Hire More Heroes Act of 2015—Continuedby Senator Kelly Ayotte
Posted on 2015-09-22
AYOTTE. Mr. President, I rise to speak about a very important
issue. It is a fundamental constitutional issue for this body and part
of our duty in the Senate and the Congress; that is, to ensure next
week the funding for the government which expires at the end of the
month. With only 1 week until the current government funding runs out,
it is our responsibility to work together to make sure that the
government keeps running, that we do not disrupt people's lives, that
we do not end up spending more money because we shut the government
down to reopen it, and that we provide certainty with all of the
challenges we face at home and, of course, the threats we face abroad.
An issue has come up that is a very important issue, and that is an organization called Planned Parenthood and holding Planned Parenthood accountable in the wake of deeply disturbing videos that discuss the appalling practice of harvesting the organs and body parts of unborn babies.
[[Page S6882]] Like Americans across all political spectrums, I was just sick--sick to see the contents of recent videos that have been disclosed that show a callous disregard by officials at Planned Parenthood for the dignity of human life. These videos have shocked the conscience of people across our country because this organization does receive taxpayer funding. I understand why we have had an important debate in this body about redirecting this funding because of Planned Parenthood's actions and fully investigating what was revealed in these disturbing videos that show the practice of the harvesting of organs and body parts of unborn babies.
So I support the efforts of the Judiciary Committee to investigate these disturbing videos. I also do not believe it is appropriate that taxpayer funds should be used to fund a private organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions each year and that engages in the horrific practices that were shown in these videos.
That is why last month I joined a bipartisan majority of Senators in voting to redirect Federal funding from Planned Parenthood to community health centers that provide women's health services, including mammograms, cancer screenings, and contraceptives. In New Hampshire there are more than 30 community health centers, compared to 5 Planned Parenthood clinics.
But when we had this debate and vote on the Senate floor, we received only 53 votes in favor of redirecting this money from Planned Parenthood to community health centers which provide women's health services, falling well short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance this legislation in the Senate. Yet despite already having had a vote on this, which failed the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, there are some that are pushing to attach this issue to the funding of the government, even though when we had the vote here, we did not have the votes to get it passed in the Senate, and even though the President himself has explicitly said he would veto any bill that prohibits funding for Planned Parenthood or redirects that funding to community health centers.
In fact, the President is so dug in on funding for Planned Parenthood that he is prepared to let the government shut down over it. And those who are pushing the strategy, saying we should go forward with it anyway--they have not explained how we would obtain 67 votes in the Senate.
When we had the vote on it, we only got 53, not even enough to advance the legislation in the Senate, which requires 60. The President certainly knows that we do not have 67 votes in the Senate to override his veto. Nevertheless, those who are pushing the strategy to attach this to the government funding bill--this issue of redirecting the funding--also know that there are not 60 votes in the Senate, never mind 67 to override a Presidential veto. So the result is that if we passed the bill, even if we could get the 60 votes, the President is sure to veto it, and the 67 votes are not there to override his veto.
In the end, we are heading for an imminent government shutdown if this is not resolved. Everyone who looks at this issue knows the reality of where the votes lie. In fact, those on my side of the aisle who have been pushing the strategy of pass the bill, send it to the President for his veto, I have asked them the question: Let's assume we get the 60 votes to do that; first of all, how do we get those 60 votes? I have not received an answer to that question. Then I have asked the next question: Even if we could get those 60 votes to pass it out of the Senate and to send this to the President's desk with a government funding bill that redirects the money to Planned Parenthood over his opposition and he vetoes it, where do the 67 votes come from? I have not received an answer to that.
So I am here on the floor today to say: I am tired of the political games. I am tired of the President's game on this, that he is so dug in on this issue that he would be willing to let the government shut down. I am tired of the people on my side of the aisle who are pushing this strategy even though they know they do not have the votes to have it pass the Senate, and they certainly don't have the votes to override a Presidential veto, so, therefore, they cannot answer the question: What is the end game for success here, even if you feel as passionately about these issues as we all do? So here we are again with the political posturing on both sides. I don't want to play this game anymore. I think it is too important that we not relive the movie of where we were in 2013 when the government shut down because I asked the very same question then, when the issue was defunding ObamaCare. I asked the question: How does this end? How does it end successfully to defund ObamaCare? How does it end without shutting down the government? I never received an answer then, and I have not received an answer now from those who are pushing this strategy.
