Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning about Democrats' attempts to avert the sequester. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“The Gentleman who preceded me is new to the Congress of the United States. I've been here for a little longer than that, some 32 years. This is the least confidence building Congress – last Congress and this Congress – in which I have ever served. It is taking us from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. It is creating cliffs where no cliffs ought to exist, and they undermine the confidence of business, America, Americans, and, indeed, the rest of the world that needs a stable and secure America to ensure that we keep the kind of stability that Americans want here at home and around the world.
“Now, we will be dealing with a bill today and tomorrow that could be considered in an hour. We are going to take two days to consider it. And while we consider that, while we fiddle, while the sequester threatens to burn our economy, jobs, and confidence. And we do nothing. And we have not done anything to avoid the sequester for the last seven weeks of this year and nothing in this Congress. As a matter of fact, other than completing the work of making sure the folks who were damaged by [Hurricane] Sandy were assisted, which should have been in the last Congress, we've done nothing here of real substance in seven weeks, but we're about to confront the sequester.
“I want every American to know, I want every person who relies on the federal government, and that is mainly all of us, that if Democrats were in charge of this House, the sequester would not go into effect. Why? Because we would adopt an alternative policy that would cut spending so that we can move towards deficit and debt reduction, which we need to do as a country. And we would make a balanced proposal that the Senate Democrats will offer this day and that we wanted to offer – and Chris Van Hollen offered last night in the [Rules] Committee but was not made in order.
“In his State of the Union speech, the President talked about the American people deserve a vote. He's right. The American people deserve to know how Members are going to vote on issues of consequence to them, their families, and their lives, and their jobs, and their country. But we were denied a vote last week on this issue, which was a substitute for the sequester, and we are again denied this week a substitute for the sequester.
“Now, some of my Republican friends try to say, ‘oh, it's the President who wanted the sequester.’ That is dead flat wrong. Rob Nabors did mention the sequester after the Republicans passed the sequester in this House in July of 2011. They call it the Cut, Cap and Balance legislation, and its fallback position was sequester. It was a policy that all, I think, but two Republicans voted for when it passed this House. It was a policy that they promoted and supported. It is a bad policy. It's an irrational policy. It is a policy that will have great adverse consequences.
“At a town meeting, I said a sequester works like this: if you have a food budget and a movie budget, and somebody loses their job, the sequester says you cut food by 10% and movies by 10%. No rational American family would do that. They'd say this month we are not going to the movies or this six months we are not going to the movies, but we're going to make sure we put food on our table. Sequester says, no, we cut food by 10% and movies by 10%.
“Sequester is an irrational response to our failure as a Congress, correct, to get our finances on a sustainable path. We need to do that, and Democrats are suggesting a balanced way to do it. And by the way, every bipartisan commission that has dealt with this issue has recommended a balanced process to get from where we are to where we need to be.
“I would hope that we would spend next week – we're going to go on break next week as if we've done our job. We haven't. We ought to be spending time today, tomorrow, next week, and the week thereafter in avoiding the irrationality of the sequester process, but I have a list of Republicans here, all of whom say ‘bring it on. The sequester's ok.’ Well, if we do the sequester, we're going to find out it's not ok.
“So, Mr. Speaker, I urge the Majority Leader, I urge the Speaker, to bring forth substantive legislation that is balanced, which will avoid the sequester taking place. It's bad for our people, bad for our country, and bad policy, and I yield back the balance of my time."