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

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I oppose this legislation. In Congress, we continue to talk past ourselves on how to get to fundamental financial sustainability. If flexibility is necessary for some agencies, then why not provide all of them with the necessary flexibility to deal with the draconian impacts of the sequester?

I opposed the sequester from the beginning and still believe it's a terrible idea. Congress should have dealt with it comprehensively at the end of last year; we should have had a bigger solution then. Now that we are stuck with it, we have to deal with the consequences.

Providing flexibility to some of the agencies but not others makes no sense--it merely allows the Defense Department to mitigate some of the worst effects on its budget, while continuing to hamstring vital domestic priorities. For instance, the $1.6 billion cut in the NIH budget will cut research into illnesses affecting millions of Americans, senior meal programs like Meals on Wheels will be cut by up to 4 million meals for needy seniors, and in my State, head start and early head start programs are being cancelled.

In my home State of Oregon, we will lose approximately $10.2 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting about 140 teacher and aide jobs at risk. Our Head Start and Early Head Start services will be eliminated for approximately 600 children, reducing access to critical early education. Oregon could lose up to $81,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 300 fewer victims being served.

Overall, this reckless policy will cost our country roughly 750,000 jobs, according to the CBO. They also estimate that allowing sequester to take place will lower economic growth from 2.0 percent to 1.4 percent, cutting anticipated economic recovery by a third.

Instead of throwing our hands up, we should make smart, targeted budget decisions that, taken over 10 years, are an alternative to the arbitrary sequester cuts and can put the country on a more sustainable fiscal path.

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