April 23, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the appointment of budget conferees and the effects of arbitrary budget cuts. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
My Republican colleagues often demand a return to regular order, especially where the budget process is concerned. They complained for two years that we didn’t pass a budget resolution, even though we had enacted a budget with the force of law.
This year, as Republicans requested, we took up a budget resolution. Until five o’clock in the morning, we took vote after vote on amendment after amendment. And in the end we passed a budget resolution without a single Republican vote.
After giving the Republicans what they said they wanted – regular order, countless amendment votes and passage of a budget resolution – a strange thing happened. House Republicans did a complete 180. They’re no longer interested in regular order. They don’t want to go to conference and work things out. They don’t even want to name conferees. It seems House Republicans don’t want to be seen discussing even the possibility of compromise with Democrats, for fear of a Tea Party revolt. But that’s not a good reason to run away from budget negotiations. In fact, it’s ridiculous.
So today I’ll ask consent to name conferees. I hope my Republican colleagues in the Senate won’t object for the sole purpose of giving cover to their House Republican colleagues. If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we need to get to work – and get to work sooner rather than later.
On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented sequester furloughs that will affect tens of thousands of employees. And by Monday, travelers were already experiencing delays at airports from coast to coast. According to the Wall Street Journal, flights to New York airports were delayed more than an hour because of the furloughs. Delays were also reported in Los Angeles and Baltimore.
The FAA has assured us things will get much worse before the end of the busy summer travel season, as arbitrary sequester cuts continue to affect airport staffing levels. At peak travel times, almost 7,000 flights will be delayed every day – some of them by up to three hours.
The delays will be bad for business. They will be frustrating for families. And they will be devastating for the economy. But flight delays aren’t the only unintended consequence of these across-the-board cuts.
Nationwide the sequester will cost 750,000 jobs. It will shred the safety net that keeps millions of seniors, children, veterans and needy families from falling through the cracks. And it will gut investments in education and medical research that help America compete in the 21st century.
More than 2,700 schools with large numbers of disadvantaged children will see their federal funding slashed. These cuts will put 10,000 classroom jobs at risk. And they will eliminate extra help that closes the achievement gap for 1.2 million underprivileged students. More than 7,200 teachers and classroom aides who work with children with disabilities will lose their jobs because of the sequester. And 33,000 college students will lose their work study jobs, putting the dream of higher education further out of reach for the poorest students.
Families and businesses in every state will feel the pain of the sequester, whether or not they fly.
But Congress could act now to reverse these cuts without adding a dollar to the deficit. We can use the savings from wrapping up military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid the full brunt of these arbitrary cuts. We could erase the sequester for the rest of year with just a fraction of the savings from winding down these two wars.
Using these savings, Congress could avert the most painful and senseless sequester cuts – cuts to the FAA and to the programs that get homeless veterans off the streets, fund research to cure lethal diseases and provide meals to needy seniors. I only hope public outcry over long delays at airports will serve as a wakeup call to my Republican colleagues: we can’t put off action any longer.