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BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS: Murray Highlights Stories of Washington State Families Impacted by Budget Cuts

Nov 05 2013

BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS: Murray Highlights Stories of Washington State Families Impacted by Budget Cuts

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor about the impacts of federal budget cuts across Washington state and her work making sure the voices of Washington state families are heard in the budget process.  Specifically, Senator Murray shared the story of a veteran in Gig Harbor who is seeing hiring freezes, cutbacks, furloughs, and layoffs, and Head Start facilities in Seattle, Everett, and across the state that have been forced to close their doors.  Senator Murray is leading the Senate side in a Budget Conference Committee that is charged with coming to a bipartisan deal by December 13th. Murray continued to stress the need for both sides to compromise and work toward a balanced approach to addressing our current budget challenges that takes into consideration the need to responsibly replace sequestration and invest in the middle-class and the resources that will help Washington state grow.

“Although I had hoped we could start bipartisan budget negotiations far sooner and avoided last month’s crisis, the budget conference that began last week offers us the opportunity to break the cycle of gridlock and dysfunction and start moving our country back in the right direction,” Senator Murray said in her speech on the Senate floor. “We have a chance now to turn our attention back to where it belongs—on strengthening the economy and creating jobs, to continue making responsible spending cuts, while closing wasteful tax loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, and to finally show the American people that Congress can work together, compromise, and alleviate the uncertainty and pain families across the country are facing.”

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“Earlier this year, a man named William, from Gig Harbor, Washington wrote me to express his frustration with what he saw happening in Congress.  William served in the Navy and now works for a tech company that supports Navy communications in the Pacific Northwest. Like so many Americans in recent years, he’s witnessed hiring freezes and cutbacks, furloughs and layoffs.  He said a couple years ago he was hoping for a promotion. Now, he considers himself lucky just to have a job. And he’s not even sure how long he can count on that. William is not alone. The partisanship and gridlock in Washington D.C., has been devastating for families just like his in Washington state and all across the country.”

“The effects of these years of gridlock are clear in places like the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle.  I visited that Head Start program earlier this year, where pre-K students from low-income families can learn their ABCs, take part in story time, and benefit from health and nutrition programs. Even before the major cuts to Head Start that took effect last March, the center had a waiting list.  Now, the director of the school has had to drop kids from the program to meet the tight budget constraints.  And they are far from alone. Another Head Start program in Everett, Washington – a program that’s served needy kids since the 1970s – had to completely shut its doors this summer because Congress couldn’t work together.  That one facility was helping 40 kids prepare for Kindergarten.”

“Bob, from Bremerton, Washington is an engineer at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He told me that every day, highly skilled employees come into his office—often in tears— And they tell him they don’t know how they’ll manage to make ends meet if they’re furloughed or laid off. They are worried now—they’ve felt the pain for months—and they know it could get even worse.”

“Over the last few years, people across the country have lost a great deal of confidence in Congress’ ability to work together for the good of the nation. People like Naani King, who, as the New York Times recently reported, serves as a registered nurse at Madigan Army Medical Center in my home state of Washington. During the shutdown last month, she worked without pay. And without a paycheck, she had to dip into her retirement account to make her monthly mortgage payment.  Now, even though the shutdown is over, her family can’t take any chances. She told the Times: ‘We just have too much to lose.’”  

Full text of Senator Murray’s speech below:

 “Thank you, Mr. President.

“Earlier this year, a man named William, from Gig Harbor, Washington wrote me to express his frustration with what he saw happening in Congress.   William served in the Navy and now works for a tech company that supports Navy communications in the Pacific Northwest. Like so many Americans in recent years, he’s witnessed hiring freezes and cutbacks, furloughs and layoffs.  He said a couple years ago he was hoping for a promotion. Now, he considers himself lucky just to have a job. And he’s not even sure how long he can count on that.

“Mr. President, William is not alone. The partisanship and gridlock in Washington D.C., has been devastating for families just like his in Washington state and all across the country.

“The government shutdown and debt limit brinkmanship last month were just the latest examples—but Congress has been lurching from crisis to crisis for years—and it needs to end.

“So Mr. President, today I am going to share a few stories from families who have been paying the price for the dysfunction here in Congress.

“I’ve worked hard to make sure voices like theirs are heard loud and clear in the budget process—and I am going to keep fighting to make sure their interests are represented every day as we work toward a balanced and bipartisan budget agreement.

“Mr. President, seven months ago the House and Senate each passed our budgets. The Senate Budget was built on three principles. First, our highest priority was investing in jobs, economic growth, and prosperity built from the middle out, not the top down. Second, the deficit has been cut in half—and we build on the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we’ve passed since 2011 to continue tackling this challenge fairly and responsibly. And third, our budget keeps the promises we’ve made to our seniors, our families, and our communities.

“The budget that passed the House reflects different values and priorities—but it was our job to get in a room, make some compromises, and find a way to bring the two together.

“Although I had hoped we could start bipartisan budget negotiations far sooner and avoided last month’s crisis, the budget conference that began last week offers us the opportunity to break the cycle of gridlock and dysfunction  and start moving our country back in the right direction.

