A picture of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Barbara M.
Democrat MD

About Sen. Barbara
  • Sequester Impact

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2013-02-27

    submit to reddit

    Read More about Sequester Impact

    MIKULSKI. Mr. President, today I rise to speak on the impact of sequester on the American people, on their safety, their security, our economy, and the way local and State governments can use wise resources to protect their people.

    I know we have each been assigned 10 minutes. I have a robust number of Appropriations Committee members who want to speak. I will ask the Chair to let me know when I have used 5 minutes, and if Senator Landrieu arrives, I will then yield to her.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator will be so notified.

    Ms. MIKULSKI. I come today not only as the chair of the entire Appropriations Committee but as the chair of the subcommittee that funds the Commerce Department, Justice Department, and the majority of our science agencies.

    I wish to talk about the impact on public safety and our future, but you have to know I come with a heavy heart.

    I note and bring to the attention of my colleagues that a guard was killed in a Federal prison on Monday. This guard worked at the Federal penitentiary in Canaan, PA. He was stabbed and attacked by a prisoner with homemade weapons. The entire Justice Department, the Office of Prisons, the union people who represent them, all mourn at Mr. Eric Williams' death. We don't know the full extent, and I will be asking for a report on the investigation on how this happened. But one of the things I do know as the chair of the committee, we face prison overcrowding. We have Federal prisons, some we don't even open because we refuse to put the money in.

    You can say: Well, Senator Barb, you are on the committee. Why don't you put the money in? We are in gridlock, deadlock, hammerlock on not being able to move our bills in regular order with due diligence and oversight. That is why we are at this crisis of sequester: Oh, boy. Can't we just cut 2 percent like American families? American families don't run prisons. They don't build their own roads. They don't have to put out their own local police department. They depend on their government to do that. They are willing to expend revenue, pay taxes so they are protected. There are reasons people are in Federal prison. They were bad guys and gals who did bad things, and when they are in prison, they still want to do bad things, such as attack a prison guard. Do you know what sequester will mean? Across- the-board cuts. It will have a direct impact on America's prisons.

    Oh, sure. The prisoners will still have their food. They will still have their hour to be able to do their exercise. But the prison guards will face furloughs, layoffs, and even reductions in the workforce. We are placing them at risk while they protect us from risk. Where are our national priorities? One of the ways we can honor this man is to get serious about our appropriations process. I wish to cancel the sequester and come up with a balanced solution of revenues and strategic, targeted cuts, not across-the-board cuts to 1,300 correctional guards who might face layoffs.

    About our Federal prosecutors. We in Maryland have one of the best U.S. attorneys going after violent gangs, drug cartels, child predators, mortgage frauds. But we are going to say to those smart lawyers who can make megabucks in law firms, stick with us. But when you do, you can be laid off and furloughed. Why is it that the criminals are able to hire the lawyers, but the Federal Government doesn't want to pay for them? Priorities.

    We need to be able to have the right law enforcement at the Federal and State level to catch the bad guys, whether it is white-collar crime, such as mortgage fraud, or street crime, or despicable crimes such as trafficking in women and children.

    We have to look out for our FBI, our major force in counterterrorism. They face, again, layoffs, and it will go to our local law enforcement. We will be cutting the funds for things such as the Byrne grants, which enable local law enforcement to put cops on the beat and buy the equipment they need to protect themselves. There is a program here that we have a line item. It is not the biggest thing in the Federal budget, but it is the biggest thing to cops. Why? Because it buys bulletproof vests.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. I advise the Senator she has consumed 5 minutes.

    Ms. MIKULSKI. I could talk another 55. I could talk another 505. But I want everyone to get the point that cuts have consequences. So things such as, oh, why don't we cut the budget as families do--well, let's do what families do. They, first of all, make plans and stick to them. I think it is time we have a regular order.

