Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Charles E. Schumer
Posted on 2013-10-02
SCHUMER. My good friend, whom I saw in the gym this morning,
sometimes stretches credulity. Who shut down the government? Was it
Harry Reid? No. He kept passing messages to keep the government going.
Was it Barack Obama? No. We all know who it was. It was the small band
of tea party people in the House. It was his junior colleague in the
Senate, Ted Cruz, who had the idea of shutting down the government.
As Leader Reid said yesterday, we are not in 1984. Truth has some degree of credulity. For my colleague from Texas to get up and say: Harry Reid and Barack Obama open the government, when his junior colleague led the charge to shut it down, when the cries of the tea party are ``shut it down,'' and we are desperately trying to keep it open makes no sense and it is not going to wash.
One of the amazing things about our politics is how rhetoric has become so detached from reality, and then we have talk radio and some of the networks, FOX News, that repeat it. I saw a cartoon in the New York Post yesterday saying that Senators and Congressmen are exempt from ObamaCare. That is just not true. We are part of ObamaCare, and we will join the exchange--I will and so will my colleagues--because that is what they have to do.
But that doesn't even matter. The hard right is so angry at ObamaCare and, frankly, at President Obama and the fact he just trounced them in 2012 in an election that was run on their issues. They are so angry and white hot that their rhetoric just becomes totally detached from reality and totally detached from the truth.
I feel badly for the veterans who couldn't get to the memorial. But why was the government shut down? Because Speaker Boehner and the House wouldn't keep it open. Senator Cornyn and many other Republicans paved the way for us to open the government with a vote to allow us to go forward. That got 25 Republicans, even though Ted Cruz, his junior colleague, was urging him not to vote that way. That was the right vote. We know that. He knew, Senator Cornyn did, to his credit, that shutting down the government was bad. So on the one procedural vote that mattered, where he could have had the Senate say shut down the government, he voted the other way.
The real onus here is on Speaker Boehner. The entire focus of this debate should be on Speaker Boehner. Some might say it should be on Mr. Cruz, the Senator from Texas. Some might say it should be on the 30 or 40 hard-line tea party people in the House. But in my view it is the Speaker of the House who has the responsibility not to listen to a small faction of his party when so much is at stake. Instead, Speaker Boehner seems to be listening to the junior Senator from Texas. The junior Senator from Texas has become the de facto Speaker of the House. If he says jump, the House jumps.
The junior Senator wanted the House to embark on a crusade to defund ObamaCare, so the Speaker, Speaker Boehner, did it. The junior Senator from Texas told the House to delay ObamaCare for 1 year, so the Speaker, Speaker Boehner, did it. Now this junior Senator from Texas is telling the House to pass piecemeal bills in a cynical attempt to pit important programs against each other, and now the Speaker is trying to do just that.
Senator Cruz has driven Speaker Boehner to pit kids who should be enrolled in Head Start against kids who should be enrolled in cancer trials. He has driven the Speaker to pick families who want to visit the Statue of Liberty against families who own a small business and need help from the SBA. He has pitted research and cancer against health care for our veterans.
It is a cynical strategy. Similar to all the others they have sent us and that have failed, as these will fail today, it has one purpose: not to get anything done but to try and wiggle out of this view that they have shut down the government. Senator Cornyn's rhetoric will not work. It is too far detached from reality.
So Speaker Boehner tries to come up with these gizmos, these gimmicks, these legislative ploys to say: Hey, I am trying to do something. At the same time he is in the vice grip of the tea party members of the House who are taking their orders from the junior Senator from Texas.
There is a simple way to open the government, I would say to my friend--and he is my friend, Senator Cornyn of Texas--and my other colleagues on the Republican side in the House.
[[Page S7110]] There is a bill sitting there waiting for a vote. It will open NIH, it will open the Veterans' Administration, it will open the World War II memorial, it will open the Statue of Liberty so the guy with the little sandwich shop right by the Statue of Liberty can get some business back. Make no mistake about it: This crisis doesn't just hurt the Federal Government. It doesn't even just hurt 800,000 families who aren't getting the paychecks on which they depend. This is not abstract. It hurts lots of private sector people as well, whether they be construction workers building a road using Federal dollars or the veteran waiting for that disability claim to come through or the guy with the sandwich shop next to the closed Statue of Liberty who is making those sandwiches. It is not abstract. I get a little resentful when I hear my colleagues talk about the Federal Government as if it is some big ogre; shut it down.
If you watched Rachel Maddow the other night, she had a variety of tea party congressmen who were running for the Congress in 2010 who said they were going to shut the government down. I think it was Congressman Mulvaney of South Carolina who said: When I get to Congress, I am going to shut the government down. And the tea party audience cheered and said ``shut it down'' before they even had a plan because they hate the Federal Government so much. That is the goal, to shut it down. ObamaCare is an excuse.
Mainstream Republicans know that shutting the government down is a bad thing and know that they are indeed paying a political price. So Speaker Boehner should follow the majority and stop being scared of the tea party. He will face them down easily in a challenge for Speaker. Speaker Boehner knows, as the ``National Review'' said this morning, that more than 100 House Republicans would vote for our bill to reopen the government if he put it on the floor. Instead, Republicans are wasting time on political stunts in asking to go to conference on a short-term CR.
The Republicans have this exactly backward. They say: Let's talk, and then maybe we will open the government. They ought to say: We will open the government, and then we can talk. If Republicans would simply switch all the lights back on, allow hundreds of thousands of furloughed Federal employees to go back to work, allow cancer research to continue, veterans to get their disability claims, kids to go back into Head Start, we could have a discussion about the budget, which they rejected 18 times.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Washington.