We are on the road to recovery. Our path is clear, but we have a giant obstacle: tea party radicals who came to Washington, not as public servants, but to destroy and decimate government. For starters, they recklessly and unnecessarily shut down the government, brought us to the brink of defaulting on our debt, and cost our country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic output in the process.
The East Bay painfully felt the damage to the economy, with tens of thousands of federal workers furloughed and the ripple effects almost unknown.
Part of the deal that ended the shutdown included "going to conference," where representatives from both parties and both houses of Congress come together to reconcile the differences in their budgets. I will be working with my colleagues on the conference committees with clear priorities in mind. There are several priorities we must fight for. In addition to repealing sequester, we must:
These cuts are unacceptable, unbelievable and immoral. I know, from personal experience, that no one wants to be on food stamps. Everyone wants to be able to provide for their family and have a steady job. But to cut this bridge over troubled water at a time when people need it the most is cruel.
What's more is that an automatic benefit cut for every SNAP household happened Friday. The 2009 Stimulus Act had a temporary boost of SNAP benefits, and that boost has now expired. I introduced HR 3353, the Extend Not Cut SNAP Benefits Act, with my friend and colleague Rep. John Conyers, which would have given a one-year extension of that 2009 13 percent benefit increase through 2014. Unfortunately, Speaker John Boehner would not even consider it. This is a perfect example of how mean-spirited the tea party Republicans really are.
As a member of both the House Budget and Appropriations committees, I know that budgets are moral documents; how we spend our money reflects who we are as a nation. We must recognize that the choices we make affect real people, and especially the most vulnerable: people of color, women, children and seniors.
As a nation, people are struggling under devastating sequester cuts, including cuts to school funding, work-study jobs, grants for wildlife protection, vaccines for children and job search assistance for the unemployed.
Bringing our economy back to life -- and recovering from the biggest recession since the Great Depression -- won't be easy. We can build an economy for all that provides opportunity, creates good-paying jobs and protects the most vulnerable if we make the right choices for a fair and balanced budget.
The road won't be easy, but it's time to clear the obstacles and move forward.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.