    I want to deal with this sequester now. I want to look at this thing called the continuing resolution so it resolves the funding for fiscal 2013, for fiscal 2014, to work on a bipartisan basis across the aisle and across the dome. Let's look at our spending, how we protect the American people, and make public investments that help create jobs today and jobs tomorrow.

    In conclusion, before I turn to my most able subcommittee chair on Homeland Security, Senator Landrieu, I just wish to say to the family of Officer Eric Williams, the entire Senate wishes to express its condolences to the family. I believe we can show our deepest sympathy by making sure it doesn't happen in our Federal prisons. Let's get on and solve the problem of sequester. Let's work together and get the job done.

    I yield to Senator Landrieu, the chair of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, a very crucial committee.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Louisiana.

    Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I appreciate--and we all do--all the Senators, even Senators on the other side of the aisle I think admire her tenacity and her leadership and, most importantly, her knowledge and understanding of the importance of the Federal budget on the private sector economy. Obviously, the Senator from Maryland understands its impacts on Maryland, but she also understands the impacts to our Nation.

    No one speaks more passionately and more knowledgeably about the challenges before families than Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland, from a working-class family herself. Her parents and grandparents, immigrants to this country, operating a small business, a bakery--a wonderful business--not only understanding how to run their own business themselves but for all the neighbors who came in every day to talk about their problems.

    When the Senator says she knows what families do in tight budget times, she is correct. Families do cut back, but they plan their reductions. They don't pull the rug out from underneath the college tuition for their kids. They don't kick grandma out on the street and put her in a homeless shelter. They make smart decisions about budgets. Let me say to my colleagues on the other side who fail to understand the other part of the equation, they also try to bring in more revenue to the family base. Either the wife gets a job or the husband gets a job or the wife goes back to school to get a nursing degree so instead of making $6 an hour, she can bring in $16 or $18 an hour.

    Families work on both sides of the equation. But for some reason, we have half this Chamber that only wants to work on one side of the equation. It is only about cuts, cuts, and more cuts, even though they are senseless, they are dangerous, they do not make sense for our country, and they most certainly don't just impact the government--of course, which is the enemy of the other side--they impact our economy. They impact our ability to grow this economy. Every cut that comes down in a senseless way, and even cuts that are planned, are harmful to the private sector.

    I know this not only as a Senator from Louisiana and chair of the Homeland Security Committee but particularly as chair of the Small Business Committee. Our phone has been ringing off the hook with small businesses--not government workers but private sector workers and contractors--that are afraid, and have every reason to be, about the results of this sequester to their bottom line because they are providing the government a good service or a product the government needs, whether it is in health care, whether it is in education or whether it is in homeland security. But I digress a little bit. So let me get back to the central message as chair of Homeland Security.

    [[Page S884]] I rise to speak in opposition to the damaging sequester that is scheduled to take effect this Friday. There is no question Congress must act to reduce our annual deficits--must continue to act. Let me underline ``continue.'' We have been reducing spending. We have set targets of spending lower than what would have normally been set because we are tightening our belts. We were trying to tighten our belts even at a time when the economy was shrinking. Most economists will tell us that in times of economic constriction, governments need to spend more money to try to prime the pump to get the country moving in the right direction. The President has led in this direction. We have helped to follow his lead; therefore, avoiding the worsening of a depression and a recession.

    But contrary to the evidence all over the place that this is working, the other side is going to ratchet it down with these senseless reductions--and even well-planned reductions at this point are very difficult--and rejecting a balanced approach which Democrats have called for. Most independent observers understand we have to have an increase of revenues coming in because we are at the lowest level to the GDP since Eisenhower was President and some continued reductions. But they are rejecting that and going cuts only, cuts only. They said: We raised revenues. That is it. We raised $600 billion. We can't go any more. I am here to tell you, we have to go a little bit more, and the sooner we do that, the better we are going to be.

