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Public Statements

Continuing Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEVIN. Earlier today the Senate rejected for the second time the House Republican continuing resolution. The approach they have adopted over in the House attempts to and would deprive millions of Americans of health insurance if it were passed here. It is not going to pass here.

I would say to Speaker Boehner we have given your proposal a vote. In fact, we have voted on it twice. Now you owe it to the American people to hold a vote, a vote on the bipartisan, clean continuing resolution which would keep the government open. This is the resolution which the Senate sent to you just a few hours ago.

The only thing preventing us from keeping this government open is Speaker Boehner's refusal to bring a bipartisan Senate continuing resolution to the House floor. I think most Republicans over there even acknowledge that it would pass if Speaker Boehner would allow a vote on it.

The Senate, a short time ago, approved a measure to allow for the pay of our men and women in uniform to continue in the event of a government shutdown. This measure was necessary because requiring our military to go into combat with only an IOU instead of pay would be a travesty. Nobody should be fooled. It is only one travesty that was avoided among many. Even if we restrict our view to the impact of a government shutdown on the military, there are many other terrible impacts of a government shutdown.

Our military Members would be paid so a shutdown would result in at least avoiding that problem. However, there are other unthinkable outcomes to our security with a government shutdown. Family members of military members who die in combat would not receive death benefits during a shutdown. It defies belief that in the pursuit of a narrow ideological goal House Republicans would prevent the payment of benefits for those who died defending our country. That is the result of a government shutdown.

In the event of a shutdown, the Department of Defense would also further reduce already curtailed training and bring routine maintenance to a halt, exacerbating the corrosive effects that sequestration is already having on military readiness. The Department of Defense would be barred from entering most new contracts. That would harm modernization programs.

A shutdown would severely curtail medical services for troops and their families. Commissaries would close, with hundreds of thousands of civilian employees. Workers vital to our defense would be laid off. Outside of the DOD, a shutdown would disrupt some operations in the Department of Veterans Affairs which is providing benefits to those who have served.

Then there is the extraordinary disruption of having to plan for all of this absurdity. As Under Secretary of Defense Hale said on Friday:

Even if a lapse never occurs, the planning itself is disruptive. People are worrying right now about whether their paychecks are going to be delayed, rather than focusing fully on their mission. And while I can't quantify the time being spent to plan, it has or will consume a lot of senior management attention, probably thousands of hours in employee time better spent on supporting national security.

Again, that only covers the impact on our military and on our veterans. While Border Patrol agents and FBI agents would continue to work, they would be putting their lives on the line for an IOU instead for a paycheck. Health clinics would stop taking new patients. Lifesaving research would grind to a halt. The far-reaching effects of a shutdown on government services across the country should give us all pause, as should the fact that a shutdown is likely to damage the all-too-fragile economic recovery.

This has gone on for far too long and Speaker Boehner can end it now.

There is still time for him to bring to the floor of the House of Representatives a clean continuing resolution and avert a government shutdown. For the good of our men and women in uniform and our national security, for the good of our economy, and for the millions of Americans who rely on and who benefit from important Federal programs, I hope the Speaker will allow our bipartisan continuing resolution to be voted on.

I hope that even this late in the game reason is going to prevail. I hold that hope in part because while House Republicans have put tea party ideology ahead of the good of the Nation, many of our Republican colleagues here in the Senate have not. These Members recognize there is a difference between on the one hand debating serious policy preferences and on the other hand threatening government shutdown if you don't get your way.

All of us in the Senate have issues on which we feel every bit as passionately as the opponents of the Affordable Care Act feel about that law. I happen to feel strongly, for instance, that we should have universal background checks for firearms purchases. By the tea party method of proving the strength of my belief, I should threaten a government shutdown if I don't get what I want on that subject. If all of us threaten legislative anarchy in pursuit of our goals, democracy will cease to function.

As appalled as I am that some Members would threaten such damage to our Nation, I am heartened that many of our Republican colleagues here in the Senate have spoken out in opposition to this approach.

When I came to the floor last week to speak on this topic, Senator Ayotte was speaking. I commended her for saying that the American people expect us to keep the government running even though I disagreed with much of what she said about the Affordable Care Act.

I commend Senator Collins for saying a shutdown ``will only further damage our struggling economy'' and that we should resolve our differences ``without resorting to constant brinkmanship and the threat of government shutdown.'' I commend Senator Collins, even though I disagree with her on the Affordable Care Act, for taking that position against a shutdown and for seeing the distinction between fighting hard for what you believe in and threatening to bring down government operations overall if you don't get what you want.

I commend Senator Portman for saying that the differences on the Affordable Care Act ``ought to be handled outside the context of a government shutdown.''

I commend Senator Chambliss for saying that while, in his words, he would love to defund ObamaCare, a government shutdown is ``going to do great harm to the American people if we pursue that course.''

I commend Senator Kirk for saying, ``Let's not shut down the government just because you don't get everything you want.''

There are others who have made that critically important distinction between opposing a certain policy and shutting down the government if one doesn't get his or her way.

I welcome spirited debate. I welcome differences of opinion. As my friend Senator McCain said last week, there was plenty of both during the debate on the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But it is deeply distressing to hear Members of Congress argue that the litmus test of whether you are fighting for your beliefs is whether you are willing to shut down the government if you don't achieve a particular goal. That is more than fighting for your position, that is wanton destruction. I hope at least some House Republicans will come to see the difference between fighting for your goals and sowing anarchy in pursuit of them.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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