Jun 20 2013
Murray Speaks At Senate Appropriations Committee Markup; Calls On Colleagues To Responsibly Replace Sequestration And Appropriate At $1.058 Trillion
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray spoke at the Senate Appropriations Committee adoption of the FY 2014 spending allocations and markup of FY 2014 appropriations bills. At the markup, Chairman Murray noted that both the Senate and House budgets and appropriations bills require a replacement for sequestration, and highlighted the importance of responsibly replacing sequestration through a bipartisan budget conference.
Key excerpts from Murray’s remarks:
“I know I’m not the only one hearing from my constituents about how damaging they are—and it’s only going to get worse. That’s why the Senate Budget replaces sequestration in a fair way, with an equal mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from those who can afford it most.”
“The BCA says that sequestration is split evenly between defense and nondefense. It sets strict caps for each that kick in if we don’t get an agreement: $498 billion for defense, and $469 billion for nondefense. Well, the House Budget and spending bills bust right through that defense cap.”
“… I want to be clear. If the defense cap is exceeded without a fix—like it is in the House defense appropriations bill—another sequestration process automatically kicks back in during fiscal year 2014.”
“So anyone who wants that higher defense spending level, which many Senate Democrats fully agree with, is saying that they want to fix sequestration. And the only way that will happen is if we replace both sides of these automatic cuts—the defense cuts, and the cuts impacting our families, communities, and economic competitiveness.”
Murray’s full remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairwoman Mikulski.
“And thank you so much for your leadership as the committee moves forward with the appropriations process.
“We are here to begin marking up our spending bills to the bipartisan Budget Control Act level for Fiscal Year 2014: $1.058 trillion. This is the discretionary spending level that Democrats and Republicans came together and agreed on and it was the result of a bipartisan deal that locked in $900 billion in discretionary cuts over the next decade.
“As we all remember, in addition to these serious discretionary cuts, the BCA established a process to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion more, with a trigger to make sure it happened. This trigger—sequestration—was supposed to be so unthinkably bad that both sides would come to the table to avoid it.
“I was hoping that we could get this done in the supercommittee, but disappointingly, there was never a time where we could get revenue on the table to create a balanced and responsible compromise.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t made much progress since then. We delayed the cuts by two months in the bipartisan year-end deal, but we haven’t been able to fully replace sequestration, and the cuts are now taking effect.
“I know I’m not the only one hearing from my constituents about how damaging they are—and it’s only going to get worse. That’s why the Senate Budget replaces sequestration in a fair way, with an equal mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from those who can afford it most. We operate within the spirit of the bipartisan BCA and replace the automatic triggers with sustainable, responsible deficit reduction.
“Unfortunately, House Republicans took a different approach. They will tell you they are adhering to the BCA, but they’re doing the opposite. They have kept to the topline post-sequestration level of $967 billion, but they’ve ignored the actual law.
“The BCA says that sequestration is split evenly between defense and nondefense. It sets strict caps for each that kick in if we don’t get an agreement: $498 billion for defense, and $469 billion for nondefense.
“Well, the House Budget and spending bills bust right through that defense cap. And to do that while keeping to their topline number, they slash investments in families, communities, infrastructure, and health care to devastating levels.
“They’re shifting funds around to make some of their bills appear workable, at the same levels as the Senate Budget. But this will leave the remaining bills so unreasonably low that they will never be taken to the House floor.
“Many House Republicans are just as unhappy about this as Democrats—and it’s easy to understand why. Take the Transportation-Housing bill that passed out of the House Subcommittee yesterday. It makes extreme cuts to programs Republicans have supported, such as rural air service and air traffic modernization programs.
“And while the House plan tries to avoid cuts to defense at the expense of infrastructure and education, they won’t be able to protect the Pentagon without an agreement.
“There has been some confusion about this last point, so I want to be clear. If the defense cap is exceeded without a fix—like it is in the House defense appropriations bill—another sequestration process automatically kicks back in during fiscal year 2014. $552 billion in defense spending would be sequestered back down to $498 billion—unless we can get a bipartisan deal.
“So anyone who wants that higher defense spending level, which many Senate Democrats fully agree with, is saying that they want to fix sequestration.
“And the only way that will happen is if we replace both sides of these automatic cuts—the defense cuts, and the cuts impacting our families, communities, and economic competitiveness.
“Congress has a process designed to bring the House and Senate together to work out these kinds of issues: it’s called the budget process. And I sincerely hope Senate Republican leadership will stop blocking the regular order they called for, so that we can move to a bipartisan budget conference, and stop lurching from crisis to crisis.
“But we also have to move forward with a responsible plan for the next year. This means replacing sequestration and appropriating at the bipartisan $1.058 trillion level.
“This is a choice about what kind of country we want to be, now and in the future. We can choose to responsibly make the kinds of investments that get more Americans back to work now, strengthen our economy for the long term, and prioritize smart investments, and we all know this Committee has been doing exactly this, in a bipartisan fashion, for the 20 plus years I have sat on it.
“The other option is to choose the economically harmful austerity measures imposed in sequestration and intensified in the House Budget.
“I hope that my colleagues in this room join me in working toward a responsible solution—one that will allow us to begin the work not only to get bills out of this Committee, but also to get a conferenced version of each individual bill into law.
“Senator Collins and I have written the Senate Transportation-Housing bill with the help of members on both sides of the aisle, it reflects this Committee’s bipartisan traditions and will be voted on next week. It’s a good bill. But it relies on a reasonable allocation to fund the programs we all care about. We all know that without a deal, the recommendations in that bill, and many others, won’t happen.
“I’m confident we can get a deal. This is a committee that has come together to solve problems before. And I believe many of us would rather get to work than get into another political fight over a policy that we all agree is deeply flawed.
“So I would like to call on my Republican colleagues to reconsider their approach and work with us to fully replace sequestration and appropriate at responsible levels.
“I thank Chairwoman Mikulski again for her great work and leadership.
“I am looking forward to working with her, and with all of you, as this discussion continues.
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