Hoyer: Congress Has A Responsibility to Meet Its Challenges In A Sensible Way

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“Mr. Speaker, I rise once again to call on Congress to replace the dangerous and irrational sequester with a big and balanced deficit solution. Ten weeks after the dysfunction of this Congress led to the sequester taking effect, our economy and the most vulnerable in our society are continuing to experience its effects.

“On a macro level, the sequester has added to the uncertainty businesses and markets were already facing, making it even more difficult to plan for the future and discouraging private sector investment and development that creates jobs. Just this past Wednesday, the Federal Reserve issued a statement, and I quote: 'Fiscal policy' – that is what we do in this Congress – 'fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.'

“But the ill effects of the Republicans' sequester policy have been most devastating to those in the greatest need and rely on federal assistance. Seventy thousand children - who will be three once and four once - seventy thousand children will be kicked out of Head Start. One hundred and fifteen million dollars in subsidies that help low-income parents access child care while they work will be eliminated. Over half a billion dollars is being taken away from children and family service programs. Because of the sequester, our most vulnerable children are at risk of losing their shot at the American Dream.

“It's not only our youngest citizens who are being hurt by sequestration. Low-income seniors will see 4 million fewer Meals On Wheels deliveries this year, putting at risk seniors who are sick and homebound. The National Institutes of Health will have to reduce life-saving medical research, and 600,000 women, infants, and children could be dropped from the USDA’s – U.S. Department of Agriculture's – nutrition program. What an extraordinarily perverse version of ‘women and children first’ – an admonition to save first, not abandon first.

“Congress, Mr. Speaker, must act to replace this stupid sequester. I tell people that sequester starts with ‘S,’ which stands for ‘stupid’. [Congress] needs to replace it with a big, balanced agreement that every bipartisan commission that's looked at our fiscal challenge has recommended, restoring financial discipline, sets America on a fiscally sustainable path, and enables us to invest in education, innovation and infrastructure that will grow our economy, create jobs and keep millions out of poverty and lift millions of others from poverty. In order for that to happen, of course, Mr. Speaker, I think you should appoint budget conferees so that budget negotiations on such a rational solution can begin in earnest.

“Sadly, it's becoming increasingly clear that Republicans are in no hurry to complete the work on a budget as a result of the draconian, unrealistic, and damaging spending levels they set forth under the sequester. Simply put, they cannot implement the budget they adopted, neither through the appropriations process, nor through the Ways and Means Committee.

“Sequestration, of course, was meant to be so unacceptable that we surely would not allow it to come into effect. But it has. It has because it reflects the spending levels Republicans had long sought. Now when I say that, some Republicans say, ‘oh, well the sequester was the President's idea.’ Not only is the President opposed to sequester, Democrats in the Senate, Democrats in the House are opposed. Most Republicans, that is to say 229 Republicans, voted for H.R. 2560 – ‘Cut, Cap and Balance.’ And what this bill that 229 Republicans voted for – and, by the way, 181 Democrats voted against – was to say we set numbers. If we don't meet them what do we have? A sequester.
Sequester was their policy. The across-the-board, irrational cutting of the highest priority and the lowest priority the same was their policy that they voted for – an unfortunate policy, because it is so irrational and so harmful.

“Now they won't say how we can get there, of course, because it just isn't possible without gutting some of the most important programs that have a positive impact on our communities. The Republican Appropriations Chairman, my friend, Mr. Rogers from Kentucky, said on April 25 that, and I quote, ‘there will be some who are shocked. I don’t think people yet understand how severe the numbers will be.’ That's the Republican Chairman, my friend with whom I served for many years on that Committee, Hal Rogers from Kentucky. ‘How severe the numbers will be.’ They're the numbers that were in the Ryan budget; they're the numbers that will be affected by sequester.

“Republicans are setting up, in my view, a dangerous game of ‘hide and seek,’ in which they will hide what sequester levels actually mean and try to mitigate the ones they believe will have political backlash, very frankly, as we did just about 12 days ago regarding the FAA. They know they can't achieve cuts their caucus can agree on and that the American people would support. And they seek, in my view, to blame the President and Democrats for what has been a long-standing Republican policy, which I referenced, in their ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ legislation, for which 229 of them voted for on July 19, 2011.

“To do so, Republicans proposed shifting the defense portion of the sequester. To do so – meaning to get to the numbers they proposed by shifting the defense portion of the sequester onto domestic programs. In other words, the cuts that would normally be across-the-board, their solution is to simply shift them to some of the programs that I mentioned earlier in terms of Head Start, Meals On Wheels and other programs that are so necessary to make sure that some of the least of ours are taken care of. Of course, this is a breaking of the agreement reached in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“We all know the likely outcome of these partisan games, Mr. Speaker. House Republicans will once again be divided as they were the week before we left and prevent the adoption of a budget that includes a balanced approach.

“Now, a balanced approach – I won't like all of it. My friend, Mr. [Walter] Jones [R-NC], won't like all of it. None of us will like all of it, because it will be balanced, and we will have to take the good with the bad. But what it will be is an effort and a reality of getting America on a fiscally sustainable, credible path.

“Democrats are ready to make tough choices necessary to reach a compromise, and both sides have a responsibility. My side, their side – very frankly, we ought to be one side: the American side. Both sides have a responsibility to work together to meet our challenges in a sensible way. Not a senseless, irrational way, which is what the sequester does, but in a smart way, worthy of our role as the American people's representatives, and I yield back the balance of my time.”