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Matthew C.
Democrat PA 17

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  • Congressional Progressive Caucus Hour: Sequestration

    by Representative Matt Cartwright

    Posted on 2013-02-27

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    CARTWRIGHT. I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin.



    I'm here to address the draconian and irresponsible and indiscriminate effects of this ridiculous sequestration program that's slated to take effect on March 1. I use the word ``indiscriminate'' advisedly. It is indiscriminate. It is as if the government were a surgeon and seeking to take out a cancer, a lesion making a patient sick. Instead of being given a scalpel to take out that lesion, the surgeon is forced to use a meat cleaver.

    That is an appropriate analogy for what this sequestration is doing because it is an indiscriminate set of cuts across the board to the discretionary spending in the United States. No responsible business person would ever engage in such a budgetary process. No one with any sense would do this in the government. And yet we're left with this.

    Instead of repealing it and replacing it promptly, what we see is that the Speaker is instead engaging in finger-pointing and in the blame game to avoid moving forward and fixing the problem in the first place. It's irresponsible, and it has to be dealt with differently.

    I say that if Congress cannot come up with a replacement to the sequester before the end of this week, we should eliminate the sequester entirely. One million working Americans should not be forced to pay the price for what is nothing more and nothing less than stubbornness and hard-headedness. We would prefer to replace the sequester with a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

    The Progressive Caucus already introduced a bill called the Balancing Act that reflects what the American people already voted for this past November. The Progressive Caucus Balancing Act replaces the sequester with a balanced approach to new revenue and necessary Pentagon cuts, and it creates jobs all over the country. It equalizes the cuts we've already made with revenue by closing tax loopholes for America's wealthiest individuals and corporations.

    But we shouldn't just sacrifice our economic recovery because Republicans are unwilling to vote for one single penny in new revenue, new contributions from their billionaire friends and corporations. We have to look at what these cuts mean in the sequester. The sequester involves 70,000 children being kicked off Head Start. No one in this Chamber disagrees about the importance of Head Start. Early childhood education is absolutely essential in creating the foundation for learning in children all over the world. And that's what Head Start is about. There will be 70,000 American children kicked off Head Start. That's what happens when you use a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel.

    We're talking about more than a million kids who will see their schools lose education funding. We're talking about emergency responders who will lose their jobs, meaning slower response times and weaker disaster preparedness. We're talking about layoffs and furloughs for Social Security workers that is going to cause delays and hassles for millions and millions of Social Security recipients--people who depend month in and month out on their Social Security checks to put food on their table.

    In my district, the 17th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, we have one county--Schuykill County--where 149,000 people live. Out of 149,000 people who live there, fully 38,000 of them subsist on Social Security checks. If those checks are delayed, if those people get hassled getting those checks because of this sequester, that is a crying shame.

    We're talking about cuts to air traffic controllers, for those of us who have to fly around as part of our jobs. We're talking about cuts to airport security agents. All of this is going to mean longer waits, travel disruptions.

    The consequences of more massive budget cuts are real. This isn't a game we're talking about. In fact, economic growth in the United States is going to slow because of this sequester. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost and more people will have to rely on government assistance to meet their basic needs than ever before. This is exactly the opposite of what we need to be doing in the United States, and it's the opposite of what the American people asked for in the November election. It's time that our colleagues across the [[Page H695]] aisle--the Republicans--wake up to what is really about to happen to American families. It's time that we eliminate the sequester.

    I want to talk to you a little bit about specific examples of what we expect to happen in my home State, the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. If sequestration was to take effect, we're talking about job losses to the Tobyhanna Army Depot, which is something that for the last 60 years has provided electronic refurbishing to Army equipment. We're talking about command and computer and communications control to Army equipment that is refurbished right there in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, by as many as 5,400 dedicated, patriotic people supporting our warfighters for the last 60 years with this kind of electronic equipment.

    {time} 1740 We're talking about cuts to Tobyhanna Army Depot of $309 million over 10 years as a result of this reckless and irresponsible sequester.

    We're talking about teachers and schools. Pennsylvania is going to lose approximately $26.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 360 teacher and teachers' aide jobs at risk.

    About 29,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 90 fewer schools would receive funding if this nonsensical sequester program goes through.

    Head Start and Early Head Start services in Pennsylvania alone would be eliminated for approximately 2,300 children, reducing access to critical, critical early education.

    And then children with disabilities on top. Education for children with disabilities: Pennsylvania will lose about $21.4 million in funds for about 260 teachers, teachers' aides, and staff who help children with disabilities in school.

    Even worse, protections for clean air and clean water. Pennsylvania would lose as much as $5.7 million in environmental funding to ensure clean air and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste.

    In addition, Pennsylvania could lose another $1.5 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

    We're going to sacrifice our schools, we're going to sacrifice the environment, all in the name of stubbornness and wrongheadedness--mule headedness--on the part of the people who should be coming to the people, the Republicans, who refuse to engage in any sort of responsible revenue legislation whatsoever.

    Finally, military readiness. In Pennsylvania, about 26,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay in Pennsylvania alone by around $150.1 million in total.

    This isn't a joke. We talk about deadlines here in Congress; there are hard deadlines and there are soft deadlines. We have seen Congress only moves when there's a hard deadline, when there's an actual cliff we're about to go over.

    This is irresponsible in itself because I think--it is the case that many here in this Chamber believe that March 1 is a ``soft deadline'' because all that's happening are furlough notices are going out and people are not actually losing their jobs for another 30 days or so. For example, the Tobyhanna Army Depot, furlough notices are slated to go out in the middle of March for furloughs that actually take place at the end of April. There are those in this Chamber who think that's a soft deadline that doesn't really matter, it's just a furlough notice anyway.

    Well, I'm here to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that furlough notices go to real families--real families who have to plan for their budgets, real families who have to plan on how they're going to feed their children and clothe them and pay the mortgage and keep the car running and keep gas in the car. They have to think about how they're going to do all these things when they're holding a piece of paper that says you're losing your job in 30 days. It's cold comfort for them, for those families, to hear that, well, this may not happen when they're holding it in black and white, a letter that tells them they're going to be out of work in 30 days.

    This is no way to run a government; this is no way to make a budget; and this is no way to be responsible with the finances of the United States of America.

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