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Public Statements

Default Prevention Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HEITKAMP. Madam President, I was presiding during the last exchange between the great Senators from Louisiana and Tennessee. I was struck because as a junior member of this body I get an opportunity to sit in the chair quite a bit. I would suggest to anyone, if they want to see someone who came to the floor and predicted this outcome--who said it very early on--Senator Corker gave what I call the box canyon speech. He did it repeatedly, because he could see what this would do if we continued to take hard-line positions that really would achieve absolutely no results.

I think Senator Corker has been a champion in calling out all of us to behave responsibly, to behave in a fiscally appropriate way. He has been a great mentor to many of us who are new in this body. We don't always share the same philosophies, but I certainly appreciate his willingness to tell the truth and to speak with common sense. That is really why I came to the floor today.

Initially, when I came here, I thought I would write a book called ``That Makes No Sense,'' talking about all that we do and what we say and how what we do doesn't really match up all that well with what we say. I have to admit that in the last couple of weeks, my father's voice has come to me over and over. My father never went to high school. He had an eighth grade education, but he was part of the greatest generation, a World War II vet. He had an expression for his seven kids, in nine years--seven of us in nine years. When we would do things that he thought lacked common sense, he would say, ``How darn dumb are you?'' I am sure the Presiding Officer knows he didn't use the word ``dumb,'' but I will use that word in the interest of propriety here. So I rise today to talk about what we are doing now that makes no sense.

We have heard in the last hour and a half a lot of discussion about fiscal accountability and fiscal responsibility. Senators have been coming to the floor and speaking about their perspective on how we need to live within our means. I totally agree. But think of this: Think about where we are right now, today, adding to our debt and deficits by a dysfunction that is completely created right here in Washington, DC.

I am going to start by mentioning three things. The first thing is the House of Representatives consistently not voting--not taking up the CR, which was negotiated--short-term, negotiated and agreed to--and not putting that CR on the floor for a vote. Then, the same people who voted to not let people work voted to pay people not to work. Think about what the American public sees when they see that, that we won't let people who want to work--they know their work is piling up. They are committed public servants. The Washington Post has been replete with stories about people who want to get back to their jobs. They want to be public servants. So we vote so they can't go to work, but we pay them not to go to work. We won't let them work, but we pay them not to go to work.

In the meantime, we don't have anyone to check out disaster accounts in North Dakota. We don't have BLM permits being issued in Indian country to help as the struggling Indian nations in my State achieve some economic parity. We don't have things getting done. There is no bill in the House with that headline CR--that is what I call it. It is the headline CR. Whatever is in the headlines, we will pass a bill to fix that. That is no way to run a government. It makes no sense.

Let's talk about the debt. Let's talk about the need to control our debt and have a deficit reduction and a long-term plan to pay down our debt. Why is it important? Because we pay interest on the debt, and every dollar of interest we pay is another dollar we don't have for Head Start, another dollar we don't have for education or research or for higher education. So this is a real problem. What are we doing?

We have people who have said it doesn't matter; we don't need to pay our debt. We can just decide which bills we are going to pay. I am the same as every person in America. They know that when they go to check their credit score--a person goes to the bank to get a car loan, and the bank says: Well, you don't have a high enough credit score so we are going to deny your car loan.

You say: But what is the problem?

They say: Well, you missed a credit card payment and you missed your mortgage payment.

You say: But I always paid my car loan.

That is not the way it works. What they know and what the American people know is that if you do not pay all your bills, your credit rating goes down.

The tragedy is that we are not only going to add to the debt and deficit of this country by playing this brinkmanship, we are going to hurt every American who relies on credit--whether it is for a mortgage, whether it is for a car loan, whether it is for a student loan. We have now linked student loans to this problem.

Think about the dollars and think about what is happening to the American people when we do not do what we need to do. We shut down government but will not let people go to work, will not let people serve the public, but then say: Oh, don't worry, we are going to pay you. And then, by shutting down this government, we have cost millions and millions and billions of dollars, adding to the debt and deficit--dollars we did not have to spend.

Now we are going to play this brinkmanship on our debt limit. We are going to shake up not only the American markets, we are going to add to the interest costs of the American people and of this government. We already have in the markets discounting of our Treasury bills. We already have seen exactly what is going to happen. The longer this impasse stays, the more dramatic this result is going to be.

The vote we took yesterday in the Senate sent a message--and the wrong message, I tell you, the wrong message--to the markets. We need to send the right message. We need to come together. We need to lead from the Senate because the House, which is not even in session today addressing this problem, seems to think there is no problem with the debt limit, there is no problem with not paying our bills, there is no problem with paying people and not letting them work.

Do you know what my dad would say? How darn dumb are you? What I say is that makes no sense because as passionate as I know they are about debt and deficit reduction, the reality is that what we are doing is adding to the debt and deficit.

What we are doing is justifying--justifying--a 5-percent approval rating for the U.S. Congress. Every day we are here that we do not achieve a result, every day we are here that we do not solve this problem, how can you argue that the judgment of the American public is wrong?

I yield the floor.


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