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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Jeff Merkley

    Posted on 2013-09-30

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    MERKLEY. Mr. President, I want to make a few comments about the crisis that is unfolding before us. Right now some colleagues in the Senate and others over on the House side are holding the entire American economy hostage to make their favorite point on policy. I must say that this blackmail against ordinary working class Americans-- threatening to steal whatever momentum our economy has rather than build greater momentum and greater job growth--is deeply misguided. That is really as polite a way as I can possibly put it.



    Think about what working families have been through over the last few years. The deregulation of Wall Street leading to predatory mortgages that hurt millions of families, and then the securities that those were based on, proceeded to derail our entire economy, hurting millions more. Families lost their savings. They lost their jobs. They lost the equity in their house.

    All that working families are asking for is a little bit of common sense. Don't do further damage to the economy that is struggling to recover. Yet certain colleagues here in the Senate and over in the House seem to believe that the little people don't matter, the working people do not matter, the stability of the foundation for families and living-wage jobs doesn't matter because they can play whatever political games they want and the only people hurt are ones they do not see in their life. Maybe they live in a gated community. Maybe they live in a bubble. But I see those people. I see them every day. They are the salt of the Earth. They are the workshop that takes America forward. They are the small businesses across this Nation. All they are asking for is a little reasonableness and common sense.

    Some of my colleagues have said this crisis comes because the majority party in the Senate has refused to negotiate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Negotiation in the budget process starts with each side passing a budget resolution and holding a conference committee. But it is Members of the minority of this Chamber who have come to this floor at least 18 times to block the start of a conference committee in order to work out the budget. I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams why they are terrified of there being a conversation between leadership in the House and leadership in the Senate, meeting with the television cameras on to work out the details of a budget compromise. But they seem terrified, petrified, scared to death that there will be a conversation between the House and Senate that would lead to a compromise.

    So, indeed, there has been obstruction on compromise, and we know exactly where it is. They are the same individuals who are trying to drive the economy over the cliff right now. Moreover, members of this party said let's go further. The Senate has a number. The House has a number. But the budget conference committee is being blocked. Let's simply accept the House number, and not split it down the middle, not insist on our number, let's take the House number. That is going far beyond the middle path, if you will. That is a major compromise. If you are looking for compromise, it is happening with the leadership of the Senate putting forward a compromise that takes the House number for the budget. It appears that certain individuals in this body just do not want to take yes for an answer.

    I am going to conclude my remarks. I see my colleague, the esteemed Senator from Illinois has arrived. I want to close with this notion. This is not the first crisis that has been artificially manufactured that has damaged the American economy. Let us remember that similarly we faced this in April 2011 with the continuing resolution. We faced a manufactured crisis with the debt ceiling in July of 2011. We faced the December 2012 fiscal cliff that did substantial damage; in March of this year, the continuing resolution, which brings us up to right now.

    This is not all. The same individuals who are threatening at this moment to drive our economy over a cliff are saying we will do it again in a couple of weeks over another debt ceiling issue and when this continuing resolution expires a few weeks from now, if we get one done, we will do it again a few weeks from now--three crises in a period of just a few weeks. If you want to destroy the economy for working Americans, this is how it is done, and it is unacceptable. We need a bipartisan, commonsense caucus to come together and simply say no to those who are trying to create this terrible blackmail using American working families in the process.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.

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