A picture of Representative Steny H. Hoyer
Steny H.
Democrat MD 5

About Rep. Steny
  • The Blame Game

    by Representative Steny H. Hoyer

    Posted on 2013-02-12

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    HOYER. Mr. Speaker, tonight, the President will once again walk into this Chamber and lay out a vision for how to strengthen America in the years ahead. Properly, part of that vision will include the need to solve our deficit challenge and address the looming sequester. That dangerous set of automatic and indiscriminate spending cuts is due to take effect in just under 3 weeks. But instead of working with Democrats to avert the sequester through a big and balanced solution-- or, frankly, even a short-term balanced proposal--a growing number of House Republicans are, instead, engaged in a dangerous blame game.

    Majority Leader Cantor joined in that this weekend, claiming that the President is the one who proposed the sequester in the first place. What he didn't say was, of course, the Republicans offered a piece of legislation called. The sequester was an integral part of their policy proposal. In fact, the sequester was part of a bipartisan [[Page H435]] agreement instigated by Republicans, which we supported. Let us not forget, Mr. Speaker, that it was Republican hostage taking of the debt limit in 2011 that brought about the Budget Control Act, which created the sequester.

    Speaker Boehner himself, after the deal creating the sequester was struck, said about the Budget Control Act, which included the sequester which faces us at the end of this month: When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted.

    Now, let me again stress that many of us voted for this. For the past 2 years, however, the Republican majority in this House has had our country lurching from one fiscal crisis to another. Repeatedly, they have threatened to default on our obligations, shut down government operations, and to slash spending in an irrational, meat-ax way.

    They have shaken the confidence of our people and of all those throughout the world who look to America for security and stability. They have undermined, in my view, the growth of economy and jobs--and that's the view of CBO as well--and have put in question our commitment to investing in our defense and in job creation.

    In short, the Republican majority, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, in this House has given us the most chaotic and confidence-destroying leadership I have seen in my 32 years of service in this House. And now, many of them suggest the sequester that is scheduled to occur on March 1 is an acceptable way forward. Mr. Speaker, I will not take the time to quote the number of Republicans who have said that, but I believe all of them are profoundly wrong.

    Sequestration will have a devastating impact on both domestic programs and on our national security. If the sequestration were to take effect, it would mean 70,000 children dropped from the Head Start program; loan guarantees to small businesses would be cut by as much as $540 million; and just as we are engaged in a national discussion about how to address mental health, up to 373,000 people suffering from mental illness could go untreated.

    {time} 1220 That is not the President's vision for America, nor is it the vision of Democrats in this House. Now, here we are at the 11th hour once again.

    First, House Republicans walked way from the Simpson-Bowles recommendation to adopt a balanced way forward; then they refused to compromise on a balanced alternative to the sequester, starting the clock of sequestration. Then we came down to the wire on the fiscal cliff and delayed sequestration for 2 months, and here we are, once again, with Republicans continuing to cast blame on others.

    Mr. Speaker, the blame game must end by us and by our Republican colleagues. The issue is not who is at fault. As the previous speaker indicated, we're all at fault; we're all responsible; we all serve in this House. Many of us voted for policies that spend money. Some of us voted for policies to pay for what we bought. Others voted against policies for paying for what we bought. Here we are, once again, on the brink of a fiscal meltdown.

    It's a game that has no winners, only losers, like the 14,000 teachers, teacher assistants, and other education staff who would lose their jobs; or the 125,000 families who would be at risk of losing their homes when our rental assistance program is cut; or the thousands of civilian defense personnel, in my district alone, and throughout this country who would be furloughed for up to 22 days during the year; and the hundreds of thousands around the country across every service branch, not to mention the tens of thousands of defense contractors critical to our national security, who would be at risk of losing their jobs.

    Instead, Mr. Speaker, we need to get serious and work together to avert a sequester that could stop our recovery in its tracks and defeat our common goal of helping America's economy grow and its businesses create jobs.

    Reducing spending in a rational way is important for us to do, let there be no mistake. Considering additional revenues will be essential--every bipartisan group has said that--if we are to get on a sustainable financial footing. The sequester, however, Mr. Speaker, is dangerous and unacceptable. We must stop simply fiddling while the sequester's flames threaten to burn our economy, our national security, and our people.

    Mr. Speaker, we have no time to waste. I would urge the majority leader to bring a bill to the floor today that would comply with what Mr. Lankford, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, said that we ought to pass things that we think the Senate can pass, not just messages, not just political spin, but we ought to pass things that can actually be passed through the United States Senate and signed by the President.

    Senator Lindsey Graham has said: We have our fingerprints as Republicans on this proposal, on this sequestration idea. It was the President's idea, according to Bob Woodward's book. But we as the Republican Party agreed to it.

    Let's make law and make policy so that America has the confidence that its Congress can work. It must work. America needs it to work.


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