Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Urge GOP To Drop Threats Of Government Shutdown, Join Responsible Approach To Deficit Reduction

Government Shutdown Could Delay Social Security Checks, Deny Veterans Access To Health Care, Leave Nation’s Borders Unprotected

Washington, DC— U.S. Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Patty Murray and Bob Casey today urged Republicans to join in a responsible approach to deficit reduction, and drop threats to force a government shutdown that would have disastrous consequences for the economy.

“Americans expect a responsible approach to cutting spending and reducing the deficit,” Sen. Reid said.  “When Republicans play political games with shutting down the government, they are jeopardizing Social Security checks, health benefits for veterans and seniors and border security funding.  Especially as our economy begins to turn a corner, middle-class families in Nevada and across the nation expect us to work together – not threaten extreme steps that would only send us back into crisis.”

As recently as Sunday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly refused to take a government shutdown off the table, even though such an extreme measure could delay Social Security checks for seniors, delay benefits for veterans, and could send our economy back into crisis – just as we are starting to turn the corner.

“Last Sunday, the Republican Leader repeatedly referred to the pending expiration of the CR and the potential breaching of the debt limit as ‘opportunities,’” Sen. Durbin said. “Shutting down the government and defaulting on our debts should not be considered ‘opportunities.’ Risking millions of American jobs should not be considered an ‘opportunity.’ We need to responsibly deal with the deficit, but we should not put the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans in the middle of a game of political brinksmanship in Washington.”

To rein in spending and bring down the deficit, Democrats believe we need to drop the extreme rhetoric and pursue a responsible, two-pronged approach that cuts waste while keeping our economy growing and creating jobs.

“We are just now beginning to turn the corner towards a recovery.” Sen. Schumer said. “This would be the exact wrong time to play with fire by shutting down the government.

The Senators were joined by Mark Zandi, a leading economist and former adviser to Senator McCain’s presidential campaign, who described the economic ramifications of even a temporary shutdown of the government.

“Right now we need to be working together on creating jobs, taking smart steps to reduce the deficit, and investing in the American people,” Sen. Murray said. “Unfortunately, some Republicans have signaled they’re willing to play political games with the budget that only the American people can lose.  I am very concerned about what shutting down the government would mean for the 22 million veterans across the country who rely on benefit checks, support from the GI bill, and access to VA services. Cutting off these services because of political posturing would be the height of irresponsibility.”

“A government shutdown would hurt the economic recovery and threaten our national security,” Sen. Casey said.  “With uncertainty in Egypt and the Middle East and with U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can’t risk instability at home.”



From November 1995 through January 1996, Republicans forced a partial shutdown of the U.S. government two separate times for a total of 26 days. During that short time, more than 400,000 veterans’ benefits were delayed, $3 billion in American goods were held up by export backlogs, 760,000 American workers went without pay while, federal unemployment benefits ran out for the first time in 60 years, and toxic waste clean-ups and illegal immigration deportation came to a halt.

To avoid even more drastic cuts during the 1995 shutdowns, states were forced to pick up the tab for everything from housing federal prisoners to feeding seniors through the Meals on Wheels program. Today, with some 44 states and the District of Columbia projecting budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion, it would be impossible for states to pay the federal government’s bills – and protect families – during a shutdown.

Finally, the 1995 shutdowns actually cost the federal government $1.5 billion.

With our economy recovering from the recession, American families and businesses simply cannot afford a repeat of 1995.

