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Public Statements

Continuing Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, from what I heard from those who have just spoken prior to me, it sounds as if we ought to be able to get something done. We listened to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with her commitment to advancing issues through the budget process. I think we too need to go to conference and get that moving.

We are sitting here in a kind of a rarefied world in the Senate Chamber. Some would suggest we live in a little bit of a bubble. Let me tell everyone about the folks who are not living in a bubble: the furloughed Federal employees and those who have been shut out of whatever it is that they had hoped they were going to be doing this past week and those in my State, for instance, who are looking to fill the family freezer.

It is moose season in my State, but now they were told they cannot access any of the refuge lands because Fish and Wildlife has said they cannot access the land regardless of what ANILCA provides and regardless of the full public access to these Federal lands. Those folks who are feeling the real impact of a government shutdown are not living in a bubble.

We just heard the chairman of the Finance Committee talk about the looming threat we are facing as we approach the debt limit, and he refers to a fiscal cliff. In fact, as a nation, we could lose our financial footing. We could go over that fiscal cliff.

For a lot of folks, they are already looking at their own fiscal cliff. They are not waiting for us to figure out what we are going to do or not do when it comes to dealing with the debt limit. They are not getting paid. They are perhaps a small business, such as Seong's Sushi Bar & Chinese, which is located across the street from the Federal Building in Juneau. They are sitting there losing revenues on a daily basis because they don't have the customers they anticipate every day. The folks who frequent Capital Brew, which is a drive-through coffee shop that is also in Juneau across from the Federal Building,

Bill's Mini Cache, which is a snack shop inside the Anchorage Federal building, these are folks who are looking at it, and they are feeling their own fiscal cliff right now, with or without the threat of the debt limit.

So they are looking at us and they are saying: Wait a minute. You told us a couple weeks ago that we were going to avert this shutdown, that we would figure out how we were going to pass a continuing resolution.

We didn't pass a continuing resolution. Somehow, that all gets wrapped up in ObamaCare. They are trying to figure out where the nexus is here between funding the government and what is going on with the Affordable Care Act. They then find out: We are in a government shutdown. What does that mean for me? I am sitting here in Alaska, 4,000 miles from Washington, DC. But then they learn Fish and Wildlife is saying: No, you can't go out and get the moose to put in your freezer to make it through the winter. Or you are the crab fisherman who is waiting at the crab grounds beginning October 15, but the quotas have not yet been determined from within the National Marine Fisheries Service center yet, so you can't go out. The revenues the industry might be able to derive, about $7 million from the sale of great king crab that we would all love--a great market out there--but they are not going to be able to get out in the water because some Federal agency 4,000 miles from home hasn't delivered to them the quota.

So when we talk about these fiscal cliffs, it is not just waiting for us to hit a debt limit. It is what is happening with this government shutdown.

So what they are asking me--and I know each and every one of us is hearing from our constituents--is: So what is your plan? And oh, by the way, you better get on it pretty quick, because you have my attention now. What is the plan? So they see some of the things coming out of the House. The House has these mini efforts to fund a specific section, and it doesn't go anywhere here. We are told: Well, we want to open the whole thing. So if we can't open the whole thing and we can't open a portion of it, nothing happens. Nothing happens. So where is the plan? What are we going to do?

So I am pleased to stand with my friend from Maine Senator Collins as she has described a plan which I think is pretty reasonable. I think it is pretty sensible. When we think about those small, rational, reasonable steps that might get us to a place where we can stop the madness, if you will, break this impasse--a proposal that would pull back on the medical device tax, with an offset, so that we are not eroding, we are not undercutting the revenues that would come in for the Affordable Care Act, a 6-month extension of the continuing resolution, as well as a sequestration with a little bit of flexibility and, oh, let's add in some oversight, it sounds pretty rational.

Some suggest maybe the President doesn't want to do this because it is a small incursion in his signature bill. Do my colleagues know what. Right now, what we need to be thinking about is who we work for, whether it is the crab fisherman who wants to get out in the water and who is waiting for NMFS to step it up, whether it is the family out in Galena who is hoping they are going to be able to get their moose before moose season closes, whether it is the guy at Seong's Sushi Bar and Chinese there in Juneau, or whether it is the Alaska family. I got an e-mail a couple of days ago. This family has been planning for a year to bring all the kids together, including boyfriends and girlfriends. They are going to do a great hike out in the Moab National Park for a week, and they are stuck. Nothing is going on, and their family vacation is ruined.

What about what is going on--this is an amazing one--in the Kenai River, which happens to proceed through some refuge areas. People can still go fishing now, and there is good rainbow fishing out there. But when you move down river through that refuge park, you better bring your lines in because we are going to have enforcement action on the river.

There are so many stories we can all attest to, and some of them are horrible. Some of them, as Senator McCain has indicated, are about families who are grieving the loss of their loved one--someone who has served this country with honor--being denied death benefits.

The country expects us to get our act together, and they expect us to do it without delay. They are not interested in knowing which side is going to gain more leverage the further we delay. Nobody is winning. I tell my friends the Democrats: You are not winning. And I tell my friends the Republicans: We are not winning. The administration is not winning. Everybody is losing when we cannot come together with a plan, with the resolve to do the job we are tasked to do, which is basic governing, and keeping the government open is basic governing.

So whether it is Senator Collins' plan, whether it is an effort that is yet to be created, as the Senator from Arizona challenged us, let's start this now. Let's not delay any further because real people--the people we care for, the people we are charged to help--are hurting right now. This goes beyond mere inconvenience. This is hurt.

So let's do what we have pledged to do. Let's do what we have signed up to do, which is to work together. At the end of the day, this is not going to be a Republican plan or a Democratic plan or a Senate plan or a House plan. It is going to be a plan that allows us to govern.

With that, I thank the Chair and yield the floor.


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