A picture of Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Robert C.
Democrat PA

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Posted on 2013-09-30

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    CASEY. 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 President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.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. CASEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business for up to 10 minutes.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, we are here tonight in the Senate, hours away from a deadline which, if action is not taken on the House side, the other body, will lead to a government shutdown. Unfortunately, when I have been asked today by either constituents or reporters, and they ask: Is it less likely or more likely that there will be a shutdown, I have had to be honest and say: At least at this moment it seems more likely than less likely.

    I think we have to examine not just how to try to resolve this in a way that makes sense, but also to remind ourselves how we got here. This is not the typical battle in Washington. We have had a lot of those. We should all try to work in a bipartisan fashion. But this one is unique in the sense that you have, on the one side, Democrats in Congress and across the country who [[Page S7032]] are united in an effort to continue the operations of the government and not have a government shutdown, even if we want to make a point, even if we want to make an argument about this or that policy.

    We see a growing number of Republicans here in the Senate and across the country, and maybe even a few in the House, even in the last 24 hours or so, who are saying: Let's just get the government funded so we can move forward. We might be able to have a debate in the middle of November or somewhere down the road. But let's not hold up the operations of government or default on our obligations for the first time since 1789 in order to make an ideological point or a political point.

    It is clear from the national data that Independents are on that side of the argument as well. So you have this consensus on one side, with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, who say that we should not-- in order to make a point about an issue, whether it is health care or the economy or whatever it is--we should not act in a way that would shut down the government to do that.

    On the other side, you have the far right of the Republican party which not only believes that in order to make their point they are willing to allow the government to shut down, but they also have a determination to do that to the extent one wing of one party is really driving the train in that party. It happens to be the Republican Party.

    So this is unusual. It is not the typical Democrat versus Republican debate. It started months ago when politicians who work in this town would go home to their State or their districts and make the point that, no matter what, they were going to argue that this is the moment where they should stop the health care bill. No matter what was in their way, they were going to continue to drive in that direction.

    That is how we have gotten here. What happens if we go past the deadline and there is a shutdown of a few days or longer? Here is what some of the data show from some of the folks who are not in the Congress but who observe broader trends, especially economic trends.

    Mark Zandi is Moody's chief economist. He is widely respected. I think people in both parties respect his opinion. According to him--and I am not quoting, I am just summarizing what he said--a shutdown lasting a few days would cost the economy 0.2 percent of GDP, while a longer shutdown could cost as much as 1.4 percent.

    Sometimes it is difficult to say what 0.2 percent of GDP means. What it means for sure is the economy, which has been moving in the right direction--we have had tremendous job growth, over 9 quarters now, and many months of job growth. But we are not moving fast enough. We are not creating jobs at a fast enough pace.

    When I go home to Pennsylvania people do not say to me: Score every point you can for your point of view. They say to me: Work together with the other side to create jobs. Work together with the other side to put in place strategies that will lead to economic growth and to job growth.

    If you are going to go in the wrong direction when it comes to growth, and you lose 0.2 percent of growth, and then, if the shutdown goes longer you lose 0.4 or 0.5 or 0.6, over time you are going in the wrong direction. But we know when you lose even 0.2 percent of growth you are killing jobs. So first and foremost, any shutdown is a big job killer. A default on our obligations would be a much bigger job killer.

    A shutdown would not just slow growth, but it would spread anxiety. This is just human nature. It will spread anxiety among consumers. We know that in the summer of 2011 the almost default on our obligations caused consumer confidence to take a nosedive. We did not come out of that hole of consumer confidence until many months later. A government shutdown has a similar effect.

    How about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, not usually on my side of a lot of debates or on the Democratic side? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has urged Congress to keep the government open and has said that a shutdown would be ``economically disruptive and create even more uncertainty in the U.S. economy.'' So this is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is often making arguments about uncertainty in other contexts. They are saying that a shutdown would create even more uncertainty.

    How about the economic recovery? I mentioned those 9 quarters of growth we have had. We have had job growth as well. Just in terms of how you measure it: 7.5 million private sector jobs--7.5 million added in the last 42 months. That will take a nosedive. So instead of growing at 160,000 jobs a month, roughly, which has been kind of the pace for a while now, which is not fast enough--we need to be at 200,000 or 230,000 or 240,000 if we really want to say that the economy has taken off. But instead of growing at 160,000, 170,000, or even higher, we will go backwards. Maybe the job growth for the next couple of months will be substantially less than that. A shutdown all but ensures that to happen.

