- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Congress is dysfunctional. As a result, in just a few days, should Congress fail to act, automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will take effect, with painful consequences in Maryland’s 5th District.
Sequestration imposes cuts irrationally without regard to our priorities and will harm our economy and our national security. It was meant to force both parties to negotiate a careful, balanced approach to deficit reduction. While I have been urging my colleagues to work together on such an approach, that has not occurred.
Maryland stands to pay a heavy price. Sequestration could lead to the potential loss of 12,600 jobs in Maryland and could cost our state $1.3 billion in Defense Department spending in and around military facilities — including Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Webster Field, Indian Head and Joint Base Andrews, which employ thousands of Marylanders and contribute billions to our state economy.
Sequestration also threatens our economic recovery and investments that grow our middle class. It could lead to 200 teachers and aides losing their jobs and 800 fewer children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start. Up to 10,000 low-income households could see their heating assistance reduced or eliminated. Cuts to the Women, Infants and Children program would mean reductions for 8,600 individuals. More than 9,000 fewer Marylanders would receive job training and placement services needed to find employment.
Congress can prevent these cuts by reaching a big, balanced agreement to reduce the deficit and replace the sequester. Already, Congress has achieved $2.2 trillion in savings, with $1.6 trillion in spending cuts and $600 billion in revenues. That leaves another $1.2 trillion in savings needed to replace sequestration. Congress should be able to do this. But, during the last two years, many members of Congress have refused commonsense compromise.
I believe these remaining savings should be found through a balance of spending cuts and revenues, and I am a co-sponsor on a bill that would replace sequestration in that manner. Pursuing a balanced approach is consistent with recommendations put forward by every outside, bipartisan group.
Unfortunately, many Republicans have embraced these irrational spending cuts. One Republican, Rep. Mike Pompeo from Kansas, even called sequestration “a home run” that Americans would applaud. As a result, House Republican leaders have refused to allow consideration of our bill to replace sequestration, which both cuts spending and asks our best-off citizens to pay a similar percentage of taxes as average working Americans.
For the sake of families and businesses in Maryland, I will continue urging Republican leaders to replace sequestration with a balanced solution. And, at the very least, to allow the House to vote on such an alternative so the public can see where their representatives stand.
We cannot accept the defeatist and irresponsible view that sequestration is unavoidable. Congress created the problem of sequestration, and it still has the ability to solve it. The pursuit of irresponsibility as policy is an abysmal abandonment of our duty and is hurting our country.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, Mechanicsville
The writer is a Democratic congressman and House minority whip. He represents Maryland’s 5th District.