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Public Statements

Default Prevention Act of 2013-- Motion to Proceed--

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. Madam President, my colleague, our good friend from Wyoming, has talked about the need to get back to regular order so we can discuss our funding priorities. The fact is, of course, we agree. And the regular order would be to go to conference on the budget the Senate passed way back in March. On a regular basis the Democrats in the Senate have requested unanimous consent to go to conference on that budget. In fact, only a few days ago we put in our 21st request for unanimous consent to go to conference on our budget so we can go to regular order and discuss and debate the priorities that are so important to all of us. Every single time, a Republican Senator has objected to that request.

Like so many of my Democratic colleagues have been doing, I come to the floor again today to discuss the urgent need to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. There can no longer be any doubt that the shutdown is hurting hundreds of thousands of families and businesses throughout our country. I and many of my colleagues have told the stories of these families and businesses and will continue to do so. This shutdown hurts real people in real places all across our country.

Keeping the government running should not be a partisan battle. Yet the Republicans who caused the shutdown in the first place seem to think they would be doing Democrats a favor by reopening the government so that people can get back to work, get paid, and pay their bills. The idea that Congress should simply do its job isn't a favor to Democrats; it is our responsibility to the American people.

The idea that stopping Congress from doing its job is somehow a valuable bargaining chip is incomprehensible to most people. Since the beginning of the shutdown driven by an extreme faction of the Republican Party, people of all walks of life in Hawaii have contacted me. They have shared stories about the impact of the shutdown on their businesses, their families, and their communities.

I talked about the toll of the shutdown on our Federal employees. I have shared stories from small businesses impacted by the closure of our national parks and other attractions. I have also been in contact with Hawaii's business community, our military, our State and local governments, and others. Today I would like to share some more shutdown stories and also underscore that allowing the United States to default on paying its bills would only serve to make things much worse.

One woman wrote to me:

My husband and I are both Federal employees with the Forest Service. We both work in wildland fire. I am currently furloughed and he is working, but of course neither of us will receive a paycheck. We have three children ages 5, 3, and 1. My current day care costs are $2,300 a month. I can't stop paying for day care, because all require a 2-4 week notice and I would lose our spot for when I do go back to work. We have savings, but the money is what we have saved for things like Christmas and a special vacation together since my husband was gone for several months this summer fighting fires. This shutdown is extremely stressful for me and I am very concerned that it is going to go on for several weeks more.

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, representing over 1,000 Hawaii businesses of all sizes, also sent me stories from some of their members.

The president of one business wrote:

Sixty percent of our business is with the Department of Defense. We move military household goods around the world as they are restationed. As a direct result of the government shutdown, we just had to lay off 41 of our 80 employees until this is resolved and the government starts booking moves. We informed the affected employees that all our staff will be working reduced hours. We anticipate that each day of this shutdown is costing the company over $18,000.

Another business owner wrote:

My business is working on opening a fourth location in Aikahi Park Shopping Center. I was advised by our banker that SBA loan approvals and execution may be held up due to this debacle in D.C.

How is that helping to move our economy forward? If we ran our business the way our leaders on Capitol Hill run our country--well, the ``closed for business'' sign would not be far behind.

These are stories about what is happening now as a result of the shutdown.

If the United States were to fail to pay its bills, it would be much worse. Interest rates would skyrocket, our capital markets could freeze, and our Nation's borrowing costs over the long term would require more of our Federal budget. In other words, a default would end up costing our economy and consumers billions of dollars.

Our country has never defaulted before. The consequences of such a default are so serious that everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Manufacturers has warned the Republicans in particular to avoid such a catastrophe. Even the uncertainty of a possible default is enough to hurt middle-class families and businesses.

For example, after the last manufactured fiscal fiasco in 2011, mortgage interest rates rose. If you were a family looking to refinance or buy a new home, your mortgage would have cost you $100 per month more after the United States nearly defaulted than it would have cost before. That means $100 less for families across the country to spend on groceries, gas, and other items. For most working people, $100 means a lot. Imagine piling another $100 or more on the family with three young children I mentioned earlier. We can't do that to them or other families like them. Remember, in 2011 we didn't default. The uncertainty alone caused mortgage interest rates to rise. It would have been much worse if there had been a default. Yet here we are again.

It is incomprehensible that there are default deniers among my colleagues who refuse to believe that default would be catastrophic for all of us when we have the 2011 experience staring us in the face. A default would be like an immediate tax on everything middle-class families do. If interest rates explode, the cost of living in Hawaii and everywhere else would rise. Student loan rates would go up. That would reduce access to a quality education for many people. Credit cards, car payments, mortgages--all of these would become more expensive. The cost of doing business would go up. The cost of borrowing money to start or keep businesses going would go up. There is not a single good result that would come from our country defaulting on paying its debts.

As I mentioned in the past few months, a government shutdown doesn't give businesses a pause in meeting their commitments. They still have to pay rent, maintain staff, and pay to keep the lights on. Imagine if the cost of all of these suddenly went on and still nothing was coming in. That is exactly where many businesses would find themselves if the United States defaults.

In addition, with our economy still recovering from the economic crisis of 2008, finally we have businesses contemplating growing, and those plans will likely be put on hold or abandoned altogether. We should be growing jobs, strengthening the middle class, and creating opportunities for our families and businesses. A default crisis would do exactly the opposite.

In day 12 of the shutdown and with the potential of default looming on the horizon, it is way past time to give our families, businesses, and communities certainty and security. We need to open the government and avoid a totally manufactured catastrophe. Let's get on with it. I am disappointed that our Republican colleagues yesterday failed to support going forward to do just that. I ask them to reconsider their position so that we can find a path that protects our families, our communities, and our economy.

I yield the floor.


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