We saw the movie in 2013. I do not think we should relive that movie. Let's remember what happened. When you shut the government down and you reopen it, it actually costs us more money. So if you care about the fiscal state of the country, let's not waste money shutting down the government with no results. You think about the economy and the disruption in people's lives. I remember my constituents calling me on the phone, because I was answering my phones. I remember people who saved for years for a family vacation to our national parks and could not participate in that family vacation and lost the money they had sunk into it for years in their savings for their big family vacation because people were pushing to keep the government shut down, even though they had no strategy for achieving a result on it.
I remember the uncertainty and the hardship for working families and our military. Even though we keep our national security piece open during a government shutdown, there is so much uncertainty about whom that covers and whom it doesn't. When we look at the threats we are facing around the world right now, we do not need uncertainty when it comes to those who keep us safe at home on the law enforcement end, on our intel, on our military, and all the civilian workforce that supports them and makes sure they can do their job every single day.
The bottom line is, in 2013 we did not get a result, the funding for ObamaCare continued, the government was shut down, it cost us more money and disruption. We never got an answer then for how that would end successfully. Here we find ourselves again, the same group of people pushing the same strategy on the Planned Parenthood issue, saying we should shut the government down again, even though they cannot answer the question: How do we get to 60 votes? How do we get to 67 votes so that you can actually achieve a result here? I think the answer is that they don't know the answer, because we all know where the votes are. It is not going to happen.
So I am here on the floor because I feel strongly. I agree with the National Right to Life on this. In a recent op-ed, the National Right to Life rightly points out that pursuing this shutdown strategy could actually undermine efforts to hold Planned Parenthood accountable, primarily by shifting public attention in the political blame game that would result inevitably from the shutdown. The National Right to Life also cited a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which found that the majority of Federal funds flowing to Planned Parenthood would not even be temporarily interrupted if the government shut down because the funds flow from mandatory spending programs like Medicaid rather than the congressional funding process, which is the discretionary spending piece impacted by what we will vote on regarding the continuing resolution.
Again, this was the same issue that actually came up in 2013 when it came to the tactics of trying to defund ObamaCare without a strategy for success. Right now we are playing a game of chicken. It is a dangerous game. We already know as we stand here where the votes are and what it takes to keep the government open. Yet, as I understand it, we are going to be taking another vote on Thursday so we can show the proponents of those who are again seeking to attach the Planned Parenthood redirecting-of-funding issue to the government funding bill that, guess what, we already know the answer to this. We don't have the votes. We are not going to get to 60 in the Senate, never mind the 67 it would take to override a Presidential veto.
[[Page S6883]] So we all know what it is going to take to keep the government open. I think we should have that vote now, instead of continuing to have the political show votes that show the people where we know the votes already are on this issue. That means a clean funding bill now, so that we are not wasting time, so that we are not bringing ourselves closer to the brink of a shutdown.
So in good conscience, while I fully support redirecting the money from Planned Parenthood to community health centers who serve women, I cannot in good conscience participate again in this process, one that would ensure we come closer to the brink of a shutdown, when I have not heard a strategy for success.
I think the American people are owed an answer to the question: What is your strategy of success if you are threatening to shut down the government? I would ask the same of President Obama: If this is such an important issue to you that you are willing also to participate in this exercise of threatening a shutdown, is it that important to you given that the money can be redirected to community health centers that provide services to women? That said, it is time to quit the games on both sides of the aisle. I came here to solve problems. That means we need to address this issue now. We should have the vote on the clean funding bill now. We should make sure we keep the government running, given the challenges we are facing at home and abroad, so that we do not have shutdown 2 and relive the movie we saw in 2013, and that was not a good one for the country.
I hope we will take the vote right now instead of continuing to play political games on both sides of the aisle while the clock ticks down. This is a very important issue for our country, and I am prepared right now to vote for a bill that will keep the government funded.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.