A picture of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Sequestration

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    JACKSON LEE. Let me thank the gentlelady from Maryland and thank her for her leadership. This is a very important statement today because I was on the floor earlier this morning and said that we should not go home, that we should stay here. I'll say it again: We should not go home. We should stay here.

    With all of the chatter of disagreement and accusations and blame games, what should be the message to the American people is, in fact, that we are committed to finding some form of common ground. Now, common ground is enormously challenging when there is no give from our Republican friends.

    I do want to applaud the Congresswoman today in that the Violence [[Page H808]] Against Women Act was passed because of Democrats' championing the right direction so that immigrant women, so that the LGBT community and so that Native Americans could be specifically covered, which, as a lawyer, is what the law is all about. Fuzzy legislation cannot work, but when you specifically designate in law the protection of these groups, then you have brought about a change. I say that only because I want to thank our Republican friends who voted for that ultimate Senate bill that was passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate and now in the House.

    That should be an example of what we can do with regard to this dastardly act that is going to occur tomorrow--the sequester--which most Americans don't even understand. So I am delighted to join and to be able to be part of this Special Order, led by the gentlelady from Maryland, on explaining how vulnerable women can be impacted.

    We did a good act today. Vulnerable women have been in the eye of the storm since this legislation was not reauthorized, and women's centers and shelters all over America were feeling the ax of the non-funding of the STOP grant, but today we made a difference. I want to make a difference in stopping the onslaught against women and children that the sequester will bring about, and I am going to use as an example the impact on a State like mine--the State of Texas--that has a diverse, if you will, congressional delegation, with more Republicans than Democrats. Frankly, the people of the State of Texas are not interested in what party we are; they simply want to find out why we can't come to the floor and vote to block the sequester and find common ground.

    So, to my State of Texas, let me tell you what you will be facing, and why I want to say, stay and work, stay and work, and find some kind of common ground. In the alternative, all of us are willing to be called back this weekend. We're willing to be called back Friday night and Saturday morning. I want that to be on the record. We're willing to get back in a short order of time to come here and solve this problem.

    Specifically, I have worked extensively with our teachers and schools and school districts: $67.8 million for funding for primary and secondary education, putting 950 teachers' and aides' jobs at risk, meaning that they may ultimately be terminated. Those jobs are at risk in the State of Texas. 172,000 fewer students can be served in approximately 280 schools. That's not just in Houston; that's throughout Republican and Democratic districts in the State of Texas. That is shameful. Texas will lose approximately $50 million in funds for about 620 students and aides to help children with disabilities; Work study jobs will impact our college students. 4,720 fewer low- income students will be able to have those jobs, and, of course, it will eliminate the opportunity to finance the cost of college to around 1,450 students, who will not get work study jobs; Head Start. Many of my Head Start leaders advocated and asked me, as I was in Austin this past week, to stop the elimination of their funding. I will be meeting with those from AVANCE next week, approximately 4,800 students in Texas, on the reducing of access to critical early education; Law enforcement. Part of the Violence Against Women Act specifically speaks to the question of helping the crime victims. When I had a gun briefing in Texas, I made sure that the victims of gun violence were in the room. What we'll be stopping is $1.1 million in what we call Justice Assistance Grants, which specifically deal with our crime victims; This is an example of what will happen in America if you're looking for jobs and if you want assistance from the Federal Government. It's interesting how people make light that the Federal Government does nothing. My friends, the Federal Government is you. It is the tax dollars used wisely to ensure that it is a bridge, a complement, a collaborator with State government. So you will be losing in the State of Texas, for those of you who are searching for jobs--and you do it every day--some $2.2 million if this goes through.

    Child care. Up to 2,300 disadvantaged and vulnerable children may lose their access to child care. That impacts women who go out every day, one possibly to look for a job but, more importantly, to go out to go to work. I hate the thought that 9,000 children will have a lack of access to vaccines. That's a mother's responsibility, that's a parent's responsibility to ensure her children are getting vaccines, and the public health system will collapse because of the lack of resources; $1.1 million will be lost, in particular, for HIV tests, which is devastating among the African American community, particularly women. We have encouraged them now to get tested. We've tried to remove the stigma. When they go up to the door of the public health entity to get tested, you're going to tell me that there are a million less dollars and that the door will be closed? On the STOP Violence Against Women's program, which we'd now reauthorize, I'm sad to say that Texas could lose $543,000 and that 2,100 more victims will not have this.

