Syriaby Senator Barbara Boxer
Posted on 2013-02-26
BOXER. Mr. President, following my remarks I ask unanimous
consent that the Senator from Arkansas, Mr. Pryor, be recognized.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, before Senator Mikulski, the chair of the Appropriations Committee, leaves the floor, I want to thank her for her very hard work along with several colleagues putting together a plan that is a commonsense plan to avoid this sequester, these automatic, senseless spending cuts. It was not easy to do, but I think they figured out a way to pay for it, as she described, called the Buffett rule, which basically says to a multimillionaire: We think it is only fair that you pay the same effective tax rate as your secretary.
If you were to ask anyone on the street, any party--Republican, Democratic--if they think that is the right way to go, I am convinced 90 percent of the people would say: Of course. I thank her. I know Senator Inouye is looking down and smiling because his successor, Senator Mikulski, is doing such a great job already.
I rise as a Senator from California. Senator Feinstein and I represent 38 million people. Anything that happens around here comes down very hard on our State--or if it is a good thing, it is very good for our State. What we are facing is not a good thing, the sequester. It is a self-inflicted wound that will harm our economy.
I have to say, when I listened to Speaker Boehner over there--he is refusing to do anything about it. He says, and I will not quote him because it would be language not acceptable, but he basically said in the press, and it is written there--I urge everyone to see it--that the Senators ought to get off their ``blank'' and get to work and get something done.
I am proud to say we have an alternative to the sequester. Senator Mikulski laid it out. I believe we have a majority vote in this Senate for that plan.
I hope our colleagues will not filibuster. Let's have that up-or-down vote because when you are looking at job losses into the hundreds of thousands--and that is certainly true in my State and the country as a whole--no one should filibuster a plan that would stave off that pain.
How did we get to this place? In 2011 the Republicans decided to hold our country hostage over raising the debt ceiling. We know if we do not pay our bills--which is what the debt ceiling is about--this country is going to face default, and our credit rating is going to be lowered. Even though we finally resolved this thing at the eleventh hour, we still caused the downgrade the time [[Page S839]] before. This time we averted another downgrade, but it is very important that we remember why we got to this place of facing this sequester. The Republicans played games with the debt ceiling again.
Even though under Ronald Reagan, their hero--and, by the way, I think even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting into the Republican Party these days because Ronald Reagan said you should never play games with the debt; even talking about the debt is a problem. We raised the debt when Ronald Reagan was President; 18 times we raised the debt ceiling. But all of a sudden, when there is a Democratic President, they are playing games. That is wrong. Obviously, we didn't want to see another downgrade. We had already seen a delay the last time, which cost us $1.3 billion, in borrowing costs alone.
In order to avert this, on August 2, 2011, we enacted the Budget Control Act. When it became law, we were within hours of defaulting on our debts. The Budget Control Act allowed us to raise the debt ceiling, but on the condition that a ``supercommittee'' find $1.2 trillion in cuts or force a trigger of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.
Straight from my heart, I say this: No one thought the sequester would go forward. Everyone thought the pain to the economy would be so great that everybody would sit down and resolve it. But here is what is going on right now. Democrats say the way to resolve it and avert the sequester is to have dollar-for-dollar spending cuts and increases in revenues. Republicans say 100-percent spending cuts and they would prefer to do no defense cuts and have it all come out of education, transportation, medical research, law enforcement, the environment. That is what their plan was last year. So let's face it. No one thought we would get to this point, but we are at this point.
What is the choice? I think it is pretty clear what the choice is. It is the Democratic plan, which is a growing economy, versus the Republican plan, which is a sequester, which is a slowing economy. When I say that, I mean it.
Mark Zandi, who is one of the leading economists in the country, said if sequestration goes forward, it would cut a half of a point off our economic growth. What does that mean? It means jobs lost. I have to say, when I look at my State, this is not a pretty picture.
The Los Angeles Times, in an article by Ricardo Lopez and Richard Simon today, says: ``California braces for impending cuts from Federal sequestration.'' I ask unanimous consent this article be printed in the Record.
[From the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 25, 2013] California Braces for Impending Cuts From Federal Sequestration (By Ricardo Lopez and Richard Simon) California's defense industry is bracing for a $3.2-billion hit with the federal budget cuts that are expected to take effect Friday.
