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Louise S.
Democrat NY 25

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  • Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.J. Res. 59, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014

    by Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the legislation before us today gives us a chance to begin to mitigate the worst effects of sequestration; but it is not enough, as my colleague has stated.

    Our Nation can--and should--dare to once again dream big. We are a Nation that built one of the largest interstate highway systems in the world, which is presently crumbling; launched the Internet; pioneered the creation of GPS; and created the largest middle class on Earth through a fair and balanced Tax Code that asked everyone, including the wealthiest among us and the biggest corporations, to pay their fair share. We are home to public institutions like the National Institutes of Health, which have helped to find the cures for countless diseases and conditions and saved millions of lives.

    Great achievements like these are only behind us if we so choose. I strongly believe that we can rebuild our crumbling runways, our roads and rails, restore our middle class, and invest in the breakthroughs that will once again make us the envy of the world. But in order to do so, we have to make responsible fiscal choices that are a reflection of our values. That means restoring smart and targeted funding to programs and agencies that drive our country forward, asking the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share--not more than that, but their fair share--and protecting the programs that serve hardworking Americans at times when they need help the most.

    To that end, it is shameful that the legislation before us does not extend unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million Americans who are scheduled to lose them within a matter of weeks--3 days after Christmas, actually.

    In the United States of America, we believe in providing a hand up, not a kick while you are down. Unemployment insurance is that hand up.

    Studies have shown that unemployment insurance allows jobseekers to purchase necessities such as groceries and gas without accruing further debt. In so doing, it helps to increase economic activity while easing the financial burden of unemployed Americans and making it easier, not harder, for them--as we are--to find a new job.

    That is why my Democratic colleagues, Representative Levin, Representative Van Hollen, and Representative Barbara Lee, introduced an amendment in the Rules Committee last night to extend the unemployment insurance for an additional 3 months.

    This bill was paid for. I want to make that perfectly clear. It would not have cost an extra dime.

    Inexcusably, the majority rejected my colleagues' amendment, despite inserting language to fix Medicare payments to doctors over the coming year, which is certainly important. Fixing the Medicare payments to doctors is a worthy and important goal, but it is certainly troubling-- and should be to all of us--that we are unwilling at the same time to ignore the needs of the unemployed.

    The majority's refusal to extend a helping hand to jobless Americans stands in stark contrast to the defense of tax loopholes for big corporations and powerful special interests. For far too long, our Nation has allowed wealthy individuals and powerful corporations to hide billions of dollars in offshore bank accounts and create tax loopholes instead of paying their fair share.

    Indeed, some corporations in America pay no taxes at all. It is unfortunate that not a single one of the loopholes is addressed in the bill that is before us today to help us reduce the national debt.

    Despite these shortcomings, today's legislation does take an important first step toward easing the painful budget cuts contained in sequestration. It has been an unmitigated disaster that has hurt our economy and our country, and there is an urgent need to avert the next round of budget cuts that are scheduled to take effect. And I am grateful for that.

    In a study conducted earlier this year by the Association of American Universities, 81 percent of the respondents declared that sequestration cuts had immediate and detrimental effects on research activities. Seventy percent of the respondents cited delays in research projects, and 58 percent of respondents stated that sequestration led to reductions in staff, students, and fellows through attrition and layoffs.

    A recent study showed that sequestration and other budget cuts have resulted in an actual Institutes of Health budget far too low to support our biomedical research community.

    In addition to that point, Mr. Speaker, let me say that during the government shutdown, which cost the economy $24 billion and was useless, of the five Nobel laureates employed by the United States of America, only one was declared essential.

    Four Nobel laureates were said to be nonessential. That blows the mind, doesn't it? These types of drastic budget cuts have profound impacts on our country. Reduced funding means that new discoveries and breakthroughs are delayed--or never realized--and that our public health knowledge is stunted for years to come.

    As a microbiologist, I can tell you that you cannot simply turn research off and on like a faucet, but that is exactly what we do when we arbitrarily slash the budgets with no regard for the consequences of our cuts.

    That is why today's legislation is an important step forward for our country. We must end the self-inflicted wound that is sequestration and get back to investing in our own well-being and the future of America. By restoring funding across our government, we will help to jump-start our economy and get back to work on the cutting-edge research and on infrastructure that will benefit the Nation in years to come.

    In closing, today's bill is an important step forward, but our work is not done until we add an extension of unemployment insurance to this legislative package. We will give you an opportunity to do that at the end of the [[Page H7705]] rule. In so doing, we can ensure a brighter, more prosperous future for every American this holiday season.

    I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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