Sep 26 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging the passage of the Senate’s continuing resolution. Murray highlighted the opportunities over the last few months that would have allowed for a focus on real challenges, rather than artificial crises manufactured by Tea Party Republicans. Murray called on House Republicans to leave the Tea Party brinkmanship behind, pass the Senate bill without any gimmicks or games when it is sent over, and move forward with Democrats in negotiations on a long term budget deal.
Key Excerpts From Senator Murray’s Speech:
“…today, when we could have been focusing on the real challenges Americans are facing, we are instead focused on preventing the Tea Party from shutting down the government. All because Tea Party Republicans want another shot at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, which was passed with a supermajority, was upheld by the Supreme Court, and was a major issue the American people weighed in on in the 2012 election.”
“…while Democrats are more than happy to negotiate on the budget—we have been trying to do so for more than six months—we stand firmly behind President Obama and are not going to negotiate about whether the United States of America pays its bills. We believe families and businesses should not have to deal with any more of that kind of uncertainty.”
“It seems the only ones benefiting from this perpetual crisis mode are Tea Party Republicans. And I see no reason to keep doing them any favors. So I would like to call on the House Republicans to cut the Tea Party loose, give up the partisan games, and pass the Senate’s bill to prevent a government shutdown.”
“…hardworking Americans—and families across Washington state and the country—are already dealing with the consequences of gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C. They are dealing with across the board cuts from sequestration, which continue to pile up.”
“I believe putting the gimmicks and games aside and keeping the government open is a necessary step towards that goal. So I’m going to vote for this continuing resolution, and against the Tea Party’s dysfunction and brinkmanship. And I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me.”
Full Text of Senator Murray’s Speech
“M. President, the families I talk to in Washington state aren’t interested in the partisan back and forth we see so much of here in Washington, D.C. They are thinking about how they will get the bills paid. They’re wondering when, and if, they’ll be able to save enough to retire. And they are hoping they will be able to give their children a better future. They rightly expect us to focus on strengthening the economy and creating jobs, which will make it easier for them to reach these important goals.
“We’ve had opportunities in the last few months to move forward on legislation, like the Senate Budget and the appropriations bills approved in the Appropriations Committee under Chairwoman Mikulski, which could remove some of the uncertainty that is putting a drag on our recovery.
“But instead, we’re here today to debate a temporary, stop-gap measure to fund the government, just days away from a possible shutdown. I think all but a few of my colleagues would agree with me that these circumstances are far from ideal.
“So, as we work to pass this bill and continue negotiations on a longer-term budget deal, I think it is important to consider: exactly how we got to this point, what this continuing resolution means in the context of ongoing discussions, and what needs to happen for us to reach a more comprehensive agreement that works for families and our economy.
“As we all remember, M. President, if Democrats—and many Republicans as well—had their way, we could have begun a bipartisan budget conference between the House and Senate months ago and prevented all this chaos.
“When the Senate Budget passed, I was very hopeful that both sides could come together and work out an agreement that would end the cycle of governing by crisis, and allow us to focus on creating jobs and economic growth.
“Democrats came to the floor eighteen times to try to begin a bipartisan conference with the House on our budget resolutions. Many Republicans thought this made sense—they agreed that we should at least sit down and try get a deal.
“But an extreme minority of Republicans saw things differently. They believed they would have more leverage in a crisis—like the one we’re approaching right now—than a few months ago when there wasn’t a looming deadline. And those Tea Party Republicans, backed by Republican leadership, stood up and said no to bipartisan budget negotiations eighteen times, against the wishes of members on both sides of the aisle.
“So today, when we could have been focusing on the real challenges Americans are facing, we are instead focused on preventing the Tea Party from shutting down the government. All because Tea Party Republicans want another shot at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, which was passed with a supermajority, was upheld by the Supreme Court, and was a major issue the American people weighed in on in the 2012 election.