    We don't know exactly how much slowing or how much damage would be done to the job growth, but there is going to be a job impact for sure, and I think that is pretty clear from the data.

    Both sides in a lot of debates in Washington say they stand for small businesses. We can debate which side does a better job for small business. We know when a small business person needs some help, a measure of help from the Federal Government, they usually turn to the Small Business Administration. We know the SBA, their approval of applications for business loans guarantees and direct loans to small business would cease. If we take the Small Business Administration off the playing field, they average about 1,000 loans or loan guarantees per week. That is national.

    What does that mean for Pennsylvania? From October 2012 through August of this year, 2013, the SBA supported over 1,400 loans for over $600 million for small businesses in Pennsylvania. On average, that is about 30 loans for over $13 million to entrepreneurs each week--every week, on average, based upon the recent data in Pennsylvania, 30 loans and $13 million helping small businesses in Pennsylvania. To shut that off would make our economic circumstance even worse.

    In Pennsylvania, we had many months in a row where the unemployment numbers were 500,000 people unemployed or more. Thankfully, it dipped below 500,000 for a couple of months. We just received the numbers from August because the State numbers are always behind. The State data for August unfortunately shows we are just above 500,000 people out of work. A shutdown will bring that 500,000-persons out-of-work number and send it higher and send it in the wrong direction.

    What about veterans? People say veterans' disability checks would go out, just as Social Security checks would go out, in the aftermath of a shutdown. That is only part of the story. If you are a veteran getting disability checks or a pension benefit--in our State we have 109,000 veterans who receive disability or pension help. They may get their check, but it is highly likely, if not a certainty, that those checks will be delayed.

    If you are a veteran and are entitled to this because of what you did for our country, because part of a political party wants to make an ideological point, you have to wait for your check. You have to wait for your disability check. That makes no sense. To say it is unfair to a veteran or to his or her family is an understatement.

    What about Social Security? People say: Well, the checks are going to go out so people will be just fine in a shutdown.

    That is only part of the story. Yes, current recipients will get their checks, but if you reach the age of 65 and you wish to have your application processed, you will not be able to do that or, at a minimum, that will be slowed substantially.

    In our State, every month more than 11,600 people are able to start the process for Social Security benefits. Those people will have to wait and wait in the advent of a government shutdown.

    What about national parks? We have a great blessing in our State where we have an abundance of national parks and historic sites which are wonderful for the country, wonderful for enrichment, learning, and history, but they also are a big economic driver in different communities.

    [[Page S7033]] In southeastern Pennsylvania, when you add it all, one of the numbers I saw was over $200,000 of impact. Those, unlike a lot of others I spoke about, those parts of the government will stop completely. An economic engine in one part of our State that averages about $200,000 of economic impact will stop. Maybe we will lose $10,000 over the course of a shutdown. Maybe Pennsylvania will lose $20,000 or $30,000. We are going to lose for sure and a lot of other States will as well.

    The Flight 93 National Memorial is one of those from 9/11 and Gettysburg and Valley Forge/Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, there are many examples and many job impacts when it comes to all of those.

    The basic point is some people would say: Look, you are in the Senate or the House, and you wish to have a debate about something as significant and consequential to people's lives or to our economy such as health care, you ought to be able to debate that. I would agree with that. There is no question about it. We had big debates in 2009 leading up to a vote in the Senate. Then the debate continued in 2010. The bill was enacted in 2010. There was still debate about it after that. There were votes taken one after another to repeal it. Then the Supreme Court litigated it. That took months until the Supreme Court made a decision.

    The Supreme Court, which is dominated--or at least the majority are Republican-appointed Justices--said the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. Then there was a Presidential election, which was another kind of litigation or debate. One candidate said: I am going to keep the Affordable Care Act in place, and we are not going to repeal it. The other side said: We are going to repeal it. The side that said they were going to put it into effect won the election--that of President Obama.

