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Public Statements

Continuing Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, we are in day 4 of a tea party Republican shutdown. We need to be very clear as to how we got here. The Senate majority leader negotiated with the Speaker of the House, and after a long negotiation in which the Senate made major concessions, we agreed to pass a 6-week funding bill for services of the government, to keep services open while we negotiate the larger issues around the budget.

We passed a bill with the funding levels asked for by the House Republicans. Republicans asked that we continue funding below the levels we believe are necessary to grow the economy for 6 weeks. Rather than having a government shutdown, at the time we believed it was in the interests of the American people, of all of those who provide those important services to us, that we, in fact, agree with the House on a 6-week extension. We sent it over to them, asked for by the Speaker, agreed to by the Senate. There it has sat.

Let me quote again from Congressman Dent--a Republican colleague of Speaker Boehner's--who said last night on ``PBS NewsHour'':

I do believe it's imperative that we do have a clean funding bill, a straight funding bill to fund the government. That was the intent of the Republican leadership all along. But obviously there were a few dozen folks in the House Republican conference who were not prepared to vote for a clean bill and that is why we are in the situation we are in.

``A few dozen folks''--part of this tea party wing. He said: That is why we are where we are today.

You can overcome that very simply. Just bring the bill that the Speaker said he wanted, that we were willing to agree to for short-term funding of Federal services, bring it to the floor, and those few dozen folks can vote no and everybody else can vote yes. Then we would have the government back open. So it is truly a question of just letting the House vote. Just vote. Right now, today, before 5:00, we could be done with this irresponsible action. We could then make sure the Federal Government can pay its bills and not default and at the same time go to conference to negotiate the larger budget issues, which we need to do, but that is not what is happening.

So it is now day 4. Government services are still closed. The bill that could open them--which has a majority vote, which has Republicans and Democrats--is sitting in the House because admittedly Republican Members of the House are saying a few dozen folks did not like it.

Well, in our great democracy, our Founders said majority rules, but somehow we seem to have forgotten that around here. We have elections. The person who gets the majority wins. The others are not happy. They lose. Majority rules. Same thing happens on legislation.

So now we are in a situation with a group defined as ``a few dozen folks'' in the House driving the train because there is no leadership in the House to bring up the vote and be able to pass this continuing resolution with a bipartisan vote.

We are paying a very big cost right now as a country waiting for the House to vote. Nearly 800,000 people have been laid off--800,000 people. We are just barely coming out of the recession. We are coming back. We are creating jobs--not enough. When this President came in, we had six people looking for work for one job. Now it is down to three people looking for work for one job. That is better. It is not good enough. There is more to do, and we all know it. So what is the response? Well, let's just lay off 800,000 people in the middle of this effort to try to bring a middle class roaring back in this country.

There are about 7,500 people in my State of Michigan who are providing important services, people who are in middle-class jobs, have a mortgage, have at least one car payment, many sending their kids to college, trying to make sure they can care for their families, proud of what they do providing various public services that we all benefit from, and they are now sitting and waiting.

It is costing our country about $300 million a day--$300 million a day--ind productivity, $300 million a day that we cannot afford to lose. This could all be ended in 5 minutes if the Speaker of the House would just allow a vote on a bill that contains the funding levels that the Speaker himself asked for, not those that we would like to see because on a longer term negotiation, we are going to fight very hard to increase opportunities for education and innovation, focusing more on economic growth and jobs. This is a number asked for for a short-term continuing resolution for 6 weeks. They evidently cannot take ``yes'' for an answer.
Today I had an opportunity to meet a wonderful little boy named Kai who is 2 years old. He and his mom Anna were with us talking about the impact on the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and other public health functions for our country and what it means to families.

Kai was born with a heart defect. He has had two bypass surgeries now in just his 2 little years of life. Thanks to a clinical trial at the Children's National Health System, Kai was able to get innovative treatment that he needs. He was running all over the place this morning, a great success story.

The things we do together as a country are what we should be proud of. The work that is being done by our doctors and researchers at places such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration are literally saving lives. These men and women who are now furloughed, not working because of the shutdown, have gone through years of training. They are dedicated. They love what they do. These are some of the top experts on infectious diseases and food safety and cancer research in the country and in the world. Right now they are sitting at home, maybe watching us, trying to figure out what the heck is going on--or stronger language. They are not allowed to work. If they are working, they are not working with pay, all because of a few dozen folks in the House of Representatives, tea party folks who are running the show in the House who have decided they want to shut the entire government down over the Affordable Care Act, over the fact that we believe--the country believes there had to be a way to find affordable insurance for 30 million folks who have not been able to find and purchase affordable insurance.

The director of the division at the CDC that monitors food-borne illnesses--scary stuff like E. coli outbreaks--said recently he has three people working in his whole department right now--three people for our country monitoring food-borne illnesses, three people in charge of tracking every possible case of food-borne illness in the entire country.

This needs to be a wake-up call. It is time to get the government open so that people can go back to work who are in positions to monitor and protect our public health, the defense of this country, educational opportunities, and the safety of our country. Get these CDC officials back to work and make sure our families are safe.

CBS News reports that the Centers for Disease Control headquarters, which is in Atlanta, GA, is a ghost town. Folks who monitor infectious diseases have 6,000 employees in Atlanta, GA, and they are calling it a ghost town--in America, the greatest country in the world. The Director of the CDC, the Nation's top doctor in charge of infectious diseases, said he is ``losing sleep'' because ``I do not know that we will be able to find and stop the things that might kill people.''

I ask unanimous consent for 1 additional minute.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Ms. STABENOW. Let me go on and conclude. We heard on the floor earlier from the junior Senator from Texas, who spoke eloquently about the great work being done by the veterans health care system. It is unfortunate that it took a government shutdown for my colleague, I might say through the Chair, to understand how important a completely government-run health system is. The VA is completely government run and funded.

My colleagues who are opposing people buying private insurance through private exchanges and making their own decisions about what works for them, who are saying it is the end of the world if families can buy insurance that is more affordable for them and that they can actually get what they are paying for because insurance companies cannot kick them off when they get sick or block them from getting insurance if they have a preexisting condition--they are saying that is awful, but a completely government-run health care system called the VA should be funded.

I happen to agree with that. Our system through the VA is important for veterans. We need to keep it funded. We need to keep the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, and every other part of our important system funded.

The House needs to vote.

I yield the floor.


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