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Murray Urges Support for a Balanced and Fair Sequester Replacement

Feb 28 2013

Calls on Republicans to listen to their constituents and work with Democrats on a responsible alternative to across-the-board cuts

Murray: Democratic replacement would protect the families and communities we represent from slower economic growth, fewer jobs, and weakened national defense.

Watch video of the speech.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Thursday, February 28th, 2013, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray delivered a speech on the Senate floor in support of the Democratic proposal to replace the across the board budget cuts from sequestration.  Murray urged her colleagues to support the Democratic proposal, which would protect families and communities from slower economic growth, fewer jobs and serious cuts to national defense by replacing the across-the-board cuts with equal amounts of responsible spending cuts and revenue from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.  While the Democrats’ approach would responsibly replace sequestration, the Republican proposal would avoid tough choices and lock in, rather than replace, across-the-board cuts—placing the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of families, communities, and national defense programs.

Key excerpts from Murray’s floor speech:

“After two years of watching our economy lurch from crisis to crisis, I think we can all agree the American people have dealt with more than enough of this.

“In the last two weeks we’ve learned more and more about what the across-the-board cuts from sequestration really mean for the families and communities we represent.  We’ve heard about workers who are on pins and needles about getting a layoff notice. We’ve heard about businesses expecting fewer customers. We’ve heard school superintendents wondering how they will absorb even deeper cuts into budgets that are already tight.

“..at a time when there are still too many Americans struggling to help their kids go to college, or pay the mortgage, or even put food on the table, it only seems fair to ask those who can most afford it to contribute. 

“…More than a month after the year-end deal, 76 percent of Americans—and 56 percent of Republicans-- favor a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce the deficit.

“…this legislation meets Republicans halfway. It reflects the balanced approach that the majority of Americans prefer. It would protect the families and communities we represent from slower economic growth, fewer jobs, and weakened national defense.  And it would allow us to move past sequestration, and toward a fair, comprehensive budget deal that provides certainty for American families and businesses?

“…while the Democrats have taken a balanced and responsible approach in our sequestration replacement bill—Republicans have gone in a different direction.”

“Instead of taking a balanced approach, the approach favored by the vast majority of the American people— the Republican bill would protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying a penny more in taxes, while pushing the entire burden of deficit reduction onto the backs of families, communities, and national defense programs.”

“We’ve all been hearing from our constituents that they want us to come together to solve this problem. They want to see us compromise. They want to see a balanced replacement.”

“… Republican Inhofe-Toomey bill fails to meet those expectations. It doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t stop sequestration.  It’s not a compromise. And I urge my colleagues to oppose it.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Thank you, Madam President.

“In the last two weeks we’ve learned more and more about what the across-the-board cuts from sequestration really mean for the families and communities we represent.  We’ve heard about workers who are on pins and needles about getting a layoff notice. We’ve heard about businesses expecting fewer customers. We’ve heard school superintendents wondering how they will absorb even deeper cuts into budgets that are already tight.

“ President, after two years of watching our economy lurch from crisis to crisis, I think we can all agree the American people have dealt with more than enough of this.

“That’s why I am urging my colleagues to support the American Family Economic Protection Act to replace the automatic cuts from sequestration in a responsible and fair way.

“Our legislation builds on the precedent set in the year-end deal, and it is in line with the balanced approach the American people favor.

“It would replace the first year of sequestration with equal amounts of responsible spending cuts and revenue from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

“Half of the deficit reduction would come from responsible cuts, evenly divided between domestic and defense spending.

“Our bill will make targeted reductions in our overall defense budget, which would be phased in responsibly as the drawdown from Afghanistan is completed, and are in line with a strong military strategy for the 21st century.

“And our bill would eliminate direct payments to farmers, that have been paid out even during good times and for crops farmers weren’t even growing.

“These are the kind of cuts we can and should make, because responsibly tackling our debt and deficits is crucial to our long term strength and prosperity.

“But to do this in a way that puts American families and our economy first, we will all have to do our fair share. And middle class families, seniors, and the most vulnerable Americans should not be asked to bear this burden alone.

