Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning about the need to follow regular order and appoint conferees to finish the budget and stop the sequester. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Majority party is set to recess this House for a week, leaving in place the economy-stifling and irrational policy of sequester. We talked about the greatest generation. I fear that this generation's going to be the greediest generation – is not going to leave our children the great economy that was left to us but will leave an economy that is limping because of policies that we pursued and the debt that we have incurred.
“When sequester took effect, seventeen weeks ago, it was the culmination of an effort by the extreme wing of the Majority party to impose severe and senseless cuts across the federal government, without regard for the real consequences to our economy, our national security, and our most vulnerable citizens.
“Let me review just some of its many consequences. Head Start and Title I: we will lose between 70,000 and 130,000 seats in Head Start for some of the most vulnerable children in America. Ten thousand teachers' jobs will be at risk in Title I to teach some of our most vulnerable children. Social Security Administration: furloughs will cause delays in processing retirement and disability claims. Nutrition for vulnerable populations: 4 million fewer Meals on Wheels for our seniors who rely on them for a daily nutritional meal. 125,000 housing vouchers, perhaps more, will be eliminated for people who need housing. Unemployment insurance, emergency unemployment insurance, past twenty-six weeks will be cut 11% for people who cannot find a job, in part because there has been no jobs legislation put on this Floor since we have been here this year. 2,100 fewer food safety inspections – 18% reduction in making sure that the food we eat is safe and healthy.
“On top of these, it also erodes our military readiness, with 1/3 of our combat aircraft on the ground – not being flown, training not being done. As the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius pointed out last Friday, sequestration is forcing the military to cut back on training programs vital to our defense readiness. And yet, we fiddle while Rome is burning.
“David Ignatius writes, quote: ‘The army is sharply cutting training above the basic squad and platoon level. All but one of the combat training center rotations scheduled for brigades this fiscal year have been canceled. Depot maintenance has been halted for the rest of the fiscal year… the army will cut 37,000 flying hours from its aviation training...’ The list goes on and on, Mr. Speaker.
“In February, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno told Congress, and I quote: ‘Should a contingency arise, there may not be enough time to avoid sending forces into harm's way unprepared.’
“On July 12, Mr. Speaker, civilian defense personnel at the Pax River Naval Air Station, which I represent, are scheduled to begin furloughs as a result of the sequester. That's not just a personal concern to me – it's a concern to their families. But more broadly than that, it's of concern to the national security of every American citizen. Those folks are among the hundreds of thousands of civilian defense workers in Maryland and across the country who are set to be furloughed next month unless Congress acts.
“Congress can end these arbitrary and irrational cuts by replacing the sequester in its entirety as part of a big and balanced solution to deficits. Now, we had a deal. It was called the Budget Control Act. OMB now estimates it cut $1.4 trillion. It's not as if we've ignored the deficit – $1.4 trillion. But we didn't get all the way to where the Speaker said we needed to be, and therefore we adopted the sequester, which irrationally cuts across-the-board the highest priority and lowest priority.
“Our Ranking Member on the Budget Committee, the Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, has tried seven times to bring to this Floor legislation to exactly modify this policy so we have a rational national-security-protecting, vulnerable-citizens-protecting alternative while saving and getting to the same budget-deficit-reducing number – the same. However, our Republican colleagues have refused the opportunity to consider that on this Floor.
“We hear a lot about the Speaker saying ‘let the House work its will.’ Seven times – seven times we have asked this House leadership to give us the opportunity to work our will. The best way to achieve a balanced alternative to the sequester and put America's fiscal house in order would be through a bipartisan agreement on a budget. Leader Pelosi is going to name our conferees in just a few minutes. This Saturday will be the 100th day since the House passed its budget, and after we demanded that the Senate pass the budget, Mr. Speaker, but still 100 days later, no action on this Floor by the Majority party to go to conference. To sit down and try to come to an agreement. That's what democracy is about: coming to an agreement.
“This House should not be going into recess without first appointing conferees. Ten percent of Americans think we are worth anything. I need to talk to them because they are not sure what's going on here apparently. I believe there is a bipartisan majority of members – I hope that's the case – who will support a balanced approach that restores fiscal discipline and ends this irrational, commonsense-defying sequester.
“Let this House work its will, Mr. Speaker. It's time to appoint budget conferees. It's time for a balanced alternative to the sequester. As the sequester continues, there is no time to waste. And we ought to stay here and get the job done.
“Regular order. Regular order. Regular order. I hear it all the time. The problem is we are not following regular order – to the detriment of our country and our citizens.”