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American Family Economic Protection Act of 2013 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, we just met with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a former Congressman from Illinois. He said the opposite of what the Senator from Pennsylvania said. The Secretary of Transportation said exactly the opposite of what the Senator just said.

The sequestration is going to force him to reduce the payroll in his department. The largest payroll source is the Federal Aviation Administration and the largest cohort within that administration is the air traffic controllers. Sequestration is going to result in an announcement by the Department of Transportation within the next several days--if we don't avoid it with a vote on this Senate floor--of restrictions on airports across the United States because of sequestered air traffic controllers.

Mr. TOOMEY. Madam President, will the Senator yield?

Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, I will when I am finished.

We know we are going to have to tell them they are only going to be able to work 4 days out of the week. It is mindless to stand on the Senate floor and say we can cut $1 billion out of the Department of Transportation and no one will feel it. Come on. Get real. We have 7 months left in this year. These agencies are trying to come up with the savings, and the only places they can turn are very limited.

Ashton Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense, just went through with what they are facing. These are not easy because the sequestration was never meant to be easy. It is hard.

Please don't sugarcoat it and say there is a magic wand out there to find $1 billion in the Department of Transportation and that if the President would just look closely, I am sure we can do it. It is not that simple.

The Senator has been involved in the supercommittee, and he has been involved in looking at this budget. He knows that on a bipartisan basis we can find savings. There is money to be saved in every single agency of government, but you don't do it with a heavy-handed sequester approach.

Please don't suggest we are favoring the idea of air traffic control being limited in America. I want it expanded. Unfortunately, the sequestration is going to limit it in the State of Illinois and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

I will yield for the Senator's question.

Mr. TOOMEY. Madam President, it is hard for me to follow this. The Senator is decrying the effects of the sequestration, and what Senator Inhofe and I are offering is a way to minimize the damage.

In the President's submitted request for the FAA, did he contemplate laying off air traffic controllers or closing towers? I know the answer. The President's budget--which he submitted to Congress and is a public document--requested a certain funding for the FAA.

Mr. DURBIN. For the next fiscal year?

Mr. TOOMEY. For the current fiscal year, the President's most recent request. The President's request was for less money than the FAA will have if the sequester goes through. I don't think the President was planning to lay off air traffic controllers.

Mr. DURBIN. Reclaiming my time, this is getting perilously close to a debate, which I will tell those in attendance never happens on the floor of the Senate. I will tell the Senator at this time we are dealing with the CR and last year's appropriations for the Department of Transportation; that is what Secretary LaHood is using. He is using the Budget Control Act numbers. So the President's request, notwithstanding--I am not sure how the Senator voted, but there was a bipartisan vote for limiting the amount of money that could be spent in this fiscal year. I voted for it, and that is what the Secretary is operating under.

The reality is this: Even with the Inhofe amendment, $1 billion has to be cut from the Department of Transportation, and the flexibility notwithstanding, the options are so limited at this point in time.

I will tell the Senator pointblank that I believe we need to reduce this deficit. Sequestration is a terrible way, but there is an alternative. There will be an alternative this afternoon, and we will ask the Senator from Pennsylvania and to the Senator from Oklahoma: Are they prepared to say we are going to limit the direct agriculture support payments to farmers who have had the most profitable years in their lives and don't need them? Are they prepared to say that people making $5 million a year in income ought to pay the same tax rate as the secretaries who work for them? If they are, we can avoid the worst parts of the sequestration. If they are not, be prepared, we are in for a pretty rough ride.


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