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Public Statements

Jobs and Sequestration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about jobs.

I've served almost 5 months in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and I've heard a lot of my colleagues talk about jobs, but we've had little opportunity to actually vote on legislation that would create American jobs.

Just this week, the Albuquerque Journal reported on the unbelievable difficulty that many New Mexicans are having in finding a job. The headline says it all. According to the article, when the Downs Racetrack and Casino in Albuquerque held a job fair last week to fill 400 openings, 6,400 job seekers showed up.

One young man interviewed said, ``I've put in 60 applications in the year I've been unemployed and haven't had a single callback.''

Another job seeker noted, ``This is the first time in my life, in 49 years, I've been without a job. You read about it, you think about it, and then when it happens it's a real awakening.''

But instead of creating an environment that would foster economic growth, Congress has done the exact opposite by allowing the indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts, known as ``sequestration,'' to take effect. According to the Director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, sequestration could result in a loss of 750,000 American jobs this year alone.

If there is one State that cannot afford to lose any more jobs, it's New Mexico. Our State's economy has been barely crawling along since the Great Recession of 2008. Last week, however, we finally got some good news. New Mexico's Department of Workforce Solutions reported that our State's employment growth in April was the best it has been in 5 years. A Department of Workforce Solutions official said, in fact, ``The economic recovery in New Mexico may be gathering momentum as we start a sustained recovery.''

Now, just as New Mexico finally appears to be on the way to the economic recovery our families and businesses so desperately need, the sequester threatens all of this progress; and this week, New Mexico got some really bad news. The Department of Defense announced plans Tuesday to furlough about 680,000 of its civilian employees, including 7,000 New Mexicans, for 11 days through the end of this fiscal year. Some might think that 11 days doesn't sound like much, but let's take a closer look at what 11 days without pay means to individual families.

When furlough notices begin going out at the end of this month, 7,000 hardworking New Mexicans will find out that they will be losing about 20 percent of their salaries for the rest of the fiscal year. Now, these families are trying to pay their mortgages, make their car payments, and put their kids through college. Families are already living paycheck to paycheck and are struggling just to get by. Can you imagine what losing 20 percent of a paycheck means to them? It's devastating. Although New Mexicans may feel the worst of the consequences of the sequester this year, sequester is not just a 1-year problem. It will negatively impact our Nation's economy for the next 9 fiscal years.

We all agree we need to reduce our long-term deficit, but we need a balanced approach that will create jobs. On May 14, the CBO released new projections that the deficit will fall by an extra $200 billion this year than previously expected. The CBO now forecasts that the deficit will shrink to 2.1 percent of the GDP by 2015 from a high of 10 percent of GDP in 2009. The International Monetary Fund has called the pace of deficit reduction ``overly strong,'' arguing that Washington should focus on job creation in the short term and develop a long-term strategy for future deficit reduction. The IMF added that this year's $85 billion in sequester-mandated cuts will negatively impact growth this year and beyond.

It's true that you can't tax your way to prosperity, but you can't cut your way to prosperity either, and draconian, across-the-board budget cuts aren't going to create jobs. I agree with those who say we need to get our fiscal house in order, but to do that we first need to solve the unemployment problem that is plaguing small towns and big cities throughout the Nation. More than half of the deficit stems from a sluggish economy and an unemployment rate that is above 7 percent.

Mr. Speaker, we need more Americans to get back to work. We need more Americans to get back to work so that fewer Americans will need to rely on social safety net programs in order to survive. We need more Americans to get back to work so that they will have more money to spend on goods and services, which will create even more jobs.

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It has become clear that the House Republicans' so-called ``plan'' to create jobs was just empty rhetoric, a hollow promise to the American people. If House Republicans were serious about creating jobs, they would vote on the updated Van Hollen substitute--a real plan to replace the sequester with a sensible, balanced approach to deficit reduction that puts job creation first.

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