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Mark W.
Democrat VA

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Mark R. Warner

    Posted on 2013-10-08

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    WARNER. Mr. President, I wish to follow up on the remarks of my colleagues and the Senators who have spoken before me.

    It seems as though we have accepted this new normal, that shutting down the operations of the largest enterprise in America is acceptable. I concur with my colleague, the Senator from Alaska, about the real stories and real pain that is taking place because of this government shutdown. I commend some of my colleagues for their comments. When we read these tragic stories, whether it concerns NIH or it concerns our veterans or concerns our National Park Service, they say: Oh, but that part of the government we want to reopen. Does that mean that every other aspect of government remains closed until we can find that story? I point out stories to my colleagues that were in both The Washington Post and The New York Times today--stories we should be celebrating about--three American Nobel Prize winners. Does that mean we should now reopen the NSF, because if the National Science Foundation isn't funded, there may not be a next generation of American Nobel Prize winners? Do we have to bring in a story about some child being hurt because their food or their meat or their fish wasn't inspected correctly? I have to tell my colleagues, I spent a lot longer in business than I have in politics, and I have been involved in a lot of business negotiations. But I have never been involved in a negotiation that says during the negotiation we have to shut down the operations of our business and inflict pain not only upon our employees but upon the general economy across the board.

    That is not the way to govern.

    We have talked about stories about Federal workers. But I agree with the Senator from Alaska. It also hurts the hotel owners along the Skyline Drive in our State of Virginia and the government contractors who start and stop because they don't understand how government is going to operate. I heard a story this morning about a small business outside a government facility in St. Louis that is hurting as well.

    This piecemeal approach to reopening government makes no sense. What might be better--as we hear from some folks who want to have this piecemeal effect--is to ask: What parts of the government should stay closed. This is not the way to operate. We ought to reopen this government, put our people back to work, get this economy going again, and continue the very real conversations we have to have about getting our fiscal house in order.

    What makes this different to me, in the 4\1/2\ years I have been in the Senate, than previous discussions and debates is that we have this--the first in my tenure in the Senate--government shutdown which disproportionately is hurting Virginia and Maryland. But it is literally hurting every community across America. But we have this tragedy, this catastrophe merging now into a deadline that is going to hit us next week where there are certain Members of Congress who say: It is OK if America defaults.

    I find that stunning.

    When we look back, we find there has never been a major industrial country in modern history that has defaulted. As a matter of fact, the last major country to default was Argentina, back in December of 2001. In the aftermath of that default, they had over 100 percent per annum inflation. Every family in Argentina saw literally 60 percent of their net worth disappear within a few weeks. America is not Argentina, but why would we even get close to that kind of potential economic catastrophe? It has been mentioned already that America holds a record as the reserve currency for the world. When crises happen, as have happened around the world recently in many countries, people and capital flow into the dollar. That is because the dollar and the full faith and credit of the United States has never been suspect. There has never been a question of whether we are going to honor our commitments. Next week, or very shortly after, that history is going to be put potentially in jeopardy.

    I have heard those who say we can prioritize payments. There is no business group in America or no economist that I know of, from left to right, who believes that somehow America can partially default and prioritize payments. Are we going to pay interest? Are we going to pay our troops? Those of us who served at State levels realize that sometimes our budgets are close to 50 percent passthroughs from the Federal Government.

    The Presiding Officer was the governor of the great State of West Virginia. How long before West Virginia defaults if America starts prioritizing its payments? How many other Detroits will there be all across America if we were to take this type of irresponsible action? Even if there were some possibility that there might be some chance of some logic behind this partial payment scheme, it has never been tried before. No industrial country has ever gotten this close to a default. Why would we take the chance? Why would we play Russian roulette with only one bullet in two chambers? It is something that at this moment, for our national economy and the world economy, can be devastating.

    I know we seem to all be repeating ourselves on both sides, but to me it seems very easy in a negotiation; we have differences. I would say to my colleagues I probably make folks on my side more angry than almost anyone else on these issues around getting our country's balance sheet in order. I am anxious to continue those discussions about tax reform, about entitlement reform, about bringing our debt-to-GDP ratio down. But that kind of negotiation hasn't happened while we have this government shutdown and the full faith and credit of the United States potentially in jeopardy.

    So let's open the government, not just because we hear some tragic story about one component of the government, not just because we need to make the case about food inspectors, about the National Science Foundation, about NASA Langley where we do aeronautics research--3,500 people and 7 people were at work last week. China, India, other nations around the world are not stopping their research, not stopping their investments because we can't get our act together. Open this government. Take off the table the idea that America will default. Then I am anxious to join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get our country's balance sheet in order. But to continue to hold this economy and these stories of these Americans lives in this limbo is irresponsible beyond words.

    So I hope we will go ahead and--agreeing with my colleagues who have spoken already, let's get this government open. Let's take and make sure we are going to honor and pay our debts, and let's get to the very real, important questions of how we get our Nation's balance sheet right.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.

    Unanimous Consent Request--H.J. Res. 72 Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, I want to again thank the majority leader for bringing the attention of this body to the tragedy of those servicemen who lost their lives and the fact that, unfortunately, their families had been notified improperly, I believe, that they will not be paid the tax-free death gratuity they are entitled to under law. This is wrong. Every Member of this body agrees this is wrong. Every Republican agrees this is wrong, and I am confident every Democrat agrees it is wrong as well.

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