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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 933, 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. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding.

It's really a shame we've come to this point where the dysfunction of this Congress is going to inflict harm on families, on the military, and on communities throughout America.

I have great respect for my friend from Oklahoma. He has reached across the aisle, and he has tried to work with us to find common solutions, but he knows the truth. The truth is that discretionary domestic spending as a percentage of our GDP is at the lowest it's been since the Eisenhower administration. He knows that the Federal tax burden, the revenue side of the ledger, is the lowest since Harry Truman was in the White House. He knows that the gap between spending and revenue has grown since the last time we balanced the budget under Bill Clinton, when it was much closer.

We have to get our arms around spending, but not in a mindless, meat-ax way. It is going to hurt America.

And to bake it into this continuing resolution, in my view, is a terrible mistake. If the Republican side of the aisle wants to embrace sequestration as its own with this fairy tale that "it's just a haircut; it's not much, especially when you look at the overall size of Federal spending,'' that will come as news to communities, to travelers, to consumers, and to the American public who, in fact, will feel the brunt of the sequestration in this continuing resolution.

The other aspect of this continuing resolution, and why I oppose this rule, Mr. Speaker, is that, once again, we treat the Federal employee like a punching bag. For the 3rd year in a row, we freeze their salary. They have already contributed, and they were the only group singled out to contribute to the Federal debt reduction to the tune of $100 billion in lost wages and benefit cutbacks. We use the freeze on Congress as a subterfuge to get at Federal employees.

I urge my colleagues to vote against the rule and support my bill to freeze congressional salaries, H.R. 636. Seventy-three cosponsors have already decided to do so.

It is a shame that House Republicans cannot find a way to put aside ideology to work with us to avert the devastating cuts of sequestration. The Continuing Resolution presents the perfect opportunity to stop this self-inflicted wound on our economy, our military, and our families.

The consequences of Republican inaction will be particularly hard felt in my community, which is home to so many people who work for or partner with the federal government. That pain will spread across Virginia and the rest of the nation as no community will be spared from these meat-axe cuts as they ripple through the economy. Every community that receives direct federal assistance, has residents who work for the federal government or is home to an employer who does work with the federal government will be affected.

The slowdon in government spending has been a drag on local and state economies across the entire country and the unemployment rate for the past two years. GDP growth in the 4th Quarter of 2012 slowed to 0.1% after growing at 3.1% in the 3rd Quarter based largely on a 22% reduction in defense spending.

Now the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects economic growth for this year will be half of what it otherwise might be as a result of these new cuts. In addition, a study by George Mason University estimates sequestration will lead to loss of more than 2 million jobs.

Since last August, I have joined members of the regional delegation, as well as industry leaders and federal employee groups, in calling on Congress to find a balanced alternative to sequestration. I agree that we must take reasonable steps to address our debt. However, I cannot accept the House Republican philosophy that the only way to do this is through cuts alone.

We cannot cut our way to prosperity. We must have a balanced approach that finds strategic cuts and savings while maintaining critical investments that ensure our competitiveness in the global economy.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this rule so that we can bring up a balanced approach to replace sequestration along with my bill to protect federal employees from yet another pay freeze.

My bill, H.R. 636, would freeze Member salaries for the duration of the 113th Congress. If anyone's salary should be frozen as a result of our nation's fiscal situation it is Members of Congress.

Our dedicated Federal employees are on the front lines protecting and serving the public every day in our communities. Yet House Republicans have routinely used them as a punching bag. The men and women who have dedicated their careers to public service are still weathering a pay freeze that will have lasted more than two years, and they have made sacrifices in pay and benefits totaling more than $100 billion to help reduce our nation's debt.

Now, because House Republicans refuse to work with us to avert sequestration, they are facing furloughs and the loss of up to 20% of their pay in some cases on top of having their pay frozen for a third consecutive year as part of this CR.

Mr. Speaker, sequestration was put in place to force Congress to act, not to become law. I remain committed to preventing these harmful cuts, and I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against this rule so we can bring up a balanced approach that will do just that.

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