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Public Statements

The Government Shutdown and Potential Default

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HIMES. Mr. Speaker, I rise on this 15th day of the government shutdown, a shutdown which has put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work, that will have untold damage on what is already a hesitant economic recovery; and I rise as we contemplate the last maybe 24, 36 hours before an event unprecedented in American history: the possibility that, for the first

time in this great Nation's history, we may not pay our bills--we may default on our obligations--with a plea for sanity and a last-minute plea that we set aside the irresponsibility and recklessness that has consumed this Congress for years now, culminating in this moment.
What has it profited anybody? Seventy-four percent of Americans disapprove of the way the Republican majority has handled this. Democrats could not have dreamed of a better plan to cut the ground out from under the Republicans.

This week, the International Monetary Fund met here in Washington, and global leader after global leader stood up and basically said: What has become of the United States? How can you be so irresponsible? How can this one indispensable Nation now be a laughingstock?

My constituents are certainly disturbed. I had a conversation with one of them, a guy I have known for probably 25 years now, and he said: Explain to me what is going on in Washington. The Republicans, Senator Cruz, the House majority are demanding a negotiation.

I said: Yes, they are demanding a negotiation. They are using the shutdown and the debt ceiling as leverage to achieve their goals.

He said: What are those goals?

It started out with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act--that is where Senator Cruz started a couple of weeks ago--and then it moved on to we want Congress to not have its employer contribution; and then it moved on to simply talk to us; and then there was a long list of things--we want the XL pipeline approved; we want the Affordable Care Act delayed for 2 years--a long, long list of policy wishes that the Republicans have said they want in this negotiation.

And my friend says: So what do you get? What do the Democrats get? If you build the XL pipeline--whatever it is--and if you give them five of the things they want, what do you get? Do you get investment in roads and railways and networks?

I said: No, we don't get that.

Do you get a commitment to improve the education of America's children?

No, no, we don't get that.

Do you get something that pretty much most Americans think is a good idea, which is some kind of comprehensive immigration reform?

I said: No, we don't get that.

He said: Well, what do you get? What do you get in this negotiation?

I said: All we get is that the government runs.

Really? The government runs. That is what Democrats get in this negotiation?

Yes.

He said: That is not a negotiation.

I said: That is exactly right. That is not a negotiation. That is something more akin to extortion.

And here we sit, where it is not just the government shutdown which is causing pain to Head Start kids in Bridgeport or fear amongst workers at Sikorsky who are building the Black Hawks that ferry our troops in and out of danger. Here we stand on the cusp of saying to the world that you can no longer rely on the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

Folks, I used to work in finance, and there is nothing in finance--there is no share of stock, there is no bond, there is no income-producing property, there is no asset out there--whose value doesn't rest on the unalterable proposition that the United States Treasury is risk free. But the House majority is saying, first of all, that that may not be true, that maybe a default is not a big problem. Maybe it can be managed. It never happened before, but maybe it can be managed. This bedrock, I like to say in doing finance without the concept of a risk-free rate, is like trying to do physics without gravity. Nobody knows what it means, and we are putting this at risk.

So I plead for sanity, and I point out the fact that there are very real costs. The Macroeconomic Advisers, a research firm, has said that the last couple of years have resulted in 900,000 jobs not being created because of this constant hostage taking, this idea that we are going to run the country by crisis. Almost 1 million American jobs are not there because this Congress has done that.

Colleagues, the American people deserve better. It is time at this moment to come together, to be responsible, and to do right by the country.


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