Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Mike Lee
Posted on 2013-10-01
LEE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. LEE. Mr. President, yesterday when the President of the United States addressed the American people, he was very clear about what a shutdown would mean. He said: Office buildings would close. Paychecks would be delayed. Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung. Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.
Veterans, who have sacrificed for their country, will find their support centers unstaffed. Tourists will find every one of America's national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed. And of course, the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.
I share the President's concerns about what will happen to the American people--about ``real people,'' as one of my colleagues put it yesterday--during and in connection with a government shutdown.
I wish to focus our attention in the coming hours and days on these people. I think it is also important that we continue to focus as well on those who are already hurting--hurting for reasons that don't have to do with the shutdown.
So I would like to turn for a moment to people who are and for a number of months have been already feeling the negative effects of another government policy the President and his allies in Congress staunchly defend.
ObamaCare happens to be the No. 1 job killer in the country. A recent analysis documented hundreds of businesses that are cutting back hours to avoid the crushing cost of ObamaCare's severe mandates. As a result, major unions have said ObamaCare could destroy the 40-hour workweek-- the backbone of the American economy. People are losing their health insurance. Just a week ago Friday, 20,000 people--employees of Home Depot--were informed they would be losing their health insurance. UPS is no longer going to provide health insurance for spouses of employees. The grocery store chain Trader Joe's has dropped health care coverage for part-time workers altogether.
For everyone who has been furloughed by the government shutdown, the change hopefully will be temporary--perhaps lasting a few days, maybe even a few hours--if the Democrats decide to negotiate. For everyone who has lost a job, had their hours cut, their wages reduced, or who no longer receives health insurance, the change could well prove to be far more permanent. Do we not have an obligation to do something for those people? I think we do. So let's look for the path forward. Let's return to the President's concern about those who are hurt by a government shutdown.
One positive and encouraging step was taken yesterday in response to action taken by the House of Representatives late Saturday night. Late Saturday night, of course, the House of Representatives passed a bill to ensure that all Active-Duty military personnel--the brave men and women in uniform who serve us bravely--will continue to get paid. Yesterday the Senate took up that measure and passed it unanimously. It did so in a matter of minutes, in a seemingly effortless legislative act.
I think we can do the exact same thing with a number of noncontroversial spending bills that fund aspects of government that Americans overwhelmingly support, that Americans acknowledge we need, and that are completely unrelated to ObamaCare. My plan, in other words, would involve setting up segmented continuing resolutions, appropriations measures that would keep the funding going at current levels to various areas within government, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, military construction, CJS, which includes funding for the Department of Justice, the Federal Court system, the FBI, NASA, the National Weather Service, for example, and also the U.S. Department of the Interior, which includes our national parks.
I mention national parks with special interest because today is the first day of what we hope will be a short, quickly resolved government shutdown. We have at least two Honor Flights coming in from around the country bringing World War II veterans--members of the ``greatest generation''--to Washington, DC, who plan to visit the World War II veterans memorial, a memorial designed specifically for them. When they arrive, if nothing changes between now and then, they will painfully discover what we have learned this morning, which is that those parts of the National Mall have been fenced off and barricaded. They will not be able to get in. They will not even be able to get very close. This is unfortunate and, just as important, it is unnecessary. We can act. We should act. We must act today to resolve this. There is absolutely no reason this noncontroversial aspect of our Federal Government's operations should continue 1 more day or even 1 more hour, for that matter, without being funded.
This is an effort to compromise, an effort that is badly needed, an effort that comes in the wake of other efforts to compromise that have for the most part failed. The House of Representatives has tried now three different times to avoid a shutdown, passing three different measures to make sure our government would continue to be funded. Senator Reid and those Members of his conference who support him have rejected all three plans, rejected all three offers to keep the government funded, accusing Republicans of playing games with ObamaCare.
In light of that, let's leave ObamaCare for another day and not hold the vast majority of government functions hostage when the vast majority of government functions do not have anything to do with the implementation and enforcement of ObamaCare. We did it yesterday. We did it. It worked well. It was seamless. It was done with absolute unanimous consent. We did it with respect to Active-Duty military pay yesterday. We can do it for veterans benefits, for border security, for national parks, and for many other government agencies. We can keep government open. We can keep those aspects of our Federal Government funded. We can do so. We should do so. Together, we will do so.
I look forward to having these discussions in the coming hours to make sure we can continue to work together as colleagues. We may not agree on everything, but in those areas where we should agree and where we in reality do agree, let's keep the government funded.
I suggest the absence of a quorum and ask unanimous consent that the time during any quorum call be equally divided between the two parties.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.