Hoyer: Congress Ought To Focus On The Sequester Until We Find A Solution

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“Mr. Speaker, this week the House will be voting for the 37th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This vote comes at a time when we are facing serious and pressing challenges, one of the most important of which is the operations of the sequester.

“Thirty-seven votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Let us set aside for a moment the important issue of how health reform is working and making quality care accessible and affordable for more Americans. I'll be speaking more about that from this Floor in coming days, as I know some of my colleagues will. What I find – and I believe most Americans find – incomprehensible is how this House could waste its time on such a blatantly partisan vote when the effects of sequestration are having a growing negative effect on our economy and on the lives of so many American families. That ought to be our focus this week and every week until we find a solution, Mr. Speaker.

“Speaker Boehner said this 37th repeal vote is justified because freshman Members have not had an opportunity to vote on that issue. If that is his view, then, by the same reasoning he should allow a vote on a balanced alternative to the sequester. Freshmen have not had a chance to cast their votes on whether to replace the entire sequester with a big and balanced solution to deficits. If the House proceeds with a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that members deserve an opportunity to be on the record on such an important issue, surely, surely, Mr. Speaker, we also ought to have a vote on replacing the sequester, which we know is having adverse effects on our economy and on our national security.

“American families and businesses are facing greater and greater uncertainty as a results of the sequester and the unwillingness on the part of Congress to take meaningful, bipartisan action to stop it. With this uncertainty, businesses have showed slowed hiring and, in some cases, have even begun to lay off workers. This indiscriminant and irrational nature of the sequestration means that its ill effects will be felt across our economy and society without regard to our priorities. It also means that none of us – not one of us in this chamber – are immune in our own districts where constituents will see a reduction in services and dislocation.

“Because of the sequester, we are at risk of 70,000 young people kicked off Head Start. Ten thousand teachers' jobs at risk for Title I cuts. Four million fewer Meals On Wheels for seniors. Six hundred thousand women, infants, and children dropped off the rolls. Emergency unemployment insurance cut by 11% for 2 million out-of-work Americans. Twenty one hundred fewer food safety inspections. That's a drop of 18% to make sure that our food is safe. And one third of air combat units are grounded.

“The responsible path forward is for Democrats and Republicans to work together on a big and balanced approach to deficits that restores certainty to our businesses and families.

“Four times – four times – Mr. Van Hollen, the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, has offered an amendment to the sequester which would get to the same deficit reduction but in a way that was prioritizing those things that are important in our country and eliminating those that are not and raising some additional revenues as well. Four times – not only has that not been considered, but the Republicans have refused to allow that amendment on the Floor. Yet, we have the 37th time to repeal the health care bill. A 37th vote to repeal health care reform, which is already benefiting millions of Americans. It's not a responsible use of Congressional time.

“I urge the Speaker and the Republican Leader to cancel this repeal vote and get back into business by allowing us to consider a balanced alternative to the sequester this week. I also urge them to bring to the Floor a motion to go to conference on the budget.

“My Republican friends pleaded, pleaded, pleaded for the Senate to pass a budget. The Senate passed a budget. We passed a budget. Regular order is going to conference, where we could, in fact, come to an agreement on a big and balanced deal to replace this negatively impacting sequester. Nothing on the schedule to do that – either to repeal the sequester and change it or to go to conference. But a 37th vote that will go nowhere – and everybody knows that to be the case – is on the Floor this week. How sad.”