Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning on the need for a balanced alternative to the sequester. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, as the sequester's effects continue to place our economy and national security at risk, the news that 650,000 civilian defense workers will be forced to take unpaid leave ought to alarm all Americans who are concerned about our military readiness and national security. These furloughs will affect thousands who live in my district and thousands who live in the districts of every Member here.
“After Congress voted earlier this month to end furloughs for air traffic controllers that had caused flight delays, one would have expected there would be a unanimous outcry for the rest of the sequester to be replaced. The best way to do that, of course, Mr. Speaker, is with a big and balanced agreement. But, instead, Republicans in this House don't seem interested.
“It's not just Democrats who are taken aback by their silence. Republican Senator and former presidential nominee of the Republican Party, John McCain, said on May 14, just a few days ago, about these furloughs for civilian defense employees – and I quote: ‘Nobody seems to care. It's amazing. It's one of the most amazing things I have seen in the years I’ve been in the Senate.’ So said John McCain.
“Democrats continue to call for the sequester to be replaced with a balanced approach to deficits that restores fiscal discipline, preserves our ability to pay for our military readiness, and invests in a strong economy. The sequester on its own is not a solution. It has been, however, Republican policy all along that's now in effect, because they refuse to compromise in a bipartisan way to find a real solution.
“If you go back to July of 2011 and look at the Republican offer of the ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ bill, you will see that sequestration is in there. It is the alternative that Republicans put forth as policy – 229 Republicans voted for that policy. Well, they got what they wanted.
“On April 27, a report in The Hill said – and I quote: ‘GOP leaders in the House said they have “no plans” to bring up fraud legislation to replace sequestration, according to a leadership aide.’ The men and women who are hard at work supporting our troops and protecting our nation are said to be furloughed for 11 days this year. An unfair, unplanned, undeserved pay cut while, frankly, the leadership of this House sits idly by and takes no action to replace the sequester.
“The same thing goes for the other terrible effects sequestration could have: 70,000 eligible children kicked off Head Start; 10,000 teachers' jobs at risk; retirement disability claims delayed; 4 million fewer Meals on Wheels for seniors; 125,000 less rental assistance vouchers; 2,100 fewer food safety inspectors. Surely if those [cuts] were on the Floor for a vote, most of us wouldn't vote for them, but that's what's happening as a result of the sequester.
“We know, Mr. Speaker, what the Republican plan is for these defense cuts. To pass appropriation bills in the House that shift those cuts so that domestic programs – those education, Head Start, food safety, that I’ve just mentioned, basic biomedical research – are cut more deeply than the parties agreed to in the Budget Control Act in 2011. We also understand, Mr. Speaker – and everyone recognizes – that the domestic cuts Republicans want to impose instead couldn't even pass the House, let alone make it through the Senate or survive a certain veto.
“So, again, Mr. Speaker, we have only one reasonable option before us, and that is to work together, to set our differences aside for the good of our country and to achieve real compromise. A big, balanced, bipartisan approach that replaces the entire sequester is the only way to protect our defense workers against these furloughs and end the uncertainty that they and their families are facing.
“Let's have a vote, Mr. Speaker, on a balanced alternative. Not another vote to repeal health care reform that's not going anyplace. Not another vote to roll back the rights of workers. Not another vote to strip away safety standards or environmental protections. Let's stop wasting time and get to work on the most pressing challenge we face and make the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal stability and invest in our economy and in our national security.”