Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the women of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today to discuss the debilitating impact of across-the-board spending cuts on America’s women, families, and small businesses. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. I'm so honored to be here with some of my women colleagues in the House of Representatives. Others are on the floor as we debate the Violence Against Women Act. It's important for us to come together today because tomorrow is fraught with meaning on the calendar. First of all, it's March 1st. It is a day that the indiscriminate across‑the‑board spending cuts that will cause unemployment, instability, and uncertainty in our economy [will] take place. It is a day when people will be getting a pink slip. They might as well get a pink slip from the Office of the Speaker and the Republican Conference. Seven hundred fifty thousand American workers laid off because of sequester implementation. Unless the House GOP stops the mindless across‑the‑board spending cuts, you, too, could lose your job.
Now, also March 1st is the beginning of Women's History Month. We like to think of it as women's progress month, acknowledging our history, seeing what more we have to do. And why I mention these two points is because of the impact of sequestration on women. It is specific, it is large, it is substantial, and it must be avoided. My colleagues are here to share some of the details about it, but just consider this: Cuts to women's health from prenatal care to cancer screening; cuts to services to victims of domestic violence – $20 million will be cut out of the violence against women account, $20 million; cuts to initiatives to support children and families like WIC and Head Start; cuts to public‑sector jobs where women are 50 percent more likely than men to be employed and, therefore, fired.
Democrats, we want solutions. Republicans want sequestration. Some of them have even called it a “home run." That doesn't sound like anybody is on Team America, if they think sequestration, indiscriminate cuts across-the-board are a homerun.
There's no time to waste. You know that. Once again we are up against a time limit. We should stay here. How could we have been gone for 10 days just leading to up to coming in now for a few days?
We have a positive solution. Chris Van Hollen, our budget chair, has put forth an initiative that recognizes that we must cut spending, that we need revenue, and we want growth with jobs. It is similar to the proposal in the Senate; it is positive; and it includes some suggestions that Republicans have made themselves in the past.
Our priorities are clear: creation of jobs. I said to you before, others have told me since last week when we – two weeks ago when we talked about what is the root of the word sequester? Sequester, as one of my colleagues who is a Latin scholar told me, means really to hold hostage. And that's exactly what this does. It holds hostage the future, the growth of our country for an ideological, antigovernment attitude.
So tomorrow we will go to the White House, hopefully everyone with an open mind as to how we can deal with a wide array of issues so that we don't have these minute‑to‑minute, month‑to‑month crises, manufactured crises. For the sake of our country, for the sake of America's women, for the health and the security – of our economic security for our families, Democrats and Republicans must work together to protect the middle class, create jobs, and reduce the deficit in a very, very sensible way.
With that, I'm pleased to yield to a champion for women, whether it is paycheck fairness, Lilly Ledbetter, a wide range, and she'll talk about some of it, the distinguished chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
Ms. DeLauro. Thank you very, very much, Madame Leader, and I am again honored, as you are, to stand here with our colleagues today to address the issues.
If I may just very quickly paraphrase from a report by the National Women's Law Center: women are more likely than men to be poor at all stages of their lives because of the ongoing employment discrimination and greater responsibility for unpaid caregiving. These dangerous, indiscriminate and across‑the‑board cuts threaten vital services for women and their families, and these are services that they rely on every single day in order to make their way.
They also threaten our economy and will cost women thousands of jobs. While there will be a ripple effect throughout the economy, many of the jobs destroyed by this sequester will be public‑sector jobs that are disproportionately held by women. Women make up 57 percent of public‑sector jobs. While the private sector has continued to gain jobs over the past year, the public sector lost 74,000 jobs; 85 percent of these, or 63,000 jobs, were held by women, and they were lost by women.
Cuts to Head Start could cost 14,000 teachers, teachers' assistants, and staff their jobs. Cuts to Title I education grants would mean 10,500 more teachers and aide jobs lost. Cuts to special education would force the layoff of almost 7,500 more jobs. And WIC, while approximately 600,000 eligible women would lose benefits, they are – we are going to see a loss at the state and local level of jobs because we know who are working in the WIC offices.
