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Harry R.
Democrat NV

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  • Impacts of Sequester

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2013-04-10

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    REID. Mr. President, for many months now my Republican friends have promised the impacts of the sequester's arbitrary cuts would be minimal--don't worry about them. When they voiced any concern at all about the sequester cuts, it was over the potential impact on the U.S. military. The impact on middle-class families and the national economy wouldn't be that drastic, they promised in February and in March.

    Well, now it is April and contrary to Republican promises, Americans in communities from Massachusetts to Nevada, from coast to coast, in red States and in blue States, are beginning to feel the pinch of those across-the-board cuts.

    In the District of Columbia, tourists traveling from home to here for the National Cherry Blossom Festival experienced long lines to go through airport security because of these furloughs. Coming home from Nevada on Sunday there were mobs of people. When anyone sits down to talk to any of them, they will speak about how miserable it is getting through security checks at airports all over the country.

    In Murray, UT, a food pantry that feeds more than 1,000 people every month has closed because of these cuts. In Durham, NC, scores of employees at a medical research facility will get pink slips. In central Maine fewer senior citizens will be able to participate with Meals on Wheels. In Bethlehem, PA, more than 100 children are going to be kicked off Head Start.

    Now, maybe my Republican friends don't feel this, but I guarantee my colleagues the parents of these little children in Bethlehem, PA, feel it. People waiting in these airport lines feel it.

    [[Page S2512]] Why, at this medical research facility, should these people get pink slips? Are they unnecessary? Of course not. If the food pantry in Utah closes, are the people still hungry? Of course they are--more of them than before this cut took place.

    In central Nebraska emergency response times have increased significantly since the local airport control tower closed. In southern Ohio the director of the local public defender's office--a man by the name of Steve Nolder--fired himself. He did that rather than lay off other members of his staff. He figured: I am one; I can save the jobs of three people. And that is what he did. That is quite unbelievable, but it is true. He has worked there for 18 years in the public defender's office. I repeat, he gave up his job so three could keep theirs.

    Perhaps most concerning of all, community cancer centers around the country are facing difficult choices. For the people who have experienced cancer or experienced cancer in their families, this is something that is noted. Community cancer centers around the country are facing a very difficult choice: send Medicare patients away or just close their doors. The Washington Post reports that because of the sequester cuts to Medicare reimbursements, cancer centers around the country can no longer afford to administer many common drugs. For people who have watched loved ones have chemotherapy--it was just a few months ago when people worried about whether they were going to be able to get the chemo drugs because there was a shortage. Well, now it is widespread.

    The Post reports, I repeat, because of the sequester cuts to Medicare, reimbursements for these cancer centers around the country have to make a choice: close or change their hours, which is tough on patients. These clinics, where two-thirds of the cancer patients receive treatments, would lose so much money so quickly they could have to go out of business. So providers are sending cancer patients to overcrowded hospitals instead, not to the cancer centers. For patients in clinical trials for these new cancer drugs--lifesaving experiments-- the situation is really dire. Some in these clinical trials are going to have to travel across the country, to Washington, DC, Boston, or New York. People can't afford that, especially when they are sick.

    As I said last month, the effects of the so-called sequester didn't break over us like a big wave, they sneaked up on us like a rising tide, and that tide is here now. But the effects are devastating, even though we didn't feel them immediately, and there is more pain to come. That is the sad part about it.

    In the coming months, meat inspectors, FBI officers, and Border Patrol agents will be furloughed. We haven't even begun to see the worst of the job losses. There will be 750,000 jobs lost because of sequester across the country.

    The overwhelming majority of Americans wanted us to compromise before their friends and family members got pink slips or furloughed or were told there is no more treatment for them even though they have cancer. For some it is already too late. But we can repair that damage, perhaps, and we should do it immediately, to put Americans back to work--no more furloughs.

    To give our economy a foundation for growth, we must replace the sequester with a balanced approach to deficit reduction. A balanced approach is one that asks the richest among us to contribute a little bit more--their fair share--to deficit reduction. The rich are willing to do this. If we did this, we would avert cuts that hurt American families, harm our military readiness, and hinder our economic recovery.

    I want everyone within the sound of my voice to doublecheck my statistics, but I heard on the radio on the way to work the Pentagon has decided that one-third of all of our aircraft simply will not be used because they don't have enough resources to fuel them. So that training just will not go forward. That is what I heard on the radio, and someone can doublecheck what I heard, but I am confident that is right.

    In the House and in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats voted to impose these cuts quite a long time ago, so it is going to take Republicans and Democrats working together to avert them. That is what we need to do. It is senseless to go on as we are done with these cuts that are done with a meat cleaver, not a scalpel.


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