Jul 25 2012

Shelby Statement on Effects of Sequestration at Labor-HHS Hearing

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related
Agencies (Labor/HHS), made the following statement at a Subcommittee hearing on
the effects of sequestration on the Department of Education.

 

 

Statement of
Senator Richard C. Shelby

Subcommittee on
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Effects of
Sequestration on Department of Education

July 25, 2012

 

 

““Thank you Mr. Chairman.

 

“Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us
to discuss the effects of sequestration on the Department of Education.  I
am disappointed that the Administration to date has not provided Congress any
details on the impact of sequestration. 

 

“While most of the attention has focused
on the devastating and disproportionate cuts to our national security,
sequestration will cause considerable impact to all parts of our federal
budget.  The across-the-board cuts that are mandated under sequestration
are not the answer to confront our fiscal problems.

 

“I appreciate the Chairman’s focus on
sequestration and the work of his staff on the sequestration report he is
releasing today.  However, I am concerned this report does not present an
accurate portrayal of the impact of sequestration because we have not been
provided any concrete information by the Administration to make these
assumptions. 

 

“For example, Congress does not know the
amount of the across-the-board cut.  As the Chairman’s report states, it
could be anywhere between 7.8 percent and 8.4 percent.  In real terms,
that is a difference of $1 billion in Labor/HHS program reductions. 

 

“Second, we have no clarity on what
Labor/HHS programs are exempt from sequestration.  The more programs that
are exempt government-wide, the higher the sequestration percentage
becomes. 

 

“Third, the report specifies job cuts across programs and states, yet we simply have too little definitive information to know if these numbers are accurate.  The only thing we do know is that agencies, programs, and states will have some flexibility to determine how reductions are taken and that all cuts will not necessarily lead to layoffs. 

“Finally, while the report shows some of
the potential impacts of sequestration, it makes significant assumptions, based
on unknown data, as to how these cuts will be implemented. 

 

“While the Chairman has tried to show
the effects of sequestration on Labor/HHS programs, in fact, only the Office of
Management and Budget can accurately provide this type of information. 
Unfortunately, they have remained silent on the issue.  It is as if the
Administration wants Members of Congress to be both blind and mute on
sequestration.  This cannot continue.  Mr. Secretary, I look forward
to us having a frank and specific discussion about the impact of sequestration
with you.

 

“Mr. Chairman, like you, I did not vote
for the Budget Control Act.  I opposed the bill because as we are now
seeing firsthand, it was a compromise on our financial future.  The Super
Committee was a failure.  It was unable to garner even one dollar of
savings and as a result, our entire government is now facing the possibility of
severe cuts that will impact all aspects of society.  The across-the-board
cuts that result from the Super Committee’s epic failure last year will be
broad, blunt, and slash all programs indiscriminately. 

 

“Sequestration is not the right approach
to end our fiscal turmoil.  In fact, its mere existence has caused huge
financial uncertainty around the country. We need to find a solution to this
problem now and end the uncertainty crippling school districts, small
businesses, and education providers.  We should not delay a solution to
score political points.

 

“While the Chairman and I agree that
sequestration will have a severe and detrimental impact on the Department of
Education, we cannot forget how we got to this point in the first place. 
Our nation is $15.8 trillion in debt; a number that grows by $42,000 a
second. 

 

“In the past few years, the federal
government has been recording the largest budget deficits since 1945.  Yet
the Department of Education’s budget request for FY2013 did little to curb
spending or put our nation on a fiscally sustainable path.  In fact, it
asked for an increase of $1.7 billion in discretionary spending and then went
on to request $62.9 billion in new mandatory funding for the so-called American
Jobs Act.  While it is my understanding, Mr. Secretary, that Departments
were directed to disregard the possibility of sequestration in their budget
requests, you should have not disregarded economic reality.

 

“Our nation cannot continue to spend
money we don’t have.  As we work to solve the sequestration issue, it is
important to remember that a resolution today does not exempt programs from
constraints tomorrow. 

 

“Mr. Chairman, we need to reign in
federal spending and put our nation back on the path to fiscal sustainability.

 

“Thank you.”