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Mike Q.
Democrat IL 5

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  • Sequester

    by Representative Mike Quigley

    Posted on 2013-02-27

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    QUIGLEY. Madam Speaker, I rise today because we have to get our fiscal house in order, but sequestration is not the way to do it.

    There is no question we need to address our unsustainable debt and deficit. Our debt remains above 73 percent of GDP--up from 36 percent just 6 years ago--and our deficit still hovers just below $1 trillion. But the solution must be a big, balanced, and bipartisan deficit reduction plan modeled on plans like Cooper-LaTourette over a 10-year period, not the meat-ax approach of sequestration.

    We can't pursue deficit reduction at all costs. The cure shouldn't be worse than the disease. The sequester will undermine our growing--but still fragile--economic recovery.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts sequestration would halve economic growth for 2013. Another study projects job loss in 2013 alone would hit 2.1 million jobs, mostly from small businesses. We just went through this not more than 2 months ago, as we remember, the fiscal cliff. Sadly, we seem no wiser for that experience. We continue to bicker rather than plan; we posture rather than negotiate; we delay rather than decide. We go from one crisis to the next, thereby threatening our economy and further undermining the public's tenuous faith in its political institutions.

    We lack a comprehensive approach to just about every challenge we face, including climate change, energy, transportation, health care, social insurance, defense spending, immigration reform and gun violence. It is management by paralysis. It's budgeting with a meat cleaver. It's absurd, and it has to end.

    The sequester lops off $1.2 trillion from the Federal budget over the next decade, cutting $85 billion just this year.

    {time} 1030 Over the last week, I have met with dozens of groups for whom the sequester is not some abstract budgeting term. For these organizations and people back in my district, sequestration will have real, damaging effects.

    I met with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which explained that under sequestration in Illinois, 125 AIDS-afflicted families will lose their housing. Another 613 people in Illinois won't receive their medication through the AIDS Drug Assistance program, which will be cut by $3 million. I also met with the Illinois Partners for Human Service and heard from the Ounce of Prevention Fund. Both groups informed me that 4,000 children in Illinois won't receive Head Start services under sequestration. Thanks to sequestration, 4,100 college students in Illinois won't receive Federal work-study assistance.

    [[Page H667]] The bigger picture in Illinois is equally devastating. Sequestration will cost Illinois more than 53,000 jobs and $5.3 billion in the State's economic output. Nationwide, sequestration threatens our physical safety as well as our economy. Ten percent of the FAA's workforce could be furloughed, resulting in reduced air traffic control, longer delays, and economic losses for our tourism industries. Meat and poultry inspectors at USDA would also face furlough, potentially shuttering meat processing facilities and even affecting restaurants and grocery stores. Layoffs at the FDA would mean 2,100 fewer safety inspectors. There would be 25,000 fewer breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women. Mindless cuts to military and law enforcement affect our ability to protect our borders and meet the ever-present threat of terrorism, both here and abroad.

    Madam Speaker, this is unacceptable. Somewhere along the way, buried in the din of the 24-hour news cycle and partisan bellowing, we lost the art of compromise. But that's what allowed the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s and saved Social Security in the 1980s. Legislators of both parties sat down and talked to each other, not past each other, to hammer out their differences and achieve something that made this country better.

    I have no illusion that everyone in this body agrees with my ideas about reshaping Pentagon spending or reforming entitlements to ensure they provide benefits for generations to come; but I do know that making the changes that are best for the long-term interests of this country can't be accomplished overnight. These decisions require our best effort and precise planning. As the threat of sequester has painfully revealed, a chain saw is no way to create a budget for the most powerful country on Earth.


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