HispanicBusiness.com asked congressional leaders, governors and mayors to respond to several questions directly related to the Sequestration and Transparency Act of 2012. Because the mandated cuts will impact every state, county and locality across the country, HispanicBusiness.com's editorial team reached out to more than a dozen Republican and Democrat policymakers from states with significant numbers of Hispanic constituents including Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Utah. A few lawmakers and one administration official respectfully declined to respond to sequestration-related questions. Some responded immediately.
We anticipate more policymakers will participate in this important dialogue with HispanicBusiness.com readers, as the issue of mandatory budget cuts once again takes center stage and the presidential election approaches.
Q&A With Sen. Marco Rubio
Republican Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, representing Florida, the fourth largest state in population. Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba to the United States in 1956, won a three-way race between Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent. Sen. Rubio, 41, serves on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet; the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard; the Subcommittee on Science and Space; and the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.
HispanicBusiness: If across-the-board cuts to defense and other federally-supported programs occur, as currently mandated under the Sequestration Act, do you fear the U.S. will see an increase in unemployment?
Marco Rubio: The looming "sequester" defense cuts represent an epic failure on President Obama's part because it puts our national security at grave risk. I always thought it was a terrible idea and opposed it when it came to a vote in Congress last year. Sequestration is moving forward and the president has vowed to veto any measure to avoid it unless it helps him advance his agenda of job-destroying tax increases. To President Obama, the choice is clear and unacceptable: Kill the economy with job-killing tax increases on the American people, or jeopardize our security with devastating cuts.
HB: Is there a significant risk that the U.S. economy will slip into another recession?
MR: The uncertainty created by this leadership failure is being felt in my state and across the nation. Thousands of jobs in defense-related enterprises have been lost already, with many more projected to go if the sequester crisis is not averted. These defense cuts hurt innovation, medical research and thousands of small businesses who subcontract for defense-related work. U.S. businesses that support our warfighters need certainty in the defense budget. The hundreds of thousands of employees and their families who rely on that certainty have their very livelihoods at stake.
HB: Elaborate on whether you are willing to support a bipartisan compromise agreement that spares severe cuts to defense and other federally-supported health-and-education programs that traditionally help disadvantaged Americans and spur economic growth.
MR: We all agree that the Defense Department must eliminate wasteful programs and continue to find efficiencies; however, our defense policy is becoming less about military strategy, and more about fiscal strategy. Officials are forced to align resources to reflect arbitrary budget numbers rather than actual threats confronting the United States. Our enemies -- who welcome a weakened U.S. with a smaller military, aging equipment, and uncertain capabilities -- are growing emboldened, sensing our diminished ability to respond effectively.
HB: Is it feasible that a bipartisan agreement will be reached in time to avoid an economic crisis and why are you optimistic that it will, or concerned that it won't happen?
MR: America needs a different direction. Congress should pass and the president should sign a bill I joined several Republicans in introducing earlier this year that replaces the across-the-board cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act -- cuts to both defense and non-defense programs -- with more responsible savings. Our legislation charts a specific course to mitigate the devastating consequences of these reckless cuts in 2013. It does so with responsible savings -- through attrition in the federal work force and a temporary continuation of the Obama administration's federal employee pay freeze. There are other pathways, of course. For example, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction identified tens of billions in potential offsets -- many of which would surely garner bipartisan support today.
Sequestration Q&A: US Rep. Raul Grijalva
Sequestration Q&A: US Rep. Linda Sanchez
Sequestration Q&A: US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
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