But myriad other federally funded programs also are threatened, and the combined effect is expected to slow the momentum that California's economy has been building over the last year.
As the state braces for pain from so-called sequestration, there are warnings of long delays at airport security checkpoints, potential slowdowns in cargo movement at harbors and cutbacks to programs, including meals for seniors and projects to combat neighborhood blight.
Despite the grim scenarios from local and state officials, economists say the cuts' overall blow to the economy would be modest, felt more acutely in regions such as defense-heavy San Diego and by Californians dependent on federal programs, such as college students who rely on work-study jobs to pay for school.
Critics say the cuts come at an inopportune time because the economic recovery in the U.S. and California is still weak.
``We need stimulus, not premature austerity,'' Gov. Jerry Brown said during a break at the National Governors Assn. meeting in Washington.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) contends that critics of the cuts are exaggerating the effects.
``If we can't do this, what can we do'' to reduce Washington's red ink, he asked. ``We ought to be panicked about the day when people won't buy our debt anymore because we borrowed too much.'' If automatic spending cuts occur as planned, the growth in the country's gross domestic product is likely to slow by 0.4 percentage points this year, from about 2% to 1.6%, economists said.
California's GDP would see a similar slowdown. The state stands to lose as much as $10 billion in federal funding this year, according to Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.
Levy said the more than $1 trillion in cuts planned over the next decade include ``items in the federal budget that invest for the future,'' such as support for research and clean energy, that particularly affect California because of its ``innovation economy.'' The ripple effects the cuts might have on business and consumer confidence--which would further dampen economic activity--remain to be seen, said Jason Sisney, a deputy at the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.
``We're at a point where gains in housing and construction markets have begun to take hold,'' Sisney said. ``A slowdown from sequestration would come at just the moment that the economy was beginning to right itself.'' Jerry Nickelsburg, a UCLA economist who writes a quarterly economic forecast on the Golden State, said the state's recent economic gains would provide a buffer against sequestration.
``California can absorb it,'' Nickelsburg said. ``Will it slow economic growth? The answer is yes. Will it result in negative economic growth? I think the answer is no.'' Los Angeles officials project that the city would lose more than $100 million at a time when they're struggling to close a hole in the city's budget.
Douglas Guthrie, chief executive of the Los Angeles city housing authority, said Monday that rent subsidies to as many as 15,000 low-income families would be cut an average $200 a month, forcing many families to search for less expensive housing. His agency also might face as many as 80 layoffs in an already reduced workforce.
But Guthrie said in a letter to the Los Angeles City Council that the housing authority must plan for the ``painful consequences'' of the federal budget cuts and is preparing to send warning notices to participants in the housing assistance program ``as soon as we see that the cuts are made and there are no immediate prospects to resolve the budget crisis.'' At Yosemite National Park, snow plowing of a key route over the Sierra would be delayed, ranger-led programs are likely to be reduced and the park would face ``less frequent trash pickup, loss of campground staff, and reduced focus on food storage violations, all of which contribute to visitor safety concerns and increased bear mortality rates,'' according to the National Park Service.
Some programs, such as Social Security, would be spared from the $85 billion in cuts nationwide due to kick in Friday. But defense programs are expected to be cut by about 13% for the remainder of the fiscal year and domestic spending by about 9%, according to the White House budget office.
The Obama administration sought Monday to highlight the effects close to home in an effort to step up the pressure on Congress to replace across-the-board cuts with more targeted reductions and new tax revenue collected from taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is bracing for a loss of $37 million a year in federal funding. Supt. John Deasy said Monday that he is sending a letter to the California congressional delegation warning about the ``potential very grave impact'' of the cuts on Los Angeles schools.
Rachelle Pastor Arizmendi, director of early childhood education at the Pacific Asian Consortium for Employment in Los Angeles, said she anticipated that the cuts would cost her agency $980,000 in federal Head Start funding. That would force PACE to eliminate preschool for about 120 children ages 3 to 5.
``It's not just a number,'' she said. ``This is closing down classrooms. This is putting our children behind when they're going to kindergarten.'' The nonprofit serves about 2,000 children, providing most of them two meals a day in addition to preschool education. The cuts would mean PACE would have to lay off four of its 20 teachers, forcing the closure of eight Head Start classrooms, Arizmendi said.
