Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) urged her colleagues to reach a compromise to prevent spending cuts through sequestration, arguing that government programs are already as lean as they can be.
"We're at the bone almost, and sequester, that is across-the-board cuts, will literally destroy us and put us in a recession," she said on the House floor Wednesday.
She called on Republicans to meet Democrats at the negotiating table and rejected the idea that President Obama delivered a partisan State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Jackson Lee suggested lawmakers should take inspiration from President Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War.
"I stand here as a freed slave because this Congress came together. Are we going to be able to do it today to free America?"
Jackson Lee was one of a handful of Democrats who took to the House floor to warn that the $85 billion in cuts to 2013 spending in the sequester, due to take place in March, would devastate people who rely on government services.
"If we allow sequestration to take place, we threaten to kick out 70,000 of our children off of the Head Start program," Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) said. "If we allow sequestration to take place, 10,000 American teachers will lose their jobs.
"We threaten the very future of our children and grandchildren. This is irresponsible."
One member equated the sequester to a government shutdown of sorts.
"We don't want to see these devastating cuts go into effect," said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.). "We don't want to see a government shutdown. We don't want to tell the children that they have to have even more students in their already-crowded classrooms, or explain to senior citizens that the meals-on-wheels they rely on might not be delivered."
Earlier in the morning, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) accused some Republicans of welcoming the sequester. Several GOP lawmakers have said they believe allowing the sequester to take place is the only way to ensure some cuts to the government.
The GOP has argued generally that most spending reductions agreed to over the last few years have only managed to cut future spending plans, not real spending.
These cuts have also focused on discretionary spending, not entitlement programs, and as a result, total federal spending has continued to increase over the last few years. According to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, the government is on pace to spend a record $3.803 trillion in 2013, up from $3.795 trillion in 2012.
OMB estimates that spending will hit $4 trillion in 2015, and $4.5 trillion in 2017.
As of Wednesday morning, House Republicans had no plans to bring up a sequester replacement bill this week, and the House is out next week.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday the onus was on Obama and Senate Democrats to prevent sequestration.
“It’s time for the Senate to do its job,” said Boehner.