Senate Agendaby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2013-02-25
REID. Mr. President, the Senate has a great deal to accomplish,
including the long-delayed confirmation of former Senator Chuck Hagel
to lead the Defense Department.
This week the Senate will also consider two plans to avert devastating across-the-board cuts to military spending as well as domestic initiatives that keep our American families and businesses strong. To give our economy a foundation for growth, Congress must replace these cuts--the so-called sequester--with a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
Democrats would temporarily replace this harsh austerity with a combination of smart spending reductions and measures that close corporate tax loopholes, end wasteful subsidies, and ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more, and it would avoid harmful cuts that will hurt American families, harm military readiness, and hinder our economic recovery. Families and businesses in every State of the Nation--in red States and blue States--are at risk because of these haphazard cuts.
In the Presiding Officer's home State of Virginia, 170 teachers who work with disabled children could lose their jobs. That doesn't count any other teachers. Thousands of children will go without lifesaving vaccines--they will go without lifesaving vaccines--and 90,000 Pentagon employees will be furloughed. It is easy to talk about furloughs unless you are one of those people being furloughed. We don't know how many days a week it will be, how many days a month it will be, but it will be days.
In Nevada 120 teachers could lose their jobs. Local law enforcement agencies will lose essential funding to prosecute crime, and thousands of Defense Department employees will be furloughed, losing wages that support their families and our State's economy.
Residents of the Republican leader's home State would also suffer. Kentucky will lose Federal funding that helps police catch and punish domestic abusers, buys meals for needy seniors and keeps at-risk children in Head Start programs, and more than 11,000 Kentuckians who work for the Defense Department will be furloughed.
Nationwide, sequester cuts will cost more than 750,000 jobs. More than 70,000 boys and girls will be kicked out of their Head Start programs. Meat inspectors, air traffic controllers, FBI officers, and Border Patrol agents will be furloughed. Small businesses, which create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country, will lose access to crucial Federal loans. Thousands of researchers working to cure cancer, diabetes, and scores of other life-threatening diseases will lose their jobs.
But Congress has the power to prevent these self-inflicted wounds. We have the power to turn off the sequester, protect American families and businesses, and ensure our national defense.
In the House and in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats voted to impose these cuts. It will take Republicans and Democrats working together to avert them. Twenty-eight Republicans in the Senate and 174 Republicans in the House voted to impose these painful cuts. To say this is President Obama's sequester is absolutely wrong: 174 Republicans in the House voted for these cuts--that is more than 70 percent--and in the Senate more than 60 percent of the Republicans voted for the sequester. So it is unfair to say it is the President's sequester. We did this together. This would not have passed but for the overwhelming vote of the Republicans in the House and in the Senate.
If those same Republicans would work with Democrats to find a balanced way to reduce the deficit, Congress could avert the delayed sequester today--now. Unfortunately, Republicans would rather let the deficit cuts go into effect than close a single wasteful tax loophole. They would rather cut Medicare, education, and medical research than ask a single millionaire to pay a single dollar more in taxes.
The overwhelming majority of Americans wants us to compromise before their neighbors, friends, and family members get pink slips or notices that they can only work a few days this week or this month.
The overwhelming majority of Americans--including 56 percent of Republicans--supports Democrats' balanced approach. It is all over the country. All over the country Americans favor this approach, a balanced approach, by a large margin, including 56 percent of Republicans.
So once again the only Republicans in the entire country rejecting a reasonable, balanced compromise are Republicans in this building-- Republicans in Congress.