You take child care, where 86 percent of families served are single‑parent households, and we know who the child care providers are in the country. They are mostly women. Allowing these cuts to pass is reckless, it's irresponsible, and it is especially harmful to women, to their jobs, and to the services that they rely on. What do women want from this economy? What do they want for their families? They want an economy that creates jobs, that grows the middle class, and that provides an opportunity for themselves and for their families to succeed. We should not be going down this road. The Democrats have an alternative. We just need to take hold of it and move forward and make sure that women's economic security is not further eroded.
Thank you. And with that let me introduce someone who has been an unbelievable champion before she came to this institution and within this institution. That is the Congresswoman from Illinois, Jan Schakowsky.
Ms. Schakowsky. Warning: Sequestration is dangerous to women's health. For example, one, sequestration will cut essential initiatives including $8 million from the breast and cervical cancer screening program and $24 million from preventive and reproductive health services in Title X. The National Institutes of Health will take a hit of $1.56 billion, cutting back research in areas such as Alzheimer's, environmental health links to breast cancer, and mental health services.
Two, sequestration hurts mothers. While the United States lags behind other industrialized nations in preventing maternal and infant mortality, sequestration cuts $4 million from the Safe Motherhood Initiative, $50 million from maternal and child health services, and incredibly would deny lifesaving immunizations to 30,000 children.
Three, sequestration hurts women as caregivers. Women are typically caregivers, not just to children, but to aging parents. Sequestration would cut $12.6 million from the National Family Caregiver Program, reducing services to 700,000 family caregivers.
Four, sequestration will hurt the many women who work in the healthcare professions. Sequestration will cut the National Health Service Corps, education assistance and training for direct care workers, nurses, family physicians and other healthcare professionals.
Warning: Sequestration is bad for the health of women and their families.
And now, it's my pleasure to introduce someone that I have the pleasure of co-chairing the Seniors Task Force of the Democratic Caucus, someone who is a champion for women of all ages, and that's Doris Matsui.
Ms. Matsui. Thank you, Jan, and thank you, Leader Pelosi, for bringing us together here. All of us here today understand we should be focusing on moving our country forward, but instead this ugly word of sequestration threatens to cripple our economy with severe cuts that will be devastating to our country's women, children, and families.
If sequestration occurs, 70,000 young children will be kicked out of Head Start programs. At home in my district of Sacramento, an estimated 300 children will lose access. Now, these little kids don't know or care what sequestration is about; they only care about learning their colors, their ABCs, getting their snacks, and perhaps learning how to play with each other. And their mothers will care about the safe, nurturing environment that Head Start provides and the resources available to them to get back on their feet.
This includes someone I just recently talked to, Ashley Freeman, a Sacramento resident who knew she had to make some changes in her life when she became a mother. Thanks to Head Start, her daughter received nutritious meals and early education, and Ashley was able to finish her education while also working. Sequestration will also force cuts to the Women, Infants and Children Program, or, as we know it, WIC. WIC connects low‑income women with the lifesaving services they need to be healthy and give birth to and raise healthy children. From parental care to healthy food options, WIC is a helping hand to women who need it the absolute most.
I have seen the lines of WIC. There are two of them – two WIC programs in my district. I don't want to see those lines get longer and longer. These are not cuts that we can afford at all, and I stand here with my colleagues today to urge the majority to work with us to prevent them.
And now it's my pleasure to introduce a good friend of mine, colleague, Donna Edwards of Maryland.
Ms. Edwards. Thank you, Congresswoman Matsui, and to Leader Pelosi and for bringing us all here together to focus our attention to how these harsh, arbitrary and across‑the‑board budget cuts are going to harm millions of women across this country.
And here today, after months of failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act, a bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, it's really quite the irony that later on today the House is going to finally reauthorize VAWA, and hours before they take a sledgehammer to the already strapped budgets of the nation's domestic violence shelters and programs, causing severe disruptions in services to the victims of domestic violence. More than 6 million women each year are harmed by domestic violence; they are victims, and their children, in every single congressional district across this country. Millions of children live in homes where they witness domestic violence. And as a result of the Republican failure – and it is their failure – to stop this sequestration, services that these women rely on for their very lives and for their safety will be cut by $20 million; 112,000 victims of domestic violence, including 3,500 in the small state of Maryland, will not receive the critical services and resources they need to escape domestic violence. And the harm is real. Two hundred thirty thousand victims will be calling crisis hotlines, and those calls will go unanswered. Two hundred thirty thousand calls to crisis hotlines around the country.
