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Murray on sequestration: “For thousands of families in Washington state, these cuts become reality tomorrow morning”

(Washington, D.C.) – This morning, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor about the impacts that sequestration-related furloughs are having on families throughout Washington state, particularly at Joint Base Lewis McChord, where civilian furloughs begin tomorrow. 

As Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Murray has been working to replace sequestration and subsequent furloughs for thousands of employees across the state by pushing her Republican colleagues to move forward in budget negotiations.  The Senate Budget, authored by Senator Murray, would fully replace sequestration with a balanced mix of revenue and spending cuts.  Though it was passed by the full Senate more than 100 days ago, Senate Republicans have blocked all efforts to move the budget process forward.

Full text of Senator Murray’s speech:

“Madam President, it has now been more than 100 days since the Senate passed a budget.

“Democrats have now tried 15 times to move to a bipartisan budget conference with the House. And each time we’ve been blocked by a Tea Party Republican with the support of Republican leadership.

“Now, I understand that for some factions in the Republican Party, compromise is a dirty word. That may explain why they have offered up excuse after excuse for blocking the regular budget order they called for. From refusing to allow a conference before we get a so-called pre-conference framework. To putting preconditions on what can be discussed in a bipartisan conference. To claiming that moving to a budget conference—which leading Republicans called for just months ago—was somehow not regular order. To, most recently, claiming we need to look at a thirty year budget window before looking at the major problems we’ve got right in front of us, when we clearly can and must do both at the same time.

“Madam President, I know there are significant differences between the parties’ values and priorities. Some of us—Democrats and Republicans—think this is a reason to come together and try to reach a bipartisan deal in a budget conference right now. It’s been heartening to hear from Senators McCain, Collins, and many other Republicans who bucked their leadership and joined the call for formal bipartisan negotiations.

“But unfortunately there are others who would prefer to throw up their hands and stall until we’re approaching a crisis, when they think they can get a better deal.

“Madam President, while I was in my home state last week, I talked to a lot of Americans who just don’t understand that kind of approach.  They run their businesses, help their communities and support their families by compromising every day. They can’t afford to wait to reach agreements until the very last minute. Because when that happens, they have to deal with the consequences.

“But Madam President, that’s exactly what my Republicans colleagues are doing to thousands of families in Washington state.  Because Republicans won’t come to the table, the automatic cuts from sequestration are impacting everything from to children who depend on Head Start to our national security. And what’s more – many of the same colleagues will tell you that sequestration isn’t really impacting American families.

“Well, I can tell you firsthand that the impacts are real, and for thousands of families in Washington state – these cuts become reality tomorrow morning. That’s because furloughs for Department of Defense employees begin this week—equivalent to a 20 percent pay cut for 650,000 defense workers nationwide. Bases across Washington state are being affected. And the first furlough day at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state is tomorrow.

“So instead of going to work, thousands of workers there will stay home. The 911 call-center and the fire department will be understaffed. Airfields will be shuttered except for emergencies. The military personnel office will be closed. The substance abuse center will be closed. And the Army Medical Center will close clinics – even the Wound Care Clinic will be understaffed.

“I’m reminded of one worker I met at an event in Washington state named Will Silba. Will is a former Marine and an amputee who works as a fire inspector.  And he told me that because of furloughs: he may have to get a second job and he will struggle with his mortgage payments.

“And while furloughs will directly impact thousands of civilian employees, the leaders at Lewis McChord have made it very clear the furloughs will also hurt our soldiers by limiting their access to medical care, and cutting back on family support programs, and making it even tougher to find a job when they finish their military careers. All because my colleagues refuse to work together.

“Madam President, this is just unacceptable.

“And, because some Republicans would like to preserve harmful cuts from sequestration despite these kinds of impacts, we’ve got a $91 billion dollar gap between the House and Senate appropriations levels for next fiscal year.  If we don’t resolve that gap, we’re headed for another round of uncertainty and brinkmanship, another unnecessary burden on our economic recovery and the millions of Americans looking for work.

“Some of my Republican colleagues say they are fine with this. In fact, House Republicans are reported to be busy working on a debt limit ransom note right now. So far, that ransom note sounds quite a lot like the Ryan budget. And as you all know, the budget we passed here in the Senate was very different.  But that is why we have a formal budget conference—to come together, resolve differences, and try to reach an agreement.

“But Madam President, I believe we have a window of opportunity over the next few weeks to do what Americans across the country do every day—compromise— and confront these problems before we head back to our home states for the August work period.

“We don’t have a lot of time, but I’m confident that if those of us who see working together as a responsibility rather than a liability come to the table, we can get a fair, bipartisan agreement.

“But Madam President, I was discouraged to hear just this week from some Tea Party Republicans—many of the same ones who are blocking a budget conference—who are already talking about shutting down the government to defund Obamacare. Not only do they want to push us to a crisis, but they want to do that in order to: cut off health care coverage for 25 million people, re-open the doughnut hole and cause seniors to pay more for their prescriptions, end free preventive care for our seniors, and much more.

“Madam President, this is an absurd position.  We shouldn’t be talking about shutting the government down. And I hope responsible Republicans reject this approach and work with us on real solutions, not just more political fights.

“So my colleagues and I are going to continue urging Senate Republican leadership to end their Tea Party-backed strategy of manufacturing crises and allow us to move to a budget conference. And I really hope they will listen—not just to Democrats but to the many members of their own party who want a budget conference—and allow us to get started right away.

“Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 33, H. Con. Res. 25; that the amendment which is at the desk, the text of S. Con. Res. 8, the budget resolution passed by the Senate, be inserted in lieu thereof; that H. Con. Res. 25, as amended, be agreed to; the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; that the Senate insist on its amendment, request a conference with the House on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses, and the Chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of the Senate; that following the authorization, two motions to instruct conferees be in order from each side--motion to instruct relative to the debt limit, and motion to instruct relative to taxes and revenue; that there be 2 hours of debate equally divided between the two leaders or their designees prior to votes in relation to the motions; further, that no amendments be in order to either of the motions prior to the votes; all of the above occurring with no intervening action or debate.

“Thank you and I yield the floor.”