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Robert C.
Democrat PA

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Posted on 2013-10-09

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    CASEY. Mr. President, thank you very much. I know our time is limited.

    I want to start on an issue that I think all of us are coming together on no matter what party we are in, and that is what has been happening to our military families.

    On Sunday, as noted by the Senator from Kansas a few moments ago, SGT Patrick Hawkins from Carlisle, PA, was killed in action in Afghanistan when his unit was hit with an IED, an improvised explosive device. Sergeant Hawkins was moving to the aid of a wounded Ranger when he was killed. Due to the shutdown, Sergeant Hawkins' family cannot receive the death [[Page S7327]] benefit provided to soldiers to cover the funeral and burial expenses for that family.

    Today I am joining an effort with a number of Senators writing to urge Secretary Hagel to use whatever discretion he has to provide the death benefits to the Hawkins family as well as the other families so we can meet the promise we made to those families. I know the President is working on this issue, is working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department on a solution to this problem.

    Mr. President, I will move to the question of where we are now. This is a shutdown brought about by the tea party. We know that if Speaker Boehner would simply hold a vote on the bill that is before him, which would fund the government, this crisis would be over.

    So we should continue to take steps, No. 1, to open our government; No. 2, to pay our bills and make sure we do not miss a bill and default; and No. 3, to negotiate--or I would argue to continue to negotiate because we already negotiated a budget number which was much lower than our side of the aisle wanted. We agreed to $70 billion less from the other side. If that is not a compromise and a negotiation, I do not know what is.

    We know this sentiment and this position to make sure the government opens is a point of view that is shared by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents across the country. By way of example, nine Members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation--four Republicans and five Democrats--are supportive of a so-called clean bill that does not have attachments to it, to open the government, to make sure we can have a functioning government, to pay our bills, and then work together on longer term solutions. Just a couple of examples--and I know our time is limited.

    As this tea party shutdown moves into its second week, the Women, Infants and Children Program--we know it by the acronym WIC--will no longer be able to be funded in many States across the country. We know this program provides nutritional services to more than 8.9 million participants per month, including 4.7 million children and 2.1 million infants. A quarter of a million of my constituents in Pennsylvania depend upon this program. For now--for now--the State government is using carryover funds to keep the WIC Program running in Pennsylvania. If the government shutdown continues to stretch on, this may put the program in jeopardy.

    We know the impact this shutdown is having on older citizens across Pennsylvania and across the country. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is no longer able to provide health care provider oversight. While Medicare claims are still being paid, the shutdown has caused a reduction in the number of initial surveys and recertifications for Medicare and Medicaid providers. If providers are unable to be certified, then they cannot serve beneficiaries.

    Home- and community-based services are adversely impacted. We know that even though Social Security checks are going out, at the same time those who are hoping to be enrolled in Social Security do not have that opportunity.

    Let me read from a letter we got from a constituent in northeastern Pennsylvania talking about this individual's parents.

    Besides our personal difficulties due to the Budget Impasse, my elderly parents live with the worry of when and if they will receive their Social Security checks. At 85 and 83, they should not have this uncertainty. These should be their golden years. It breaks my heart to hear my Mother saying she can't sleep and has a stomach ache from the worry about where our country is heading. Middle and low income families cannot afford another economic downturn, we are just barely recovering from the last one.

    That entire passage came from one individual in northeastern Pennsylvania writing about her parents, and I think that is the best summation I have read about what this is doing to people. The worry and the anxiety, in addition to the harsh impact, are things we should not accept.

    Finally, I will conclude with some comments about national security.

    I support--and I know this is widely shared--the passage of the Pay Our Military Act and welcome the Defense Department's decision to bring the majority of furloughed staff back. We mentioned the death benefits for families. We are all together on that. But all the while--all the while--that the Speaker does not put a bill on the floor that will open the government, we see the impacts on our national security. Seventy percent of the intel community's workforce has been furloughed. These are people who work every day to keep us safe from terrorists, and they are not able to work. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control has a skeletal crew, and they are not able to do their work, which is part of our national security.

    So if we are doing the right thing, and if the Speaker and his party in the House are doing the right thing, they would vote today to open the government, to ensure that we pay our bills, and to continue to negotiate. It is very simple. What they have in front of them is a 16- page bill. I think they could pass it this afternoon and reopen our government and give that family in northeastern Pennsylvania some measure of peace of mind instead of the worry and the anxiety and the fear that are caused by both the government shutdown and efforts made to even contemplate defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

    With that, I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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