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Default Prevention Act of 2013 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I will be speaking later this afternoon with regard to the judges, but I have heard a number of people, including the distinguished senior Senator from Connecticut and others on the floor, speaking about the effect of the shutdown. I appreciate my colleagues who come and give real-world statements of how what is happening here impacts their constituents.

I was just in Vermont and had the opportunity to talk with people, many of whom I have known for years, about how they are being effected by the shutdown. These are hard-working people who work for our government. They have skills our government needs. They are being furloughed through no fault of their own.

They said: I know I am getting paid less in the government, but I have a skill and the country has done so much for me and my family, it is a way to give back, but I am not going to tell my children to do that. They are well educated. I am not going to tell them to do that, to get treated this way.

What is going to happen is we are going to have a lot of these furloughed people who will say the heck with it. They will leave government service. These are experts in our intelligence services, the Department of Defense, medical research, and other areas. What will happen when we try to replace them? We will be scrambling around, hiring contractors, paying a lot more for people without the skills and experience.

The private sector is being impacted. I have used the example of a person who has a microbrewery in Vermont. He put a lot of money and effort into a seasonal brew and was prepared to go with it during what we call the leaf-peeping season, the fall foliage season, in Vermont, but he needs an approval stamp from the Department of Agriculture, but the people who would give him the approval he needs have been furloughed.

There are a number of people who may need a passport for an emergency, a family member is abroad and ill and somebody has to get on a plane. A lot passports get issued in St. Albans, Vermont, but the employees at the passport office are not allowed to go to work and get their job done.

Those who have questions of the IRS that they need for their businesses, normally they could call them, but the IRS is closed.

In another area--and someone in the press asked me about this a few moments ago--what about the court system. Our Federal court system is facing some very serious problems. If there is a criminal case, because of our speedy trial rules, that goes to the head of the line. We also have, since Gideon v. Wainwright, the fact that criminal defendants are entitled to counsel. But the counsel might not be there. Defenders' offices might have to furlough staff.

Courts can't keep asking the same lawyers to just volunteer their time; maybe they will get paid and maybe they will not, and if they do, it is going to be far less than they make otherwise.

What happens is that those criminal cases start backing up. Then if there is a legitimate civil case one wishes to bring, good luck in the Federal courts. They could wait year after year after year to have their case heard. By the time their case makes it in front of a judge, whatever remedy they might have is going to be inadequate because of the delay. Justice delayed is justice denied.

This is happening in our Federal courts as the money runs out because we have not passed a Continuing Resolution to fund our co-equal branch of government. Combined with the funding cuts to the courts due to sequestration and the 93 current Federal district and circuit judgeships that are vacant 39 of which have been deemed judicial emergency vacancies because the caseloads are so high and it is not difficult to see that our courts need us act. Fortunately, we will have one judge from Illinois and one judge from Alabama confirmed this afternoon--but we have a shortage of judges because of vacancies and because we are having to wait months and months before we are able to vote on uncontroversial nominees, who in the past would have been confirmed within days.

I could give 1,000 examples, but the ripple effect on real Americans is awful. We see a salmonella outbreak in the West. We know our Department of Agriculture inspectors are out there checking--oh, wait a minute, they are not. They are furloughed or many of them are. What do we do there?

As to areas where there are ports, normally busy ports, is shipping coming in and out or is it being slowed because there are suddenly less people?

I know when I talk to the FBI, they tell me about investigations they can't go forward with or can't complete because of furloughs.

We had this horrific bus accident in the South a couple of weeks ago. I cannot imagine the grief those families must feel for those who were lost. What I found shocking was that after the accident our National Transportation Safety Board couldn't send a team down to find out what happened and whether there is anything that can be learned to prevent similar crashes because their investigators are furloughed.

I know the distinguished Presiding Officer has stood and worked hard on this floor, in our caucuses, and with others to get the government back open and to get us to do the right thing. I am preaching to the converted.

I see our deputy leader, the distinguished senior leader from Illinois, who has spoken not only on this floor but in the national media for the need to reopen.

I yield the floor to the distinguished Senator from Illinois. I thank the Senator for what he is doing, as I stopped in to thank our majority leader for standing strongly on this to reopen the government.

I yield the floor.


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