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Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin

Rep. Pocan Delivers First Floor Speech

Feb 27, 2013
Press Release
Pocan calls for Congress to avert sequestration and refocus on economic growth

WASHINGTON—In his first floor speech on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) today called on Congress to avert the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, referred to as “sequestration,” and to refocus its attention on economic growth.

To watch Rep. Pocan's speech on YouTube, click here.

“The sequester, and its irresponsible, indiscriminate, across-the-board spending cuts, is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing right now to grow our economy,” Pocan said on the floor. “Taken as a whole, these spending cuts represent a harsh austerity policy that I fear could only move our country backwards.

“We need to change the conversation right here in Washington. We need to be talking about what people are talking about in Beloit, and Baraboo and Sun Prairie. Instead of asking about how much we can cut, we need to be asking ourselves how we can jumpstart the economy.”

Unless Congress takes action, on Friday, March 1, the government will initiate $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that will severely impact Wisconsin schools, seniors and small businesses.

“The sequester trades in the tough work and replaces it with massive, indiscriminate, irresponsible spending cuts,” Pocan said. “It’s like taking a meat cleaver to the budget instead of a scalpel. And it could cost 750,000 jobs nationwide, including 36,000 jobs right in Wisconsin.”

Pocan supports a balanced approach to deficit reduction that preserves investments in areas that promote job growth, such as education, research and development and infrastructure.

“The time has come to stop talking about harmful spending cuts, and start talking about getting the people of Wisconsin, and America, back to work,” Pocan said. “We need less austerity, and more prosperity. We don’t have time to waste. “

Pocan serves on both the Budget Committee and the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform in Congress.

Pocan’s full speech is below:

As a lifelong Wisconsinite, and a proud resident of Madison for the last thirty years, I am deeply humbled and honored to represent Wisconsin’s second district in the House of Representatives.

The second district is home to a world-class university, innovative small business owners, and hardworking dairy farmers and cheese makers who produce the best milk and cheese you can find.  

I ran for Congress because I wanted to ensure these voices, the voices of south central Wisconsin, are heard, respected, and represented in Washington. And I am committed to serving their needs by working with my colleagues—all of my colleagues—regardless of party affiliation.

But I hate to say it Madam Speaker, but right now the people of Wisconsin’s second district are frustrated, and I understand why. When I went home last week, I met with people from all kinds of professions and all walks of life, and their concerns could not have been more different than what we talk about right here in Washington. What they care about is what all families care about—how can they make a living so they can pay their bills, provide for their loved ones and create opportunities for their children.

They don’t care about political finger pointing. They care about how we in Congress can support an environment where businesses can attract more buyers for their products, hire more workers, and increase wages. In other words, how do we grow the economy?

What I told them, and what I’ll repeat here today, is that the sequester, and its irresponsible, indiscriminate, across-the-board spending cuts, is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing right now to grow our economy. Taken as a whole, these spending cuts represent a harsh austerity policy that I fear could only move our country backwards.

We’ve seen in Europe the severe effects austerity policies have had on fragile economies working their way back from recessions.  Four years after the global economic crisis, our friends across the ocean are at risk of a triple dip recession. Unemployment is climbing. And these massive spending cuts, countries have still seen their debt loads increase. Is this the model we want to follow for our country?

Madame Speaker, we must remember that the biggest threat to our long term economic security is not the deficit, it’s the economy.  It's the lack of jobs. It’s the more than 12 million people who are unemployed in this country.

I own a printing shop in Wisconsin. And as a small business owner, I can tell you that it’s about the lack of access to capital because of economic uncertainty. It’s about a lack of consumer confidence. And it's about people needing to get back to work.

These are the issues we need to address.  Not austerity. And we are not going to create jobs or help spur spending by gutting critical government programs without any thought to the consequences.  To people in Wisconsin, that's just politics as usual.

We need to change the conversation right here in Washington. We need to be talking about what people are talking about in Beloit, and Baraboo, and Sun Prairie. Instead of asking about how much we can cut, we need to be asking ourselves how we can jumpstart the economy. We have to invest in our future. And how we can support our local small business owners who are the backbones of our communities.

That is how we'll fix the economy.

We need to support education, infrastructure projects, research and development, and new industries such as green energy that will help lead to job growth and bring our unemployment rate down. And by growing the economy, we'll fix our fiscal problems. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t see a place for responsible restraint. As a former chair of our Joint Committee of Finance in Wisconsin, I understand that when you put together a budget, tough decisions have to be made, and you stay up all night agonizing over the smallest details, the tiniest programs, because these programs make a difference in people’s lives. It’s a lot of work, and it should be, because our budget priorities have a direct effect on the middle class families and on long-term economic growth.

But the sequester trades in the tough work and replaces it with massive, indiscriminate, irresponsible spending cuts. It’s like taking a meat cleaver to the budget instead of a scalpel.

And it could cost 750,000 jobs nationwide, including 36,000 jobs right in Wisconsin. It could mean 70,000 students across the country, and 1,000 in my state, would see their Head Start services eliminated this year. And it would mean that $900 million less in loan guarantees to small business owners nationwide, including in Wisconsin.

Now I’m a co-sponsor of a plan, put forward by Rep. Van Hollen, that would avert these disastrous spending cuts and replace them with a balanced approach that promotes economic growth while responsibly reducing the deficit. I strongly urge my colleagues to come to the table, stop this irresponsible sequester, and then refocus our efforts.

The time has come to stop talking about harmful spending cuts, and start talking about getting the people of Wisconsin, and America, back to work.   We need less austerity, and more prosperity. We don’t have time to waste. 

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