10.07.13

Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy: Time To End The Manufactured "Made In Congress" Shutdown

As prepared for delivery

Mr. President, in what has become an all too familiar scene around the Capitol over the past few years, we again find ourselves in a stalemate over providing funding to keep the Federal Government running.  

I share the frustration of most Americans that what was once the regular business of Congress – simply funding the government – has been replaced by political theater and another artificial, made-in-Congress crisis that imperils the economy and, in ways large and small, every single family in America.

Of course, there is an easy way to resolve this fabricated crisis.  The House of Representatives could simply vote on the Senate bill – a clean continuing resolution, without any partisan ideological riders -- that would provide the funding necessary to keep the Federal Government open through November 15, and Speaker Boehner could accept Leader Reid’s offer to get on with the business of negotiating and passing this year’s appropriations bills.  

Over the past week the House has had ample opportunity to end this shutdown by passing the Senate’s legislation to fund all of the Federal agencies and provide Congress the time it needs to consider a path forward.  Yet a faction of extreme House members – supported by their leadership – have prevented the full body from voting on the Senate bill.  Instead, they have chosen to close the Government – all because they want to erode access to affordable, private healthcare options for millions of uninsured Americans.  It is unconscionable.  

There is no question that this is a crisis driven by a handful of partisans on the other side of the aisle, for whom there is no path to compromise on just about anything.  Their demands are both constantly shifting and breathtakingly unreasonable.  Yet while the Senate has voted on one flawed House proposal after another, the House refuses to vote on the Senate’s proposal.

Incredibly, these same extremists are now threatening to employ this same harmful tactic when the Federal Government reaches its statutory borrowing limit in a couple of weeks.  In fact, the Treasury Department reported last week that a failure to raise the debt limit could cause credit markets to freeze, the dollar to plummet, and interest rates to rise precipitously.  The report goes on to say a Government default on its debts might prove so catastrophic that it could potentially result “in a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.”

We have all heard a lot of talk and seen a lot of crocodile tears about getting our fiscal house in order – oh, it makes a great campaign slogan.  But too many who got elected with such bumper sticker sloganeering are not following through on their constitutional responsibility to govern.  Again, just look at their list of ransom demands for reopening the government:  The first one blows a $100 billion hole in the national debt by repealing the Affordable Care Act; the second one adds $30 billion more to the debt without offering any suggestion for making up the revenue; the third still keeps closed important government functions like the providing food assistance to young children, expectant mothers, and seniors; and the list goes on and on.    

It is truly unfortunate that a relative few in Congress are willing to play politics and brinksmanship at a time when the public demands statesmanship – and that their reckless actions are hurting families all across America.  For this small, extreme fraction it seems “compromise” is a dirty word and “distrust” is a political tactic.  That may explain why we have heard excuse after excuse for blocking the budget discipline they so desperately pled for just a short time ago.  Instead they have raised 19 objections to going forward with a budget conference; they have shut the government down; and they are preparing to cause the government’s first ever debt default in our Nation’s history.  

That’s right.  The Speaker of the House is now holding the Government’s credit hostage, threatening this weekend to let the Nation default come October 17 when the debt limit is reached, unless even more draconian spending cuts are made.  We have caught just a preview of the chaos such a move could create, when stock futures dropped sharply and European stocks dropped dramatically in the wake of House Republicans’ newest ultimatum.  This is no way to govern.

It is far past time for reason and sanity to return to Congress – on this government shutdown, on setting our budget priorities, and on a whole host of other issues.  I remain ready to work with people on both sides of the aisle in the hopes that we can find a solution that ends this needless shutdown and gets us and hundreds of thousands of federal employees back to doing our work on behalf of the American people.  But that starts with the House voting on the Senate bill to reopen the American people’s government.  

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