Democrats Have Been Denied a Vote 8 Times on Our Sequester Alternative

Sep 20, 2013 Issues: Sequester

Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, spoke on the House floor in opposition to the rule for the Continuing Appropriations Resolution and in support of the House Democratic alternative. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker, and I thank my friend, the Ranking Member of the Rules Committee.

“Mr. Speaker, it’s simply reckless for our Republican colleagues to say they will shut down the United States government unless we shut down the Affordable Care Act, a law which is already providing protections to millions of children in this country who have pre-existing conditions like asthma, like pediatric cancer, like diabetes and millions of seniors on Medicare who have high drug costs.

“But what’s also irresponsible and undemocratic is that the Republican majority has refused to allow us even a vote on a plan to replace the sequester. Now, what’s the sequester? The sequester is Washington-speak for a job-killing mechanism. It’s a meat ax – immediate, across-the-board cuts that’s doing damage to our economy. Now you don’t have to take my word for it. The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which is the referee around here, says that, at this time next year, we could have up to 1.6 fewer jobs in this country as a result of that sequester. By this time next year, we could see economic growth cut in half as a result of the sequester.

“Look, the good news is the economy is growing. The bad news is it’s growing very slowly. And the last thing the American people need is a self-inflicted wound by this Congress that slows down the economy and puts fewer people back to work. But that’s what the sequester does.

“Now, we should do something about it – which is why the Democrats have a proposal to replace it, to replace it with targeted cuts over a period of time and, as Mr. Andrews said, targeted cuts to big tax breaks like oil subsidies. And if you do that, you eliminate the bad parts of the sequester, but you actually get the deficit reduction part. In fact, our plan would give you even more deficit reduction during the period of this plan. We’ve tried eight times now to get a vote on that. Just a vote. In this House, the so-called people’s House, we haven’t been able to give it a vote.

“I hear our Republican colleagues say they don’t like the sequester, I hear them say that to their constituents. But what they don’t tell them is they denied us a chance to have a vote on a plan to replace sequester [eight] times. And, Mr. Speaker, guess what else they don’t tell them? How many times during this Congress have our Republican colleagues put a plan on this Floor to replace the sequester? Zero. Zero times.

“Now, Mr. Cole, I have to correct you, because we now have a concrete plan to replace the sequester for 2014. It’s right here. We’d like a vote on that plan, Mr. Speaker. We’d like a vote. We think Members should be held accountable when they go back home and tell their constituents they want to get rid of the sequester, and then come here to the United States Congress and deny us an opportunity to have that vote. Deny the people of this country the right of accountability for their Members of Congress.

“So let’s take an action today. Let’s vote no on the previous question, and then this House can have chance to vote on our plan to replace the sequester; get rid of the drag on the economy, which according to CBO is going to cost us up to 1.6 million jobs. That’s democracy. That’s just letting this House work its will. And what I’m afraid of, Mr. Speaker, is that our colleagues are afraid to have that vote in the light of day. There’s no other explanation for why they would be denying the American people that opportunity.

“So what I ask is, either say you really do like the sequester, you support the sequester, you don’t mind the jobs that are being lost as a result of the sequester. Either say that to your constituents, or vote for our sequester replacement. Or at least come to the floor of this House with one of your own, because right now we’ve tried eight times for a vote and our Republican colleagues have tried zero times in this Congress to replace that sequester.

“So we ask that you vote against the previous question, give the American people the chance to hold us accountable for what we say at home, hold us accountable right here in the halls of this chamber. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”