn the indiscriminate cuts of the sequester into targeted cuts that are part of a larger deficit reduction strategy, a strategy that cuts wasteful spending but doesn't cut critical infrastructure investments, stifle scientific innovation, or compromise our national defense.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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