Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, as the House and Senate have begun debating our separate appropriations bills for the coming year, we have been forced to take a very hard look at the numbers and exactly what so many important programs and services will look like next year under cuts that are forced by sequestration. I am here to tell you, it is not pretty.
As chair of the Budget Committee, it has only served as a reminder to me of just how important it is to fully replace the across-the-board cuts that sequestration has forced us to make, because it is only getting worse.
Some of my Republican colleagues in the Senate, and most of them in the House, it seems, don't believe sequestration has had a real impact on families, their communities, and our military.
I wish to take a few minutes to talk about what I have already seen in my home State of Washington, where the impacts of sequestration have been very severe.
Washington State has a proud history of supporting our Nation's Armed Forces. From Fairchild Air Force Base in eastern Washington to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the Puget Sound region, our State is home to thousands of military families.
In addition to those active-duty servicemembers, Washington State is also home to thousands of civilian defense employees who work at these various military installations. Under sequestration, these men and women have borne the brunt of these across-the-board budget cuts. This month, weekly furloughs began for nearly 10,000 of these civilian employees in my home State of Washington. So now, once every week, they can't go to work. That amounts to a pay cut for them of 20 percent.
These are men and women--many of them veterans--with mortgages and medical bills and tuition costs, just like the rest of us. And thanks to the gridlock here in Congress, their lives have become 20-percent tougher. One of those people who is impacted is Will Silva. He lives in Tacoma, WA, and he works at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. We call it JBLM. Will is a former marine, he is an amputee, and he is a fire inspector at the base. Thanks to sequestration, he is one of 6,700 people in that community who won't be going to work tomorrow because Friday is furlough day at JBLM.
So tomorrow, Friday, in my home State of Washington, the 911 call center and fire departments will be understaffed, air fields will be shuttered except for emergencies, the military personnel office and the substance abuse center will be closed, the Madigan Army Medical Center will be forced to close clinics, and even the wound care clinic is going to be understaffed. All of this is because of the cuts we all agree are hurting our country.
Jennifer-Cari Green is another person who won't be going to work at JBLM tomorrow. Jennifer happens to be a single mother of a 6-year-old boy. She works at the Madigan Army Medical Center in the neurosurgery department. Her job is to care for servicemembers, many of whom are undergoing serious brain operations.
Jennifer was here in Washington, DC, on Tuesday to testify at our Budget Committee hearing about the impacts of sequestration. It is impossible to forget her story. Jennifer works very hard. She started there as a volunteer in the surgery center but has worked her way up. She doesn't make much money to support herself and her young son, and so she budgets every month right down to the dollar. She has no luxuries, and in her only spare time she cares for her son and works toward an associate degree at the community college.
Jennifer told me that because of these furloughs her take-home pay will be almost exactly $1,000 a month--$1,000 a month. That isn't enough for her to pay her most basic expenses. But even with all of the challenges she faces, Jennifer came here to talk about what those cuts will mean for others, for the people she cares for at the army hospital where she works.
Because she has been furloughed--by the way, along with doctors and technicians and other employees at the hospital--servicemembers and veterans aren't going to get the care they need. These furloughs mean that everything from routine checkups to brain surgeries is being delayed for these men and women who served our country. Let me repeat that: brain surgeries at military hospitals are being delayed because of cuts from sequestration. That is unacceptable and, unfortunately, it is very real.
The impacts on our civilian defense employees are just the tip of this iceberg. Sequestration has resulted in dramatic cuts to countless other programs throughout our country. Head Start facilities have been forced to shut their doors, Meals-on-Wheels Programs--vital to our Nation's seniors--are serving less needy seniors, and even our judicial system has been forced to let go of prosecutors and public defenders. The cuts are clear and they are, across the board, impacting so many people in this country in our communities and in our families.
I understand many of us have different opinions here on how to address our Nation's financial challenges, but before we do that, all of us have to understand the devastating impact sequestration has already had on our Nation. I want to remind all my colleagues that it doesn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to be this way. It is now 124 days since the Senate passed a budget that fully replaced the sequestration, and 17 times my colleagues and I have stood here and asked to go to conference with the House to fix these ridiculous cuts. But 17 times now our Republican colleagues have said no. They have refused.
So I am here today absolutely committed to replacing sequestration. If some of my colleagues think this is about politics or this is some kind of game, I would ask them to talk to Will or Jennifer or any of the thousands of families who suddenly today can't pay their bills, because, for them, these cuts are very real and they need a solution now.
I hope other Members of the Senate will come and talk about these cuts. We can fix this. We can replace sequestration. We can manage our country responsibly. We can be much smarter about what we are doing, but we need the will of the Senate to allow us to go to conference to fix this and move forward and tell Will and Jennifer we, as a country, can work for them.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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