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Harry R.
Democrat NV

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  • Government Shutdown

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2013-09-26

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    REID. Mr. President, yesterday I warned of the economic consequences if a few extremist Republicans force a government shutdown. Already, the stock market has slipped, and that is an understatement. Five days in a row--the longest continuous period since 2012--the stock market has gone down, and they all say it is the result of the fear of the government shutting down. And why should the financial markets feel any differently? People are still speaking about closing the government.

    Now, the talk by a few Republicans over here has stopped the last 24 hours, but they over there are taking up where the long talk over here ended: Close the government. The tea party is still insisting on a shutdown. It is hard to comprehend, but it is true.

    The dark consequences do not end just by saying that. If the Federal Government closes its doors, seniors applying for Social Security will not be able to apply. Veterans applying for disability will not be able to apply. They would be forced to wait until the Federal workers return to their posts. The FBI, because of sequestration and other anomalies we have around here, is talking about furloughing their employees, closing their offices 1 day a week. Across the country, mortgage loans and small business loans would be delayed. Members of the military will be forced to defend this country without even a paycheck as thanks. Billions of dollars will drain from the economy every day the government is closed for business.

    This is not hyperbole, not conjecture. It is the truth. If you look back at history, it pretty well determines where you are on a given day, and if you look back to when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans controlled Congress--the House of Representatives--they shut down the government in 1995 because President Clinton would not meet their every demand, and it cost the country tens of billions of dollars.

    So yesterday I urged Republicans to consider the impact of a shutdown on [[Page S6906]] the recovery. But the economic price of shutting down the government should not be the only thing keeping the Republicans up at night; they should worry about the political consequence as well.

    Mr. President, we are all politicians, all 100 of us. A brandnew poll--CBS, a respected organization--says 80 percent of Americans--that is almost as much as favor background checks on guns--80 percent of Americans--you rarely get 80 percent of Americans to agree on anything, but they agree that those who want the government to be held hostage to extract these concessions are people they will not vote for. Seventy- five percent of Republicans feel that way in this poll.

    So those of us who remember the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 know the story did not end well for Republicans. Just ask Charles Krauthammer. There is no more respected conservative--really conservative--columnist than Charles Krauthammer. He has penned a conservative column for the Washington Post since the 1980s. Here is what he wrote just a week or two ago: Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution.

    That is a direct quote.

    As they did in the 1990s, today's radical Republicans have called for concessions they know we will never agree to. Senate Democrats will not agree and the President will not agree. The Senate will never pass, nor will President Obama sign, a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act and denies millions of Americans access to lifesaving health care.

    The statement made by John McCain yesterday said it all. He has some credentials to talk about that. He was the Republican nominee for President of the United States. He did not like what happened with health care, and he talked about it here. He wished it had not passed, but it passed. He said it was a fair fight and he and the Republicans lost. Move on to something else is what he said.

    The Senate will never pass, as I have indicated before, a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare. Tea party Republicans have demanded the impossible and vowed to shut down the government unless they get it.

    Mr. Krauthammer and I do not agree all the time, but he aptly measured the fallout from the shutdowns of the mid-1990s and correctly predicted a similar result from a modern shutdown--a modern shutdown. He wrote what nearly two dozen mainstream Republican Senators have also said: ``This gambit is doomed to fail.'' He also wrote: This is about tactics. If I thought this would work, I would support it. But I don't fancy suicide. It has a tendency to be fatal.

    That is an understatement.

    I commend Republican Senators who have spoken in favor of reason, and you cannot imagine how satisfied I am because that is how we used to get things done here. I can look back at John Breaux from Louisiana. If he thought we were not doing enough on this side of the aisle, he reached out to Republicans and worked something out.

    So what Republican Senators have said in the last few days is really important. They have spoken out for reason, calling the tea party's shutdown ultimatum a ``box canyon,'' a ``suicide note,'' and ``the dumbest idea ever.'' Although these reasonable Republicans dislike ObamaCare as much as their more radical colleagues, they also realize the futility and the danger of political hostage-taking. They know this country cannot be governed by one faction of one party on one side of the Capitol. Governing must be a cooperative effort that sets aside ideological or parochial concerns in favor of what is best for the Nation, for the economy, and for middle-class families.

