Friday, August 23, 2013

Cleaver: Working together to avoid sequestration

(In his latest EC from DC report, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver writes about the importance of avoiding sequestration.)

This week brought the opportunity to sit down with my colleague, Representative Kevin Yoder, a Republican from the Third District of Kansas, in what was billed as a non-debate debate. We have done this together often, in hopes of showing our common belief that both parties can and should work together. Congressman Yoder and I do not agree on all issues, not even on most issues, but we like and respect one another, and both feel like we learn from the other through open and considerate dialogue on issues our country faces. This week we spoke to the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and answered questions from many of the more than one hundred area residents in attendance. Discussion focused on debt, healthcare, and most particularly, sequestration. 

Sequestration is already impacting us on the national level, in each and every state, and in our local cities and towns. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the deficit-reduction policies put into place by the sequester will slow the pace of real GDP growth by about 1 ½ percentage points this year alone, that it will slow our economic growth, and will lead to less actual deficit reduction. It will also have adverse effects on jobs and on income. 

We got to this point because of the Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011, without my support. This law basically said that if Congress couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion, about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary, and across the board cuts that would start to take effect this year. And they have.

  • Teachers and Schools – Missouri will lose approximately $11.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 160 teacher and aid jobs at risk. Thousands fewer students will be served and dozens of schools will lose funding. 
  • Head Start : Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 1,561 children in Missouri, reducing access to critical early education. 
  • Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds: Missouri loses about $298,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support everything from prosecution and courts to drug treatment, crime victim initiatives and crime prevention programs. 
  • Job Search Assistance: More than 25,000 people in Missouri will not get the help and skills they need to find work. 
  • Vaccines for Children: Approximately 2,500 children in Missouri will not get the vaccines they need due to reduced funding. 
  • Public Health: Missouri will lose more than ½ million dollars in funding to help upgrade abilities to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and acts of terror. 
  • Domestic Violence: Hundreds of victims of domestic violence could lose services due to funding cuts. 
And the list goes on and on. The cuts jeopardize our military readiness and eviscerate job-creating investments in education, energy, and medical research. 

But we have a window to act to stop any further damage. And that is why I hope we can sit down together, both sides of the aisle, in a spirit of cooperation and compromise, much like Congressman Yoder and I do when we work together. 

When Congress returns to Washington in September, we will have only a few days to hammer out a continuing resolution to keep our government working for the people. If we can reach an agreement, I believe we can avert the looming disaster of a shutdown – and perhaps even stop the sequester. This will be a short term solution, but one I hope can get us back on track. And then, we can work toward a long-term solution that will keep us from jumping from crisis to crisis, to get and keep our country moving forward. 

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