Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2013-10-01
REID. Mr. President, my friend the Republican leader spoke as if
George Orwell wrote his speech. This is ``1984,'' where up is down,
down is up, east is west. All one needs to do is look at the press. We
have a situation where we have a good day for the anarchists. Why?
Because the government is closed. Speaker Boehner and his band of tea
party radicals have done the unthinkable: They have shut down the
Federal Government. Now, for us, that is hard to comprehend as being
good. For them, they like it.
In Nevada today--7 o'clock in the morning out there--they are closing the Great Basin National Park. There will be some security folks around, but the visitor center will be closed. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Las Vegas where we have 600,000 people a year visit--not anymore--it will be closed. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area--over 1 million people go there every year. No, the visitor center will be closed.
This situation involves people who work cleaning offices, people who are security folks for our Federal buildings--they will probably be able to hang around--people who really need a job. I talked last week a little on the floor about a woman who came to my event last Thursday. She works for the National Park Service. She has worked there all of her adult life. She knows what it is like to have a government shutdown because she was there when the last one occurred. They never got that money back. She is struggling because she doesn't make that much money, and now her job is gone. It is that way all over America. And why? To extract political concessions through hostage-taking over one issue-- one issue--ObamaCare.
The exchanges in Nevada kick in today. Approximately 600,000 Nevadans will be eligible for ObamaCare. These are 600,000 people who have no health insurance. Today they can search around on the exchanges that have been developed there by a Republican Governor, and they can get a policy for as little as $100 a month--$100 a month--and then if they get hurt they can go see a doctor or go to a hospital and not be embarrassed because they have no money.
What the American people must understand is that the House of Representatives did not close the government. It was the Republicans in the House of Representatives who closed the government. The House of Representatives has 435 Members, but, no, they were not allowed to vote on keeping the government open; they are so fixated on ObamaCare. But that is happening all over America today, and that is one thing not being heard. The President has said it is going forward full bore, and that is welcome news for as many as 30 million people in America who have no health insurance. So Members of the House of Representatives were unable to vote to keep the government open--only the Republicans.
Patty Murray, who is from the State of Washington and is chair of the Budget Committee, has worked hard, leading the Senate in passing a budget. She did that 6 months ago. The budget she passed is different from the one that passed the House of Representatives.
For generations, for hundreds of years in the Congress of the United States, when there have been two separate pieces of legislation, we have gone to conference. This is something you learn about in elementary school. When the House has passed something and the Senate has passed something, what do you do? You sit down together in an open forum and work out the differences. That is how we have always done it--until the tea party took over.
Senator Murray has asked to go to conference 18 times. The senior Senator from Arizona has asked eight times himself. By the way, the senior Senator from Arizona is a Republican. But there has been an objection. No conference. And this has gone on for 6 months. But as the clock ticked past midnight and the Federal Government officially barred the doors and hung a ``closed for business'' sign out, Speaker Boehner demanded the very conference they have shunned us on for 6 months. This display, I would hope, would be embarrassing to House Republicans and Senate Republicans. What a deal.
So I say to the Speaker: We are happy to negotiate a budget. We have been trying to for months. And we have not only Senator Murray, who has been anxious to get to the budget, but we have had Senator Mikulski, a powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who can't do anything until we get a budget. So if the House passes the piece of legislation they have over there to keep the country [[Page S7067]] functioning again, to reopen government, we will be happy to go to conference. Why wouldn't we? We have been trying to do it for 6 months. Hopefully that would lead to a long-term responsible budget agreement with our Republican counterparts. That is what conferences are all about. We have been asking to do that for months and months--but not with the government closed.
Every day that the Speaker refuses to pass the bill they have over there, the resolution they have over there, and reopen the government, the American economy loses billions of dollars--billions of dollars.
The conservative business community has warned of the grave consequence of this shutdown. This shutdown couldn't come at a worse time, just as the economy is beginning to gain steam. The shutdown has furloughed half of the civilian workforce. At Nellis Air Force Base, one of the largest military installations in America, the civilian workforce there is coming to work today to close their offices. There are some exceptions, but certainly three-quarters of them.
The Centers for Disease Control has basically ceased their functions as to what happens if there is a bad flu epidemic someplace or some kind of an outbreak that they control.
Checks will go out for Social Security and our disabled veterans will get their checks. But if you have just come back from Afghanistan or Iraq, sorry, no new applications will be received. No passport applications will be processed. That is pretty important for tourist economies such as Las Vegas. No small business loans will be issued. We talked about the national parks. Millions of Federal workers will be sent home without pay. Thousands and thousands in Nevada are sitting home today, waiting for Congress to act.
