Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Posted on 2013-10-01
MIKULSKI. Madam President, I rise to continue the discussion on
the situation in which we find ourselves, which is that the entire
Government of the United States of America has been shut down, and
those Federal employees who are working are working without pay.
This is a terrible situation. I implore the House to pass a clean short-term continuing funding resolution that the Senate sent over to them 4 days ago so we can reopen the government. Let's reopen the government. Let's reopen the Government of the United States of America. The way we reopen the government is to pass the Senate continuing funding resolution.
What would it do? It would fund the government at fiscal 2013 levels. That doesn't mean it adds new money; so there is no new money. It is keeping us at current spending levels. We would have a short-term continuing resolution until November 15 while we work out other issues, and then we can get over the speed bump of raising the debt ceiling. I believe that is the path forward.
Where we are now has terrible consequences. It has terrible consequences for our economy. It has terrible consequences for our standing in the world. It has terrible consequences for the functioning of our government.
We are speaking now about a shutdown of the government. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of men and women who work for the Federal Government who signed up to do a job in the service of their Nation. They have literally, with the passing hours, had to either take a furlough--and a furlough means we have essentially laid them off; we have laid them off--or they are working because their work is essential, such as an FBI agent, but they are not getting paid. We are paying them with IOUs. This is not the United States of America.
I am thinking about those people who are working every single day. Let me paint a picture for my colleagues. In my own State, we are the headquarters to the National Weather Agency. People who watch TV think they get their weather news from either the Weather Channel or they get it from their local TV or radio station through doppler radar. It is terrific. But guess where they get their information. They get it from their Federal Government. They get it from the weather forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who work hard every day predicting the weather and getting out the information that news people can use in their own community. So if a person is a farmer, he is getting that information. If a person is a waterman who works on the Chesapeake Bay and he has to make sure the storm is not coming while he is out there crabbing or oystering to keep his business going, he needs to know the weather. Whether a person is a county executive or a mayor, people need to know what their weather is going to be. So they have been on the job, whether they have been predicting hurricanes or tornadoes or giving us the basic day-to-day information. The weather forecasters are at their duty station, but what are we saying to them now? Guess what. Be there, but we are not going to pay you except through IOUs.
[[Page S7079]] Yesterday I spoke about the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration in my State. There is another major agency which is not in my State but very important to the functioning of our country: the Centers for Disease Control. Right now, they are working down there in Georgia. What is the Centers for Disease Control? What is their job? Their job is exactly that: disease control. When veterans and other people were ill and getting sick in a hospital in Philadelphia, they were called in because they are our top biosleuths in America. They are our own bioforensic scientists, our own bio-CSI team. They were the ones who found out about something called Legionnaires' Disease, and they helped those people who got sick in that hotel, and were able to put out that information. They are the ones who are standing sentry to make sure there is no emerging surprise or pandemic in the world. They are the ones who are gathering information now to know the latest threats to the health and safety of the United States of America.
What is it they are doing? If a person is a pediatrician, they are watching the CDC to see what are the latest causes of ear infections that could be infecting children and the right treatment to help them, the right treatment for their doctors to be able to know. That is what they do. When their labs are being closed, it leaves States on their own--State health departments--to be able to look out for antibiotic- resistant viruses and other infectious diseases, and a variety of other kinds of things. We need the Centers for Disease Control. They employ thousands of people in Atlanta, GA. Yet we are telling them: Well, maybe not the way we need you.
Yesterday, the President passed a bill to guarantee military personnel be paid on time. We support that. But what is missing from the bill is important. The intelligence community, made up mostly of civilians, will not be covered. It means that over 72 percent who work in our intelligence agencies will either face furloughs or will be working with IOUs.
Who else involved in our national security is not covered? We didn't cover border security. We didn't cover FBI. We didn't cover DEA. We didn't cover the U.S. Marshals. What are the marshals doing? It is not like Wyatt Earp. Marshals aren't just out there like cowboys in a Wild West movie when we watch a miniseries. The Marshals Service is very important. Do my colleagues know what they are doing in Maryland right now? First of all, they provide security in the courthouse. They do the security to protect the judges. We have some of the most violent gangs and criminals coming in and the marshals need to protect those who are enforcing the law through the judicial system.
They are also going after the sexual predators. They are the ones who track all of the evidence and go after sexual predators to make sure they are not loose in the neighborhoods, and they are working with local law enforcement.
They also go after missing fugitives. We know about the big signs that say ``Ten Most Wanted.'' Well, guess who goes after them. The Marshals Service. That is one of their primary responsibilities. That is what Federal law enforcement is. These employees are also critical to national security.
Trying to do this piecemeal--oh, we have looked out for our troops. We should look out for our troops. But while we look out for our troops, we should look out for those who come back home.
I know the Presiding Officer and others have been strong supporters of our veterans. I am a strong supporter of our veterans. Many of the services being performed by the VA are open, such as VA health care, but there are other services where we have to delay the backlog on veterans' cases, veterans' disability benefits. Through appropriations, we have actually put money in the Federal checkbook to deal with more training, more overtime to reduce this backlog.
When we speak about shutdowns, I want to take a moment to talk about my own office in relationship to veterans. I am the longest serving woman in Senate history. It is a great honor. In my 25 years as a Senator and after 25 years as the senior woman here, I have only closed down my office twice: once in 1995 and this morning. I cannot express to my colleagues the heavy heart I had when I talked to my staff. My staff is a great staff. Whether they are working in Maryland or whether they are working here in Washington, we are a local phone call away to 6 million Marylanders. Of those people who work for me, one is a young lady. I hope I don't embarrass her if she is watching TV. Her name is Denise. Denise has worked for me for 30 years, back when I was in the House of Representatives and now as a Senator. She is a caseworker, a constituent service worker. For 30 years she has specialized in helping me respond to the needs of veterans. Veterans all over Maryland love her. They depend on her, and I depend on her so that I can help those veterans.
I know my time has expired, but Denise's time on the job shouldn't expire. I want to make sure Denise is on her job. I want to reopen my office. I want to make sure we reopen government. We can do that if we pass the Senate continuing resolution.
Hello to the House. Don't send us piecemeal. Let the House vote on the Senate bill. No gag rule in the House. Free the House, open the House, open government, and let's get the job done.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.