So, can you imagine that in the middle of the night, a woman is being battered, she has her two children, she wants to get to safety, she places a phone call to a hotline, and that line goes unanswered? That is what sequestration means to victims of domestic violence.
And so I think that this is shameful. We all do. We also know that it can be stopped. And so here we are on a Thursday set to go home for the weekend – first of all, in America, working America doesn't go home for the weekend on a Thursday. It's time for us to stop this. The Republicans hold the gavel. The Republicans have the ability to stop sequestration and the devastation to millions of women and children who are victims of domestic violence across this country, and it is really very shameful that they are going to go home this weekend without doing that.
And so for the women who are forced to stay in their homes with their abuser because there is no place to go because shelters have been cut, because hotlines go unanswered, that is on the hands of the GOP here in the House of Representatives. And so I would urge our colleagues, even at this late moment, that there is something that they can do about that. The Democrats have put forward a fair and balanced proposal that balances spending cuts with revenue so that we can deal both with our deficit, but also with how we grow or economy, and it's time for them to do that.
And with that, I'd like to turn the microphone over to my colleague, who is a leader on small business from New York, Nydia Velazquez.
Ms. Velazquez. Good morning, everyone.
Sequestration is bad for our economy. These type of cuts that are so deep, this fast, will be detrimental to our economy and particularly the job creators, small businesses. But I want to remind you that women‑owned small businesses are fastest growing sector in our economy, eight million strong. They generate well over $1 trillion sales. These businesses are some of the most innovative. And unlike their corporate counterparts, they don't have an army of attorneys, they don't have a gigantic sales team, and they don't have ready access to the capital markets. Giving this voice is the Small Business Administration, which fuels our commitment to women entrepreneurs.
The sequester has the potential to undermine these very programs by reducing SBA funding across the board. As a result, loans to women‑owned firms will be reduced by $250 million, translating to a decrease of 3,500 jobs. That means that fewer women will be able to access affordable capital to turn their ideas, their dreams into reality. And when it comes to federal contracting, we have been fighting for so long, we even took the Bush Administration to court to implement the federal contracting women's program, and now that it is up and running, we are going to shut the door, preventing a level playing field for women‑owned businesses to access federal contracts. We haven't achieved the mandated contracting goal of five percent. This will translate to $1.3 billion in small business contracts that will be lost for women entrepreneurs, which will jeopardize at least 15,000 jobs.
These losses, when combined with the closure of nearly 80 entrepreneurial small business centers that serve mainly women across America that will provide technical assistance so that they could turn those dreams and those ideas into a financial plan and then go to a bank that is matched by these small business centers – women small business centers – they will not be there to assist and provide the technical know‑how to help these women. Given the challenges they face, women‑owned businesses rely on these very programs to level the playing field. By slashing these initiatives, years of progress can be undone in an instant. And this is not only bad for women, but it's bad for the U.S. economy.
And now, it is my pleasure to introduce a new Member, a great asset, Congresswoman Brownley.
Ms. Brownley. Thank you very much.
First, I want to thank Madam Leader for holding this important press conference and for your leadership on this very, very important issue. As a Member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, as an American, and as a proud representative of Ventura County, we are home to a large naval base with a very significant veterans community. I am extremely concerned about the impact the sequester will have on our women, and men, and their families who have courageously served, sacrificed and defended our country.
If Congress fails to stop the across‑the‑board and unnecessary cuts at this time, so many programs that help veterans, like transitioning to civilian life and finding employment, will be reduced. More veterans with less resources is unacceptable. Our brave men and women deserve better. Now is the time to be doing more, not less. For our veterans' sake, we need to come together to stop the sequester now.
Thank you very much.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, my colleagues.
While Congresswoman Brownley was speaking about our veterans and our obligations to them, I was thinking of some examples of pink slips that will go out and furloughs that will occur among, for example, psychiatric nurses, who are there to help our returning vets with PTSD. That will be cut. Mindless, mindless cuts.