“We have a chance now to turn our attention back to where it belongs—on strengthening the economy and creating jobs. To continue making responsible spending cuts, while closing wasteful tax loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations. And to finally show the American people that Congress can work together, compromise, and alleviate the uncertainty and pain families across the country are facing.

“Mr. President, the effects of these years of gridlock are clear in places like the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle.

“I visited that Head Start program earlier this year, where pre-K students from low-income families can learn their ABCs, take part in story time, and benefit from health and nutrition programs.

“Even before the major cuts to Head Start that took effect last March, the center had a waiting list.  Now, the director of the school has had to drop kids from the program to meet the tight budget constraints.  And they are far from alone.

“Another Head Start program in Everett, Washington – a program that’s served needy kids since the 1970s – had to completely shut its doors this summer because Congress couldn’t work together.  That one facility was helping 40 kids prepare for Kindergarten. 

“And nationwide, these cuts have forced tens of thousands of children out of Head Start, too.  And that’s not all.

“The senseless cuts from sequestration have impacted education programs all across the country. Researchers and scientists working on cures for cancer and other diseases have lost their jobs. Programs, like Meals on Wheels that deliver food to seniors, have been cut. And much, much more.

“The ripples of sequestration have been felt in homes, in businesses, and across our fragile economy.

“The across-the-board cuts have also had a serious impact on defense programs and workers.  Earlier this year, I heard from one of my constituents whose family was impacted by this directly.

“Bob, from Bremerton, Washington is an engineer at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He told me that every day, highly skilled employees come into his office—often in tears— And they tell him they don’t know how they’ll manage to make ends meet if they’re furloughed or laid off. They are worried now—they’ve felt the pain for months—and they know it could get even worse.

“Because Mr. President, if these automatic cuts aren’t replaced in a bipartisan deal, another $20 billion is scheduled to be cut from defense spending in January. That would make more furloughs and layoffs much more likely, and it would mean continued and deeper cuts to combat training.

“But Mr. President, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Because something both Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the very least, this budget conference should be able to accomplish—the absolute minimum—is finding a path to replacing sequestration and setting a budget level for at least the short term.

“Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman, has said ‘Sequestration – and it’s unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end.’

“House Speaker John Boehner said the cuts would ‘hollow out our military.’

And just recently, the House Armed Services Committee Republicans sent me and Chairman Ryan a letter urging us to replace sequestration, saying it was ‘never intended to be policy.’

“Mr. President—that is exactly right.

“Sequestration was intended to be so bad that it would drive both sides to the table willing to make some compromises to replace it with smarter savings.  And I am very glad that more and more of my colleagues—from both sides of the aisle—are stepping up and trying to find a solution.

“So the question is not whether we should replace the across-the-board-cuts, but how. 

“The House and Senate budgets both deal with sequestration – just in different ways.

“The House budget fully replaces the defense cuts, lifts the BCA cap, and pays for that by cutting even more deeply from key domestic investments.

“The Senate budget, on the other hand, replaces all of the automatic cuts and pays for that with an equal mix of responsible spending cuts and revenue, raised by closing wasteful tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

“So Mr. President, finding a bipartisan solution won’t be easy. It will require compromises from both sides.  As I mentioned at our first budget conference meeting last week, I am going into this process ready to offer some tough spending cuts that, unlike the sequester caps that disappear in 2022, would be permanently locked into law.

“I know there are many Republicans who would be very interested in swapping some of the inefficient and damaging cuts from sequestration with structural changes to programs that would save many multiples of the cuts they replace over the coming decades.

“In short, I’m willing to compromise. I’m ready to listen to Republicans’ ideas. And, as long as their proposals are fair for seniors and families, I’m prepared to make some tough concessions to get a deal.

“But I can’t negotiate by myself. Compromise needs to run both ways.

“That means in addition to the responsible spending cuts, Republicans need to work with us to close wasteful tax loopholes and special-interest subsidies that benefit the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.  Because it would be unfair and unacceptable to put the entire burden of deficit reduction on the backs of seniors and families.

“And it shouldn’t be difficult for Republicans to agree to put just a few of the most egregious wasteful loopholes and special-interest carve-outs on the table to get a balanced and bipartisan deal.

“If the choice is between closing a wasteful loophole and lurching to another crisis—I hope every one of my colleagues would put their constituents before special interests.

“Mr. President, over the last few years, people across the country have lost a great deal of confidence in Congress’ ability to work together for the good of the nation.

“People like Naani King, who, as the New York Times recently reported, serves as a registered nurse at Madigan Army Medical Center in my home state of Washington. During the shutdown last month, she worked without pay. And without a paycheck, she had to dip into her retirement account to make her monthly mortgage payment.

“Now, even though the shutdown is over, her family can’t take any chances. She told the Times: ‘We just have too much to lose.’

“Mr. President, we in Congress owe it to her family and to families all across the country to get to work and find a path forward. So let’s put an end to the gridlock. Let’s show the American people we’re listening to their stories.

“In fact—let’s show them their stories are more important than sticking to party lines or staying in ideological corners.

“Let’s rebuild some trust, find a path to compromise, and work together to strengthen our economy and create jobs.

“I am ready to do that in this budget conference—and I am hopeful that over the coming weeks, every one of my colleagues on that committee will make it clear that they are as well.

“Thank you Mr. President. I yield the floor.”