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John C.
Republican TX

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  • The Sequester

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    CORNYN. Mr. President, here we are again, on the eve of this administration's latest manufactured crisis. Tomorrow, as we all know-- anybody who has been paying attention knows--the sequester will go into effect. And if we believe the majority leader, the President, and his Cabinet, this will be devastating for our economy and for our country. But I wish to suggest that the majority leader, the President, and his Cabinet put down the beltway Koolaid, because they are predicting a disaster that will not occur.

    Let's put the responsibility for this where it lies. The sequester was the President's idea in the first place. As much as he and his press secretary and staff try to deny it, the fact is, as he wrote in his recent book, Bob Woodward has made the point that they told him it was their idea. The White House proposed it to Congress and the President signed it into law on August 2, 2011.

    In the year and a half since the Budget Control Act became the law of the land, the President has done virtually nothing--nothing--about it. He has ignored it. He suggested during the Presidential campaign that the sequester would not happen, and it was as if he tried to simply wish it away. Certainly we know one thing, and that is neither the President nor his Cabinet nor the Defense Department nor any part of his administration has done anything to plan for it--no planning whatsoever--which, of course, makes the implementation more challenging, to be sure.

    At times, the President has pretended the sequester didn't even exist, even though he signed it into law, such as when the Department of Labor notified government contractors they didn't have to abide by another Federal law called the WARN Act, which requires them to notify their employees of potential layoffs that could result from sequestration. The timing, it seems, was inconvenient. Those notices would have gone out roughly around November 1, just 5 days before the last election.

    To be sure, there is bipartisan consensus the sequester is ham- fisted. These across-the-board cuts don't amount to smart budgeting. But what would we expect after nearly 4 years of no budgeting? And what I mean by that, as this chart reflects, is that it has been 1,401 days since the Senate, under Democrat control, has passed a budget. This is a shameful record and one that needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

    We are now told the President himself has missed his statutory deadline for sending his proposed budget for the year over to Congress. That deadline was February 4. And now they are saying we may not get it until after we have had to act ourselves on a budget. So they are predicting it will be roughly 7 weeks late.

    Well, no one could argue with a straight face--contrary to the doom and gloom and the apocalyptic predictions--that 2.4-percent cuts from our anticipated $3.6 trillion annual spending amounts to devastation or the end of Western civilization or whatever sort of apocalyptic terms you want to use. So let's look at what 2.4 percent in cuts would mean to the average American family.

    If you use 100 gallons of gasoline to run your car every month and you had to cut that back by 2.4 percent, that means you would be able to use 97.6 gallons of gas.

    If you have a $250-a-month grocery budget, you would need to find $6 in savings. And on a monthly utility bill of, let's say, $175, you would have to trim it down by $4.20.

    These are the kinds of cuts the American people have had to make for themselves during the recession of 2008 and due to slow growth and high unemployment since then. Yet President Obama is either unwilling or unable to propose similar cuts to replace the sequester.

    If he doesn't like it, well, let's have his proposal for how he would fix it since he signed it into law. Instead, what we get is a proposal that we will vote on this afternoon from our friends across the aisle that would just raise more taxes after one of the largest tax increases in American history as a result of the fiscal cliff negotiations just in late December.

    So the President is content to push through more spending to grow the size of government, notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Government is now spending more money than it ever has as a percentage of our economy. And we have $16.5 trillion in debt. We have important programs such as Medicare and Social Security that are unsustainable-- unless Congress and the President act on a bipartisan basis.

    [[Page S961]] This is not a mystery. This is not something that Republicans know that Democrats don't know; we all know it; and the President knows it because his own bipartisan fiscal commission told him in December 2010.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, the White House-backed bill offered by our Senate Democratic friends to replace the sequester would actually raise the deficit this year by tens of billions of dollars. Now, you may be wondering about that, thinking that the sequester was supposed to cut spending. But, actually, the proposal made by our friends across the aisle would raise the deficit this year by tens of billions of dollars--not exactly what I would call progress. It is absolutely ludicrous, especially when we consider that even with the sequester spending by the Federal Government will still be higher this year than it was last year.

    Let me repeat that in case people weren't listening. Even with the spending cuts mandated by the sequestration, $85 billion in cuts, this administration will still have more money to spend this year than last year. It is hard to see how that would wreak devastation. Yet last year we didn't see planes falling out of the sky, we didn't see empty supermarket shelves for lack of safe food, nor did we see the national parks shutting their front gates. We didn't see any of the doomsday scenarios the President and his Cabinet are now warning about after 1\1/2\ years of doing nothing.

    Of course, the President talks endlessly, it seems, of the need for a so-called balanced approach. Well, he got his pound of flesh. He got his $600 billion in additional tax revenue from the American people. So where is the balance to that? When all he and his party proposes is more taxes and more spending, that is not balance.

    Now is the time to cut spending. That is the only way forward, and that is the only way to begin--with one small step--to return our country to sound fiscal footing.

    Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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