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Barbara B.
Democrat CA

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  • The Sequester

    by Senator Barbara Boxer

    Posted on 2013-03-04

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    BOXER. Mr. President, one of the virtues of traveling back home is to hear what the people are saying about us. And it isn't good. The people are on anxiety overload. The purpose of my remarks is not to increase anyone's anxiety but just to tell it the way it is.

    How did we get to a place where we are having mindless, across-the- board cuts in spending with absolutely no thought? It came about because the Republicans refused to increase the debt ceiling. We were about to default on our obligations, after raising the debt ceiling many times--18 times under Ronald Reagan. And Ronald Reagan warned us in those times never to play games with the debt ceiling. Well, the Republicans did. They played games with the debt ceiling, and they did it because, if you follow what the Republican leader said, his highest priority was defeating President Obama. I am sure they thought that kind of chaos would lead the way. It didn't happen, clearly. Our President was reelected, and he was reelected with the big vote.

    We got into this situation with the sequester because there were games [[Page S1083]] being played with the debt ceiling, and as a way to get out of it, we did something we thought would never come to pass.

    We said: OK, give us this ability to raise the debt ceiling so we can pay our bills and not become a third-world nation and not lose our credit rating even more than we have already lost it, and then we will look at deficit reduction. If the supercommittee can't come up with a deal, we will have these across-the-board cuts.

    No one thought they would happen, and they are happening. And now what we hear is, oh, it is really no big deal. Our Republican friends are saying it is OK.

    Maybe people watching this in their homes may not be touched by the sequester, but let me tell you who will be touched by the sequester, and let me make the argument that when these people are touched by it, we are all touched by it. This is one Nation under God, and when we hurt our people, we get hurt.

    Seventy thousand children will not get Head Start. Is that supposed to be good for the country? Ten thousand teacher jobs will be lost. Is that supposed to be good for the country? How about 7,200 special ed teachers, teaching every day kids who have such a hard time just getting dressed in the morning? Is that good for America? I would argue that this list is terrible for our country. Maybe you don't have a kid in Head Start. I don't. Maybe you don't know a special ed teacher. The point is that we are one country, and we do best when we help our most vulnerable.

    How about this: 424,000 HIV tests conducted by the Centers for Disease Control will no longer happen. Is that good for the country, to have HIV-infected people walking around not knowing they have HIV? How about 25,000 fewer breast and cervical cancer screenings? Maybe it is not your wife or your sister or your mom, but somebody's sister or somebody's daughter is not going to find out she has breast cancer. Tell me how that is good for this country.

    I am not even talking about the cuts to defense, some of which I think we can do but many of which don't make sense. I am just looking at the cuts to the most vulnerable people. Four million fewer meals will be served to senior citizens. Does that make you proud, Republicans? I hope you are proud. Programs such as Meals on Wheels are going to be impacted, and 600,000 women and children won't get nutrition assistance. There will be 1,000 FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel laid off or furloughed, and 1,000 criminal cases won't be prosecuted. Is that good for America? Maybe your family wasn't the victim of a crime. Maybe it is not your relative who happens to be a law enforcement officer. But this is one Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.

    How does it make sense for these cuts to go into effect when all we have to do to avert them is reform the Tax Code and take away those juicy little tax loopholes companies that ship their jobs overseas get? How about asking someone who earns $2 million a year to pay the same effective tax rate as their secretary? What kind of a country is this? You would rather have these kinds of brutal cuts to the least among us than just have a fair Tax Code? In the last 40 years only one party balanced the budget, and that party is the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress--the only party that ever balanced the budget. So spare me the lectures from my friends on the other side of the aisle about how they are the ones who know how to do it. No, they don't, because when you make these mindless cuts and people are furloughed and they have less money to spend, they don't go to the corner store and take their family for lunch or dinner. They don't spend as they would normally spend, and it is a trickle-down effect on this economy. As a matter of fact, Mark Zandi, the respected, nonpartisan economist, said it is going to take a half a point off economic growth at a time when we are not growing that robustly.

    Here is the point. When President Obama inherited the job--because we elected him to it--he faced the $1.2 trillion deficit of George W. Bush, who had turned the Bill Clinton surplus into raging deficits, and the deficits are down now to $850 billion. So don't say we are not making progress. A Democratic President is making progress on the deficit. But let's do the rest of this deficit cutting wisely, in a balanced way. We have cut $1.7 trillion in spending and, yes, $700 billion in revenue. We have raised taxes on those earning a lot of money. But there are a lot more cuts we have made than revenue increases we have made.

    So I come to the floor to say this is a self-inflicted wound. And if I hear anyone say: It doesn't really affect me, let me tell you that is not true because when our kids are hurt, we are hurt. When our health care system is hurt and people are walking around with diseases, we are all hurt. When our senior citizens don't get the meals, we are all hurt. Otherwise, what is the point in having a country if it is everyone for themselves? That isn't the greatness of America.

    So I was proud to vote to avert the sequester. We had a majority vote before we left here for the weekend, but my Republican friends filibustered that. We had over 50 votes to get rid of the sequester, and the Republicans filibustered. Enough already. I hope they will come to their senses so we can do this deficit reduction in a serious way that makes sense.


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