    There are people who make over $1 million in this country or companies that are enjoying loopholes they shouldn't be enjoying at the expense of the middle class and at the expense of the economic growth potential of this country, which is substantial, contrary to the laments on the other side of this aisle that the sky is falling.

    Every businessperson I talk to says: You know what, Senator. There is such promise out there. This energy industry is getting ready to boom. Natural gas is a great blessing to our Nation. But we may not experience any of that because we can't get 5 cents to invest in an airport or dredge one of the bayous or rivers in my State because of the tightening down of these spending cuts.

    The other side of the aisle, despite the mounting evidence, continues to argue against any revenues. Their cuts-only approach, cut it all, cut it now; don't worry about what you cut, just cut it, is not going to lead this country to economic prosperity.

    The reality is our deficit reduction so far has been completely lopsided: 72 percent has come from spending cuts, only 28 percent from revenues. It is not balanced, and we have to find a balance. We have already cut $1.5 trillion from discretionary spending over 10 years. In recent years, revenues coming in to the Federal Government as a percentage of GDP were at the lowest levels since Eisenhower. I said 16 percent. My notes say 15.1 percent. So let me correct myself. I didn't realize it was that low. I thought it was 16.7.

    So while I support cuts--and have supported them in the past and continue to try to find them in my own budget, $42 billion for Homeland Security--we must have a balance.

    This sequester that is going to go into effect in Louisiana will cost us $15.8 million in funding for primary and secondary education. Early Head Start services will be cut to over 1,400 children who desperately need a better start in life. Our ability to develop oil and gas will slow down due to Interior Department cuts. Louisiana's Department of Defense civilian employees--over 7,000--will be furloughed, costing Louisiana residents $36 million in gross pay.

    As chairman of the committee, I am asking for the Senate to consider the impacts of these cuts on securing our homeland. We have made a tremendous amount of progress. We have avoided attacks, and some have been very close calls. This is not done because of a wish and a prayer. This is done because of smart research, investing in border security, investing in cybersecurity, investing in training of local police officers who can identify threats on the ground, whether it is in New York or Baton Rouge or New Orleans. We have avoided some attacks. As the Senator from Washington State knows, this does not just happen by magic. This happens because we are making investments in people, in their training. This is at risk today.

    The sequester would effectively decrease the number of Border Patrol agents by 5,000.

    I wish to make a statement and ask for 2 more minutes. I understand the Senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain, and the Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, met with the President to talk about immigration reform. I am very glad we may make some progress on bipartisan support for immigration reform. Clearly, the country is asking for it, the business community needs it, our agricultural sector needs it, and the Latino population deserves it. But are we going to try to do education reform on a reduced budget in Homeland Security? What do they expect us to do in a Homeland Security budget without giving us some additional resources to hire the additional judges who are going to be needed, the additional patrols, et cetera? So I ask Senator McCain, how are we going to afford this in the Homeland Security budget? I look forward to having that discussion with him. On cyber security, the sequester would delay for a year the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to deploy technology to protect our Federal computer systems from attack.

    In the last minute I have, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter we received this morning from Secretary Napolitano, who is preparing her agency for difficult tasks.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC, February 26,2013.

    Hon. Mary L. Landrieu, Chairman, Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.

    Dear Chairman Landrieu: Thank you for your comments during the Senate Appropriations Committee's February 14, 2013, hearing on sequestration. I share your deep concerns and wanted to follow up on your request to identify impacts to our Nation's economy and international trade activities that this unprecedented budget reduction to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have.

    Sequestration would have significant impacts on our economy, including travel, tourism and trade. Reductions mandated under sequestration would require furloughs and reduced staffing at our Nation's ports of entry and airport security checkpoints, which would have serious consequences to the flow of trade and travel throughout the country.

