10.08.13

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy: The Financial Cost Of The Artificial "Made In Congress" Shutdown

Senate Floor

[As prepared for delivery]

Today marks the 8th day of this unnecessary government shutdown. More than 192 hours since the world saw the doors of the United States Government close for this embarrassing and needless shutdown. And while the Republicans in the House have the ability to end this shutdown right now – within the hour – they refuse to pass the clean continuing resolution approved by the Senate. I have joined other Senators in coming to the Floor to speak about the pervasive impact of the shutdown, and there isn’t a family in Vermont or America that this shutdown hasn’t affected, with cascading, worsening effects to come, the longer this senseless shutdown continues. I have joined the chorus of voices urging the relatively few in the House of Representatives holding up this process to put an end to this political act of destruction. And yet we’re still here.

If the human toll of the impact -- if the Vermonters not able to buy a home or the children turned away from potentially life-saving clinical trials, and the parents of our fallen soldiers who won’t receive death benefits to pay for their funerals-- won’t motivate them to do the right thing, then perhaps I can speak their language for a moment and point to the actual fiscal cost of this Republican shutdown.

The estimated cost for each hour the Government remains shutdown is $12.5 million. That is $300 million a day, or $1.6 billion per week, to get nothing in return. What do the American people get for their money?  They get to watch fake budget conferences and staged photo ops. Over the last 8 days, we have spent more than $2 billion for the government to not work, not function, and not serve the American people. Can you imagine the actual good that could be done with $2 billion? And that figure only covers the cost in work and services the Government can't perform because 800,000 Federal workers are furloughed.  This doesn’t take into account the reverberating harm that ripples throughout our overall economy.

Where are the deficit hawks who claim we don’t have enough money to provide SNAP benefits to hungry Americans in the Farm Bill? Where are the members who shamefully held up disaster relief after Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy while insisting that spending be offset? Surely they would want put a stop to the shutdown to end this wasteful government spending. And yet here we are, waiting for the House of Representatives to pass the clean CR and put an end to this shutdown.

Instead of passing the clean, Senate-passed Continuing Resolution pending in the House – based on budget levels they themselves have advocated -- the proposals being offered by House Republicans would actually expand the deficit. First, the House proposed that we repeal the Affordable Care Act, because of claims that it is harmful to our economy. However, repealing the Affordable Care Act would actually accelerate the health care cost spiral and boost the Federal budget deficit by $109 billion. Next, the House suggests repealing just a portion of the Affordable Care Act, which would add $30 billion to the deficit. Where were the cries for offsets to those provisions? Where were the members in the House who attack appropriations bills and insist on cuts to funding for law enforcement officers and disaster preparedness and medical research? Where were the members who insist that the devastating cuts of sequestration must remain in place because we simply can’t afford it and must reduce the deficit at all costs?

They ditched those professed principles and now have forced a government shutdown. It appears the only time the House is willing to compromise is when it comes to adding to the deficit in order to prevent access to affordable health insurance for millions of Americans.

We are here right now because the House refuses to act. They could end this shutdown right now and make this the last day we spend $300 million on nothing. The Senate-passed CR maintained the painful sequester cuts on a temporary basis, despite our clear desire to replace the sequester. We were willing to compromise in order to prevent a shutdown. And yet a faction within the majority in the House, which now has brought the Government of the United States to a halt, perversely insists on wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each day, day after day, and will not relent.  

Let’s stop wasting time. I want to get back to work for Vermonters. Let’s reopen the government, and start making real decisions about our future.

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