Over the last three weeks, the House Republican leadership, handcuffed by the extremists in their party, have continued to cling to and defend their radical agenda to shut down the government over their resistance to President Barack Obama’s health care law. Despite strong opposition from the American public, the House GOP has consistently refused to fund the government for the new fiscal year unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded, delayed or dismantled.
As if shutting down our government is not reckless enough, they are now gambling with the full faith and credit of the United States of America. We cannot let one faction of one party in one house of one branch of government hold the entire country hostage. This is immoral and irresponsible, and America demands a clean continuing resolution bill that would reopen the government immediately and another bill to avoid defaulting on our debts.
So far, the Republicans have insisted on political gimmicks by throwing piecemeal funding bills that only serve to cover up their own obstructive policies. They accuse Democrats of not wanting to open the programs that they shut down in the first place, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) for women and children; federal medical research; and our national parks. After spending the last two years trying to destroy them, they now realize how important those programs are to their own constituents and are scrambling to cover their tracks. The mini-versions of appropriations bills, however, are insufficient to provide adequate funding for our veterans and children. House Republicans caused this shutdown, and now they’re trying to cherry-pick their way out of it. This is not a responsible way to run a government. The fact of the matter is that only a clean continuing resolution is going to end the government shutdown and reopen vital services that Republicans shut down.
Every day that passes is one in which Republicans deny veterans access to benefits, prevent cancer research for children and prey upon every vulnerable group that depends on the government to help them to use them as a political talking point. The Senate will never pass any piecemeal bill, and the president would veto one that hits his desk. By playing these games, House Republicans are doing nothing but wasting the time of the American people. We could reopen the government today, this minute, if Speaker John Boehner would simply let us vote. All of my Democratic colleagues are ready to vote on a continuing resolution right now. At last count, up to 24 Republicans had already publicly stated that they would vote in favor of the clean continuing resolution bill. The speaker says that Democrats won’t negotiate, but we’ve been sitting at the negotiating table trying to reason with the House Republicans for years. For every inch that we give, they demand a mile, and now that they can’t have everything they want, they drove the entire nation over a cliff.
What is worse is that the full faith and credit of our country is now being threatened again. Republicans, who profess to be so concerned with business and jobs, are throwing America headfirst into a default that would be disastrous for our recovering economy. We’re talking about retirees losing up to 20 percent of their savings. The cost of borrowing will increase, disrupting credit and the savings of everyone—rich or poor. Retirement savings accounts could lose up to $2.4 trillion nationwide, and the damage done to our economy would be devastating. Where is the Republican commitment to creating jobs, responsibly paying our debts, and building a stronger economy for everybody? Why have they instead pushed us on a course where 800,000 people are out of work, the Full Faith and Credit clause is in jeopardy and an economic disaster is right over our shoulders?
There are so many people still out of work who have lost their jobs and lost their hope, and they need their government to be working for them. Instead, we shut down because a fraction of one party could not get 100 percent of their way. Our focus needs to be on expanding the middle class and finding ways to lift everyone in America out of poverty. There are critical issues we should be focusing on right now to provide opportunities for a better future. There is no reason for our government to be dysfunctional. Unfortunately, a very vocal and misinformed minority has seized control of the speaker. Now our government is closed and distracted with trying to reopen.
How did we get here? Because the extremists of the Republican Party want to see Obama and the Affordable Care Act fail. The law enacted to open up access for health care to millions of those who are uninsured has become an obsession for the tea party, who would rather shut down our government than let people with pre-existing conditions get health care coverage and to protect families from the insurance companies. They should try to work with Democrats to improve a law if they don’t like it. Instead, Republicans threw us into this destructive shutdown of the federal government. Their tactics are dangerous, childish and harmful to the entire country.
Let’s be totally honest. The Republicans have tried 42 times now to repeal Obama’s signature law, and 42 times they have failed. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and it is moving forward—government shutdown or no government shutdown. Already, millions of people have enrolled in the Health Plan Marketplace to find the health care policy that will work best for them. As time goes on, prices will only continue to go down as the number of insured people goes up and the competition among insurance companies increases. Yet Republicans persist on destroying this historic piece of legislation against voices from their own party. They’ve proven their radicalism by playing a game of chicken with the jobs of 800,000 federal employees, the well-being of everybody who depends on the government for assistance and finally, our constitutional obligation to pay our bills.
I’ve been in Congress a long time, and I’ve seen lots of bad ideas come and go. The best results come when we all work together to find solutions that work for everyone, and then continue to work to improve a law even after it’s passed. What’s happening now is a level of irresponsibility I’ve never seen before. This situation was manufactured by tea party Republicans, and they drove us into the shutdown despite the serious consequences it has had for the American public. People are suffering, and our economy is imperiled because of their antics. So I say again, all it takes is one vote, one bill that already has the votes it needs to pass, and this hell will end. We must end the shutdown, and I will continue fighting until we do.