    Trade and travel is absolutely essential to our economy. According to the U.S. Travel Association, one new American job is created for every 33 travelers arriving from overseas. DHS's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff and operate 329 ports of entry across the country, welcoming travelers and facilitating the flow of goods essential to our economy. Each day, almost one million people arrive at these ports of entry by land, sea, and air. In Fiscal Year 2012 alone, DHS processed more than 350 million travelers, including more than 98 million international air travelers as well as $2.3 trillion worth of trade.

    The automatic budget reductions that could be implemented on March 1, 2013 would be disruptive and destructive to our Nation's security and economy. At major gateway airports average wait times will increase by 30-50%. At our busiest airports, such as John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, and Chicago O'Hare, peak wait times could grow to over four hours or more during the summer travel season. Such delays would affect air travel significantly, potentially causing thousands of passengers to miss flights with economic consequences at the local, national, and international levels. New flights that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the U.S. economy would be delayed or potentially denied due to reduced staffing.

    Sequestration will also impact our Nation's land borders. For example, daily peak wait times at the El Paso Bridge of the Americas would increase from one hour to over three hours. Peak wait times at the Port of Buffalo Lewiston Bridge would increase by nearly six hours, significantly slowing travel across the northern border. Midsize and smaller ports would experience constrained hours of operation, affecting local cross-border communities.

    At our seaports, delays in container examinations would increase to up to five days, resulting in increased costs to the trade community and reduced availability of consumer goods and raw materials. At cruise terminals, processing times could increase to up to six hours, causing passengers to miss connecting flights, delaying trips, and increasing costs.

    Last year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened approximately 640 million people and their carry-on items at checkpoints, and more than 426 million [[Page S885]] checked bags. DHS also screened over 629 million pounds of cargo with TSA proprietary canine teams. Sequestration would require TSA to reduce overtime and not backfill vacant Transportation Security Officer positions, leading to increases in airline passenger wait times by as much as an hour during peak travel periods at our Nation's largest and busiest airports.

    Additional effects of sequestration would be felt by the American public from reductions to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) fisheries law enforcement, aids to navigation, and other important activities that help ensure the safe flow of commerce along U.S. waterways and the protection of natural resources. These reductions will impact the Coast Guard's ability to respond to issues impacting the U.S. Marine Transportation System that generates more than $3.2 trillion of total economic activity, moves 78% of foreign trade, and sustains over 13 million jobs each year. USCG also will have to reduce its patrols of the 3.4 million square mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone--impacting fisheries enforcement and resulting in more incursions by foreign vessels, exploiting our natural resources. Reduced Coast Guard presence protecting the U.S. fishing industry would impact an industry which generates $32 billion in income and supports over one million jobs annually.

    The Department appreciates the strong support it has received from Congress over the past 10 years. As we approach March 1, I urge Congress to act to prevent sequestration and ensure that DHS can continue to meet evolving threats and maintain the security of our Nation and citizens. Should you have any questions or concerns at any time, please do not hesitate to contact me at (202) 282-8203.

    Yours very truly, Janet Napolitano.

    Ms. LANDRIEU. I ask for 30 seconds to complete my remarks.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Heitkamp). Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Ms. LANDRIEU. One of the issues I have been very focused on is international travel. I do not have the time to go into the details. It is an important industry for our country, not just for Louisiana and New Orleans, which are way up on the list of places people want to come. The travel industry is important.

    Last week Roger Dow said: Travel has led the nation's economic recovery--generating more than 50 percent of all jobs created since the beginning of the recession. The indiscriminate sequester cuts threaten to derail travel-led recovery. These across-the-board cuts may punish travelers with flight delays, long security lines at [TSA] checkpoints and multi-hour waits to clear Customs and Border Protection.

    This is not a time to cut back on investments we have made in increasing travel, 10 years after 9/11 ground this industry to a halt. Now is not the time to put up a yellow light or a red light, and that is what the sequester is going to do--it is going to be blinking yellow at a time when we need green all the way.

    We need to find a way to break through. This Senator is willing to compromise.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.

  • submit to reddit
  • Register your constituent account to respond

    Constituent Register