Mr. LEWIS. Mr. Speaker, the people of this Nation are looking to this Congress for help. My constituents and the constituents of every elected representative here sent us to Congress to take action on their behalf.
They are worried about how they will keep a roof over their heads, food on their plates, the lights turned on, and get back and forth from work. They are holding out some hope that we might actually do what they sent us here to accomplish. They have told us they want Social Security and Medicare to continue. They want to keep their health benefits and hope to hear that this Nation's resources will be used to restore our infrastructure, create jobs and educational opportunities, strengthen our economy and restore confidence in our leadership as a nation.
They expect elected officials to build, and not to tear down. They want to unify this Nation and not divide it into two camps of the super-rich and the struggling poor. They have told us this in so many ways, especially during the last election. But instead, they are witnessing what seems to be a full-scale assault at every level of government on American life as we know it. From the U.S. Capitol to State capitols even in Georgia, extremists seem determined to reverse our climb toward recovery and drive this Nation into a ditch.
Our first priority should be trying to improve the lives of the middle class, the working class, and low-income Americans, not negotiating lay-offs, freezing salaries, scapegoating government employees, eliminating civil rights protections and collective bargaining. Public servants at every level of government are under constant attack, and in these urgent times we are reducing service to communities and teetering on the edge of economic instability. At the same time that we are reducing the number of livable-wage jobs, we are gutting re-training and reemployment opportunities. These policies will pull the rug out from under people's lives in the name of some kind of pseudo-fiscal discipline that legislators declare will do this Nation some good.
For yet another week, the Republican-led Congress has turned its back on the number one issue in this country--jobs. Instead of brainstorming a way to fix the massive problems sequestration presents, the House is considering legislation which guts 40 years of bipartisan engagement in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs. This bill would consolidate or eliminate successful initiatives like YouthBuild, the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations, and Community-Based Job Training Grants.
Last week, House Republicans also passed H.R. 890, the partisan welfare bill that would overturn the Obama Administration proposal to allow States the flexibility to move more Americans from welfare to work.
Looking forward to the week ahead, this Congress will move closer to making massive sequestration cuts permanent for millions of Americans. Instead of alleviating suffering, these bills will add to the woes of my constituents and Americans across the country.
We need to come together to find a way to help the people in this country keep their jobs and become gainfully employed, not slashing and cutting when there is no emergency that really warrants these measures. We must not balance the budget on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, especially when closing common-sense loopholes could easily raise the revenue we need.
Every day, millions of Americans go to bed hungry because they have fallen into poverty. They were evicted from their homes and have lost their jobs. This Congress has turned a blind eye to their suffering and seems to be determined to pile on more. When will we do the work of policy and put aside partisan politics? How can we look our constituents in the eye, knowing these changes will do them harm?
We are here to help solve the problems of America, not create more problems for this country. Legislators can do better; we must do better.