By Congressman Scott Peters
I’ve been in Congress for two months now and something that still surprises me: How out of touch and political Washington is. I ran for office because I believed I could make a difference, and I still do. I am as tired as you are of partisan posturing, and a perfect example is the sequester.
The sequester was crafted in 2011 to force legislators from both sides of the aisle to come to an agreement on a bipartisan budget. It was intentionally nonsensical, so that Congress would do everything in its power to avoid it. But Congress proved once again how broken it truly is.
Two weeks before the sequester took effect, House leadership called a recess and sent us home.
As a former Port Commissioner and City Council president, that was foreign to me. I could not believe, with the amount of work still to be done, that we were sent home. Even more frustrating was that we were sent home without being allowed to vote on a single alternative to the sequester because leadership didn’t agree with the legislation. This is not the democratic process that the United States is regarded for.
The belief that the indiscriminate cuts from the sequester are minimal and won’t affect everyday people is unique to Washington. This is why I spent my time at home sending a message back to Congress. I enlisted the help of our port commissioners, scientific research community and maritime workers to tell Congress that San Diego will feel the negative effects of the sequester through layoffs, furloughs, stifled research and decreased GDP.
[Recently], I spent every day on the House floor bringing attention to the sequester and urging Congress to work together. On Thursday, our last legislative day to avoid the sequester, I asked leadership to stay in session to find a solution.
Leadership decided to adjourn the House, but my appeals did not fall completely on deaf ears. This week, since returning, I have heard from both Democrats and Republicans who want to find a responsible alternative to the sequester, and who believe these solutions can be accomplished in our upcoming budget negotiations.
On March 27, the stopgap bill that Congress passed last year in lieu of a budget, called the “continuing resolution,” will expire. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle see an opportunity for us to stop the politics enough to address our serious fiscal problems – including the sequester – with a responsible budget that raises revenues by closing tax loopholes and reins in our spending.
I’m determined to do my part to get Congress working again. Since day one I’ve looked for partners on both sides of the aisle who have a similar mindset and determination to put aside political agendas and problem solve. I’ve found a group of lawmakers in my freshman class, known as the United Solutions Caucus, which I am proud to be a part of and look forward to working with. I have also joined a group of lawmakers who are not only freshman or members of the House. In February I joined No Labels, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate who have been in office for a variety of years but who haven’t forgotten that they were sent to Congress to serve and get things done.
This is just the beginning of a trying journey, but if we remember our purpose, this journey will also be rewarding. I thank you for the opportunity that you have given me to represent you in Congress, and I am working hard every day to make you proud.