    This has been debated and litigated several direct ways in several different branches of our government. That will continue and, frankly, it should continue. Some of the impacts are already in place. We know that.

    We know, for example, that since 2010, when the consumer protections went into effect, which had nothing to do initially with those who were uninsured, the tens of millions of uninsured, but we put in place the consumer protections for those with insurance, those who had coverage, were making payments--premium payments--yet their children were still not protected because of a preexisting condition.

    Up until 2010, it was the law--or it was the prevailing policy that if an insurance company wanted to say to those who were paying premiums, sorry, I know you are making your payments, but your child has a preexisting condition, and they are not covered, that was permitted when insurance companies had all of the power. I would argue they had all the power, an unfair advantage and bargaining advantage. Since 2010, we have had something on the order of 17 million children who could no longer be denied coverage due to a preexisting condition, solely and completely because of the Affordable Care Act.

    We have millions of young people who can stay on their parents' policies from the ages of 19 to 25. They can only stay on those policies solely because of the Affordable Care Act, because it was enacted into law.

    We have millions of seniors who are getting payments over time to help them fill the coverage gap of the so-called doughnut hole. They are getting those payments solely because of the Affordable Care Act.

    Tomorrow, we are going to see the beginning of the exchanges going up, where people can go into a marketplace and shop for the best possible health care insurance that they can afford. Most people-- probably as many as 150 million Americans--already have coverage and their employer provides it, so their status will not change that much, if at all.

    These changes are going into effect over time. I would hope the people who wish to keep debating it and making changes to it--and I voted for changes as well--would allow it to be, if not fully implemented, something close to fully over the next couple of months or maybe even over the next couple of years. Then at some point this debate about who is right or who is wrong about the impact will have been determined.

    We are all for debate on the budget, health care, and everything else, but we shouldn't bring the country to these cliffs--the cliff meaning this deadline tonight on the budget, where the House has our legislation, which is only about the budget. They could pass it. It will pass if the Speaker puts it on the floor tonight. It would pass, and we would be beyond this crisis. Then we would move to the next deadline, get beyond these deadlines, have a big debate, and have very strong arguments made about how we get a full year's worth of a budget starting in the middle of November. That is the appropriate time and the appropriate place to make arguments about the budget, the economy, jobs, health care or whatever else it is. Now is not the time.

    I would hope between now and midnight, the House would put up our bill, which is very simple--it keeps the government operating with no conditions and no add-ons--and pass that legislation. We would be done with this, and we could move on to issues people want us to work on.

    I will restate what I said before. People in Pennsylvania, when they say to me what they want me to do, they say work together to create jobs. If you had to put that in a sound bite, that is what it is.

    I am hoping between now and then this consensus of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents that prevailed throughout the country will have the appropriate influence on those who are trying to push this to the end and shut down the government. A government shutdown is bad for everybody, no matter what party you are in. We should keep working to make sure it doesn't happen.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

    Mr. LEVIN. Earlier today the Senate rejected for the second time the House Republican continuing resolution. The approach they have adopted over in the House attempts to and would deprive millions of Americans of health insurance if it were passed here. It is not going to pass here.

    I would say to Speaker Boehner we have given your proposal a vote. In fact, we have voted on it twice. Now you owe it to the American people to hold a vote, a vote on the bipartisan, clean continuing resolution which would keep the government open. This is the resolution which the Senate sent to you just a few hours ago.

    The only thing preventing us from keeping this government open is Speaker Boehner's refusal to bring a bipartisan Senate continuing resolution to the House floor. I think most Republicans over there even acknowledge that it would pass if Speaker Boehner would allow a vote on it.

    The Senate, a short time ago, approved a measure to allow for the pay of our men and women in uniform to continue in the event of a government shutdown. This measure was necessary because requiring our military to go into combat with only an IOU instead of pay would be a travesty. Nobody should be fooled. It is only one travesty that was avoided among many. Even if we restrict our view to the impact of a government shutdown on the military, there are many other terrible impacts of a government shutdown.

    Our military Members would be paid so a shutdown would result in at least avoiding that problem. However, there are other unthinkable outcomes to our security with a government shutdown. Family members of military members who die in combat would not receive death benefits during a shutdown. It defies belief that in the pursuit of a narrow ideological goal House Republicans would prevent the payment of benefits for those who died defending our country. That is the result of a government shutdown.