Flashback to 1995-96 Government Shutdown:

·         More than 400,000 veterans saw their disability benefits and pension claims delayed

·         Educational benefits were delayed for 170,000 veterans

·         Instead of providing benefits to veterans, a number of VA hospitals were forced to set up food banks for their employees who were going without pay checks

·         Approximately $3 billion in U.S. exports couldn’t leave the country because the Commerce Department couldn’t issue export licenses

·         For the first time in the federal unemployment program’s 60-year history, six states ran out of federal funds to pay unemployment benefits

·         Processing and deportation of illegal immigrants stopped, and employers were unable to verify job applicants’ immigration status

·         10,000 new Medicare applications and 212,000 Social Security requests were delayed

·         Tens of thousands of Americans could not purchase a home because the Federal Housing Administration was unable to insure single family home loans

·         EPA’s enforcement activities were stopped and toxic waste clean-up at more than 600 sites slowed or came to a halt

·         95% of workplace safety activities were halted

·         The Department of Interior stopped inspecting oil and gas well on public lands

·         760,000 American workers were either furloughed or worked without pay 

·         200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed

Headlines from 1995-96 Government Shutdown:

·         USA TODAY: “Government Shutdown Slows Economy”

·         BOSTON HERALD: “Shutdown Causing Pain at Veterans Hospital” 

·         TAMPA TRIBUNE: “Shutdown Misery Piles Up; Funds for Supplies at Veterans Hospitals and Jobless Benefits in Six States Have Run Out”

·         ASSOCIATED PRESS: “Meals for Home-Bound Elderly Among Programs Imperiled by Shutdown”

·         AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: “Shutdown Stalls Checks to Veterans”

·         SUN-SENTINEL: “Federal Shutdown’s Impact Reaches Far Beyond the Beltway”

·         THE ADVOCATE: “More Than Washington Hurt By the Shutdowns”

Republicans Continue to Threaten Government Shut Down:

Headline: McConnell Won’t Take Shutdown Off The Table.  [Politico, 1/30/11]

GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Refused to Take Government Shutdown Off The Table. Host: “Are you willing to say right now we’re not going to let the country go into default, and we won’t allow a government shutdown?”

Cantor:  “Chris, look at this now.  The chief executive, the president, is as responsible as any in terms of running this government. The president has a responsibility, as much or more so than Congress, to make sure that we are continuing to function in a way that the people want.”  [Fox News Sunday, 11/7/10]

GOP Senator Mike Lee.  “Even if it leads to government default and shutdown?  ‘It’s an inconvenience, it would be frustrating to many, many people and it’s not a great thing, and yet at the same time, it’s not something that we can rule out,’ he says. ‘It may be absolutely necessary.’” [NPR, 10/28/10]

GOP House Finance Committee Chair Spencer Bachus. “I would think when we send the spending bills to the president he will veto them, and then the hard vote will be when he sends them back and we will be faced with another situation where he will probably try to force us to shut government down and we are going to have to be brave this time.”  [The Hill, 1/1/10]

GOP Representative Steve King.  “I’d like to challenge them to make that pledge, I’d like [Boehner] to make that commitment that if the president shuts down the government, there wouldn’t be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved.”    [Roll Call, 9/20/10]

GOP Representative Lynn Westmoreland.  “If the government shuts down, we want you with us,” Westmoreland told audience members at the conservative Faith and Freedom conference last week. [Politico, 9/16/10]

Republican “Strategist” Dick Morris.  “there is going to be a government shut down just like in 95 and 96 but we’re gonna win it this time.”  [Dick Morris Speech, 8/27/10]

Former GOP Speaker of the House New Gingrich. “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Tuesday that a government shutdown could occur should Republicans attempt to strip funding for the new healthcare law next Congress.  …Should President Barack Obama continue to veto such measures, Gingrich said that the government could close like it did nearly 15 years ago over a budget dispute between the Republican Congress and President Bill Clinton.”A simple majority can refuse to fund. So, if you have Boehner as speaker and Mitch McConnell as majority leader, all you have to do is not write into the appropriations bill the money,” Gingrich said at a breakfast sponsored by The American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform. “If the president vetoes the appropriations bills, you repass them.” [The Hill 4/13/09]

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.  “The head of the influential Americans for Tax Reform is encouraging the new House Republican majority to adopt a take-no-prisoners approach to federal spending — and if that leads to a 1995-style government shutdown, so be it…”  [Politico, 11/18/10]