Hoyer: The Sequester is Not a Rational Approach to Deficit Reduction

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“Mr. Speaker, the President spoke to us last night and he talked to us about avoiding the sequester.

“I was at a POLITICO event being interviewed, and the Gentleman, Mr. Pompeo from Kansas, was with us as well, and he spoke before I did. He talked about the sequester and he said: ‘It’s going to be a home run. We’re doing what the American people asked the United States House of Representatives to do in 2010 when I came here.’ He then said: ‘America will have tremendous respect for what its House of Representatives led and what its federal government was able to accomplish,’ referring to the sequester. A profound disagreement. I think the Gentleman from Kansas is profoundly wrong. The sequester will have an extraordinarily negative effect on this country, on its people, on its economy and on its national security. And I, I might say, on the confidence that the world at large has in the United States’s ability to pursue rational policy.

“In his State of The Union address last night, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the deficit, the President said this: ‘None of us will get 100% what we want, but the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.’ He went on to say: ‘The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.’ Every 30 days, every 60 days, every 90 days, a manufactured crisis, evidence of a dysfunctional and willful Congress. He went on to say: ‘Let's agree right here, right now, to keep the people's government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.’ That seems to be reasonable policy.

“We now have two and a half weeks before the sequester takes effect with devastating consequences for our economy and national security, yet, the Gentleman from Kansas welcomes that policy. In fact, the Republican leadership of this House has not put a single bill on the Floor in this Congress that would have any impact on avoiding the sequester.

“We now find ourselves facing yet another manufactured crisis. Instead of preventing it, as I’ve said, Republicans appear willing and enthusiastically welcoming the sequester. Mr. Speaker, every American ought to take note of that enthusiasm for an irrational policy referred to as irrational by its own leader, Mr. Cantor, who said it's not the way we ought to do business. He's right, but he's brought nothing to the Floor to avoid it.

“The sequester, though, was meant to be so undesirable an outcome that it would force us to agree on a better approach. It married the worst consequences for both parties when it came to spending cuts - indiscriminate cuts to the defense budget alongside cuts to critical domestic programs. In politics, often the key to compromise is crafting a package that contains something, some provisions that everyone can love, although everyone will not love every provision. Here, Congress took the opposite approach and included something everyone could despise. A faction of the Majority which is not a Majority of the House by itself has become so zealous in its drive to pursue a spending-only approach that it has embraced the sequester's draconian cuts.

“Mr. Pompeo's quote this morning confirms that assertion. They've used their clout within the Majority to hold Congress hostage from one manufactured crisis to the next and they nearly brought us to the edge of default for a second time last year.

“There have been several reports in a number of news outlets that Speaker Boehner promised their faction that the topline for appropriations would not exceed the level it would be after sequestration cuts, already adopting the premise that sequestration has gone into effect. It was further reported that, while the sequester levels would be kept, the cuts would be rearranged in order to protect defense spending at the further detriment to domestic priorities like NIH, cancer research, heart research, prostate cancer research, diabetes research, all the other maladies that, Dr. Bera, sitting here, shaking his head, afflict us in this country and around the world. By injecting additional partisanship in this way, Republicans would be taking a further step away from compromise. We need compromise.

“Each of us in this body understands we represent a certain segment of a society, but not everybody agrees with everything we believe. Therefore, if we are to act on behalf of the country in a responsible, effective fashion, it's necessary to compromise.

“Mr. Speaker, the sequester is real and is rapidly approaching. It is not a rational approach to deficit reduction. Even Republican Leader Cantor, as I said, admitted on ‘Meet The Press’ Sunday about the sequester, and I quote the Republican Leader: ‘I don't want to live with a sequester.’ Let me repeat that: ‘I do not want to live with a sequester. I want reductions in spending that make sense. These indiscriminant reductions don't make sense.’ That's what Mr. Pompeo was welcoming – indiscriminant cuts that do not make sense.

“We need serious action in Congress to deal with the sequester, and that action cannot wait. But there's been nothing on the Floor in this Congress to deal with that sequester. Nothing. Not a single piece of legislation has been brought forth by the Majority. I used to be the Majority Leader, Mr. Speaker, and I had the power to bring legislation forward and I would do it. I am no longer the Majority Leader. And the Majority Leader, notwithstanding the fact this quote that these indiscriminant reductions don't make sense, has not brought an alternative to this Floor.

“Democrats are ready to make tough choices, and we're ready to work with Republicans to do what is necessary to solve this problem of our deficit in a balanced way. We must reduce spending but we also need to raise revenues. Every bipartisan commission - everyone - has said the only way you are going to solve the arithmetic is to do so. Mr. Speaker, I want to yield back the balance of my time so that my colleagues have an opportunity to say their peace. But I lament the fact that we're going home next week. We ought to be here working to avoid what the Speaker says is an irrational -- excuse me -- the Majority Leader, indiscriminant cuts that are not the way to do business. Yet, we rush headlong to do that.

“I hope the Senate acts. I hope the Senate passes a bill that will be rational, will get us out of this conundrum of a sequester that nobody should want, and when it does, Majority Leader Cantor and Speaker Boehner will bring it to the Floor and let us vote. And if you don't like it, vote against it, but let the American people know where we stand.

“Let us avoid the sequester. Let us get ourselves on a fiscally balanced path, but let us do so responsibly.”