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Mrs. HAGAN. Mr. President, I rise to address the negative impact this government shutdown is having on my home State of North Carolina. It is a shame that some in Congress are playing political games with the most basic function of keeping our government open. I did not get elected to shut down the government. With each minute that goes by, more and more North Carolinians are feeling the impact of this irresponsible shutdown.
North Carolina is proud to be home to almost 1 million veterans. But as of this spring, we are also home to one of the worst VA disability claims backlogs in the country. We have pushed to have senior VA personnel dispatched to North Carolina. More caseworkers have been added. After a lot of attention and work, we were finally beginning to see the needle move in the right direction.
Claims were being processed faster, which means veterans were getting the benefits they deserved faster. But as of today, the Winston-Salem regional office is closed to the public. With claim processors furloughed and just a skeleton staff operation inside, this government shutdown threatens to reverse the progress we have made in addressing that backlog. So I ask, is it worth shutting down the government over a political game when veterans get caught in this crossfire? No.
In my home State we are also proud of the 11 national parks that are not simply just beautiful places in our country and in our State but also important drivers of our tourism economy.
As families flock to enjoy these affordable destinations, they stop at our local small businesses, they eat at our restaurants, and they stay in our hotels. In 2011, out-of-State tourists to national parks in North Carolina spent $720 million during these trips, which supported nearly 12,000 jobs.
I do not know how many of my colleagues have been fortunate enough to visit western North Carolina at this time of the year. But right now the fall leaves are turning and western North Carolina is opening its arms to welcome tourists from around the country and from around the world who come to see this beautiful landscape.
On the other side of the State, in the east, we have Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Lookout. They are both closed. October is the most popular surf-fishing month of the year. But with beach access closed our fishermen cannot get to the fishing areas.
With parks from out west all the way to down east closed, we fear too many families will decide to cancel their vacations. So I ask, is it worth shutting down the government over political games when our small business owners who support our economy will be the ones to shoulder this burden? No.
In my home State we are proud that our university system includes a number of distinguished research institutions that are on the cutting edge of new technologies and therapies that will make our world better. NIH supports roughly 20,000 jobs in North Carolina. But the NIH will not take any action on grant applications or awards or admit new patients to clinical trials while our government is shut down.
So I ask, is it worth putting medical advances and thousands of jobs at risk just to play a tired political game? No. I could go on and on. While new vaccines are still being delivered, the CDC is not able to track flu cases as usual. They cannot support State and local partners who help monitor infectious diseases.
The FDA is not able to support the majority of its food safety activities. Pell grants and direct student loans could be delayed for 14 million American students. School districts, colleges, and job training centers could face major cashflow problems without money for Federal programs and grants coming in the door.
Our research universities, in addition to doing this cutting-edge research that benefits our entire country, are huge employers. Some of them receive tens of millions of dollars a month in reimbursement for work already performed for the Federal Government. Without those funds coming in the door, these universities can be put in an incredibly difficult position with respect to managing their expenses--not to mention the time lost in Congress when we should be talking about how to continue repairing our economy; we should be talking about how to improve job training programs; we should be talking about growing manufacturing in our country. But instead, we are just manufacturing crisis after crisis after another. There is no reason we cannot end this shutdown.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution. The Senate has passed a responsible bill that keeps the government running at currently reduced spending levels. The House of Representatives could pass that bill today. This shutdown could end within a matter of hours. Then we could have the time and space to come together on a long-term, balanced, and bipartisan plan to finally put our fiscal house in order. Instead, the other side of the Capitol insists on sending us bills that they know have zero chance of passing or becoming law over here just to stage a political stunt.
But political stunts will not process VA claims. Political stunts will not help restaurant owners in western North Carolina make payroll while the national parks are closed. Political stunts will not get this government reopened for business. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to stop playing this partisan game, take up the Senate-passed bill, end this government shutdown.
I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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