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Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. President, I have come to the floor today to speak about the divisive and irresponsible path down which some Members of Congress wish to take our country.
Last week my former Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives continued to put their own personal partisan politics ahead of progress for the American people. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle here in the Senate have voiced support for a responsible approach and rejected this path. For that, I applaud their independence. But some here in the Senate are committed to playing the same political games offered by the House, and here are the rules of the games they are playing: crisis-to-crisis governing; uncertainty for our economy; and for families and businesses, economic insecurity.
Instead of working together across the party aisle to create jobs and move our economy forward, a minority of extremists are intent on threatening our economic recovery with brinkmanship meant to appeal to a narrow political interests--namely, their own. Instead of working together to pass a responsible budget that invests in the middle class, this political game calls for locking in the sequester cuts and putting up a roadblock to economic growth. Instead of working together to do what is best for middle-class families, moving health care reform forward, this political game of drama and division insists on shutting down the government unless health care is repealed for millions of Americans. And instead of working together to do what is best for businesses and the economy, they are creating yet another manufactured crisis that threatens the full faith and credit of America with a government default, knowing full well that would hurt economic growth and the families and businesses who are working so hard to move our recovery forward. Let's be clear about how they would like to see their game end.
According to independent economists, the damaging cuts from the sequester are slowing down the economy and killing jobs. Locking in these devastating sequester cuts would gut investments in economic development, innovation, and education.
The House Republican budget would cut the National Institutes of Health by $8 billion compared to the Senate budget, so it would cost 25,000 jobs, compromising the next generation of research in our country and holding back the development of treatments for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and other chronic diseases.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean children with preexisting conditions can be denied health care by insurance companies. Repealing America's new health law would mean many young people would not have health insurance coverage because they could no longer stay on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old. Repealing ObamaCare would mean women will no longer have free preventive health care and we will go back to the day when women could be charged more than men for their health coverage.
They will shut down the government unless we agree to increase the out-of-pocket costs for seniors on their prescription drugs and deny them wellness programs.
They are threatening a government default which would weaken our economy when we should be doing everything we can to strengthen it. They don't seem to care that even the hint of defaulting on our obligations by a minority of Republicans in Congress had severe consequences for our economy when it last happened in the summer of 2011. The stock market plummeted, and the U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our Nation's history. Businesses froze hiring in August of 2011, and that was one of the lowest months of job growth over the last 2 years. Consumer confidence dropped, and widespread uncertainty was created for middle-class families.
What we don't need right now is more political games. The last thing we need right now is to create another self-inflicted economic wound in Washington that will hurt middle-class families, small businesses, and those who are working so hard to get ahead. We need to create jobs. We need to invest in the middle class and build an economy that produces shared prosperity.
Instead of protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and tax loopholes for big corporations, it is time for Republicans to join our efforts and ask those at the top to pay their fair share. It is time for Republicans to join our efforts to continue making smart spending cuts that reduce the deficit without shortchanging our future. It is time for Republicans to join with us in passing a responsible budget that strengthens the middle class while also giving American businesses the certainty they need to grow our economy. It is time to break this destructive pattern of bringing the country to the brink and instead return to making Washington work for the American people.
Chairwoman Mikulski has called for a return to regular order so that Congress can pass individual appropriations bills every year, and she is 100 percent correct. I support her efforts because regular order allows us to prioritize key investments that support the middle class and avoid these annual shutdown showdowns.
As I have traveled the State, Wisconsinites have told me that the powerful and well-connected seem to get to write their own rules in Washington while the concerns and struggles of middle-class families go unnoticed here. They feel that our economic system is tilted toward those at the very top, that our political system exists to protect those unfair advantages instead of to make sure everybody gets a fair shot.
Last week an economic report was released showing that income equality has been worsening and expanding, with almost all--in fact, 95 percent--of the income gains since our economic collapse 5 years ago going to the top 1 percent of income earners. The American people would be right to expect that both parties work together to offer solutions that address the challenge of closing this gap, but it has been ignored by those playing the game of threats and ``divided we stand'' politics. They are wrong to ignore the gap between the economic security Americans work so hard to achieve and the economic uncertainty they are asked to settle for. They are wrong because if we can't close that gap, we might someday talk about the middle class as something we used to have as opposed to something to which every generation can aspire.
Unfortunately, the ``divided we stand'' crowd in Congress refuses to be governing partners committed to meeting this challenge and advancing our common good. Worse yet, the threats of a government shutdown and a government default are immensely disrespectful to the hard work of people who get up every day and through their sheer grit and determination have helped to move our country forward.
The American people deserve better. They deserve to have their hard work respected. Our economy demands better. It demands that hard work is rewarded.
Senate Democrats have a plan to keep the government running while ensuring that millions of Americans do not lose access to affordable health care. Republicans should join us so that we end this shutdown crisis and the irresponsible political game of division.
It is my hope that those who choose divisive politics over progress for America's economy reconsider and begin to join us on this bill and work with us to once and for all end the drift from one crisis to the next. This is not a political game, and those who continue to play these games need to stop and get to work, get to work with us to move our economy forward.
I yield the floor.
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