Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy Another Political Ploy: The Costly Impact of Shutting Down Our Government Over Planned Parenthood

Here we are again: with just six days until the Federal Government has to close its doors, we find ourselves faced with another manufactured crisis.  Two years ago, it was defunding the Affordable Care Act.  Congress has voted nearly 60 times on that so far, all of which failed.  In the meantime, more than 17 million Americans who had no health insurance have obtained health insurance.

Four years ago, it was the same issue Republicans are pushing today: defunding an organization that provides health care to millions of women across this country.  With the vote to defund Planned Parenthood now behind us – for the second time in as many months – it is time to move forward, to pass a clean, short-term continuing resolution, and get to work addressing the real challenge before us: ending sequestration.

We’ve said it before and it bears repeating: sequestration was never supposed to become the status quo.  Its cuts are so extreme and so draconian that imposing it will hurt programs across the board, impacting every American.  Sequestration neglects police and fire departments, national parks, highways and bridges, airports, public health and education, and abandons promises made to our veterans and men and women in uniform.  Allowing sequester-level spending bills to become law for the next fiscal year – which the President has rightly said he will not do – would be an abdication of our sworn responsibilities as Members of Congress. 

We must pass a clean, continuing resolution, we must negotiate a new deal to end sequestration, and we must pass appropriations bills that reflect the urgent needs of our country, not a political score card.

Last weekend, my wife, Marcelle, and I were fortunate to join hundreds of Vermont women at the 19th Annual Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference in Randolph, Vermont.  I have sponsored this conference each year, in an effort to help Vermont women of all ages and generations take advantage of the economic opportunities available to them. 

From emerging entrepreneurs or those transitioning their careers, thousands of participants have been drawn to the conference over its nearly two decade history.  Sequestration puts at risk the ability of small businesses to access loans and counseling from the Federal government, which helps spur and strengthen our economy.  Sequestration will cut critical workforce investment programs that help young workers, dislocated workers, and veterans find permanent employment.  Sequestration reverses the progress we have made in recent years to restore our economy and create jobs.

The economic harm of sequestration is, of course, not all that is at stake.  As Senators in both parties have pointed out, sequestration hurts our national security and the readiness of our Armed Forces.  Sequestration hurts our roads, our infrastructure, and our public transit systems, and will deeply impact our affordable housing supply.  Sequestration makes maintaining our commitment to our veterans – including a generation of disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – nearly impossible.  What’s more, to meet the requirements of sequestration, we are poised to rob from such vital needs as job training programs and preschool development grants.

The bottom line is this: sequestration was never intended to happen.  But relying on budget gimmicks, as the Senate’s defense spending bill does, while nearly zeroing out critical programs for low-income Americans, as the Senate’s transportation and housing bill does, creates more problems.  Republican leaders have waited too long to come to the table to negotiate relief from sequester-level spending caps. 

By passing this clean, short-term continuing resolution, we can get to work now – immediately – to negotiate a new deal that builds on the 2013 Murray-Ryan deal, and keep the doors of our government open.

We have now had the pointless debate over defunding Planned Parenthood.  Let’s move on.  Let’s not manufacture another crisis that puts millions of jobs on the line and hurts Americans in every state of this country.  We were elected to represent our constituents.  The voice from Vermonters is clear: it’s time to get our work done.

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