Mrs. BOXER. Our Governor makes the point--he has a way of getting to the point: ``We need stimulus, not premature austerity,'' said Gov. Jerry Brown.
The Republicans have become the austerity party and the Democrats have become the jobs party. I think people want jobs. There are still too many long-term unemployed. We have a stubbornly high unemployment rate. There is no question about it.
Jerry Nickelsburg, a UCLA economist who writes a quarterly economic forecast on the Golden State--my State--said: The State's recent economic gains would provide a buffer against sequestration, but would it slow economic growth? Yes. Why would we do something like this, a self-inflicted wound, when there is an easy way to get out of it, which is to put into place a rule that says on a person's second million dollars, once they get to that point, they are going to pay an effective tax rate equal to their secretary? Give me a break. This is the greatest country on Earth, and the people I know who live in California, for the most part, in the wealthy brackets [[Page S840]] are very happy to pay their fair share. They want to pay their fair share. They want to give back. They love this country. It gave them everything. A lot of them started with nothing.
So we have the two plans. The Democratic plan was outlined by Senator Mikulski and we are going to vote on it on Thursday. I pray to God it is not filibustered and a majority will rule and we will get it done. It will create a growing economy because it is a balanced plan with half cuts, half revenues.
Then there is a Republican plan which we don't know yet, but the one they passed in the House doubled down on the cuts to education, the environment, transportation, and left defense alone. That is not fair, and that is a sure way we are going to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I wish to share a picture with my colleagues. I don't know if people can see this, but it is on the front page of the Washington Post and it is a picture of a shipyard worker. The look on his face I can only describe as frightened. As a matter of fact, when I saw the photo, without seeing what the story was about, I thought, This man is expecting some terrible gloom and doom to occur. And, yes, it is his fear that he will be laid off. He said his wife is pregnant and he doesn't have a second source of income in the family and he is desperate.
We just went through that. Why would we ever do it again? And people say to me, What is going to happen? How will I feel it back home? Will I have a longer wait at the airport? Yes, you might. Will I go to the National Park Service and it may be closed down? Yes. Will job training centers, some of them, shut down? Yes. There is a list of what will happen.
I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a list of the consequences of the sequester cuts nationwide.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: The Consequences of Sequester Cuts to Education 70,000 Children From Head Start 10,000 Teacher Jobs 7,200 Special Education Teachers 2,700 Schools From Receiving Title 1 Funds, Cutting Support for 1.2 Million Students to Public Health 424,000 HIV Tests Conducted by CDC 25,000 Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings 804,000 Outpatient Visits to Indian Health Service Hospitals and Clinics 2,100 Food Inspections 4 Million Meals Served to Seniors Through Programs Like Meals on Wheels 600,000 Women and Children From Receiving Nutrition Assistance 1,000 NSF Grants--Impacting 12,000 Scientists and Students $902 Million From SBA Loan Guarantees for Small Businesses to Security and Safety 1,000 FBI Agents and Other Law Enforcement Personnel 1,000 Criminal Cases From Being Prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys Mrs. BOXER. We are looking at 70,000 children not being able to go to Head Start. We are looking at 10,000 teacher jobs. We are looking at 7,200 special ed teachers--we know those special ed teachers; they are angels from heaven who work with kids who can't even sometimes manage to get dressed in the morning by themselves.
Then: 2,700 schools won't receive title I funds, cutting support for 1.2 million children who need help learning to read. Tell me, does this make sense, when all we have to do is ask someone earning a second million dollars to pay the same effective rate as a secretary? I don't get it.
How about 424,000 HIV tests conducted by the CDC won't happen, so someone is going to sneak through and give HIV to someone else? Really, that is not a smart thing. Twenty-five thousand breast and cervical cancer screenings will not take place, and some poor woman who might have had a chance to catch breast cancer at an early stage is thrown overboard. Eight hundred thousand outpatient visits to Indian hospitals and clinics. Food inspections. Just the time to cut back on food inspections. How about 4 million meals will be cut that would have been served to seniors through programs such as Meals-on-Wheels. Four million seniors won't get that. And what if they don't have a loving child to take care of them or what if they don't have a neighbor to take care of them? Six hundred thousand women and children won't receive nutrition assistance, and we have a lot of hungry people in this great country of ours; scientific grants to find cures for the diseases that plague our families, whether they are rich or poor or anywhere in the middle, to find the cures for Alzheimer's, to find the cures for diabetes. Small businesses that do so well when they get that little seed money--$902 million cut from there.
