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Public Statements

The Impacts of Congressional Dysfunction

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KILMER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the damage from Congress' inability to do its job and pass a budget, and the unreasonable lengths that folks have to go to cover for the reckless policy of sequestration.

As I said the very first time I spoke in this Chamber, Congress should be doing all it can to replace the across-the-board cuts caused by sequestration with a balanced, bipartisan, long-term budget. Cutting across the board is not a strategy. In fact, it's anti-strategic.

Unfortunately, this Congress has been stuck in ``park'' when it comes to working toward a long-term budget. In fact, Congress has only passed 13 bills in 6 months, none of them dealing with jobs, and none of them working to replace these nonstrategic cuts.

Congress needs to understand the impacts of its dysfunction. In my district, we see those consequences every day.

I'm a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and I'm proud to represent several military installations, including Naval Base Kitsap and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and I represent many men and women who work at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Navy, in fact, is the largest employer in my district.

I'm frequently copied on emails from civilian Navy workers who are resigning because of the disarray caused by Congress, the threat of furloughs, and the loss of cost-of-living adjustments. Workers often choose those jobs, despite lower salaries, because they love their country and they want to protect it. Also, government offers stability that the private industry often can't.

But these workers no longer feel valued; and thanks to Congress, working at the shipyard doesn't even offer stability anymore. It's affecting the morale of our workers and the ability of our shipyard to execute its mission.

Here's a direct quote from a manager who contacted me. He wrote:

We will have problems retaining professionals if this fiscal environment continues. We will have trouble accomplishing our current workload, let alone providing any level of increased engineering support.

Mr. Speaker, this will only cost us more in the long run. This dysfunction in Congress is directly responsible for good workers walking away and is threatening the mission of the United States Navy.

It also affects the local contractors and small businesses in my district that support these missions. They're already facing sweeping layoffs and tremendous uncertainty.

Here's another example: Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, in my district, while mostly spared from furloughs under sequestration, still is limited in its ability to fill jobs made vacant by attrition. The hiring freeze went into effect right as they were planning on adding 600 workers.

The shipyard has the work. Our region needs the jobs. They've only recently announced that they can slowly hire to cover for some attrition.

Because of these constraints, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has resorted to asking anyone--upper level staff, anybody who has carried a tool bag or used a wrench--to help deliver three submarines and an aircraft carrier back to the fleet. That's a testament to the lengths people are going to to cover for such an insane policy like sequestration.

We have seen the same thing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where 10,000 civilian employees have received notice of furloughs. We have seen it affect military training where we've seen rotations to the National Training Center cancelled. General Brown at Joint Base Lewis-McChord told our paper:

It's a huge impact on training. Where is the fine line where you go from being the best in the world to second best?

It's not right that Congress doesn't have their backs on this. We have got to stop this policy. From my perspective and from the perspective of the folks who have to deal with this damaging policy every day, it doesn't matter who's to blame for the idea of sequestration. All that matters is that both parties work together to stop it.

Every day that this Congress doesn't work on coming together on a balanced, long-term budget is another day that folks around the country have to cover for Congress' dysfunction. Democrats and Republicans need to work together on this. This doesn't make sense for the folks in my district who face losing up to 20 percent of their pay or for the folks in my district who can't apply for an open job because of our budget uncertainty.

It doesn't make sense for the kids in Head Start programs who are hurt by sequestration. We should stop these across-the-board cuts for them, too.

The right solution is for Congress to replace these cuts altogether with a balanced, long-term budget. I am ready to work with both parties to get this done for our national security, for our economy, and for the American people who deserve better.

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