Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning about the urgent need to stop the irrational sequester. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, seven weeks on, America has begun to feel the effects of the Republican policy of sequestration. Sequestration defies common sense and is irresponsible. It is happening because the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, frankly, is bent on cutting spending no matter what the consequences, no matter how irrationally it is done, and no matter how adverse the consequences of these cuts. These arbitrary across-the-board cuts to federal programs without regard to our priorities was never, never meant to be a solution, but rather a deterrent to Congress failing to reach one.
“Since coming into effect on March 1, Americans are seeing why sequestration is not a policy we should follow or continue. This week, the FAA began furloughs for 47,000 employees. I've talked to the Secretary. I've talked to the Deputy Secretary. They do not have an option under the policies that this Congress has adopted. Thirteen thousand air traffic controllers are among those 47,000. Already, delays of up to two hours at major airports are disrupting travel, which impacts business and produces major headaches for American families trying to get to where they need to go. Some flights have been diverted because our air traffic control system is being overwhelmed with limited personnel.
“In addition to its effects on the FAA, sequestration is also placing a heavy burden on small business. According to an article in POLITICO on April 16, just a few days ago, small businesses are being hit the hardest by sequestration's cuts. The Small Business Administration is being forced to cut $16.7 million in loan subsidies. Those are guarantees. That means $167 million in loans - capital - not available to small businesses. At the same time, the article goes on to report as many as 956,000 small business jobs could be at risk from sequestration as employers lay off their workers in anticipation of further cuts. We ought to abandon this stupid policy.
“Also at stake are critical research programs in medicine and science research that fuel American innovation and advance life-saving treatments. They're at risk because of sequestration. Cuts to the National Institutes of Health are already leading to a reduction in research grants, including tens of millions of dollars that will halt innovative genomics and cancer research at some of America's top universities, including Harvard, Penn and Johns Hopkins in my state. And the National Science Foundation will have to award 1,000 fewer grants this year to researchers who are helping keep America on top of technology and innovation.
“How irrational. This is a stupid, harmful, future-hurting and America under-cutting policy. It must be changed.
“Sequestration is also reducing our military readiness and putting civilian defense employees at risk of being furloughed – and, more to the point, putting at risk our own national security. Communities in my district, across Maryland, and throughout the country, whose economies depend on a strong military, are going to be hard hit.
“But the good news is there is an alternative. Congress has the power to end sequestration by reaching a big and balanced solution to deficits that can replace these irrational cuts. But to do so Democrats and Republicans will have to work together in a bipartisan way. We ought to go to a conference on the budget, adopt a fiscally responsible balanced plan, and eliminate the sequester for this year and the eight years to come.
“We offered an alternative to sequester four times in the last month, and four times we were not given the opportunity to have it voted upon on this Floor. This was supposed to be an open, transparent, and we would consider alternatives. We did not. But I believe we can do it. Our economy, our ability to create jobs and the success of our country in the decade ahead is dependent on our jettisoning these irrational cuts we call sequestration. Too many jobs, lives and livelihoods are at stake for Congress to engage in partisan games.
“As the weeks and months continue without turning sequestration off, its effects will only get worse. Let's act now. Let's act together. Let's act in a bipartisan way before our people and our businesses feel the full effects of this irrational and senseless sequestration policy. Let's work together to achieve the big, balanced solution the American people deserve from their Congress and that we owe to our country."