    Let me come to a close and look at it generically across America as I cite what Congresswoman Edwards just cited about small businesses, and I would indicate that, on a nationwide impact, two-thirds of all new jobs we know have come from small businesses. As I listened to the news this morning about a woman-owned business that does work with the Defense Department, she was being interviewed, and she said, about 5 days from now, she'll literally be shut down. So what we're talking about is losing $900 million across the Nation in helping small businesses. That is a travesty.

    When we travel internationally, one thing we sort of look at is the question of food safety, and what we pride ourselves on here in the United States is that which stops disease and that which stops contamination. Well, my friends, 2,100 food inspectors for the Nation, who deal with helping to ensure the kind of safe food for our women and children, will be shut down. That means that billions in food production will be shut down. I heard a plant manufacturer, or a food manufacturer--a packaging company--say that it literally cannot do anything without a food inspector saying ``yes.'' Let me indicate something that is very close to my heart, and that is those who are needing mental health services. Do you realize, with the sequester, Congresswoman, that 373,000 mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children will lose public services for their needs? That is a travesty, and asks the question: Why are we going home? Why don't we stay here and find the compromise that we did for the Violence Against Women Act? Let me close on our work in dealing with homeland security. I am the ranking member on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. We have responsibilities with ranking member Thompson and our chairperson, who has noted in our hearings as recently as this week that we would lose some 2,750 Customs and Border Protection officers, CBP. Those are the individuals who allow goods to travel, to meet individuals at airports; and we would lose 5,000 Border Patrol officers at our borders, where we're talking about the question of border security.

    Are we talking out of two sides of our mouths? Here we're making the argument that we want border security, and we're willing to allow 5,000 Border Patrol agents--willy-nilly--to just go away? We're allowing difficulties with the FAA and, as well, with TSA officers of whom some have critiqued. I serve on the Transportation Security Subcommittee. These officers every day face the trials and tribulations of ensuring safety on our airlines and airplanes, and we are telling them that we don't care about security? Right now, we've got a sequester and you're out, and we don't know how long the lines are. Frankly, the statement is being made by my Republican friends and leadership that they simply don't care.

    We have an opportunity to work together. We can work with the Senate. We can work with the White House. We can understand the underpinnings of this whole debate, and that is: revenue and cuts. Why do I want revenue? Because I want for the money not to run out when the victims of Hurricane Sandy are desperate. That's why I want revenue.

    {time} 1320 I want the Head Start programs to be funded, and I want our military in a [[Page H809]] balanced way to be funded. So I support the utilization of the Buffett rule that has been offered by the Senate, and aspects of many other proposals. They are out there, we can do it, and we can do it with the kind of grace and mercy and understanding of the needs of the American people, and protecting the middle class. And, as Congresswoman Edwards stated, we can do that with an eye on women, to make sure that women, many of whom are heads of households, do not face these devastating cuts that would literally shut them down, their small businesses, Head Start, teachers for their children's schools, to ensure that there is funding for the Violence Against Women Act.

    I want to say thank you to Congresswoman Edwards for allowing us to have an opportunity to share our concerns today. I am pained by what we are saying today, but I am extending a hand of friendship to my friends on the other side of the aisle. Leadership can call us back. We are ready to be called back. We can huddle somewhere else. We can find a way to get consensus by email so that when we come back next week, we have an immediate vote because we have been willing to do so.

    I'll close by saying I'm supporting Mr. Conyers, who has offered an alternative that will be coming forward next week that ends the sequestration. I believe that is the way to go to allow us more time for debate and collaboration. I hope others will join us in supporting this legislation we're introducing today. I thank him for his leadership on that. I think that speaks to the fact that all Members, Congresswoman Edwards, are following the leadership of this Special Order, which is to protect women from this devastating impact of sequester. Thank you so very much for the opportunity to speak today.

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