Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Posted on 2013-10-09
SHAHEEN. Madam President, as my colleague from Kansas said, I
also came to the floor today to talk about the unnecessary government
shutdown that is continuing and is having widespread ramifications in
New Hampshire and across the country.
I would like to respond to some of what he said about the Budget Control Act and about the current state of the deficit. The fact is the deficit, under this President, has been reduced by more than 50 percent since he took office. It is on course to reach a little over 4 percent of GDP by the end of 2015, I believe. By 2023 it is expected to get even lower--down to a little over 2 percent. There is no doubt that we need a plan to deal with the long-term debt and deficits of this country.
Most of us who supported the Budget Control Act thought that was what we had done. We put a committee in place that was actually going to come up with an agreement on how we could get to a long-term plan to deal with this country's debt and deficits. It is really unfortunate that some of the people who were appointed to that committee didn't share in that commitment.
I think it is important to remind us all where we are. We have made significant improvements on reducing the deficit in this country. We have been willing to look at a long-term agreement to deal with the debt and deficit, and I think that is what we ought to do. I would hope that as the result of this government shutdown, we can get some agreement from both sides of the aisle to actually do this.
My main purpose in coming to the floor today is to talk again about the impact of the shutdown on too many people who were caught in the middle between this unnecessary inflicted crisis that we are seeing in Washington and the impact that it is having on families, small businesses, the economy of New Hampshire, and the country.
We are now in the ninth day of the shutdown. In New Hampshire we have seen hundreds of Federal workers who have been furloughed. Some of those workers are back to work. Fortunately, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard most of those people are back to work, and that is very good news. We still have people at the Forest Service, and we have people who work for the Federal Government in other capacities all over the State who have not been fortunate enough to be called back to work.
I would just remind everybody that even for those people who are back at work, they are not being paid. They are working without pay.
In New Hampshire Small Business Administration loans have been halted, and that is true across the country. The Federal Housing Administration and VA loans have been slowed down. At the White Mountain National Forest, which is a Federal forest that hosts more visitors than Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined, people who are traveling through our beautiful White Mountain National Forest at this time of the year so they can look at the foliage are not even able to use the restrooms because of the shutdown.
This morning I wanted to speak about some of those businesses I have heard from who are being hurt by the shutdown. New Hampshire is truly a small business State. Ninety-six percent of employers in the Granite State are considered small businesses and they are the backbone of our economy. They are also where most of the new jobs are going to come from.
Two out of every three new jobs in the United States is created by a small business, but the shutdown is hitting them hard. I heard this morning from two of our businesses that have been established in the State for a long time. They have national reputations.
Titeflex, which is an aerospace company in the lakes region, does a lot of business for the Department of Defense and they also provide supplies to larger companies. They told me their inventory is piling up on their docks now because they don't have anybody to inspect it, because those Federal officials who do that are not working. They are furloughed. They said it is really going to be a problem in 10 days if they don't get this resolved, when they have to report to the corporation their bottom line numbers, which will show on their reports, and that will affect their company.
Then I also heard from some representatives of Smith Tubular, which is a medical device equipment company that does business with the VA and with the military, and they also do a lot of work with the FDA. They said they are seeing their contracts affected, and they have heard from FDA that they couldn't provide the payments they normally provide to them because there is nobody at FDA to process those payments. So that is having an effect on the ability of businesses to innovate, to provide the products that are needed.
We have seen an impact on lending in New Hampshire. The Small Business Administration has reported that loans are not being originated. One does not need a Ph.D. in economics to understand that if small businesses can't access capital and credit, there are real economic consequences. One of our largest SBA lenders in New Hampshire is a company called the Granite State Development Corporation. Twenty of their loans are on hold already because of the shutdown.
Then this morning I heard from a community bank in New Hampshire called Provident Bank that it has about half a dozen SBA loans being held up right now. One of those loans is for a newly starting up entrepreneur who wants to open an Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt franchise in New Hampshire. All the paperwork is ready to go, but Provident Bank can't get the final approval for the loan until the SBA is up and running again. So if the shutdown continues, Provident Bank is concerned that interest rates are going to rise, and if interest rates rise, the cost of borrowing for small businesses is going to go up.
As the Presiding Officer knows, because her State is much like New Hampshire with a lot of small businesses, access to credit is the lifeblood [[Page S7319]] of those small businesses. Right now, we are preventing them from getting the help they need.
Then we have small businesses in New Hampshire that rely on consumer demand. I heard from Charles Moulton, who is the owner of a New Hampshire maple syrup company called New Hampshire Gold. This is the time of year when people are coming to see the foliage and sample our maple syrup in New Hampshire. He has four employees and his maple syrup company has a storefront in New Hampshire, but it also sells one of their signature products, their maple syrup, to Zion National Park in Utah--kind of an unlikely location for a New Hampshire maple syrup, but New Hampshire Gold sells to tourists who come there from all over the world during the summer and early fall. But now, because Zion National Park is shut down, as are all of our national parks, New Hampshire Gold sales have dried up. While they continue to sell in Concord, NH, in their retail store, much of the cushion they needed to get through the winter into next year comes from that location at Zion. They can't afford to lose those dollars as they are thinking about how to get through the rest of this year.
New Hampshire Gold is just one of the thousands of small businesses that have been hurt by the shutdown of our national parks. Visitors to the parks spend nearly $13 billion a year in regions within 60 miles of the parks. This shutdown is hurting not just visitors to those parks; it is hurting small businesses such as New Hampshire Gold and all of the other small businesses around our parks who depend on that tourism business.
There is no doubt this shutdown is hurting our economy. Economist Mark Zandi projected that a 3-to-4-week shutdown would reduce gross domestic product by 1.4 percent during the fourth quarter. He noted that the projection likely underestimates the economic fallout, since it doesn't fully account for the impact of such a lengthy shutdown on consumers, businesses, and investor psychology.
The bottom line is clear: The shutdown is bad for our economy, it is bad for middle-class families, and it is bad for the country.
As we look at the looming deadline for when we need to raise the debt ceiling so we can pay the bills this country has incurred, there is potentially even greater fallout for America. Holding the economy and critical services hostage to score political points is irresponsible. We need to open the government. We need to raise the debt ceiling so we can pay our bills. With the economy finally showing signs of improvement, the last thing we should be doing is what is happening right now.
I am hopeful the House will do what is right. I am hopeful they will pass a short-term funding bill. That action will get our government running again, and then we can continue to negotiate on what we need to do to address the long-term debt and deficits in the country, as well as talk about where we need to invest to make sure this country stays competitive in the future.
I yield the floor.
Quorum Call I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Baldwin). The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll and the following Senators entered the Chamber and answered to their names: [Quorum No. 4] Baldwin Bennet Blumenthal Boxer Casey Coons Durbin Franken Heinrich Heitkamp Hirono Johnson (SD) Kaine Klobuchar Leahy Merkley Murphy Murray Nelson Reed Reid Sanders Schatz Schumer Stabenow Warner Warren The PRESIDENT pro tempore. A quorum is not present.