Then: 1,000 FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel, and that is because we are just so safe in our communities. I have gone around my State and not one person ever came up to me and said, I want less enforcement in my neighborhood. It is just too much. It is too safe. Not one person ever told me, oh, don't bother checking my air or my water quality; I am just fine.
So if we take these cuts and we apply them to our States, we will find out what happens and it is not a pretty picture. Los Angeles alone could lose as much as $115 million in Federal grants, just in the first 6 months of 2013. Community development, public safety, I have been through it.
We don't have to inflict this pain on the American people. Everything I said relates to jobs. All of those cuts, what do they mean? Real people who do real things in the community such as law enforcement, teaching our kids, et cetera, will lose their jobs, not to mention people in the Defense Department who are making sure we are always safe and ready. That is why we see the look on his face, because he is potentially one of those people.
In closing, I want to thank those who have put together a package for us, and I have a plea to my Republican friends: Do not filibuster this. Too many lives are at stake. Too many jobs are at stake. Put your plan forward, get a vote on it if you have a plan or if your plan is to let sequester go through, let's see that vote again, and let us have our vote on our plan to avoid this pain and suffering people are going to feel.
I actually have one more point to make and then I will turn to my friend from Arkansas. We hear a lot of posturing from my Republican friends about how the Democrats are such big spenders and all they want to do is spend and tax and tax and spend. What party led the way to the first balanced budget in almost 30 years? I will give my colleagues a clue: It was not the Republican Party. It was the Democratic Party. When Bill Clinton was President, we not only balanced the budget but we left George W. Bush a surplus of $281 billion.
By the way, I happened to be here when we voted on the budget plan and we did not have one vote to spare. We did it ourselves.
What did George W. Bush do with this huge surplus? He squandered it. He put two wars on the credit card, never paid for them; gave tax breaks to people who didn't need them, and handed President Obama a $1.2 trillion deficit, which is now projected to be $850 billion for 2013. It is going in the right direction under a Democratic President. We want to get that down and we can get that down, and we can work together to get that down, but we do not have to do this sequester. History has shown us the balanced approach we used when Bill Clinton was President of smart investments in things that help our people such as job training and education and lifting up our children, and making sure they don't go hungry--those kinds of investments pay off in a society.
We have 23 million jobs. Under George W. Bush, we lost jobs: George W. Bush, we lost jobs. And this President, our President who just got reelected, is following the model of Bill Clinton: a balanced approach to deficit reduction, investments in things we need, cutting things we don't need, and working together.
I say if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. We are coming out of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, and we cannot afford to have this sequester. We need to avert it, come together with a balanced plan of cuts and revenues, not just the cuts- only approach, the austerity approach of the Republicans.
I hope they don't filibuster our approach and let us have an up-or- down vote and pass this with a majority.
[[Page S841]] I thank my colleagues very much, and I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.
Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I thank my Senate colleague from California for her remarks and also want to finish one point she was making there at the end. But before I do, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the final 20 minutes prior to the vote be equally divided and controlled between Senators Levin and Inhofe.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. PRYOR. I want to thank Senator Boxer for her comments on balancing the budget. One of the things we need to understand is that we can do this. It was not that long ago when President Clinton was elected and he focused on balancing the budget. He made it a priority of his administration. He made it a Democratic priority for the Democratic Party. They passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1993. It passed without one Republican vote in this Chamber and without one Republican vote in the House Chamber. But nonetheless it did pass. It probably caused some people some elections a couple years later, but nonetheless it was the right thing to do. It got us on the course to fiscal stability. It took 4 years, but we did balance the budget.
But there is one thing we also need to mention as we talk about that. One advantage Bill Clinton had that we have not had in the last few years is a robust, vibrant, and growing economy. He had the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. That did not happen by accident. That took a lot of work. It took a lot of bipartisan effort here in the U.S. Senate, there in the U.S. House of Representatives, and down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It had Governors working together. It had all of us working together to try to make sure we got the economy back on track because if the economy is growing, the revenues improve, and also your safety net programs are not hit nearly as hard.
