Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Posted on 2013-10-03
MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I rise to speak in morning business. How
much time remains?
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Nineteen minutes.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I rise today in a twofold role. No. 1, I am here under my constitutionally designated responsibility as the Senator from Maryland, duly elected and duly certified. I love representing Maryland. We have 5\1/2\ million of the most wonderful, patriotic, hard-working, philanthropic, community-oriented people you can have.
I also love representing Maryland because in my State we have one of the largest concentrations of civilian agencies in America. They have wonderful names such as the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology that helps to set the standards that enable the private sector to be able to develop the products they can sell around the world. We are home to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We are home to the Consumer Product Safety Commission that looks at a variety of things from children's toys to the safety of our mattresses to make sure they are not flammable. I could go on listing those agencies: the Census Bureau, the National Weather Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which helps to keep the seafood industry safe and operational.
I have a lot of Federal employees, and they are asking me: What are they doing? What I am telling them is that the other side--one faction in one party in one House of government--is prohibiting a reopening of our government because of their failure to take up the Senate continuing funding resolution, which would reopen government for 6 weeks while we work out our fiscal problems.
Their solution is to do this piecemeal. Piecemeal does not work. We cannot do this one agency at a time.
Weren't we proud of our World War II veterans and how plucky and spunky they were when they essentially broke the line to be able to see a memorial in their honor? Absolutely. When the National Park Service put that ban up around it, they were operating under the orders of what a shutdown is. Now, unofficially, that World War II museum is open. But while we say, aren't we proud of our veterans--Yes. Don't blame the National Park Service for closing the World War II memorial. Blame the others for shutting down government. Our veterans--who wanted to see the memorial which salutes them, the greatest generation who fought World War II--should not have to worry about their own government.
Then the other side says: Well, we are going to fund veterans' benefits. We cannot fund veterans' benefits without reopening Social Security and the IRS. I have looked and investigated and worked with my committee on why the veterans had a backlog for disability benefits. One of the ways claims are processed is they not only have to get what the veteran says, but they have to get paperwork from the Social Security Administration and from the Internal Revenue Service to be able to process the claim.
They can beat the drum, raise the flag, sound the bugle all that they [[Page S7151]] want, to say they want to fund veterans' benefits, but unless the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service are reopened, they are still placing our veterans at a disadvantage. We need to reopen the whole government.
While they are doing their piecemeal approach, they are so busy showing off and trying to show their pro-defending America stance--they passed a bill to make sure the military gets paid. Sure, what American would not want our troops in harm's way to get paid? We are for that. But they were so fast and so facile and so showbiz, they forgot the National Guard.
Now they are coming up with a piecemeal approach to add the National Guard. I love the National Guard. We are the home of the fighting 29th. They were heroes in World War II, and they have been heroes in every war since then. I want to see the National Guard helped, but they are kind of Johnny-come-latelies to the piecemeal approach because in their fast-track, showbiz, showoff approach, they forgot the National Guard. Oh, wasn't that a cool thing to do.
I support what Senator Reid just did on each and every one of those piecemeal bills, to add the continuing funding resolution to open all of government. Over the last few days we have shamed them into thinking about the National Institutes of Health. I love the National Institutes of Health. It is in my State. Every day people go to work there to find cures for the dread diseases, such as Alzheimer's and autism, not only for the American people here but also around the world. In a few weeks we will be racing for the cure. Let's race to open government.
In their disdain for civilian agencies, NIH was closed down, but now they are coming up with a piecemeal approach to reopen NIH. Do I want NIH open? Absolutely. Over 70 percent of the people who work there have been laid off. Last year NIH announced--because of its research and work with wonderful academic centers and our private sector to develop biotech and pharmaceutical products--that cancer rates in the United States were reduced by 15 percent. With all of that work, they have now been furloughed.
Some might say: Senator Barb, do the piecemeal. I would love to. But if NIH workers were here, they would say: If you reopen us, it is a hollow opportunity unless you open the FDA. We do the basic research at our institutes, but somebody has to take that research and make use of it in other medical devices, biotech products, or pharmaceuticals. They then go through clinical trials because in this country we want to be sure that whatever you put on your body or in your mouth to help you is safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration does that.