I am so proud of our Members, all of our House Democratic Caucus, but I express a special pride today in our women. As you can see, they have knowledge of these issues, they have experience working with it both as legislators and in their communities. And I know they would agree that all that they talked about here, as serious as it is, it is just only more on top of other cuts and other impacts; $1.6 trillion in cuts agreed to in the last Congress that have had an impact on everything from Congresswoman DeLauro's committee, Labor‑HHS; cuts in research, you name it, across the board. And now we have these additional cuts, and Lord knows what's in store for us in the future.
So, women are calling a halt to all of this. We have got to change this environment. We take these cuts and these hits, and they hit right home, right to the homes and kitchen tables of America's families, where in many cases women are in single‑parent homes, and it is not only bad for them, it's bad for our economy.
Now, I've said sequester earlier meant hostage. I've always just said the sequestration equals joblessness, unemployment. But don't take it from me. As I say, I'm proud of our Members. Congresswoman Velazquez is [Ranking Member] of the Small Business Committee; Nita Lowey, our Ranking [Member] on the Appropriations Committee. Louise Slaughter, of the Rules Committee, has been such a leader on this issue, violence against women, that is on the floor right now. We talk about Eddie Bernice Johnson, [Ranking Member] of the Science and Technology Committee. The list goes on of leadership.
And one of the Ranking Members of a very important, exclusive committee in the House, Maxine Waters, can report to us on the testimony in her committee yesterday. Now, is this about joblessness, is this about the economy? We talked specifically about how it affects people and women in particular, but, Maxine, could you tell us what came from your committee yesterday?
Ms. Waters. Certainly. Thank you very much, Leader Pelosi. I find that we appear to be coming to this room more and more as women, as you lead us in addressing many of the issues that are arising in this Congress and our need to push back on the negative impacts of much of what is being done by our friends on the opposite side of the aisle.
Yesterday, we did have Mr. Bernanke in our committee, and he came to tell us what he's doing with quantitative easing, and that is trying to stimulate the economy with the bond purchases that he's been doing because he's trying to keep the interest rates low and create jobs. And he said that if sequestration takes place, that's going to be a great setback. We don't need to be having something like sequestration that's going to cause these job losses, over [750,000] jobs that could be lost. And so he made it very clear he's not opposed to cuts, but cuts must be done over a long period of time and in a very planned way, rather than this blunt cutting that will be done by sequestration.
As you know, in this committee we have all of HUD, and HUD is responsible for so many programs that determine the quality of life for women and families. CDBG, our formula grants programs, would be cut by $153 million. These are grants to cities that help with women, and children and low‑income programs. We also will cut the HOME program by $52 million if sequestration takes place; Native American housing grants by 34 million; housing choice grants by 113 million; public housing – mostly single women in public housing – another 304 million; and homelessness. Everybody claims to be concerned about homelessness and the growing number of women and children who are out there homeless, but yet they will take a $99 million hit, and on and on and on.
And so, we're here today one more time talking about women, and children, and families and how we can protect our women, children, and families and have a decent quality of life. Sequestration will set us back. All of the gains that we have made will be lost with sequestration.
Leader Pelosi. What's interesting about it all is the purpose of all of this is to reduce the deficit, and cutting these investments does not do that. In fact, Maxine, it's my understanding from Chairman Bernanke, as has been reported, that he said if you take too great cuts too soon, you can halt the economic growth, and you can increase the deficit. You do not reduce the deficit.
So, what is the purpose of all of this? It's going to increase the deficit; increase unemployment; harm people in their individual lives; have an impact on the education of our children, the safety of our neighborhoods, the security of our country, our national security; and we will increase the deficit while we're doing that.
So it is mindless. It doesn't make sense. We want you to know particularly, though, that women take a particular hard hit on this sequestration. And in this month of March, hopefully by the end of March, people will see the light and understand that we're not standing for this.
So every single day you will be hearing from us on this subject. I know my colleagues are pleased to take any – all of them are resource for questions to you.
I'm trying to remember who had a question last time.
Q: Depending [on] what the House Republicans are doing about possibly allowing a vote on the Senate bill. And also the fact that House Democrats have had to push certain major pieces of legislation through over the last couple of months, I just want to get your perspective on what do you think the role of House Republicans is in the legislative process here in Washington now?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I appreciate that question, because I only came to this conclusion myself a couple of days ago, and I wondered why I didn't realize it sooner.
