Senators Should Replace Sequester, Progressive Caucus Leaders Urge

Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:06pm

The co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus oppose the House-passed continuing resolution at $986 billion — and they want Democratic senators to join them.

As the Senate began consideration Monday of a CR to fund the government past Sept. 30, Democratic Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The letter, obtained by CQ Roll Call, urges senators to send back to the House a spending bill that, unlike the House measure, replaces automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.

“We join our leadership and colleagues in strong opposition to the sequester and the CR level that locks it in,” they wrote. “We urge you to do the same.”

McConnell is unlikely to heed the call. And while Reid doesn’t need to be convinced that the sequester is bad and the GOP is to blame, he has given no sign that he is looking to change the spending level in the bill. Instead, he is focused on removing House language defunding Obamacare. Plus, the White House signaled last week that it would sign a stopgap spending measure at sequester levels, providing some political cover for Democrats.

But the letter shows how hard a fight this could be in the House, where Democratic votes could make the difference between passage of a “clean” CR and a shutdown. Grijalva and Ellison are prepared to whip votes against a sequester-level CR among the 70-plus members of the Progressive Caucus, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., have also said they oppose the $986 billion level.

The full letter is here:

September 23, 2013

Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell.

Thank you for your hard work in the US Senate addressing critical issues that are facing our country. We write today to express our opposition to a continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2014 that funds the government at $986 billion, which would lock in cuts made by the sequester. As you know, the sequester budget has slowed our economic recovery and has deprived the most vulnerable Americans of assistance on which they rely. The economic and social harm resulting from the sequester will accelerate with each successive year. In contrast a clean CR would warrant support from the Democratic Caucus in the House.

We cannot support funding levels that add to the extensive damage already caused by the sequester. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the sequester could cost as many as 1.6 million jobs in 2014. It has already cut nutrition assistance to children, research for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’ s Disease, education for children from low-income families, disaster relief grants and other important programs that we entrust to the public sector. Extending post-sequester levels will create a dangerous new baseline that locks in historically low funding levels. The House passed CR, which amounts to a 15 percent cut from enacted 2013 levels to nondefense discretionary accounts, endorses the destructive cuts demanded by sequester. Worse, it deepens the cuts to non-defense accounts while signaling intention to alleviate only the defense cuts.

A vote for a CR at $986 billion is a vote to continue the policy that will cost Americans millions of jobs when they are desperately needed. We join our leadership and colleagues in strong opposition to the sequester and the CR funding level that locks it in. We urge you to do the same.