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Hearing of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee - Effects of Sequestration on the Department of Education


Location: Washington, DC

"Thank you Mr. Chairman.

"Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us to discuss the effects of sequestration on the Department of Education. I am disappointed that the Administration to date has not provided Congress any details on the impact of sequestration.

"While most of the attention has focused on the devastating and disproportionate cuts to our national security, sequestration will cause considerable impact to all parts of our federal budget. The across-the-board cuts that are mandated under sequestration are not the answer to confront our fiscal problems.

"I appreciate the Chairman's focus on sequestration and the work of his staff on the sequestration report he is releasing today. However, I am concerned this report does not present an accurate portrayal of the impact of sequestration because we have not been= provided any concrete information by the Administration to make these assumptions.

"For example, Congress does not know the amount of the across-the-board cut. As the Chairman's report states, it could be anywhere between 7.8 percent and 8.4 percent. In real terms, that is a difference of $1 billion in Labor/HHS program reductions.

"Second, we have no clarity on what Labor/HHS programs are exempt from sequestration. The more programs that are exempt government-wide, the higher the sequestration percentage becomes.

"Third, the report specifies job cuts across programs and states, yet we simply have too little definitive information to know if these numbers are accurate. The only thing we do know is that agencies, programs, and states will have some flexibility to determine how reductions are taken and that all cuts will not necessarily lead to layoffs.

"Finally, while the report shows some of the potential impacts of sequestration, it makes significant assumptions, based on unknown data, as to how these cuts will be implemented.

"While the Chairman has tried to show the effects of sequestration on Labor/HHS programs, in fact, only the Office of Management and Budget can accurately provide this type of information. Unfortunately, they have remained silent on the issue. It is as if the Administration wants Members of Congress to be both blind and mute on sequestration. This cannot continue. Mr. Secretary, I look forward to us having a frank and specific discussion about the impact of sequestration with you.

"Mr. Chairman, like you, I did not vote for the Budget Control Act. I opposed the bill because as we are now seeing firsthand, it was a compromise on our financial future. The Super Committee was a failure. It was unable to garner even one dollar of savings and as a result, our entire government is now facing the possibility of severe cuts that will impact all aspects of society. The across-the-board cuts that result from the Super Committee's epic failure last year will be broad, blunt, and slash all programs indiscriminately.

"Sequestration is not the right approach to end our fiscal turmoil. In fact, its mere existence has caused huge financial uncertainty around the country. We need to find a solution to this problem now and end the uncertainty crippling school districts, small businesses, and education providers. We should not delay a solution to score political points.

"While the Chairman and I agree that sequestration will have a severe and detrimental impact on the Department of Education, we cannot forget how we got to this point in the first place. Our nation is $15.8 trillion in debt; a number that grows by $42,000 a second.

"In the past few years, the federal government has been recording the largest budget deficits since 1945. Yet the Department of Education's budget request for FY2013 did little to curb spending or put our nation on a fiscally sustainable path. In fact, it asked for an increase of $1.7 billion in discretionary spending and then went on to request $62.9 billion in new mandatory funding for the so-called American Jobs Act. While it is my understanding, Mr. Secretary, that Departments were directed to disregard the possibility of sequestration in their budget requests, you should have not disregarded economic reality.

"Our nation cannot continue to spend money we don't have. As we work to solve the sequestration issue, it is important to remember that a resolution today does not exempt programs from constraints tomorrow.

"Mr. Chairman, we need to reign in
federal spending and put our nation back on the path to fiscal sustainability.

"Thank you."

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