Senate Democrats

Reid Remarks On The Tea Party Government Shutdown

“This shutdown is not an act of nature, but a man-made disaster for our economy. It is also a disaster waiting to happen for national security.” 

“A piecemeal approach – funding the government bit by bit – is simply not the answer. No matter how many bites Republicans take at the apple, there is only one bill that ensures every federal priority is met: the Senate’s bill to fully reopen the federal government.” 

“It was the Speaker’s intention all along to pass a clean continuing resolution… So I say to the Speaker: go with your first instinct. Pass a clean continuing resolution.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the need to end the Tea Party government shutdown.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

I appreciate the action by the House of Representatives to pay furloughed federal workers once the government reopens. This is noncontroversial legislation, and the Senate will act on it. But it is cruel to tell workers that they’ll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to reopen the government. First things first, let’s end the shutdown. The hundreds of thousands of furloughed public servants want to work. And they should be allowed to work.

We shouldn’t punish these middle-class workers, who just want to go to work and do their jobs, for Republicans’ incompetence. These are ordinary Americans with ordinary families – families that have to save for college, put away money for retirement, pay the mortgage and feed their children. But they also shouldn’t be allowed to take a paid vacation forced by Republicans in Congress either. Let’s end the shutdown. And let’s put public servants back on the job.

It’s been a week since the United States Senate passed a bill to reopen the federal government. For seven days The Senate has been waiting for the House of Representatives to act. But Speaker Boehner has refused to allow the House to vote on the one bill that can reopen the government.

One economist with Moody’s Analytics says that if this shutdown drags on for three or four weeks it will cost the economy $55 billion. That cost is on par with the economic damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. But this shutdown is not an act of nature, but a man-made disaster for our economy.

It is also a disaster waiting to happen for national security. This Tea Party shutdown is hampering our ability to enforce sanctions on Iran. This Tea Party shutdown is hurting our ability to gather intelligence. And according to the chief of staff of the Army, this Tea Party shutdown is impacting the day-to-day operations of the United States Armed Forces.

I know my Republican colleagues are as concerned about the safety and security of the United States of America as I am. And I know they would like to mitigate the impacts of this shutdown on intelligence gathering, the military and a dozen other government agencies, as much as I would. But a piecemeal approach – funding the government bit by bit – is simply not the answer.

No matter how many bites Republicans take at the apple, there is only one bill that ensures every federal priority is met: the Senate’s bill to fully reopen the federal government.

The priorities Republicans have addressed so far – veterans, national parks, the National Guard and the National Institutes of Health – are certainly worthy. But there are many other needs that will go unmet and priorities that will be ignored without fully reopening the government. For example, more than 1,300 rape crisis centers rely on federal funding to support victims and prevent crime. Unless the federal government reopens, organizations that advocate for victims of violence will be forced to close their doors or work without pay. Will House Republicans pass a bill to help them next? Preventing sexual assault is certainly a worthy priority.

But even those who whose needs would be met under the piecemeal House approach believe it is the wrong path forward. This is what William Thien, commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars wrote to leaders in Congress this week: “We expect more from our elected leadership, and not a piecemeal approach that would use the military or disabled veterans as leverage in a political game.” The VFW commander is correct. Neither veterans, nor the military, nor hungry infants, nor children with cancer should be used as political pawns. Nor should they be left out in the cold.

There is still only one bill that can fund all these priorities, and protect both our economy and our national security: the Senate’s clean bill to reopen the government. We’ve been waiting a week. But the Speaker could end this government shutdown today.

It was the Speaker’s intention all along to pass a clean continuing resolution. But instead he has been wasting time and following Tea Party orders. And he has refused to allow a vote on a bill that he proposed in the first place.

This is what Republican Congressman Charlie Dent said last night: “I do believe it’s imperative that we have a clean funding bill to fund the government. That was the intent of the Republican leadership all along, but obviously there were a few dozen folks in the House Republican Conference who weren’t prepared to vote for a clean bill, and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in right now.”

So I say to the Speaker: go with your first instinct. Pass a clean continuing resolution.

But according to one House Republican, Congressman Devin Nunes of California, the Speaker is taking his order straight from the junior Senator from Texas instead. Asked what the Republican strategy was – what the next move would be – this is what Congressman Nunes said yesterday: “You really have to call Cruz, I’m not even joking about that. That’s really what you have to do, because he’s the one that set up the strategy, he’s the one that got us into this mess, and so we’ve got to know what the next move is.”

So I say to my friend, the Speaker of the House, stop taking marching orders from the Tea Party. All you have to do is find the courage to defy the Tea Party for the good of the country.

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