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Public Statements

Continuing Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEVIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. MERKLEY. Yes, absolutely.

Mr. LEVIN. The Senator just made a reference to the fact that the Speaker of the House has refused to put the Senate resolution up for a vote in the House of Representatives. It seems to me this has not been adequately illuminated to the public. It is not just that we insist that there be a clean CR--which we do, because we don't want every other issue that people feel passionate about to be insisted upon as the price of keeping the government going. Each one of us has issues we feel very passionately about. But I don't know any of us--at least on this side--who have said that unless we pass, for instance, an infrastructure bill--unless we pass a bill that includes background checks for people before they can buy an assault weapon--I feel very passionately about that. But the idea that we or any of us on this side of the aisle would say the government is going to close unless we get our way on a particular issue that we feel passionate about is absolutely anathema to us. Nonetheless, there are a few folks who are willing to do that.

But when we say we insist we have a clean CR--in other words, that it not be linked to some issue that some faction is insisting upon--what we are really saying is something even deeper than that, more basic. We simply want them to vote on a clean CR. We are very confident it will pass if there is a vote, because it will have bipartisan support.

For some reason over in the House, bipartisan support for a bill is now anathema. Apparently, it is called the Hastert rule. The Republican leaders over there say they are not going to pass any bill that relies upon any Democratic votes, which is the exact opposite of what bipartisanship should be. Over here, we rely on votes from both sides of the aisle for just about everything we pass. But over there they have this policy now, which is the most partisan kind of policy one could imagine. If someone could design a partisan policy, it would be, We will not have any reliance on the other party for votes; only our party can be relied upon for votes. We are not going to pass anything which depends upon the other party. That, to me, reeks of partisanship. Whenever I hear the Speaker or any of the Republicans in the House talk about bipartisanship, the first thing they ought to do is get rid of the Hastert rule, because the Hastert rule guarantees partisanship. It bakes partisanship into the process over there.

But back to the narrow point I wish to ask the Senator about: Tonight, as in previous nights, all we are saying is not just we insist upon a clean CR, which is not linked to some faction's passion, which in this case is getting rid of ObamaCare; what we are saying is vote on the Senate CR.

Just put it up for a vote. We are confident it will pass. But does the Senator agree it is even something less than saying it must be a clean CR that we are insisting upon? What we are saying is, vote on a clean CR. We are very confident it will pass, but put it up for a vote. Does the Senator agree with that?

Mr. MERKLEY. Absolutely. I appreciate the point the Senator is accentuating. When the Senator says this has not gotten enough attention, he is absolutely right. The House has refused to have a budget resolution pursued--a continuing resolution that does not have extraneous policy attached to it. They have absolutely said they will not take the Senate version, which did not put on the things the Senator and I might wish to attach, and did not put on the things my colleagues from across the aisle might wish to attach. It said: Let's keep the government open. Let's keep it operating, using, by the way, the budget number proposed by our colleagues in the House.

So if our colleagues in the House say, wouldn't it be great if the Senate would compromise with us, well, we went farther than a compromise. We did not say: Let's split the difference between the Senate number and the House number. We will take their number. And let's get rid of these extraneous policy issues and then put it up for a vote. I think it is a simple request to make.

Doesn't it make sense to give a bipartisan group the opportunity now, with just 14 minutes left, to actually end this process of driving our economy over a cliff?

Mr. LEVIN. At least vote as to whether to do it.

Mr. MERKLEY. At least have that vote.

Mr. LEVIN. Is it also not true that we have voted twice on the House continuing resolution? We have rejected it, but we voted on it.

Mr. MERKLEY. My colleague is exactly right. They sent it to us and we voted on it.

Mr. LEVIN. All right. They have not voted once on what we have sent to them.

Mr. MERKLEY. The Senator is right.

Mr. LEVIN. That is not something you have to go to conference about. That is something which is sort of kind of fundamental. We have voted twice on your proposal. We have rejected it. You refused to vote on a Senate proposal. Why? Because you are afraid it will pass with some Democratic votes. That is anathema to the House of Representatives Republican leadership now to pass legislation that depends upon Democratic votes. And at the same time they talk about bipartisanship, they have that fixed, rigid rule that they will not depend on Democratic votes to get something passed in the House of Representatives. The first step toward bipartisanship in the House would be to end that approach.

But I thank my friend from Oregon. It is amazing to me that the refusal of the House of Representatives to even vote on the Senate proposal which we sent to them has had such little play in the media because I think if the public understood that, they would then--without any doubt--instead of it being 60 to 30 that it is the Republicans who are bringing this government to the brink of closing down, it would be 80 to 10, when the public understands that it is the refusal of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to allow a vote on the Senate proposal.


Mr. LEVIN. I thank my good friend.


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