So one of the things we need to focus on as a Congress--certainly as a Senate--is we need to focus on growing the U.S. economy. That brings me to my discussion today about sequestration.
When we look at the analysis on what sequestration could do to the U.S. economy, there could be 750,000 jobs lost in this economy. That is a .6 percent shrinkage of the economy by the end of this year. We are not talking about somewhere way down the road, out in the outyears. We are talking about at the end of this year it will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. That is going to continue to hurt our debt and deficit problem. We need to do all we can to avoid this and to grow the U.S. economy. We need a growing U.S. economy. There should not be government policies that are shrinking the economy. We should be growing the economy.
I wish to say, if you look at the numbers for government employees-- and I think a lot of the news media has focused on government employees. There has been a lot of discussion in the press conferences and there is all the blame game that has been going on, and I want to talk about that in a few moments. But if you look at the numbers in the public sector--the Federal employees who will either be laid off or furloughed or for whatever reason will not be able to function--those are big numbers. But that only tells part of the story. In fact, that only tells a small part of the story because this sequester is going to harm the private sector much more than it harms the public sector.
This is something we should understand, that the American people should understand. I would hope the American people would insist we work together to get something done here in the next few days if possible, certainly in the next few weeks to avoid this sequester.
In my State of Arkansas, there are 91 poultry and meat processing facilities that will have to close their doors at least at some point because they do not have meat inspectors and food inspectors on site. That is 91 facilities. That is a lot of employees. We have employees at 52 Arkansas FSA offices. These are Department of Ag offices that are out around the counties to help people in the farming industry, to give them some government resources, advice, et cetera. Fifty-two of those offices are not going to close their doors, but they are going to have to furlough their employees. There is no doubt they will be at partial strength instead of full strength at a very critical time for farmers all over the State of Arkansas.
Also, we have an FDA facility there, the National Center for Toxicological Research, and it is going to be cut by an estimated $3 million. Well, that facility is a nice little economic engine for that part of the State. That means when they cut it, it is going to have a negative ripple effect, an adverse ripple effect in that part of our State's economy.
I know in this Chamber and in this town there is a lot of discussion about making the government small and how we should cut the government and how the government should be lean and all that. Do you know what. A lot of that I do not disagree with. But I do think it is important for all of us, as responsible policymakers, to understand the reality that whether we like it or not--and many of us have philosophical disagreements on this; and I am not trying to get into that, but whether we like it or not, our government is very intertwined in the U.S. economy, our government is a critical part of the U.S. economy.
So you take something like the food industry--and I am chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture--if you take something as basic as agriculture--something that may not be very sexy, that does not get a lot of headlines, that people do not think a lot about because we take it for granted in this country that we are going to have a good, healthy, robust food supply, but that does not have to be the case. It certainly is not the case in most countries around the world. We are very spoiled. We are very fortunate in this country to have that. But the agricultural sector cannot function without the government.
Again, we have a safe food supply. We need inspectors out there to make sure that meat and other foods that are being processed get that USDA seal of approval--grade A, whatever it is. That means something. If we cannot know our food is safe, then we have diminished what it means to live in this country. We do not want to get into that. Let's avoid that. This is avoidable.
I know a lot of Arkansans, when I talk to them, say: Can't you all do something? Can't you work together? The answer is yes, we can work together. It is just a matter of political will. We have to make up our minds that is what we are going to do, that we are going to work together.
In 2011, we passed the Budget Control Act. Here again, I think the news media has not covered this a lot, has not explained this very well to most Americans. But one of the things the Budget Control Act of 2011 did, among other things, is it set spending caps for the Federal Government. So as back in the 1980s, when people worried about $180 billion deficits--now we have much larger deficits than that, but back then in the 1980s, we put on the Gramm-Rudman spending caps and things such as that--Gramm-Rudman-Hollings--and there were other efforts over the years.
Well, that is what we have done with the Budget Control Act. We have spending caps for the next 10 years--now it is for the next 9 years when it comes to Federal spending. I think people do not always appreciate that because what they hear out of Washington--instead of people explaining what is going on and trying to help the American people understand what they get from Washington--is blame, blame, blame. I cannot count the number of press conferences we have had where one side has come out to blame the other side. I know some of the House Members just came out and blamed the Senate. Democrats are blaming Republicans. Republicans are blaming the President. The President is blaming the Congress. It goes on and on and on. It never stops. It is a dead-end street.