We can do lots of research, and have brilliant ideas that could lead to new and credible solutions for people in pain, agony, and suffering, but unless we can put it into clinical trials and have it go to the FDA, it is a hollow opportunity. If we're going to reopen NIH, we have to reopen the FDA. And guess what. The Food and Drug Administration is furloughed. We pay a good part of the FDA through fees, such as pharmaceutical fees and medical device fees. But guess what. During the shutdown, the government is prohibited from collecting the fees that it is owed.
What is this? This is showbiz politics. This is not pragmatic solutions.
We need to reopen government--reopen the entire government--so it can do the job we have authorized them to do, and have the men and women who do that job be able to come back to work. That is why Senator Reid has--instead of cherry-picking individual items--offered the comprehensive solution that would reopen our government.
This is not only affecting government workers because government workers actually affect the economy. Right this very minute, the President has been in Rockville, MD. I would have loved to have joined him this morning, but I wanted to be here at my duty station. The President was at Rockville Pike, which is a road in Montgomery County that has some of the greatest civilian agencies in the world clustered around it.
He was going to visit the Luis family. They are a minority, woman- owned asphalt contractor. They are a wonderful family and an American success story. They came to this country with just a little money in their pocket but with big dreams in their hearts to have freedom and the opportunity to open a business. They opened an asphalt contracting business which gets most of its business from local, State, and the government for roads. They are the infrastructure people. Not coming up with a way to keep our government open, cancel sequester, and move legislation to fund our physical infrastructure is dramatically affecting them.
Around Rockville Pike, there are several agencies, and I have already said their names: The National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That is affecting businesses up and down Rockville Pike. People aren't buying their groceries, they are not buying gas. I am going to say more about that in a little while.
Remember that Social Security agency I talked about? It is in a neighborhood called Woodlawn in Baltimore. Nine thousand--nine thousand--Social Security workers in Baltimore and around the country have been furloughed. Right near them is the CMS agency which also looks out for our Medicare.
A few blocks from Social Security is the FBI field office. Those FBI agents are on the job--on the job--but they are being paid with IOUs. Do my colleagues know that because of what we have had to do with our budget they don't even have gas for the FBI cars? In a recent book called ``Voices From The Field,'' the FBI agents have spoken out about what is happening to them; that when they get in their car to chase a bad guy or gal, they have to pay for their own gas. What kind of government is this, with all that pomp and strut, the ridicule of our Federal employees? Now this shutdown is humiliating our country and humiliating the people who work for our government, and so on.
Across this Nation and in my own State, because of thousands of Federal employees being furloughed or paid in IOUs, businesses are hurting. I am the daughter of a small business owner. My father owned a small grocery store. I am the granddaughter of a woman entrepreneur--a wonderful woman of Polish heritage who opened a Polish bakery to be able to help her family. Every day they said, ``Good morning, can I help you?'' I know what it is like to be in the retail food business, and I understand what it is like when your customers are facing the fact that they are unemployed. All of these, mom-and-pop stores to the larger agencies, are being affected.
The government shutdown threatens our progress. We know in 1995 and in 1996, it cut our gross domestic product. The shutdown can cost our economy as much as $10 billion a week.
Every week the Small Business Administration, because it is shut down, can't process loans or give technical assistance to small businesses. The International Trade Association, which helps our people sell products around the world--and what is left of our manufacturing sector in Maryland has told me how important our foreign commercial service officers are--is shut down.
The Department of Labor processes applications for visas, for farms, for seafood processors as in my own State. Businesses typically file for visas 2 or 3 months in advance. Because of the shutdown, it is going to affect everybody from citrus farmers in the South to those people who have New England ski resorts. People might say, Oh, that is a Gucci job. A Gucci job in a New England ski resort? I don't think so. It is very important to Vermont and New Hampshire and the citrus farmers down South.
We have to reopen the government. The way we reopen the government is not by a piecemeal approach but by the House taking up the Senate resolution.
I have a lot more to say, and I will say it during the day today. I know my colleague from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, is on the floor. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Defense authorization committee. He is a staunch defender of people. He has been so outspoken on the need for student loans. He has also been so outspoken on the need for energy assistance for poor people with the coming winter. He is a defender of America, a graduate of West Point, and he has been a defender of the little guy [[Page S7152]] and the little gal who should have a government on their side. I want to make sure he has a chance to speak, and I will be back later on to speak on the floor again.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Rhode Island.