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Shutdown Damages the Political Process

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Speaker, I say good morning to our colleagues, and hope that as we focus on the very real pain and burden that so many Americans are feeling that we can act this afternoon to alleviate that pain, whether someone is looking for health care services from the National Institutes of Health, or whether they are troubled by the problems at the FAA that Mr. Lowenthal just talked about, or whether they are veterans or a person in our police departments or military, that we can alleviate the suffering they are feeling and we can again have taxpayers receive the services for which they are paying by passing the Senate short-term budget this afternoon.

It's pretty clear to me that a significant majority of House Members would vote in favor of that budget. It should be put on the floor. If I am wrong, it will fail. But we will have a vote. I think I'm right. I think the bill will pass, the government will reopen, and the shutdown will end. That's the way we ought to proceed. If a majority of this House believes that that's the right thing to do, the majority should be given the chance to vote on that particular piece of legislation.

I hope we can also focus on the long-lasting damage that's being done to the way we govern our country by what has happened here. I want to say from the outset that I feel strongly that the Affordable Care Act is a good thing for our country. I really do believe that that's going to do many good things for our country. But I completely respect and admire those who have a completely different opinion.

I know that there are many Members of this Chamber, and many people in our country who believe that the Affordable Care Act is very bad for our country. They would like to see it repealed. They believe it will do harm to the country. I respect and admire their zeal and their passion. This is the essence of the democratic process. We are fortunate to live in a country where when we disagree over something we resolve our disagreements with voting, with elections, with peaceful and civil processes.

But when that peaceful and civil process protects the rights of those who have lost an argument, as frankly those over the Affordable Health Care Act have, when it respects your right to continue to come back and pursue your views over that argument, you also have to respect that process in return. And grave damage is being done to that process because of this practice of threatening a shutdown of the entire government, in fact causing a shutdown of the entire government, and now threatening a default on the country's obligation to pay its bills by tying the health care debate to the extension of the Federal debt ceiling.

And I want you to think about what is happening here. The health care legislation came to this floor and passed. It went to the Senate floor and it passed. The President signed it. It was challenged in the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court said it complied with the Constitution. We had an election a little less than a year ago, where one candidate promised that the very first thing he would do would be to repeal the law, and the other candidate promised he would implement the law. The candidate who wanted to repeal the law lost, lost in the Electoral College by a substantial margin, lost the popular vote by about 51 to 47 percent.

That does not mean that those who agree with Governor Romney have to abandon their efforts and try not to repeal the law. The democratic process says they have at their means every legitimate mechanism to try to win the next time around. That's part of the beauty of American politics, there is always a next time around. But it is not a legitimate means to shut down the entire government of the United States because you lost the last time around.

Let me draw some analogies here. Virtually everyone on our side believes passionately that the Senate immigration bill, which would provide legal status to 12 million people, the vast majority of whom are decent, taxpaying, hardworking people who are benefiting the United States, we believe passionately that that bill should become law. Sixty-eight Senators voted for that law. It has never been put to a vote on the House floor. We feel passionate that should become law, but we did not threaten to shut the government down if we didn't get a vote on that. It looks like we may lose that argument. If it doesn't come to a vote, we are not going to shut the government down because we can't get our way.

A huge majority of people on our side, a huge majority of the American people, if you believe the polls, believes that there should be a background check before someone can buy a gun. Before a wife beater or a terrorist can buy a gun, there ought to be a background check that says whether they can buy one or not. Again, we are damaging the political process by this, and we shouldn't do it.


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