We come to Washington to be legislators, to be representatives of our district and to be legislators, and somehow that piece is missing in what the Republicans are doing here. They're just making noise, they're just saying something that might have good sound for domestic consumption back home, but they do not come here to legislate. So either they don't want to legislate, or they don't know how to legislate. But there is really a void here in terms of what is our purpose to be here. When we were in the majority, and President Bush was President, [he would say], I'll tell you what, I'll send my people over, we'll discuss it, we'll get something done.
But they are not here to get something done because their [Conference] is dominated by antigovernment ideologues. So you're right. The only thing that they've been able to pass with their own votes was the very destructive Ryan bill and the even more destructive “son of Ryan” that they passed earlier this year. Other than that, we have had to supply the votes. And I will say, if we're supplying the votes, we should be helping to write the bill.
But I think it's really important to observe the legislative function. We are the legislative branch. We are not the central committee of our party where we come and just espouse views. We are a serious body. We all bring to it a level of commitment to the issues, knowledge of the ideas, judgment on the subject, and we come here to make compromise because none of us is elected the only one to make decisions, and we know that. But that has probably not dawned on them.
Ms. Waters. Seven hundred fifty thousand, correct, the number of job loss? I wanted to make sure that gets into the record.
Leader Pelosi. Seven hundred fifty thousand. At least seven hundred fifty thousand.
Next, and then we'll come back, because I think – I have to keep a list here.
Q: What did the President tell you and the other congressional leaders yesterday before the Rosa Parks ceremony? And also, why are you waiting until the deadline to actually get together and talk about this?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, our President said how thrilled he was to be there to unveil the statue of Rosa Parks. This was such an exciting day for us. It was such an exciting day, and I shamelessly announced that – at Rosa Parks' funeral, I announced that legislation had been introduced by Jesse Jackson Jr. and John Kerry to have a statue in the Capitol, and that I promised it would pass, and it would pass soon. Her funeral was November 2nd; President Bush signed the bill December 1st, not even one full month later. And it was the 50th anniversary of her not giving up her seat on the bus.
I said, I know she was a genius. One hundred years old, but she timed her passing in a way that gave us a month to pass the bill, House and Senate, and get it signed. And I tell you, it took some real timing because her funeral was seven hours long. But he did tell us, after he expressed his personal joy of being there for Rosa Parks, that he hoped we all came with the idea that we would find solutions.
Q: And part of that was why are you waiting until tomorrow, the deadline?
Leader Pelosi. Why I am waiting until tomorrow? Have you heard me saying we can't go home, we can't go home, we can't go home, we won't be a drive‑by Congress?
No, the fact is, is that, again, the mindlessness of the sequestration combined with the complete cavalier attitude that we don't even have to be here to work on a solution necessitates us saying: ‘okay, if this is – I think everybody thought something would happen, but how could it happen if we weren't even here? That is a question, I think, you have to pose to the Republicans. Why, why, why do you keep putting up roadblocks?
My staff will probably not like it if I say to you what I said the other day. Everybody talked about – the Speaker keeps saying: ‘they're just kicking the can down the road.’ Well, that would be at least some distance. They are nudging the potato across the table with their nose. They're not making any progress whatsoever. In fact, they're setting us back. So ask them.
Q: Madam Leader, this might dovetail on Frank's question a little about the sequester. We've heard Members from both sides of the aisle speak in various terms about the sequester; however, Jim Jordan, one of the most conservative Members of the body, used to be the chair of the Republican Study Committee, yesterday he said: “look, we don't like the sequester, but those on the Republican side, we're getting some of these cuts that we want.” He said: “we are actually making progress.” What do you say to a comment like that about the sequester being a success?
Leader Pelosi. Well, they've called it a home run, as I said to you earlier, and a success. Perhaps it's just a different point of view. We believe that the budget is a statement of our national values. Our vision for our country should be represented and our vision and our values should be represented in how we put a budget together. So it should be something that creates jobs and reduces the deficit, that's for sure, but understands the difference between investments for the future and just across‑the‑board, mindless cutting.
