Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon about the need for a balanced and bipartisan solution to avert the sequester. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
“Mr. Speaker, tonight the President will once again walk into this chamber and lay out a vision for how to strengthen America in the years ahead. Properly, part of that vision will include the need to solve our deficit challenge and address the looming sequester, that dangerous set of automatic, indiscriminant spending cuts that are due to take effect in just under three weeks. But instead of working with Democrats to avert the sequester through a big and balanced solution or, frankly, even a short-term balanced proposal, a growing number of House Republicans are instead engaged in a dangerous blame game.
“Majority Leader Cantor joined in that this weekend, claiming that the President is the one who proposed the sequester in the first place. What he didn't say was, of course, the Republicans offered a piece of legislation called ‘Cut, Cap and Balance.’ The sequester was an integral part of their policy proposal. In fact, the sequester was part of a bipartisan agreement instigated by Republicans, which we supported.
“Let us not forget, Mr. Speaker, that it was Republican hostage-taking of the debt limit in the 2011 that brought about the Budget Control Act, which created the sequester. Speaker Boehner himself, after the deal creating the sequester was struck, said, and I quote about the Budget Control Act, which included the sequester which faces us at the end of this month: 'When you look at this final agreement,' he said, 'that we came to with the White House, I got 98% of what I wanted.'
“Now let me again stress, many of us voted for this. For the past two years, however, the Republican Majority in this House has had our country lurching from one fiscal crisis to another. Repeatedly, they've threatened to default on our obligations, shut down government operations, and to slash spending in an irrational, meat-ax way. They've shaken the confidence of our people and of all those throughout the world who look to America for security and stability. They've undermined, in my view, the growth of our economy and jobs, and that's the view of CBO as well. And they've put in question our commitment to investing in our defense and in job creation.
“In short, the Republican Majority, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, in this House, has given us the most chaotic and confidence-destroying leadership that I have seen in my 32 years of service in this House. And now many of them suggest the sequester that is scheduled to occur on March 1 is an acceptable way forward.
“Mr. Speaker, I will not take the time to quote the number of Republicans who have said that, but I believe all of them are profoundly wrong. Sequestration will have a devastating impact on both domestic programs and on our national security. If the sequester would take effect it would mean 70,000 children dropped from the Head Start program. Loans guarantees to small businesses would be cut by as much as $540 million. Just as we are engaged in a national discussion about how to address mental health, up to 373,000 people suffering from mental illness could go untreated. That is not the President's vision for America, nor is it the vision of Democrats in this House.
“Now, here we are at the 11th hour once again. First, House Republicans walked away from the Simpson-Bowles recommendation to adopt a balanced way forward. Then, they refused to compromise on a balanced alternative to the sequester, starting the clock on sequestration. Then, we came down to the wire on the fiscal cliff and delayed sequestration for two months. And here we are once again with Republicans continuing to cast blame on others.
“Mr. Speaker, the blame game must end by us and by our Republican colleagues. The issue is not who is at fault. As the previous speaker indicated, we are all at fault, we are all responsible. We all serve in this House. Many of us voted for policies that spend money. Some of us voted for policies to pay for what we bought. Others voted against policies for paying what we bought.
“Here we are once again on the brink of a fiscal meltdown. It's a game that has no winners, only losers, like the 14,000 teachers, assistants and other education staff who would lose their jobs, or the 125,000 families who would be at risk of losing their homes when our rental assistance program is cut, or the thousands of civilian defense personnel in my district alone and throughout this country who would be furloughed for up to 22 days during the year – and the hundreds of thousands around the country, across every service branch. Not to mention the tens of thousands of defense contractors, critical to our national security who would be at risk of losing their jobs.
“Instead, Mr. Speaker, we need to get serious, work together to avert a sequester that could stop our recovery in its tracks and defeat our common goal of helping America's economy grow and its businesses create jobs. Reducing spending in a rational way is important for us to do. Let there be no mistake. Considering additional revenues will be essential. Every bipartisan group has said that, if we are to get a sustainable financial footing.
“The sequester, however, Mr. Speaker, is dangerous and unacceptable. We must stop simply fiddling while the sequester's flames threaten to burn our economy, our national security, and our people. Mr. Speaker, we have no time to waste. I would urge the Majority Leader to bring a bill to the Floor today that would comply with Mr. Lankford, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, who said we ought to pass things that we think the Senate can pass. Not just messages, not just political spin, but pass things that can actually be passed through the United States Senate and signed by the President and made law, made policy, so that America has the confidence that its Congress can work. It must work. America needs it to work.”