“M. President, in the House continuing resolution, Tea Party Republicans are fighting to take away health care coverage for millions of Americans, and get rid of crucial services like: prevention and wellness visits for Medicare patients, prescription drug savings for seniors, and coverage for over 92,000 Americans who have pre-existing conditions.
“This is just absurd. It’s a non-starter. There is no way Democrats are going to give in to demands that are so clearly harmful to the American people. And the same is true of the fight Tea Party Republicans are trying to pick over the debt limit.
“Some Republicans claim it’s typical to threaten a catastrophic and unprecedented default in order to extract political concessions. But the fact is, the opposite is true. The vast majority of debt limit increases in the last three decades occurred independent of efforts to reduce the deficit or put in place budget reforms.
“And while Democrats are more than happy to negotiate on the budget, we have been trying to do so for more than six months, we stand firmly behind President Obama and are not going to negotiate about whether the United States of America pays its bills.
“We believe families and businesses should not have to deal with any more of that kind of uncertainty. And honestly, M. President, I think a lot of Republicans agree. More than a dozen Republicans have spoken out to discourage the Tea Party from starting a pointless debate over defunding the Affordable Care Act in the bill to prevent a government shutdown. And I know quite a few Republicans agree that brinkmanship over the debt ceiling is the height of irresponsibility.
“M. President, given all the infighting we’ve seen recently, governing by crisis clearly isn’t working for Republicans. It’s certainly not helping Democrats make the investments we feel very strongly our country needs to succeed in the 21st century. And it has put a completely unnecessary burden on families and our economy.
“It seems the only ones benefiting from this perpetual crisis mode are Tea Party Republicans. And I see no reason to keep doing them any favors.
“So I would like to call on the House Republicans to cut the Tea Party loose, give up the partisan games, and pass the Senate’s bill to prevent a government shutdown.
“Now, this bill is by no means a permanent fix. Not even close. It’s temporary, and it continues the cuts from sequestration that are already in place and are locked into law until we get a bipartisan deal. But it will keep the government operating while negotiations continue. And that is critical.
“Because even though some might not be able to see it here in Washington D.C., a government shutdown will have serious consequences for families across the country.
“Washington state is home to more than 100,000 uniformed and civilian defense employees at places like Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Fairchild Air Force Base. M. President—if the government shuts down, those men and women in uniform will still have to go to work the next day – but they won’t get paid for it. Thousands of civilian defense employees in places like Tacoma, Whidbey Island, and Spokane would be forced to do the same—and thousands more could face furloughs.
“M. President, these hardworking Americans—and families across Washington state and the country—are already dealing with the consequences of gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C.
“They are dealing with across the board cuts from sequestration, which continue to pile up. Hundreds of thousands of defense employees—who are now having to wonder about the effects of a shutdown—have been furloughed and taken pay cuts. Crucial supports and opportunities for vulnerable families and communities, from Head Start to Meals on Wheels, have been slashed. And sequestration is crippling our ability to plan for the future and make the kinds of investments in research, education and infrastructure that will help our workers succeed in the 21st century.
“I hear about the impact of these arbitrary cuts whenever I am home in Washington state. I know every single one of my colleagues here has heard similar stories. The cuts will only get worse with time—and they simply have to go.
“So M. President, when we send this legislation back to the House, Republicans need to put an end to the Tea Party temper-tantrums and pass our bill without any gimmicks or games.
“And after that, I hope we can leave the brinkmanship behind, so those of us on both sides of the aisle who believe in commonsense bipartisanship can move forward quickly with negotiations on a longer-term deal.
“In those negotiations, I am going to continue fighting for an agreement that ends the governing by crisis and supports families and our economy, by replacing sequestration with smarter deficit reduction, evenly divided between responsible spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.
“I am fully aware that Republicans have their priorities as well. And I’ve never said reaching an agreement would be easy. But I know many Republicans are as sick of brinkmanship and crisis as Democrats are.
“I know they understand, like we do, that compromise is part of the job description. And I truly believe if those Republicans work with Democrats, we can reach the fair bipartisan agreement we’ve been working towards.