    On November 14, 1995--the first day of the first government shutdown--President Clinton urged Republicans in Congress to govern with him instead of fighting against him. This is what he said: There is, after all, a simple solution to the problem. All Congress has to do is to pass a straightforward bill to let government perform its duties and pay its debts. Then we can get back to work and resolve our differences . . . in an open, honest, and straightforward manner.

    Mr. President, every Thursday when we are in session, I do a ``Welcome to Washington.'' A lady from Boulder City, NV, came up to me. She said: I work for the Park Service, and we are so afraid. At the Park Service, we don't know what we are going to do. The last time there was a government shutdown, the parks closed. There is so much confusion. That is the way it is throughout government.

    So I offer today the same advice that President Clinton gave in 1995. Let government perform its duties. The way out of this predicament is as simple today as it was in 1995. So again I invite my Republican colleagues to return with me to the time when we worked to resolve our differences in an open, honest, and straightforward manner.

    Mr. President, I am going to take a few minutes. I apologize to my Republican counterpart, but we have to understand, the American people have to understand the seriousness of what is going on around here.

    Tom Friedman wrote yesterday in his op-ed piece--he is a renowned syndicated columnist. He has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He has had six or seven best-selling books. I am not going to read everything he wrote, but I want to read a little bit that he wrote yesterday.

    The Republican Party is being taken over by a Tea Party faction that is not interested in governing on any of the big issues--immigration, gun control, health care, debt and taxes--where, with just minimal compromises between the two parties, we'd amplify our strengths so much that we'd separate ourselves from the rest of the world. Instead, this group is threatening to shut down the government and undermine America's vital credit rating if it doesn't get its way.

    This kind of madness helped to produce the idiotic sequester--the $1.2 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across-the-board budget cuts from 2013 to 2021--that is already undermining one of our strongest assets.

    And here he goes: Ask Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, the crown jewel of American biotech innovation. In fiscal 2013, the sequester required the N.I.H. to cut $1.55 billion across the board: 5 percent at each of its 27 institutes and centers, irrespective of whether one was on the cusp of a medical breakthrough and another was not. ``There was still an ability within each institute to make adjustments, but, as N.I.H. director, I could not decide to emphasize cancer research and down modulate something else,'' Collins explained.

    Because of the sequester and the fact that the N.I.H. budget has been losing ground to inflation for 10 years, ``we will not be able to fund 640 research grants that were scored in the top 17 percent of the proposals we received,'' said Collins.

    He goes on to say: ``They would have been funded without the sequester, but now they won't. They include new ideas on cancer, diabetes, autism and heart disease--all the things that we as a country say are a high priority. I can't say which of those grants would have led to the next breakthrough, or which investigator would be a Nobel Prize winner 20 years from now.'' Of those 640 top research proposals, 150 were from scientists financed in a previous budget cycle who had returned to the N.I.H. to secure another three to five years of funding--because they thought they were really on to something and a peer review board agreed. ``Now we are cutting them off,'' said Collins, ``so you damage the previous investment as well as the future one.'' In 2014, the N.I.H. was planning to offer new money to stimulate research proposals in a dozen areas including how to speed up the use of stem cells to cure Parkinson's and other diseases, how to better manage pain in sickle-cell disease, and how to improve early diagnosis of autism. All were shelved because of the sequester, said Collins: Why ask people to submit applications we would just have to turn down.

    In addition, in 2013, the N.I.H. had to turn away from its research hospital 750 patients who wanted to be part of a clinical trial for disorders for which medicine currently has no answers. America's biomedical ecosystem depends heavily on N.I.H. doing basic research the private sector won't do.

    So we're cutting the medical research that has the potential to prevent and cure the very diseases that are driving health care costs upward.

    In short, we're cutting without a plan--the worst thing a country or company can do--and we're doing it because one of our two parties has been taken over by angry radicals and barking fools and the old leadership is running scared. But when the Republican Party goes this far off the rail, it isn't even remotely challenging President Obama to challenge his base on taxes and entitlements.

    And thus does a great country, with so much potential, slowly become ungreat.

    Not only do we have sequestration, now they want to do even more and shut the government down and not extend the debt ceiling. This is a say bad time for America. I hope people come to their senses.

    [[Page S6907]] ____________________

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