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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PAYNE. I would like to thank the gentleman from Nevada for chairing this hour tonight.

And just as I reflect, Mr. Speaker, on the comments made by those fifth graders, well, I'm glad I'm in tune with them because, you see, through this whole ordeal, I have spoken about people who have narrow agendas, where they're only thinking of themselves and not the totality of the common good in the United States. Because, you see, it's disingenuous and hypocritical to one day vote for a shutdown of the government and the next day show up at the World War II Memorial and stand with the veterans saying this is horrendous what has happened. You can't have it both ways.

I did not vote for a shutdown of the government, so maybe I should have been there at the World War II Memorial, saying the things that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been saying as they voted to shut down the memorial.

I want to share a story with you from a young lady in my district just a day or two ago. She's a young mother in Newark, New Jersey. I represent the people of that town. She went to the young fathers program at Rutgers University with her 2-year-old daughter. Due to the government shutdown, this young mother no longer is receiving her WIC benefits. And in desperation, she is reaching out to anyone and everyone for help, as her child literally starves from lack of nutrition assistance. She doesn't know where to go or who to turn to. She feels totally alone. She doesn't know how she'll feed her child or how she'll make ends meet.

This story breaks my heart, and, unfortunately, she is not alone. There are millions of pregnant women and new mothers just like her across the country who don't know how they'll feed their child. And what breaks my heart even more is knowing that Congress has the power to open this government tonight. The votes are here, Mr. Speaker. Let's pass a clean CR.

Make no mistake, this is a Republican government shutdown. The extreme faction got exactly what they wanted. Well, I ask you, did the American people get exactly what they wanted? The people I represent didn't. Families across New Jersey's Tenth Congressional District who won't get the Hurricane Sandy relief that they were counting on didn't. Veterans who put their lives on the line for this country didn't. Low-income children kicked off of Head Start didn't. The 31,000 furloughed Federal workers in New Jersey didn't. The 9 million women, infants, and youngsters who rely on the WIC program certainly didn't.

So I ask, Who are my Republican colleagues listening to? Whose interests are they representing? Instead of reopening the entire government for everyone, House Republicans hold the country hostage with their piecemeal approach, picking winners and losers, choosing which parts of the government are worthy of opening. We must open the entire government and do what we can to do it today.

Mr. Speaker, 200 Democrats have signed a petition to bring a bill to the floor that would open the government today, and more than 20 Republicans have said they would also vote for the bill. So we have the votes. The question is, why won't Speaker Boehner bring the bill to the floor, one that he knows will pass, one that would reopen the government today? Because it's not too much to ask Members of Congress to do their job. It's not too much to ask to reopen the government and pay our bills on time. The people I represent have to do their jobs and pay their bills on time every single day. Why can't the leaders of this Nation do the same?

With every day that goes by, the more we drive up the costs for the American people, the more we threaten the stability of our Nation's economy. We cannot keep the government closed, and we cannot default on our debt. So I strongly urge my Republican colleagues to stand up for the American people, bring a bill to the floor that would reopen the government today, and let's start doing the job expected of us and continue to move our country forward, not punish the American people by moving it backwards.


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