April 22, 2013
“In airports across the country, millions of Americans will get their first taste of the pain of sequestration. But many Americans have been feeling that pain for weeks.”
“We cannot and we should not only address the FAA cuts. We cannot ignore the sequester’s overall effect on Americans and on programs that help small businesses grow, fund crucial medical research and keep our children and seniors safe.”
“We are winding down military operations in Afghanistan, as we did in Iraq. We can use the savings from wrapping up two wars to avoid the full brunt of the sequester’s arbitrary cuts.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the heroic response to the Boston Marathon bombing by law enforcement personnel and flight delays caused by the sequester budget cuts. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
I commend law enforcement officials at the city, state and local level for their incredible response to last week’s traumatic and horrifying events in Boston. A week that began with unspeakable tragedy and the loss of three innocents ended with the death of one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing and the capture of the other. Capturing those suspects would have been impossible without the hard work and bravery of countless law enforcement personnel, as well as the cooperation and fortitude of the people of Boston.
Our hearts go out to the family of 26-year-old Sean Collier, the young M.I.T. police officer who was so callously killed by the bombing suspects. Our thoughts this week are with Richard Donohue, the transit police officer who was wounded during the manhunt. And we once again extend best wishes for a full recovery to those injured in last week’s bombing and our condolences to those who lost loved ones.
The United States government and Americans across the nation pledge our continued support for the people of Massachusetts as they recuperate from a truly trying week.
BUDGET CUTS CAUSE FLIGHT DELAYS
Americans arriving at the airport to take off on their summer vacations already face long lines at security checkpoints. Soon they’ll face long waits in the terminal as well. Last week the Federal Aviation Administration announced that, starting this week, thousands of flights every day will be delayed by up to three hours. Because of the devastating, arbitrary cuts of sequestration, the FAA is forced to furlough tens of thousands of workers. These furloughs could lead to 6,700 delayed flights every day this summer.
By comparison, on the worst travel day in 2012, about 3,000 flights were delayed after severe thunderstorms accompanied by 2-inch hail and 90 mile-per-hour wind ripped across the Midwest and Northeast, and a tornado touched down in New York. Travelers were stranded at airports around the country – some for days. This summer, more than twice that number of flights will be delayed every, single day.
And while major airports such as New York LaGuardia and Chicago O'Hare will see the worst delays, furloughs will impact every airport in the nation. So whether Americans are traveling to Orlando or Las Vegas, San Diego or Seattle, Maine or Montana, they should expect a long wait for a flight. This will make air travel frustrating and time consuming for millions of Americans – whether they’re taking the family to see the Grand Canyon or heading to New York City for business.
In airports across the country, millions of Americans will get their first taste of the pain of sequestration. But many Americans have been feeling that pain for weeks.
In Rockland, Maine, Meals on Wheels – which provides meals to homebound seniors – has a waiting list for the first time in 16 years. And they have literally cut the size of the meals they serve to the elderly in order to save money.
A Head Start program in Fayetteville, Arkansas will close 13 days early this spring – leaving hundreds of needy children without anywhere to go and without nutritious meals to eat. Nationwide, more than 70,000 boys and girls will be kicked off Head Start, a program for low-income children who can’t afford preschool.
Fifty people at Duke University’s School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina will be laid off, along with thousands of other medical researchers working to cure diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The United States military has cut tuition assistance for soldiers, and eliminated a program helping more than 100,000 homeless veterans get off the street and back on their feet. The United States Air Force has grounded a third of its fighter jets and bombers because of these across-the-board cuts. And more than a million federal workers, including hundreds of thousands of Defense Department employees, are preparing to take forced furlough days. This is not only a hardship for individual families; it is also a threat to our national economy and our national security.
And national parks across the country – from Bryce Canyon, Utah to Mount Desert Island, Maine – face reduced hours and closures that will affect thousands of travelers. Long delays at the airport won’t be the only damper on summer vacation travel.
We cannot and we should not only address the FAA cuts. We cannot ignore the sequester’s overall effect on Americans and on programs that help small businesses grow, fund crucial medical research and keep our children and seniors safe. While airport delays are costly and frustrating, they pale in comparison to the pain of a senior citizen missing a meal or veterans going without roofs over their heads at night.
Families and businesses in every state in the nation – in red states and blue states – are at risk because of these haphazard cuts. But Congress has the power to reverse these self-inflicted wounds without adding one penny to the deficit.
We are winding down military operations in Afghanistan, as we did in Iraq. We can use the savings from wrapping up two wars to avoid the full brunt of the sequester’s arbitrary cuts.
Funding for the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is kept in the so-called “Overseas Contingency Operations” account. Since the worst of the sequester cuts are creating an emergency situation, and we should consider using some of those funds to offset their impact. I’m not proposing we use these funds to offset the entire sequester. But Congress has the power to avert the most painful and senseless of the sequester’s cuts using these monies.
Twenty-eight Republicans in the Senate and 174 Republicans in the House voted to impose the sequester. If those same Republicans would work with Democrats, we could act now to protect families and businesses, ensure our national defense and save Americans millions of hours spent waiting at the airport.