As this economic reality kicks in, we need the Republicans also to kick in as to what is reality. I have had a number of Republican Senators come to me and say, You have got to give them something on ObamaCare. What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with the fixation on a law of this country that has been a law for 4 years? I remind everyone again, the United States Supreme Court said it is constitutional. What is wrong with this picture: We will be happy if you give us something to hurt ObamaCare? No matter how many times they try to extort the American people and the Democrats here in the Senate, we are not going to relitigate the health care issue. We are not going to do that. If they have problems with that bill, we will be happy to sit down and talk with them about a reasonable approach. But we are not going to do it with a gun to the heads of the American people.
Frankly, it is too late to avert the worst effects of the shutdown, but it is not too late to send the Federal employees back to work. The solution is as clear this morning as it was last night: Reopen the government. Let all 435 Members of the House of Representatives vote on the legislation they have from us. Then if they want to sit down in a sensible way and talk about Patty Murray's budget, we will do that; if they want to talk about the appropriations bills of Senator Mikulski, we will do that--as soon as the House takes a simple, reasonable action; that is, put the American Federal workers back on the job and we can begin the process of negotiating a long-term budget deal. We have been trying to do it for 6 months through the regular order of conference committee and continue to want to do that. But there is no time to waste. Every minute the Federal Government is closed shuts down American families, it costs jobs. Every week the Federal Government is shut down, the economy loses more than $30 billion. It is time for Republicans to stop obsessing over old battles.
I say to my Republican friends, ObamaCare is over. It has passed. It is the law. And all over America today and for the next 3 months millions of people will sign up. Remember what I said about Nevada: You can buy a policy in Nevada for $100 a month. In the State of Alaska, I was told there is no premium. It varies State to State. People who have never had health insurance will be able to get it.
I talked here on the floor 1 or 2 days ago. I know what it is like not to have the ability to go to a doctor or hospital. I know that. People have to understand that is not good. It is hard when you or a loved one is hurt or sick and you have nowhere to go. That is what this is all about.
I have respect and admiration for my Republican friends. Every one of them is an accomplished person or they wouldn't be in the Senate. But don't say to me that we are happy to open the government if you give us an arrow we can put in our quiver and say we hurt ObamaCare. It is the law.
I repeat what is a fact: The Republicans hated Social Security and they hated Medicare. How do people feel about Social Security and Medicare today? They feel really good. And that is the same with ObamaCare. People understand how good ObamaCare has been already if you are old and want to get a wellness check or if you have to buy pharmaceuticals. In the sparsely populated State of Nevada they have saved millions of dollars on drugs because of ObamaCare. You can stay on your parents' health insurance until you are 26 years old. That is a pretty good deal. You can finish college, maybe even start your life and not have to worry about that.
People got refunds in Nevada and around the country. Why? Because as part of ObamaCare, Al Franken from Minnesota stuck a provision in the bill--that at least most of us voted for--saying if an insurance company doesn't provide 80 percent of their premium for health care, to having people get better, then they have to refund that money. This year, all over America hundreds of millions of dollars were refunded to people because insurance companies didn't spend 80 percent toward having people get well. They gave bonuses and all kinds of overhead that weren't fair. ObamaCare is so important.
I say to my friends here in Congress, how many people have come up to them someplace and said, Thank goodness for ObamaCare. My daughter is a diabetic, and now we don't have to worry about her. She is insured.
I have had someone tell me--and this is why I usually include this in my remarks--I have a son who is an epileptic. Has anyone ever seen someone with an epileptic seizure, your little child, and you can't get health care because they have a preexisting disability? That is what ObamaCare is all about. You can't be denied insurance if you have a child who is an epileptic.
We will negotiate, as we have, on going to the budget and talking about a long-term agreement here. We have tried. The President has tried. They are only concerned about ObamaCare--ObamaCare--because they know that everything they do to try to throw monkey wrenches into the wheels of government as far as ObamaCare is good for the people who don't believe in government. They want it to fail. That is why they are doing all this. Each day that goes by--and now it is harder and harder, because on October 1 the exchanges are open. There will be a few glitches and there will be changes. That is the way it was with Social Security. That is the way it was with Medicare. But by the first of the year when millions of people are signed up on health insurance, it is good for everybody and it is good for America. And it is good for America because our country--this great country--will no longer be the only industrialized nation that doesn't have health care for everyone.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.