“So our bill would replace half of sequestration with new revenues from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

“It calls on the wealthiest Americans to pay at least the same marginal tax rate on their income as middle-class families pay.

“It would help reduce the deficit by eliminating a tax break that encourages companies to ship jobs overseas, and by getting rid of a special tax loophole for oil companies.

“Because at a time when there are still too many Americans struggling to help their kids go to college, or pay the mortgage, or even put food on the table, it only seems fair to ask those who can most afford it to contribute. 

“Madam President, my Republican colleagues will say the year-end deal closed the door on revenue.

“Most of them seem to think closing loopholes for the richest Americans is too high a price to pay, even to replace serious cuts to defense. Instead, they say all we need is more spending cuts.

“But that’s not how the American people see it. More than a month after the year-end deal, 76 percent of Americans—and 56 percent of Republicans-- favor a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce the deficit.

“We also know the American people want an end to this cycle of looming deadlines, uncertainty, and political posturing in Washington D.C. They have spent enough time wondering if infighting in Congress will impact their paychecks, the businesses they’ve worked hard to build, and the future they want for their children. I think we can all agree our constituents deserve a solution, and some certainty.

“So, Madam President, this legislation meets Republicans halfway. It reflects the balanced approach that the majority of Americans prefer. It would protect the families and communities we represent from slower economic growth, fewer jobs, and weakened national defense.  And it would allow us to move past sequestration, and toward a fair, comprehensive budget deal that provides certainty for American families and businesses.

“Madam President, while the Democrats have taken a balanced and responsible approach in our sequestration replacement bill—Republicans have gone in a different direction. They seem to be more focused on trying to make sure President Obama gets the blame for these cuts than actually trying to stop them.

“We’ve all been hearing from our constituents that they want us to come together to solve this problem.  They want to see us compromise. They want to see a balanced replacement.

“But Madam President—the Republican Inhofe-Toomey bill fails to meet those expectations. It doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t stop sequestration. It’s not a compromise. And I urge my colleagues to oppose it. The Republican Inhofe-Toomey bill would keep in place the massive cuts to both domestic and defense spending.  It wouldn’t replace them—it would lock them in.

“Instead of making the tough decisions required to replace the cuts with responsible deficit reduction, the way our bill does—the Republican bill simply hands the problem off to the President.

“Instead of taking a balanced approach, the approach favored by the vast majority of the American people—the Republican bill would protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying a penny more in taxes, while pushing the entire burden of deficit reduction onto the backs of families, communities, and national defense programs.

“Their bill would: Protect defense spending from cuts, open up non-defense spending to additional cuts, and specifically prohibit raising revenue to replace the cuts.

“One of my Republican colleagues who is very concerned about the cuts to defense spending that would be locked in by the Republican bill called this approach ‘a complete cop-out.’ This same Republican said that if something like this were to pass, Republicans would be forcing President Obama to make impossible choices, and then, ‘every decision he’ll make, we’ll criticize.’

“Another Republican opposed this approach as well, saying ‘I believe the appropriations process belongs in the legislative branch.’

“Madam President, the Republican bill would be devastating to the economy.

“The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that sequestration would cause 750,000 workers to lose their jobs by the end of the year. They estimated that the economy would shrink by .6% by the end of the year.

“And Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Tuesday that rearranging the cuts wouldn’t have any substantial impact on this near-term economic picture.

“Madam President— Republicans have spent months talking about how they wouldn’t raise taxes on the rich and that we needed a cut-only approach, but now they can’t seem to agree on a bill that names a single cut.

“Leader Reid and Leader McConnell agreed to have these votes over two weeks ago, and it took Republicans until last night to decide what they would bring to the table.  And after all that time—they decided to play political games and not make any tough choices.

“Madam President, tackling our debt and deficit responsibly is a serious issue. So I hope Republicans get serious about it.

“I hope that they will listen to their constituents, and come back to the table, and work with us on a responsible replacement to the automatic cuts scheduled to hit tomorrow.

“I urge my colleagues to support the American Family Economic Protection Act, and to oppose the Toomey-Inhofe bill.

“Thank you Madam President, I yield the floor.”