For Immediate Release
October 1, 2013
Contact: Rob Blumenthal / Eve Goldsher (202) 224-7363
CHAIRWOMAN MIKULSKI SPEAKS IN SUPPORT OF A CLEAN, SHORT-TERM CONTINUING RESOLUTION TO END GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN IMMEDIATELY
"We don’t need a gag rule in the House, we should free the House, open up the House for a vote to open up the government, and let's get the job done," Chairwoman says.
WASHINGTON – Following the vote in the Senate today to table the House motion to go to Conference on the Continuing Resolution, H.J. Res. 59, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke in support of House passage of a clean, short-term Continuing Resolution. The Chairwoman’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
"I rise to continue the discussion I’ve had on the situation in which we find ourselves, which is that the entire government of the United States of America has been shut down. It is a situation in which those federal employees currently working, they are working without pay. This is a terrible, terrible situation. I implore the House to pass the clean, short-term Continuing Resolution that the Senate sent over four days ago so that we can reopen the government.
"Let's reopen the government of the United States of America. The way that you reopen the government is to pass the Senate Continuing Resolution. What would it do? It would fund the government at fiscal year 2013 levels, which means it's keeping the government funded at current spending levels. We would have a Continuing Resolution through November 15th. It is a short-term measure while we work out other issues, and allows us to get over the speed bump of raising the debt ceiling. I believe that is the path forward, because where we are now has terrible consequences. It has terrible consequences for our economy, it has terrible consequences for our standing in the world, and it has terrible consequences for the functioning of our government.
"We talk now about a shutdown of the government. Right now there are hundreds of thousands of men and women who work for the federal government who signed up to do a job in service to their nation. They have either had to take a furlough -- and a furlough is a word that means we have essentially laid them off -- or they are working because their work is so essential, but they're not getting paid. So we are paying them with I.O.U.’s. This is not how the United States of America should operate.
"Let me paint a picture for you. So in my own state we have the headquarters of the National Weather Service. People who watch TV think they get their weather news from either the Weather Channel or they get it from their local TV or radio station with the Doppler radar. It's terrific. But guess where they get their information? They get it from the federal government. They get it from the weather forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who work hard every day predicting the weather and getting out the information so that it becomes news that you can use in your own community.
"So if you're a farmer, you're getting that information. If you're a waterman like on my Chesapeake Bay and you have to make sure the storm is not coming while you're out there either crabbing or going for your oysters to keep your own business going, you need your weather. In fact, whether you are a county executive or a mayor, you need to know what the weather is. NOAA is always on the job predicting hurricanes or tornadoes or giving you the basic day-to-day information. The weather forecasters are at their duty station, but what are we saying to them now? Guess what, be there but we're not going to pay you except through I.O.U.'s.
"Yesterday, I spoke about the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration in my own state. But there is another major agency, it’s not in my state but it is very important to the functioning of our country -- the Centers for Disease Control. And what is the CDC? What is their job? Their job is exactly what it sounds like -- disease control. They're the ones who, as an example, pioneered outbreak detection techniques when people were getting sick in a hospital in Philadelphia. They were called in because they are the top bio-sleuths in America. They are our own bio-forensics, our own bio-CSI. They are the ones who discovered the people in that Philadelphia hospital had Legionnaire’s Disease and helped put out that information and get the situation under control.
"They are the ones standing sentry to make sure there is no emerging or surprise pandemic in the world. They're the ones gathering information right now, so that we know what are the latest things that could threaten the health and safety of the United States of America. What else do they do? If you're a pediatrician, you're watching the CDC. When the CDC labs are closed, it leaves States on their own, it leaves the state health departments on their own, as they look out for antibiotic resistant viruses, other infectious diseases, and a variety of other kinds of things. We need the Centers for Disease Control. They employ thousands of people in Atlanta, Georgia. And yet we're telling them, well, maybe today we don’t need you.
"Yesterday, the President signed a bill to guarantee military personnel are paid on time. We support that, but what's missing from that bill is important. The intelligence community, made up mostly of civilians, will not be covered. It means that over 72 percent of the civilians who work in our intelligence agencies will either face furloughs or will be working with I.O.U.’s.
"Who else didn't this national security bill cover? We didn't cover border security, and we didn't cover the FBI, and we didn't cover the DEA, nor did we cover the U.S. Marshals. What do the Marshals do? It's not Wyatt Earp. They're not out there like cowboys in a Wild West movie. The Marshal Service is a very important service. You know what they're doing in Maryland right now? First of all, they provide security in the courthouse. They do the security to protect the judges. We have some of the most violent gangs and criminals coming into our courts, and the Marshals need to protect those who are enforcing the law through our judicial system. They're also going after the sexual predators. They're the ones who go after the bad guys and make sure that sexual predators aren't loose in our neighborhoods.
"And the Marshals also go after missing fugitives. You know those big signs that say’10 Most Wanted?’ Guess who goes after them -- the Marshal Service, because that is one of their primary responsibilities. That's what federal law enforcement is. Today these employees are also critical to national security. So trying to do this piecemeal by piecemeal is not going to work. We can’t say ‘oh, we've looked out for our troops,’ so we’re done. You know what, we should look out for our troops. But while we look out for our troops, we should look out for those who come back home.
"I know that the Presiding Officer and others have been really strong supporters of our veterans. I'm a strong supporter of our veterans. Many of the services that are being performed by the VA are open, like VA health care. But there are other services where we are going to delay the backlog on veterans' cases, including veterans' disability benefits. We on the Appropriations Committee have actually put money in the federal checkbook to deal with more training, more overtime to reduce this backlog.
"And when we talk about shutdowns, I want to take a moment to talk about my own office in relationship to veterans. I’m the longest serving woman in Senate history. It's a great honor. And in my 25 years as a United States senator and 25 years as the senior woman here, I’ve only closed down my office twice. Once in 1995, and this morning. I cannot tell you the heavy heart that I had as I spoke to my staff. Now my staff is a great staff. Whether they're working in Maryland or whether they're working here in Washington.
"We are a local phone call to six million Marylanders. And of those people who work for me, one is a young lady, I hope I don't embarrass her if she is watching TV, her name is Denise. Denise has worked for me for 30 years. Back when I was in the House of Representatives and now as a United States Senator. She is a caseworker. A constituent service worker. And for 30 years she has specialized in helping me respond to the needs of veterans. And veterans all over Maryland love her, they depend on her, and I depend on her so that I can help those veterans.
"I know my time's expired, but Denise’s time on the job shouldn't expire. I want to make sure that Denise is on her job. I want to reopen my office. I want to make sure we reopen government. We can do that if the House passes the Senate Continuing Resolution. So I say to the House, don't send us piecemeal bills. Let the House vote on the Senate bill. We don’t need a gag rule in the House, we should free the House, open up the House for a vote to open up the government, and let's get the job done."