Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Richard J. Durbin
Posted on 2013-09-30
DURBIN. Mr. President, in less than 9 hours, unless there is an
intervening effort that is successful, the government will shut down. I
know people across America are scratching their heads and saying: Why?
How did it ever reach this point?
I went through O'Hare this morning--I have done that a lot in my
life--on my way back to work, and the reaction of people was
interesting. People I didn't know walked up to me and said: Hang in
there. Good luck. We hope you can do it.
I realized people across America are listening and watching this, and they are trying to figure out who is right, who is wrong, and what difference does it make? About an hour ago I was presiding as we took the vote on the latest House amendments. In the middle of the vote, my staffer came up and handed me an e-mail. The e-mail said there was a House e-mail that was circulating, and here is what it said: After the Senate tables the House amendments to the CR later this afternoon, and the papers come back to the House, we will send it back to the Senate with another amendment delaying the individual mandate and ObamaCare for a year and affect the Members' health subsidy as well.
Unfortunately, that message kind of betrays what is going on here. We made it clear on the Senate side that we are sending a clean CR, with no political strings attached to it, to extend the government services and allow them to continue for at least 6 weeks while we try to work things out on a bipartisan basis. What we keep getting back from the House of Representatives is all sorts of political strings, such as the medical device tax, ObamaCare, conscience clause when it comes to family planning. All of these are being thrown back to us as conditions for us if we are going to fund our government.
If we want to on the Democratic side, we have the votes to put our own conditions on this. I can think of a couple: that the House takes up the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill we passed months ago here and they have never even addressed in the House. That would be a good one, wouldn't it? At least from my point of view.
How about the bipartisan farm bill we passed twice in the Senate that they failed to pass in the House of Representatives for years? Why wouldn't we make that one of the conditions? I can think of a few more. But we didn't do it. We sent them a clean CR, a clean spending bill, and said to them: Let's extend the functions of government.
John Kennedy's book, ``Profiles In Courage,'' talks about men and women who served our Nation and showed extraordinary courage. Some of us would like to think that at least once or twice in our public careers we get close to that standard. There is no political courage in what the House Republicans are doing. They are not standing up, putting themselves at any political risk. They are threatening to shut down the government to affect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of innocent Federal employees. These are people who get up and go to work every single day for this country because they love their jobs and they love this country and they do a great job every day. They are viewed with disdain by so many critics of government, but were it not for those men and women and the contribution they make, we would not be the great Nation we are at this moment in time.
At midnight tonight--in less than 9 hours--our government will shut down. Many--hundreds of thousands of them--will be told: Don't come to work. If that happens, we will be lesser for it--not just the fact that we cannot produce the services our government needs to produce to help our people, and not just the fact that innocent Federal employees will lose their paychecks. Many of them will not get paid for the time we are losing.
But equally important is what it says about us and what it says about America. We stand and we say: We are different, and we are proud of being different. We are the oldest democracy on the face of the Earth. We are, in many ways, different from some other Nations, and we are proud of that difference.
Sadly, at midnight tonight the difference is not going to be something of which we can be proud. It is the failure of political leaders in Congress to fund the government of the United States of America. It is the failure of political leaders in Congress to fund our government.
What this comes down to is very basic. There is a reason why we have elections. There is a reason why ultimately the decision on this issue, and all the other issues, will be given to the American people. What I ask them to do is to watch carefully what is happening in Washington and whether they want to continue it.
Senator Merkley of Oregon came to the floor and talked about the beginning of this tea party effort and the first threat to shut down the government. This is not altogether new, but it is unusual that we face this. Now it is becoming more frequent, more regular, business as usual that we are going to shut down the government. That is the tea party approach. That is how they get their attention: 21 hours speaking on the floor or threatening to shut down the government. I don't think that is the answer to America's future. I think it is a problem.
If you listened to Senator Merkley from Oregon, he talked about the fact that we passed a budget resolution in the Senate--I thought it was a good effort--to try to figure out what our spending will be in the next fiscal year. We came up with a number, and the House came up with a different number. The Founding Fathers of the Constitution anticipated that and created an opportunity for the House and Senate to work out their differences through a conference committee.
Senator Murray of Washington chairs our Budget Committee. She brought this to the floor and asked for unanimous consent to take this budget resolution to the conference committee so we could agree. She brought that request to the floor 6 months ago. The tea party Republicans stood--some of the same Republicans we are seeing now--and objected to this meeting. They said: No way. We won't allow this meeting between the Democrats and Republicans.
Senator Murray and her backers, on the committee and off, renewed that request over and over and over, and every time the tea party Republicans objected. They did not want us to do the orderly, constitutional thing of sitting down to work out our differences. They wanted a confrontation, and now they have it. We were unable to reach a budget number, unable to pass appropriation bills because of their objections, and now we face a government shutdown.
If this is what you want as the ordinary course of business in Washington, if this is what you want for America and our Federal Government and the good people who work for it, then keep on voting for tea party folks. This is their attitude and their idea. This is their idea of the new normal.
Well, it shouldn't be the new normal. America is better than this.
There is something that is encouraging. There are a handful of Republicans who are finally standing and saying: I have had enough of it.
Senator John McCain and I disagree on so many things, and agree on a few things, but we are different politically.
[[Page S7017]] I admire him not just for his service in the Senate but what he has given to this country. He came to the floor and gave a 10-minute speech after the Texas Senator finished his 21-hour speech. Senator McCain made more sense in 10 minutes than in the 21 hours that preceded it.
He said: I don't like ObamaCare. I voted against it. I want to change it, but get real; it is the law. It was found to be constitutional by the Court. The President, who authored it, was reelected by 5 million votes in America. That is how a democracy works. Those who won't accept ObamaCare and want to try to stop it will not accept the verdict of this democracy. We need to go forward and prove it. That was Senator McCain's speech to us. It was a good speech.
Upstairs Senator Schumer talked about what we could have done in the past. What if we said: Unless all of the Bush tax cuts are repealed, we are not going to allow the government to be funded? We didn't do that. We shouldn't have done that. It is not responsible.
I hope this doesn't come to pass. I hope at midnight we don't shut down this government. There will be a lot of unhappy people in the Federal service, and they don't deserve it. These are innocent people who want to do a good job for this Nation. There will be a lot of people hurt on the outside because they can't have access to government services. There will be things that we will miss doing that will have an impact, and we may never know it.
What impact will it have at the National Institutes of Health if they suspend medical research until this is over, just put it off a couple of days or maybe a couple of weeks if it gets really awful? Then what happens? A delay in finding a cure, a drug, a medical device. All of these things make a difference in the lives of a lot of innocent people. So it is not an act of courage to play politics with the lives of other people, with the future of America, and with the future of our economy.
Yes, this is why we have elections, so the American people can say: Enough. We are not going to put up with this anymore. We need to have responsible Republicans and Democrats working together to solve our problems.
I think that is why we were sent here, not to lurch from one confrontation to the next.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.