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National Park Service Operations, Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art, and United State Holocaust Memorial Museum Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I very much thank the ranking member of the subcommittee.

Now, why, the Republicans say, are we not eagerly endorsing their plan? Now suppose someone comes into your neighborhood, builds a barrier around your house, a fence, locks you and your family out, won't let you in. Two days later, they come to you magnanimously and say we've modified your house; we'll let you into one room. And they can't understand why we don't enthusiastically embrace that deal. That's what you're offering here.

Of course we should be funding the National Park Service. Of course we should be funding the CDC and food inspections. Bring up the clean CR and we will do it.

Mr. Speaker, today the Tea Party continues its reckless and damaging government shutdown. Yet in an effort to distract from their irresponsibility, they have offered what they claim is a compromise: to reopen only those agencies of government which they deem, for their own political reasons, to be necessary.

This notion--that the Tea Party can pick and choose which agencies of government to reopen--proceeds from a false premise. It is based on the idea that the Tea Party, which represents one faction of one party in one house of Congress, possesses the unilateral authority to choose which parts of government are worthy and which are unworthy.

This idea is wrong-headed, it is arrogant, and it is astonishingly irresponsible.

The members of the Tea Party are not dictators, nor are they inventing a new government from scratch. They are, rather, the latest in a centuries-long line of democratically elected representatives who have, with the people's mandate, established our entire government.

Yes, that government includes the functions that the Tea Party today has deemed worthwhile: the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, the National Parks Service, and so on.

But it also includes many other functions that the Tea Party has no right to unilaterally reject. Our government includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes loans for small businesses seeking to expand and for students seeking to attend college. It includes food safety inspections and public health research and Head Start. It includes grants to help towns build roads, bridges, and schools. It includes public servants who process applications for Social Security and visas and passports.

If the Tea Party truly believes that the functions they seek to defund today are unnecessary, there is a clear, democratic process by which they can dismantle them. They could introduce a bill to abolish, say, Head Start. That bill could be considered by this House, by the Senate, and by the President--and if it were to pass and were to be signed, it would become the law of the land. That outcome would be, to my mind, catastrophic, but it would at least be constitutional and democratic.

The Tea Party is right about one thing: this government shutdown--which they demanded, incited, and celebrated--is causing great pain. I hope that they are, as they claim to be, dismayed by the suffering they have created. And I hope they will act upon their dismay by finally bringing to the floor a bill to put the entire government back to work, which the Senate already has passed and the President has promised to sign into law.


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