The truth is we voted for sequester. I do not care who came up with the idea, we voted for it. As we have talked about many times on this floor, the reason we put sequester in in the first place was because it was such a bad idea; it will be so hard to do; it does not make a lot of sense. But, nonetheless, it was to try to force our folks to get to a budget deal. It did not happen. But I think the important thing is, all Americans need to know everybody in Washington owns this. You can blame all you want. You can have as many [[Page S842]] press conferences as you want, but everybody in Washington owns this. We need to own up to our responsibility as Congressmen and Senators and as the President and do what we can to not hurt this country.
Let me talk for a few more moments because I see one of my colleagues has arrived here. Let me say the sequestration, again, was an idea that was put together because they wanted it to be so painful that we would never get here. These are arbitrary cuts. You do not take into account the efficiency of programs, the effectiveness of programs. You do not take into account the merits of programs. You just cut across the board.
I think we probably will do some more cuts. We probably should do some more cuts. I think if you look at the Simpson-Bowles blueprint-- that proposal a lot of us have talked about over the last couple years--they would probably look at that and look at the numbers and say we still need to do some cutting. But we also need some revenue. We still need to do that. But our cuts should be smart and they should be deliberate and they should increase the bang that the taxpayer gets for their buck. That is not what sequestration does. It does not achieve any of those goals.
One thing about the Department of Agriculture--here again, people need to understand this; we talk about this here in our committee rooms and whatnot, but I think a lot of times the message does not get out-- agriculture funding has already been cut by 15 percent. There has already been a 15-percent cut to agriculture, starting in 2010 to today: 15 percent. I think it is unwise for us to cut an industry which is one of the core strengths of the U.S. economy.
If we look at the U.S. economy, there are a lot of things we do well. But there is no doubt at all we do agriculture better than anyone else in the world. There is not even a close second place. You innovate when it comes to agriculture. This is where you maximize crops. The United States of America is the gold standard for agricultural productivity and new technology and innovation and all these great things to make this country the breadbasket that it is. So why in the world are we going to cut, cut, cut agriculture? It does not make any sense.
Of course, rural America is struggling disproportionately. With the recession and all that has hit rural America, it is tough out there. Let me tell you, I come from a very rural State. It is tough. These cuts are going to harm rural America much more than they will harm urban America and suburban America. It is a fact of life. Again, that is another reason why we need to avoid this.
So in closing--I know I have one of my colleagues here who wishes to speak--let me get back to the meat inspectors. The Department of Agriculture says they may have to be furloughed for up to 15 days. That means you are going to have to temporarily close--maybe for a day at a time--6,000 processing plants nationwide. There are over 90 of those in Arkansas. Just in my State, that is going to have an impact on not those few government jobs, it is going to have an impact on 40,000 jobs in the private sector--40,000 jobs in the private sector--because of this.
It also is going to disrupt the efficiencies we have in the protein markets in this country. What that means is, prices are going to go up, people are going to pay more for their meat products at the grocery store and at the restaurant. This is not going to be a win for anybody. And I think you are going to see about $400 million in industry wages that could be lost as a result. That is not going to help the U.S. economy.
Then you expand what the U.S. Department of Agriculture does beyond row crop and livestock-type agriculture. They do a lot in the area of clean water, fire and rescue vehicles in rural communities. They do community building in rural America--things such as hospitals, school construction. They do rental assistance programs, and a lot of these are for the poorest of the poor out there around our country. Again, it is going to disproportionately hurt these people who can least afford it.
I mentioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but also at the FDA, it seems to me almost every one of their employees around the country could be subject to these furloughs and these cuts and will be adversely affected.
Do we want to interrupt the gold standard we have with food and drugs in this country through the FDA? I would say no.
I think it is time for us to come together, to work together, to find a solution. I think one of the bits of good news we see in Washington is there is nothing wrong here that we cannot fix with some political will. I think that is what this is all about. It is a little bit of a test of wills right now, but I think there is no doubt we can fix this with some political will.
Mr. President, with that, I will yield the floor.
I see my colleague from Vermont is in the Chamber.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.