    In the event of a shutdown, the Department of Defense would also further reduce already curtailed training and bring routine maintenance to a halt, exacerbating the corrosive effects that sequestration is already having on military readiness. The Department of Defense would be barred from entering most new contracts. That would harm modernization programs.

    A shutdown would severely curtail medical services for troops and their families. Commissaries would close, with hundreds of thousands of civilian [[Page S7034]] employees. Workers vital to our defense would be laid off. Outside of the DOD, a shutdown would disrupt some operations in the Department of Veterans Affairs which is providing benefits to those who have served.

    Then there is the extraordinary disruption of having to plan for all of this absurdity. As Under Secretary of Defense Hale said on Friday: Even if a lapse never occurs, the planning itself is disruptive. People are worrying right now about whether their paychecks are going to be delayed, rather than focusing fully on their mission. And while I can't quantify the time being spent to plan, it has or will consume a lot of senior management attention, probably thousands of hours in employee time better spent on supporting national security.

    Again, that only covers the impact on our military and on our veterans. While Border Patrol agents and FBI agents would continue to work, they would be putting their lives on the line for an IOU instead for a paycheck. Health clinics would stop taking new patients. Lifesaving research would grind to a halt. The far-reaching effects of a shutdown on government services across the country should give us all pause, as should the fact that a shutdown is likely to damage the all- too-fragile economic recovery.

    This has gone on for far too long and Speaker Boehner can end it now. There is still time for him to bring to the floor of the House of Representatives a clean continuing resolution and avert a government shutdown. For the good of our men and women in uniform and our national security, for the good of our economy, and for the millions of Americans who rely on and who benefit from important Federal programs, I hope the Speaker will allow our bipartisan continuing resolution to be voted on.

    I hope that even this late in the game reason is going to prevail. I hold that hope in part because while House Republicans have put tea party ideology ahead of the good of the Nation, many of our Republican colleagues here in the Senate have not. These Members recognize there is a difference between on the one hand debating serious policy preferences and on the other hand threatening government shutdown if you don't get your way.

    All of us in the Senate have issues on which we feel every bit as passionately as the opponents of the Affordable Care Act feel about that law. I happen to feel strongly, for instance, that we should have universal background checks for firearms purchases. By the tea party method of proving the strength of my belief, I should threaten a government shutdown if I don't get what I want on that subject. If all of us threaten legislative anarchy in pursuit of our goals, democracy will cease to function.

    As appalled as I am that some Members would threaten such damage to our Nation, I am heartened that many of our Republican colleagues here in the Senate have spoken out in opposition to this approach.

    When I came to the floor last week to speak on this topic, Senator Ayotte was speaking. I commended her for saying that the American people expect us to keep the government running even though I disagreed with much of what she said about the Affordable Care Act.

    I commend Senator Collins for saying a shutdown ``will only further damage our struggling economy'' and that we should resolve our differences ``without resorting to constant brinkmanship and the threat of government shutdown.'' I commend Senator Collins, even though I disagree with her on the Affordable Care Act, for taking that position against a shutdown and for seeing the distinction between fighting hard for what you believe in and threatening to bring down government operations overall if you don't get what you want.

    I commend Senator Portman for saying that the differences on the Affordable Care Act ``ought to be handled outside the context of a government shutdown.'' I commend Senator Chambliss for saying that while, in his words, he would love to defund ObamaCare, a government shutdown is ``going to do great harm to the American people if we pursue that course.'' I commend Senator Kirk for saying, ``Let's not shut down the government just because you don't get everything you want.'' There are others who have made that critically important distinction between opposing a certain policy and shutting down the government if one doesn't get his or her way.

    I welcome spirited debate. I welcome differences of opinion. As my friend Senator McCain said last week, there was plenty of both during the debate on the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But it is deeply distressing to hear Members of Congress argue that the litmus test of whether you are fighting for your beliefs is whether you are willing to shut down the government if you don't achieve a particular goal. That is more than fighting for your position, that is wanton destruction. I hope at least some House Republicans will come to see the difference between fighting for your goals and sowing anarchy in pursuit of them.

    Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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