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Public Statements

Sequestration Effects

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. We know from polling that most Americans have no idea what ``sequester'' means at all. In fact, one of our colleagues said that she was talking to a constituent who said, Yes, I am all for sequester. Let's sequester all the Members of Congress in a room and make sure that they come up with a plan.

That's not exactly the idea. ``Sequester,'' which most Americans don't know the definition of, actually means that for domestic discretionary spending--the things that help ordinary people and communities and law enforcement--there will be about a 9 percent across-the-board cut; just a meat-ax approach. You can't even decide between cutting conferences or leave in the research into cancer at the National Institutes of Health. No, everything is going to be across the board, a real meat-ax approach. There will also be about a 13 percent across-the-board cut in military spending. That's what we're talking about. And if people aren't following exactly what the definition is, they're going to soon find out what it means in their ordinary life.

In education, we're going to see cuts that are going to require the firing of teachers. About 70,000 little children are not going to be able to have their Head Start programs. Small businesses are going to find that almost $900 million will be unavailable to them in loans for their small businesses. We're going to lose about 2,100 food safety inspectors. How will it feel if we don't know for sure if we're going to have safe food available? And we've all been talking about the need for more mental health services around this whole issue of gun violence, yet it's predicted that about 373,000 adults and children who need mental health services won't find them available.

Military readiness will be affected. We got some data on every State. In my State of Illinois, approximately 14,000 civil Department of Defense employees are going to be furloughed under the sequester; and that means reducing the gross pay that comes to them, citizens of Illinois, by $83.5 million. That's money that they won't be able to spend in our economy. Base operation funding for Army bases will be cut about $19 million in Illinois, and funding for Air Force operations will be cut by about $7 million. These are real cuts in military readiness.

Vaccines for children. Does anybody really think that the way to save on our budget is to cut the availability of vaccines for little children? And does anybody really think that the burden of cutting the deficit should be on the backs of senior citizens? The median income for people over 65 years old is $22,000 a year. The average Social Security benefit is $15,000 a year and provides most of the income for most of the seniors in this country.

Does anybody think there isn't one tax loophole that can be closed, not one more penny that can come from huge and profitable corporations that often pay no taxes? We have some of those huge corporations paying no taxes, outsourcing jobs, setting up their corporate headquarters in post office boxes in the Cayman Islands. Some of them are getting, actually, tax breaks, refunds from the government.

Multimillionaires and billionaires can't pay a penny more, but we can cut the National Institutes of Health and research for finding cancer cures; that new drug approvals ought to be cut; that we ought to cut veterans services; that people ought to just wait longer at airports. We should even shut down some airports because we're going to have to furlough the air traffic controllers; that we should cut Meals on Wheels for senior citizens, that that's really the preferable way to go.

I have to tell you this is just a crazy way to do business in the United States Congress, particularly since we have sensible alternatives. We have not seen one bill from the Republican side of the aisle that says, Here's our idea instead of these meat-ax cuts that are going to hurt people, and the Democrats have several bills we should be hearing on this floor.


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