Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Deb Fischer
Posted on 2013-10-09
FISCHER. Mr. President, I rise today to give voice to frustrated
Nebraskans. I rise to testify to the simple truth that a government
should not intentionally make life harder for its people. I rise to
say: Enough. Enough press conferences. Enough brinkmanship. Enough
dividing people of good will against one another.
I am still pretty new here, but I can say that in Nebraska and in so many other States across this Nation we actually work together--and not just on small bills but also on the big issues. I urge my colleagues to remember where we came from.
While I served in the Nebraska Legislature, we dealt with a major budget shortfall. We didn't go on TV or Twitter or fight; we legislated and we fixed the problem. That is the Nebraska way. We roll up our sleeves, we cut through the talking points, and we get to work.
Nebraskans are pragmatic. They are well informed, and they expect results. So when Nebraskans look at the dysfunction we have here in Washington, they are frustrated, and I am too. I am very frustrated. I am frustrated that this Congress can't pass appropriations bills that comply with the law. I am frustrated that this Congress cannot agree on a budget. I am frustrated with crisis management instead of responsible governance. I am frustrated with being told one thing only to learn it is just not true. I am frustrated with the willful ignorance that goes on in Washington when it comes to our debt. And I am frustrated with the lack of solutions.
The American people do not want us to just stand in opposition; they want us to put forth constructive ideas to solve problems. As a result of Congress's failure to agree on a spending plan, the government is shut down. The result? Well, in yesterday's Omaha World Herald there was a report that Nebraska farmers are unable to cash checks when they bring their grain in after harvest. The article noted: State law requires elevators to include a lender's name on a check when a farmer has a loan against the grain. With no one at Farm Service Agency offices because of the shutdown, checks can't be cashed when the lender is the FSA.
``We've got millions of dollars of grain checks out there that farmers need,'' said Dan Poppe, president of the Archer (Neb.) Cooperative Credit Union, with locations in Archer, Dannebrog and Central City.
He said entire rural economies count on the money.
``It impacts not only our farmers, who are relying heavily on the money, but also the local grocery store, hardware store, the feed and seed,'' Poppe said.
It is not just farmers and ranchers, it is also our manufacturers and our investors. A constituent from Waco, NB, wrote: I am a Dow employee living in your district. This impasse is beginning to threaten Dow's investment in new U.S. manufacturing. Not only will a continued delay push back Dow's plans to create thousands of new American jobs, it will harm Dow's competitiveness and directly impact me and my family. Greater economic certainty will help Dow, its employees, and our State thrive.
The wife of a Federal law enforcement officer from Gretna wrote: We are a single income family. We have a 2 and 3 year old and one more on the way. I am due in November. This shutdown will leave us unable to pay our bills.
A 23-year-old Department of Agriculture employee emailed me saying: My wife works two jobs to help make ends meet, but we still live paycheck to paycheck. If this shutdown is not resolved within the next few days, we will be devastated financially.
A U.S. Air Force veteran wrote to tell me: I applied for Social Security disability assistance on the 15th of August and my claim had gone for medical review on the 26th of August. I have no money, and I just found out yesterday that because of the shutdown SSA claims are on hold.
A furloughed Federal worker from Omaha called my office to say: We are all tired. We are tired of not getting a budget until the last minute. We are all tired. You guys need to do your job.
I agree. I hear these same messages over and over. Nebraskans are tired of the name calling and the blame games. They want to see government work, and they want to see it work well. They are not fooled by the rhetoric, and they expect us to govern responsibly. I agree. That is why I am talking with my colleagues--not publicly in front of the cameras but privately--to see if we can forge a way forward. But I believe we have to do more than just open the government. That is just the basics. We have to address our $17 trillion debt. It is smothering this country, it is jeopardizing our national security, and it is a threat to our children's future.
Congress will soon vote on increasing the debt ceiling--the sixth debt limit increase in the past 5 years. Our national debt has almost doubled since 2006, and our debt limit has grown twice as much as our economy in the past 2 years. Shouldn't the opposite be true? Meanwhile, our economy's lethargic recovery continues sluggishly along at a rate of 1 to 2 percent. This is unacceptable.
Instead of growing our economy by reducing spending, cutting regulations, and overhauling an outdated tax code, [[Page S7343]] Congress has continued to spend money we just don't have.
I didn't run for office to shut down the government. I ran for office to help hard-working Americans get back to work. I ran for this office to stand for middle-class families who aren't asking government for a hand up, they are just asking that the government stop holding them down. Nebraskans want to know they can provide for their families, and I don't think that is asking too much.
Make no mistake. High public debt depresses economic growth, which in turn dampens job creation. Ironically, our country's debt crisis comes as the Congressional Budget Office is predicting that tax revenues will be at an alltime high--$2.7 trillion in tax revenues. The problem isn't that we have too little revenue, the problem is that we are spending too much.
Part of why Nebraskans are frustrated is that our problems are so clear. We know exactly what they are. There is no mystery here. The American people know you can't keep spending twice what you make. They live within a budget--a budget that must balance--and they expect government to do the same. Our government is a long way from a balanced budget, but we can work at a minimum to try to get there.
Despite these realities, we are not moving forward. For the past several weeks, Members of Congress, the President, and the press have been participants in a circus. After 9 days, there is still no end in sight. Let me repeat that. After 9 days of a government shutdown, there is still no end in sight.
That is not to say there aren't some good ideas out there. Several of my colleagues have offered a number of commonsense proposals that do have broad support. These ideas include repeal of the medical device tax, which was adopted by the Senate as an amendment to its budget resolution by an overwhelming vote of 79 to 20. And this happened in March. Other ideas include a commitment to reducing spending, as required by current law, but we would increase the flexibility for Federal agencies to make smarter cuts. We all agree sequestration is a very clumsy way to cut spending.
That is why we need to provide program managers with the ability to determine which programs are wasteful or less efficient.
It is a matter of setting priorities so we can make wise decisions. That is the Nebraska way, and that is what we need to do in Washington as well.
Senator Collins' sequestration proposal would also allow Congress to continue to exercise oversight on all spending and related cuts. That is important. Even the President has put forth ideas to cut spending by $400 billion over the next 10 years. These offers could give us the framework for a real discussion.
Yet we remain at an impasse, unable to move forward. A nation of movers, thinkers, innovators, and entrepreneurs should not be caught in neutral. We should move forward--always forward, and always building a better future. We are the single greatest nation the world has ever known. We have stood as a sentinel of liberty and economic prosperity for over 200 years, yet we find ourselves no longer able to perform even the most basic functions of government. That is not acceptable. Our forefathers, our constituents, and our children and our grandchildren deserve better.
I am ready to move forward. I am tired of waiting, and I am willing to work with any of my colleagues to find a reasonable solution. So let's get to work.
I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blumenthal). The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.