And so that is what is called the democratic process. They have a view of antigovernment ideology that just says cuts no matter what for the sake of cuts, and we don't share that view. And that is the debate that we're engaged in now.
So, I would say that it is a false dichotomy to think that if you cut education, that you're going to reduce the deficit. It will be just the reverse. Nothing brings more money to the Treasury, nothing, than the education of the American people. These are investments. Innovation begins in the classroom. Our competitiveness depends on that. And so I think – I don't know if they understand what the role of government is and how the budget plays into that, but we all agree that we have to reduce the deficit, and we want growth with jobs, and we have to have spending cuts.
I'll go back to my endangered species that we had two weeks ago. They didn't say, I decided it's hoot. They didn't give a hoot, these endangered species, when President Bush was racking up this deficit.
My colleagues, any comments?
Ms. Schakowsky. Yes. This drumbeat about the deficit has actually convinced about 94 percent of Americans that the deficit has increased during the Obama years, when, in fact, we have seen the percent of deficit related to GDP go from 10 percent down to 5 percent. And we have actually seen real dollars in cuts from the deficit. So, we're making progress, and we can continue with our fragile economy to make more progress, and this is not only unnecessary, but completely counterproductive in the direction and the path that we're taking right now.
Ms. DeLauro. Just a very, very quick point. I think some of the folks who are talking about how we must deal with the spending side of the equation versus the revenue side of the equation – and I'd be happy to provide you with this report – they may have not followed what's happened here over the last 10 or 12 years. There is substantial data that will tell you – and this is just from the Labor‑Health‑Education perspective, which is where I'm the Ranking Member – though it has the broadest expanse of programming after Defense and the largest expanse of resources.
Over the last 10 years – and I'll get you the information – there has been $12 billion in cuts to Labor, Education and Health programs. If you add what we cut through the Budget Control Act, it is another $9 billion that will be cut between now and 2021 or 2022. If you add just one year of this sequester, it will be another $7.5 billion in cuts to workforce training, Head Start programs, Title I, biomedical research, every program that has the opportunity for jobs that will make sure that people can live a life and be able to have that opportunity for success.
They haven't read, these folks haven't read, the bill. It was a hue and cry years ago. They haven't read what has actually happened with the spending cuts, and they need to do that. This is not the cause of the deficit. We know where the cause of the deficit lies.
Leader Pelosi. We just have time for one more question – we really don't even have time for one more question, but I promised him.
Q: Do you any of you see a positive sign or a positive side to the sequester in that you will finally have a chance to rein in some of the defense spending that has grown so rapidly over the past decade?
Leader Pelosi. Well, in terms of subjecting every dollar that we spend to scrutiny – and that's what we have to do is to make sure that we are getting our money's worth – the mindlessness of these cuts, it is mindless when it comes to domestic, and it's mindless when it comes to defense.
What is our mission? What is our national security mission? That's where we should be making the evaluation of what we need, what we must have, and what we can do without, but not in the manner in which – I have met with generals about this subject. This is a very harmful way to go about this. This isn't about discussing a policy, and our national security missions, and how can we save; it is about, again, mindless cuts that are harmful to our national security right now in terms of the training and the rest that we need for our troops.
I just want to go back to your question as we leave. As we review what we spend, and how we raise revenue, and how we create growth, it's important to know that these tax bonanzas for special interests are a spending cut. They are called – you know, when we talk about expenditures for education, health care and the rest, these are called tax expenditures. So if you want to cut spending, some of the expenditures that you could start with, as the President has suggested, are some of these loopholes in the tax law that give tax breaks to special interests. You can begin with $37, $38 billion given to Big Oil as an incentive for them to drill when they make a trillion dollars in profits over the same period of 10 years. The list goes on and on.
So, let's, when we talk about expenditures, look at tax expenditures, too. We've made the argument about growth. They're not going to that place. But what we're saying is that if you address the tax expenditure issue and limit the amount of deductions people can take on their taxes, and you will not have to then take food out of the mouths of seniors, or Meals on Wheels and all of the other community‑oriented initiatives that we as Americans take pride in.
The strength of our country is certainly in our military might, but it's also in the health, education and well‑being of the American people, and our budget must reflect that. You want to cut expenditures? Let's start with tax expenditures.
Thank you all very much.