Tonight, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues in the House to drop their unacceptable demands and pass a clean, short-term spending measure to keep the government open. She also discussed the impacts a shutdown would have in Washington state, where tens of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed, national parks will close, and veterans disability and GI benefits could stop.
Remarks as prepared:
“Madam President, I know many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are deeply frustrated.
“Because once again, with just a few hours left on the clock, House Republican brinkmanship has us struggling to avoid burdening families and our economy with more dysfunction and more uncertainty.
“This pattern is simply unacceptable, Madam President.
“And some of us—Democrats and Republicans—have been trying to break it for months.
“When the Senate Budget passed, I was hopeful that we could move to a bipartisan budget conference, where Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate could sit down at a table and try to work out our differences.
“Democrats tried to begin a budget conference eighteen times.
“Many Senate Republicans agreed with us that we should begin negotiations and work toward a deal.
“But each time, Tea Party Republicans and Republican leadership stood up and said no.
“And Madam President, they made it very clear why.
“They believed that they would have more leverage in a crisis—like the one we are just hours away from—than they had a few months ago when we had time for orderly negotiations.
“Instead of working on a bipartisan budget agreement that would strengthen our economy, Tea Party Republicans began manufacturing a crisis to defund the Affordable Care Act, a law that is helping millions of Americans—and beginning tomorrow, shutdown or no shutdown, will begin helping many more.
“And due to Republicans’ refusal to come to the table, we’re now scrambling to avoid a shutdown.
“Madam President, I am confident that the American people—including many in my home state—are looking at House Republicans and asking the same questions many of us are.
“They’re asking “What are they thinking?” and “Why would they hurt their own constituents simply to make a point?”
“Because even if Tea Party Republicans don’t want to admit it—a government shutdown wouldn’t just impact Washington, D.C.
“It would be felt across the country.
“In my home state of Washington – the impacts would be severe.
“First, Washington is home to tens of thousands of federal employees who will be furloughed or stop getting paid.
“But it’s also home to one of our nation’s largest veterans communities – and the VA has confirmed this week that if the shutdown goes long enough, disability and GI benefits will stop for veterans in places like Tacoma, Everett, and Spokane.
“All because some Tea Party Republicans in Washington, D.C. can’t have their way.
“And that’s not all.
“If the Tea Party forces the government to shut down, our state’s gorgeous national parks – like Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier – will be closed to the public.
“Students at the University of Washington and Washington State University may not be able to access new student loans to pay their tuition bills.
“Funds for important public health programs like WIC could be cut for women and children who rely on them.
“And federal support for dozens of Head Start facilities in Seattle and across our state would be at risk.
“The good news is, M. President, is that none of this has to happen.
“We still have time.
“And the Senate has passed a shutdown prevention bill that would avoid all this harm.
“The Senate’s short-term funding bill would keep the government open at current spending levels, and with no changes in policies—while we continue working toward a long-term budget deal.
“Now, the Senate bill is by no means a long-term solution—not even close.
“But as we work to bridge the gap between the parties on budget issues, the absolute bare minimum that Congress should be able to do, the very least we owe to our constituents is to not actively hurt them and sabotage the economy.
“But by playing partisan games with a temporary, stopgap continuing resolution - like trying take away health care for millions of Americans - Tea Party Republicans are doing exactly that.
“M. President, even their fellow Republicans believe this is irresponsible and unworkable.
“Many Republicans have spoken out to discourage their colleagues from waging a pointless, harmful fight over defunding the Affordable Care Act.
“They have agreed with Democrats that while we might not see eye-to-eye on everything, we don’t have to abandon our basic responsibilities—like keeping the government open—in order to negotiate.
“Madam President, we desperately need this kind of commonsense bipartisanship—because we have seen repeatedly that families from across the political spectrum are sick of governing by crisis and the uncertainty it creates in their daily lives.
“They are sick of gridlock in Washington D.C. impacting everything from their child care to their paychecks.
“Unfortunately, Madam President, it seems that House Republicans haven’t had quite enough yet.
“They seem to think this is a game—that whoever is left holding the hot potato will be held responsible.
“But let me be very clear: the American people are smarter than that.
“They know Tea Party Republicans have been pushing us towards crisis for months.
“And they’re going to know why a shutdown happened should the Tea Party refuse to pass the Senate’s clean continuing resolution to keep the government open.
“Madam President, allowing the government to shut down isn’t in anyone’s best interest—not Republicans, not Democrats, and—above all—not the American people.
“So I would like to call on Speaker Boehner to take one simple step.
“I ask that he allow a vote on the Senate’s clean continuing resolution.
“Because Madam President, I truly believe that given the chance, enough Republicans in the House would join Democrats in voting for a clean continuing resolution and keeping the government open.
“If Speaker Boehner takes this step, we could avoid all of the disruption and harm that a government shutdown would cause to the families and communities we serve.
“And we could move forward and continue our work on a longer-term budget deal that ends governing by crisis and puts families and our economy first.
“That’s what families across the country and in Washington state expect.
“That’s what I am fighting for.
“And that is what we should deliver.
“Thank you and I yield the floor.”