Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Posted on 2013-10-01
SHAHEEN. Madam President, I came to join my colleagues on the
floor this afternoon to talk about and to call on our colleagues in the
House--those Republicans who have been taking this irresponsible
action--to stop what they are doing and help us resolve this government
We are involved in a completely manufactured shutdown of our government. This is something that didn't have to happen. Right now, there is a majority in the House ready to pass a bill to keep our government open, to start it back up again, to end this crisis. But here we are. We are in the midst of the first government shutdown in 17 years because a small minority of the minority party in the other House is holding this government hostage so it can pursue its agenda of trying to end the Affordable Care Act. I don't know why they don't want to make sure that people in this country can get access to health care. I am not going to talk about that this evening.
This is irresponsible. We are already seeing the effects of this crisis in New Hampshire and across the country. We have thousands of Federal employees in my State of New Hampshire who could face furloughs. That includes workers at our Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Those folks are from Maine and New Hampshire, but they are looking at furloughs.
We have already heard from over 300 civilian technicians for the National Guard in New Hampshire who were notified they are going to be furloughed. I have started hearing from constituents whose lives are affected by our inability here in Washington to address keeping this government open.
I heard from one of my constituents in Portsmouth, a man named Robert Cody. He writes: Dear Senator Shaheen, Please do not allow a government shutdown to occur. The consequences to individuals and the economy will be catastrophic.
He goes on to say: To put this on personal terms, my daughter just finished graduate school and began work as a consulting doctor at a Veteran's Administration hospital providing care to wounded veterans. If a shutdown occurs, she will lose her job and be faced with crushing student loan debt and no way to pay back the loans or her living expenses. The veterans who will be deprived of her care will be victims of the shutdown as well. Her situation is just one of many.
Robert, you are certainly right about that.
Hard-working individuals must not be forced to suffer to make a political point.
He goes on to say: Please do the right thing! The consequences to the economy and unemployment will be far-reaching, and you will be blamed if you contribute to this looming disaster.
I say to Robert: I couldn't agree more with what you have said. I think we need to work together. We need to try to avoid any further harm to people who depend not only on the jobs--the people who are going to be laid off--but also those people who benefit from the services the Federal Government provides.
Salaries for our Federal workers aren't just important for them and their families; they are also critical to their local economies. When hard-working New Hampshire citizens aren't able to get their paychecks, they stop making their mortgage payments, they stop paying their utility bills, they stop shopping at local stores. That is what we are going to see if this shutdown continues. It will inflict serious consequences on the economy.
New Small Business Administration loans are not being originated. SBA loans are critical for job creation in New Hampshire. Our small businesses represent 96 percent of all employers. In 2012, SBA helped 630 small businesses in New Hampshire get access to over $130 million in loans. Now, because of this shutdown, businesses are not going to have access to those loans.
The Federal Housing Administration loans are slowing. Our housing market has really just begun to recover, but it is still fragile. Now, because of the shutdown, we are going to be holding up home sales because much of the FHA staff is furloughed.
Of course, this is terrible timing for the tourism industry in New Hampshire. We are just beginning our fall foliage season. It is a spectacular time to travel around New Hampshire. We have tourists who come from all over the world, who spend money in our local restaurants, who stay at our hotels, and visit our attractions. Many of our small businesses rely on this time of the year to provide the revenue they need to continue operating all year long. We know the tourists who come from overseas stay longer and spend more money. But if the shutdown in government means we are going to be turning away many of those customers, applications for visas are going to come to a halt. According to the Congressional Research Service, during the 1995-1996 shutdown, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day, and U.S. tourism industries--the airlines, the hotels, the restaurants, all of the affiliated businesses that depend on tourism--lost millions of dollars.
We also have a visa center in New Hampshire that works on those visas. They are shut down as part of this government closure. We have a lot of small businesses in New Hampshire and across the country that rely on Federal contracts as they grow and create new jobs.
I talked to one of those small business owners today--a man named Lou Altman with Globafone. I have known Lou for a long time. He has worked in New Hampshire and around the world. He called to express his deep frustration about our failing to pass a continuing resolution to keep this government open.
[[Page S7097]] Globafone's satellite technologies help Federal agencies meet critical needs, in addition to providing technology for many developing countries. But with the shutdown, everything is up in the air for Globafone. They are not certain what this means for their government contracts. As a result their cash flows are uncertain. Since their cash flows are uncertain, their line of credit with the bank is uncertain. I do not blame Lou for being frustrated for wanting to know why we cannot work together to get this done.
I would say to my colleagues in the House, you cannot take this government hostage and expect that we are going to be able to negotiate. This government shutdown is bad for our economy, bad for middle-class families, bad for our country. Unfortunately, what we have seen this week is that some have decided they want to inflict another manufactured crisis as a tactic to prevent health care reform from going into effect.
The people that I talk to in New Hampshire do not think this is a good approach. They know that a government shutdown is serious, that it has consequences for our economy and jobs. Considering that impact, it is no surprise that economists have forecast that our failure to deal with this crisis will have a significant impact on our economy.
Even a 3- or 4-day shutdown could slow growth by 0.2 percent, according to economist Mark Zandi, and an extended shutdown could reduce growth by 1.4 percent. So holding the economy and critical services hostage to score political points is reckless and it is irresponsible. With the economy showing signs of improvement, this is the last thing we should be doing.
It does not have to be this way. I was a Governor for 3 terms. In two of those terms the other party controlled both chambers of our legislature. But we were always able to enact a budget before the fiscal year ended. We had a lot of differences along the way. But both sides understood that in order to reach an agreement, in order to pass a budget, in order to keep government operating, we had to compromise. It would have been impossible to imagine the New Hampshire legislature not getting a budget to my desk because they wanted to play political games or that they would have sent me a budget that they knew I was going to veto.
This Congress can certainly do better. We must do better. My colleagues have pointed out that the Senate in taking up the bill to keep the government funded, the continuing resolution, agreed to accept the dollar amount that the House wanted us to pass. So we compromised on this continuing resolution. What we saw for our willingness to do that was the House decided they were going to put all kinds of amendments on this bill to keep it from getting passed.
I certainly hope that we can pass this bill, that the House will take it up. All the Speaker needs to do is take up the clean bill that the Senate sent them because they have the votes to pass it. If he is so sure that the votes are not there, then let people vote on it and see what happens.
But we know that is not the case. We know that the votes are there to pass this bill. Because it is being held hostage to a small minority in the Republican caucus, this government is shut down and tens of thousands of people across the country are experiencing difficulties as a result. I certainly hope that we are going to see some action soon. I am going to continue to work for that. I am sure all of us in the Senate will try to see that something gets done so we can reopen this government.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.