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Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, in the last 2 weeks we have learned more and more what the across-the-board cuts for sequestration really mean for our families and our communities that we all represent. We have heard of workers who are on pins and needles about getting a layoff notice. We have heard from businesses that are expecting fewer customers. We heard from school superintendents wondering how they are going to absorb deeper cuts on the budgets that are already extremely tight.
After 2 years of watching our economy lurch from crisis to crisis, I think we can all agree the American people have dealt with more than enough of this. That is why I am here today urging our colleagues to support the American Family Economic Protection Act which will replace the automatic cuts from sequestration in a responsible and a fair way.
Our legislation builds on the precedent that was set in the year-end deal, and it is in line with the balanced approach that the American people favor. It would replace the first year of the sequestration with equal amounts of responsible spending cuts and revenue from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations. Half of the deficit reduction would come from responsible cuts evenly divided between domestic and defense spending.
As the drawdown from Afghanistan is completed, our bill will make targeted reductions in an overall defense budget which will be phased in responsibly as the drawdown from Afghanistan is completed and are in line with the strong military strategy for the 21st century.
Our bill would eliminate the direct payments to farmers that have been paid out even during good times for crops that are not grown.
Those are the kinds of cuts we can and should make, because responsibly tackling our debt and deficit is crucial to our country's long-term strength and prosperity.
But to do this in a way that puts American families and our economy first, we are all going to have to do our fair share, and middle-class families and seniors and the most vulnerable Americans shouldn't be asked to share the whole burden alone.
Our bill would replace half the sequestration with new revenues from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations. It calls on the wealthiest Americans to pay at least the same marginal tax rate on their income as our middle-class families pay. It will help reduce the deficit by eliminating a tax break that encourages companies to ship jobs overseas and by getting rid of a special tax loophole for oil companies. At a time when there are so many American families struggling just to get their kids off to college or to pay their mortgage or to put food on the table, it only seems fair to ask those who can afford it the most to contribute to this national challenge as well.
My Republican colleagues will say the year-end deal closed the door on revenue. Most of them seem to think that closing loopholes for the richest Americans is too high a price to pay--even to replace the serious cuts to defense that are going into effect. Instead, they say all we need is more spending cuts.
But that is not how the American people see it. More than a month after the year-end deal, 76 percent of Americans--and, by the way, 56 percent of Republicans--favored a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce our deficit.
We also know the American people want an end to the cycle of looming deadlines and uncertainty and political posturing we are seeing here in Washington, DC. They have spent enough time wondering if infighting in Congress will affect their paycheck or the businesses they have worked hard to rebuild or the future they want for their children. I think we can all agree our constituents deserve a solution and some certainty.
So our legislation meets Republicans halfway. It reflects the balanced approach the majority of the American public wants. It protects families and communities we represent from slower economic growth and fewer jobs and a weakened national defense. And it allows us to move past this sequestration debate toward a fair, comprehensive budget deal that provides certainty for American families and businesses.
While the Democrats have taken a balanced and responsible approach in our sequestration replacement bill, Republicans have gone in a very different direction. They seem to be more focused today on trying to make sure President Obama gets the blame for these cuts than actually trying to stop them. We have all been hearing from our constituents. They want us to come together to solve this problem. They want to see compromise. They want to see a balanced replacement. But the Republican Inhofe-Toomey bill fails to meet these expectations. It does not solve the problem. It doesn't stop sequestration. It is not a compromise. I urge all of our colleagues to oppose it.
The Republican Inhofe-Toomey bill would keep in place the massive cuts to both domestic and defense spending. It wouldn't replace them; it would lock them in. Instead of making the tough decisions required to replace those cuts with responsible deficit reduction the way our bill does, the Republican bill simply hands the problem off to the President. Instead of taking a balanced approach--the approach that is favored by the vast majority of the American people--the Republican bill would protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying even a penny more in taxes to help us solve this, while pushing the entire burden of deficit reduction onto the backs of our families and our communities and national defense programs. Their bill would protect defense spending from cuts, open up nondefense spending to more cuts, and specifically prohibit raising revenue to replace the cuts.
One of my Republican colleagues who is very concerned about the cuts to defense spending that would be locked in by this Republican bill called this approach ``a complete cop-out.'' That same Republican said if something such as this were to pass, Republicans would be forcing President Obama to make impossible choices and then ``every decision he'll make, we'll criticize.''
Another Republican opposed this approach as well, saying, ``I believe the appropriations process belongs in the legislative branch.'' That is us.
The Republican bill will be devastating to our economy. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that sequestration would cause 750,000 workers to lose their jobs by the end of this year. They estimate the economy would shrink by six-tenths of a percent by the end of the year. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Tuesday that rearranging these cuts would not have any substantial impact on the near-term economic picture.
Republicans have spent months talking about how they would not raise taxes on the rich and that we need a cut-only approach. But now they can't even agree on a bill that names a single cut. They want the President to do it. Leader Reid and Leader McConnell agreed to have these votes we are having today over 2 weeks ago, and it took the Republicans until last night to decide what they were even going to bring to the table. After all that time, they decided to play political games and not make any of the tough choices.
Tackling our debt and deficit responsibly is a serious issue, so I hope Republicans get serious. I hope they will listen to their constituents, come back to the table, and work with us on a responsible replacement to these automatic cuts that are scheduled to begin tomorrow.
I urge my colleagues to support our approach, the American Family Economic Protection Act, and to oppose the Toomey-Inhofe bill.
Before I yield the floor, I wish to say that I am very pleased the House of Representatives just took up and passed the long delayed, very hard-won, and badly needed victory for millions of women in this country, the Violence Against Women Act that was just passed. That means that after over 16 months of struggle, tribal women in this country, the LGBT community, immigrants, and women on colleges campuses will now have the tools and resources this life-saving bill provides.
The passage of VAWA today is validation of what we all have been saying on this side, and I am proud of the Senate for its bipartisan work. I see Senator Crapo here today, and I thank him for his leadership on this critical issue.
I have heard from so many women throughout this months-long battle, and I especially want to mention one woman today: Deborah Parker, a member of the Tulalip Tribe from my home State who happened to be here the day many months ago when Congress wanted to dump the tribal provisions in order to move the bill. She stood up with all the courage she could muster and told the story she had never told before about the abuse she had suffered while she was a very young girl and watching the same person who abused her abuse other tribal members because she had nowhere to go for recourse.
Today, that changes, for Deborah Parker and for thousands and thousands of other tribal members and other women and men in this country. I am very proud of the bipartisan work and I am very excited that this President is going to sign this bill into law and pass something that is going to make a difference in the lives of many Americans.
Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.
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