Murray highlights stories of two furloughed civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis McChord
(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor about the impacts of sequestration in Washington state, particularly at Joint Base Lewis McChord and Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington. Senator Murray highlighted the stories of Will Silva, a former Marine and fire inspector at JBLM, and Jennifer-Cari Green, a single mother who works at Madigan Army Medical Center.
Remarks as prepared:
“Mr.. President, as the House and Senate have begun debating our separate appropriations bills for the coming year, we’ve been forced to take a hard look at the numbers – and exactly what so many important programs and services will look like next year under cuts forced by sequestration, and it isn’t pretty.
“And Mr. President, as the Chair of the Budget Committee, it’s only served as a reminder to me of just how important it is to fully replace the across-the-board cuts that sequestration has forced us to make, because it’s only getting worse.
“Now, some of my Republican colleagues here in the Senate, and most of them in the House, it seems, don’t believe sequestration has had real impacts on our families, our communities, and our military.
“So Mr. President – I want to take a few minutes today to talk about what I’ve already seen in my home of state of Washington, where the impacts of sequestration have been severe.
“Mr. President, Washington state has a proud history of supporting our nation’s armed forces.
“From Fairchild Air Force Base in Eastern Washington to Joint Base Lewis McChord in the Puget Sound region, our state is home to thousands of military families, and in addition to those active-duty service members, Washington state is also home to thousands of civilian defense employees who work at various military installations.
“And under sequestration, these men and women have borne the brunt of across-the-board budget cuts.
“This month, weekly furloughs began for nearly ten thousand of these civilian employees in Washington state.
“So once every week, they can’t go to work, and it amounts to a pay cut of 20%.
“Mr. President, these are men and women – many of them veterans, with mortgages, medical bills, and tuition costs just like the rest of us.
“And thanks to gridlock in Congress, their lives have become 20% tougher.
“One of those people who have been impacted is Will Silva, who lives in Tacoma, Washington, and works at Joint Base Lewis McChord – we call it JBLM.
“Will is a former marine, an amputee, and a fire inspector at the base, and thanks to sequestration, he’s one of 6,700 people in that community who won’t be going to work tomorrow.
“Because Mr. President, Friday is the furlough day at JBLM, so tomorrow, the 9-1-1 call center and fire departments will be understaffed.
“Airfields will be shuttered except for emergencies.“The military personnel office and the substance abuse center will be closed.
“The Madigan Army Medical Center will be forced to close clinics.
“Even the Wound Care Clinic will be understaffed.
“All of this because of cuts we all agree are hurting our country.
“Jennifer-Cari Green is another person who won’t be going to work at JBLM tomorrow.
“Jennifer a single mother of a six year old boy, and she works at the Madigan Army Medical Center, in the neurosurgery department.
“Her job is to care for service members, many who are undergoing serious brain operations.
“She was here in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, to testify at a Budget Committee hearing about the impacts of sequestration, and Mr. President, it’s impossible to forget her story.
“Jennifer works very hard – she started as a volunteer in the surgery center and worked her way up, but she doesn’t make much money to support herself and her young son.
“She budgets every month down to the dollar.
“She has no luxuries, and in her only spare time, she cares for her son and works towards an associate’s degree at the community college.
“She told me yesterday that because of the furloughs, her take-home-pay will be reduced to almost exactly $1,000 each month.
“That isn’t enough for her to pay her most basic expenses.
“But Mr. President, even with all the challenges she faces, Jennifer came here yesterday to talk about what these cuts will mean for others – for the people she cares for at the hospital.
“Because she’s been furloughed, along with doctors, technicians, and other employees at the hospital, service members and veterans aren’t always able to get the care they need.
“That means everything from routine checkups to brain surgeries are being delayed for men and women have served our country.
“And Mr. President – let me just repeat that: brain surgeries at military hospitals are being delayed because of cuts from sequestration.
“That is unacceptable. But unfortunately, it’s very real.
“And the impacts on civilian defense employees are just the tip of the iceberg.
“Sequestration has resulted in dramatic cuts to countless other programs throughout our country.
“Meals on Wheels programs are serving less needy seniors.
“Even our judicial system has been forced to let go of prosecutors and public defenders.
“So Mr. President, I understand that many of us have different opinions on how to address our nation’s financial challenges, but before we do that, all of us must understand the devastating impacts that sequestration has already had on our nation.
“And I want to remind my colleagues that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“It’s now been 124 days since the Senate passed a budget that fully replaces sequestration.
“And 17 times now, my colleagues and I have stood here and asked to move to a conference with the House to fix these ridiculous cuts.
“And 17 times now, our Republican colleagues have refused.
“Mr. President, I’m absolutely committed to replacing sequestration, and if some of my colleagues think this is about politics, or that this is some kind of game, I’d ask them to talk to Will, or Jennifer, or any of the thousands of families who suddenly can’t pay the bills, because for them, these cuts are very real, and they need a solution now.
“Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.”