Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Forum Examining the
Impact of Government Shutdown and Sequestration
on the Provision of Justice
Tuesday, October 8, 2013, at 2:00 PM
2237 Rayburn House Office Building
As we meet today, we are staring at both a financial and legal abyss resulting from the overlapping effects of an arbitrary budget sequester, a needless government shutdown, and a looming financial default.
All of these actions can and should have been avoided.
The sequester could have been avoided with a commonsense long-term budget agreement – including taxes paid by the very wealthiest among us.
The shutdown could be ended in a matter of hours if the Speaker would simply allow an up or down vote on a clean continuing resolution.
And, as the president has repeatedly reminded us, the full faith and credit of the United States has no business being used as a political negotiating tool.
The financial impact of these events on the Department of Justice and the federal courts is grave and growing each and every day:
Beyond these obvious impacts on funding and caseload, the sequester and shutdown are having an even more insidious effect on some of our nation’s most sacred legal obligations:
That means the laws that protect the right to vote, protect access to fair housing, and prevent discrimination against the disabled are going largely unenforced.
We celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech this summer, but unfortunately there are some among us who are ignoring Dr. King’s basic teachings of fairness and equality by allowing this fiscal impasse to continue.
I believe our courts, as a co-equal branch of government and the crown jewel of our system of checks and balances, deserve better.
Indigent defendants did nothing to create this crisis, yet they are at risk of having their constitutional rights violated each and every day that this manufactured political crisis is allowed to fester.
The victims of rape and abuse may know little of the Tea Party and political ultimatums, but they are being victimized yet again by the mindless sequester and shutdown.
Today’s forum is a vivid reminder that sequestration, shutdown, and default are not mere political games, but involve real people, with real costs.
Some of the nation’s leading experts on these critical issues are here to share their thoughts. I very much look forward to hearing from them.