“M. President, I’ve heard some of the Tea Party Republicans here in Washington, D.C. dismiss the damaging and costly disruptions a shutdown could cause. Some even seem to think a default wouldn’t be that bad, despite warnings from countless economists that default would in fact be catastrophic.
“But Americans across the country, who are still fighting hard to get back on their feet, don’t have the luxury of dismissing these risks. They’re the ones who will be affected. And they are rightly expecting us to work together and reach a fair budget agreement that offers hardworking families more opportunity and more security.
“I believe putting the gimmicks and games aside and keeping the government open is a necessary step towards that goal.
“So I’m going to vote for this continuing resolution, and against the Tea Party’s dysfunction and brinkmanship. And I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me.
“M. President, part of the reason I’m confident we can reach an agreement is because I know what we can do when we work together. During the summer, I worked with Senator Collins to write the transportation and housing appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year. It included priorities of members on both sides of the aisle, and it was approved in committee with the support of six Republicans.
“This bill received such strong bipartisan support because it helps families and communities, it gets workers back on the job, it’s fiscally responsible, and it lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.
“Our bill stands in stark contrast with the across-the-board sequestration cuts we have operated under for the past six months. Rather than slashing crucial investments in our infrastructure, our bill supports critical transportation projects across the country. And it fully funds the highway and transit grant programs that allow state and local agencies to keep our transportation system working.
“Rather than leaving cities and towns hit hard by the recession to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, our bill strongly supports community development grants, which offer the tools to strengthen small businesses and local economies.
“Instead of asking the most vulnerable to bear the burden of spending cuts, this bill funds a critical piece of the safety net, housing assistance and homeless shelters for millions of struggling families and seniors who are one step from the street.
“M. President, as any business owner will tell you, it makes no sense to slash the investments that allow you to compete and prosper in the long term just to make the numbers work in the short term. And the investments laid out in our bill are perfect examples. They make our country stronger by supporting job creation and economic growth, and by keeping our commitment to help those most in need get back on their feet.
“The need for these investments far exceeds the resources in this bill, but the bill Senator Collins and I wrote keeps our commitment to our states and communities, and ensures the agencies in the bill can meet their statutory responsibilities. That won’t be the case if sequestration continues for yet another year, which would make these commitments impossible to keep.
“It’s important to note, M. President, that the housing and transportation bill addresses challenges our country faces today. A full year bill enables Congress to adjust funding levels to meet current needs, and to implement new policies that address the problems that have come to light in recent years. This is something that doesn’t happen when we opt for year-long continuing resolutions.
“For example, we know that one in every four of our bridges is considered deficient by the Federal Highway Administration. This bill includes funding to repair or replace deficient bridges across the country, in order to protect the safety and reliability of our transportation system.
“If we simply extend the funding levels that were debated two years ago, then these investments, and many others that create jobs, protect public safety, and support the most vulnerable, will be lost.
“We will also lose the improvements our bill makes to programs, including reforms that address concerns members raised the last time the transportation and housing bill came to the Senate floor. Our bill includes important section 8 reforms to reduce costs and create efficiencies. It contains reforms to improve the oversight of public housing agencies and boards, ensure accountability for property owners that don’t maintain the quality of their HUD-assisted housing, and increase accountability in the CDBG program. It is time to enact these important reforms and do the important oversight of federal programs and agencies the public expects of us.
“For all these reasons, M. President, we need to pass this continuing resolution to keep the government running—and then move forward on a longer-term budget agreement that: replaces sequestration with more responsible deficit reduction, puts families and the economy first, and allows us to enact real, thoughtful solutions to our country’s challenges instead of stop-gap measures that don’t move us forward.
“Investing in families, communities, and long-term economic growth shouldn’t be partisan issues.
“And I think the bipartisan work that went into the housing and transportation appropriations bill, and the strong support it received in committee, proves they don’t have to be.
“Thank you, and I yield the floor.”
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