Chairwoman Mikulski Again Calls for Immediate House Passage of a Continuing Funding Resolution

For Immediate Release October 2, 2013

Contact: Rob Blumenthal / Eve Goldsher (202) 224-7363


"The House wants to send us cherry picked solutions to the shutdown problem. It is contrived and it is cynical," Chairwoman says.

"Instead of working hard to serve our veterans or our elderly or promoting a growing economy, here we are in the middle of a shutdown of the government."

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today spoke again in support of immediate House passage of a clean, short-term continuing funding resolution that would enable the government to reopen for business. The Chairwoman’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

"I think we're growing weary. I think we're growing weary of the gridlock, the deadlock, the hammerlock on our government. I think we're growing weary of the partisan posturing by one faction in one Party in one House. The American people want us to reopen government so that government can meet the national security needs of the United States, so that it can protect the safety of the people of the United States. And so that the government can help create jobs today in physical infrastructure and lay the groundwork for jobs tomorrow by investing in research and development.

"The American people want a government that works as hard as they do, and so do I. Instead of working hard to serve our veterans or our elderly or promoting a growing economy, here we are in the middle of a shutdown of the government. Now, the House is going through and they are sending us bills that on first blush seem attractive. I mean, who doesn't support our national guard? Who doesn't want to fund NIH? I certainly do. NIH is located in my state. I'm so proud of the men and women who work there and I’m so proud of the funding that goes to great state universities doing research to cure diseases and help every American.

"But we cannot cherry pick. What they're doing now is a public relations ploy. The House wants to send us cherry picked solutions to the shutdown problem. It is contrived and it is cynical. What I am asking for the House of Representatives to do is to take up the Senate bill that we sent them that is a clean continuing funding resolution. What does ‘clean’ mean? It means it is stripped out of politically motivated, ideological riders. And the second thing is, it would fund government for six weeks. It would give us, in that six weeks, the chance to work out what our funding should be for the rest of the fiscal year.

"I would hope we'd find a way to cancel the sequester, which means we would find a way to reduce public debt without reducing jobs or opportunity, and to get us through the debt ceiling. That Senate bill is pending in the House right now and I would ask that they vote on that instead of sending us these piecemeal solutions. I'd remind my colleagues that the continuing funding resolution passed the Senate last Friday. It reopens the government. It give us the opportunity to renegotiate. I’m willing to negotiate, but we can't capitulate to these partisan demands to defund Obamacare and to do other kinds of politically motivated riders.

"To move forward, we need to pass the Senate Continuing funding resolution. Now, I understand that later today the President is meeting with Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell. I hope that wiser heads would now prevail and we would get a path forward to reopen all of government, not cherry picked items, many of which are desirable. Absolutely desirable. But we need to open the entire federal government.

"So I know that what the House wants to do is send us over a bill to reopen NIH. But what about then, the Centers for Disease Control? So we open NIH but we don't open the Centers for Disease Control. You know, it's an agency that's located in Atlanta, but it's part of our public health triad which goes to the work of NIH, the work of the Food and Drug Administration, which stands sentry over the safety of our food supply, and the safety and efficacy of our drugs and medical devices, and then there's the Centers for Disease Control. That's down in Atlanta.

"Right this very minute in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Centers for Disease Control, close to 9,000 people have been furloughed. Furloughed is just a nice word that means layoff. And it also means that not only are the labs in Atlanta furloughed, but it also affects labs in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The work of the CDC is nationwide because they're our bio-surveillance system on infectious disease. That means state health departments in all 50 states and our territories depend on the Centers for Disease Control to give them information on tracking the trends related to infectious diseases. That way they can alert clinicians, such as pediatricians, if there is a new kind of ear infection that could infect children. But today there is no one there that can do this.

"Earlier this year, to give you an example, Hepatitis A sickened 161 people in ten states. The CDC linked the outbreak to pomegranate seeds coming in from a foreign country in a frozen berry mix. We were able to go right to the private sector -- who complied with this right away -- we were able to get that off the market, contain it from spreading to other people, and be able to -- again, working with the private sector -- protect the American people. Don't we want to reopen the CDC?

"I could go on to the fact that we could go over disease after disease, infection after infection, that they won't be monitoring. Let's take a common one, flu. We've all had the sniffles but the sniffles can also kill people. On average, more than 200,000 Americans will be hospitalized because of flu, and 3,000 Americans will die from flu this year. Vaccines can prevent the flu. The Centers for Disease Control was out there making sure there was enough vaccine available, that it was being distributed fairly and equitably in the United States. But CDC also watches the infection trends, because if a trend was heading to one state or one locale, the public health people could do their work and we could work to accelerate or expand flu vaccine availability. This is what they do.

"And did you know that they're disease detectives? Because many people don't know they're disease detectives. So what does Senator Barb mean when she says this? Sometimes there is an outbreak. People are sick, people even die. They wonder what it is. They dial 911 and it's like a disease identification S.W.A.T. team. They go in working with the best and brightest at that state level, going to use the best technology and science from our country and even around the world to identify what that is. That's how we found out about Legionnaire's disease, the Hunter virus disease affecting Indian reservations. That's how we jumped in on the pomegranate seed situation. But you know what, those people were furloughed. They were furloughed.

"So, sure, do I want to reopen NIH? I absolutely do. But I want to talk about the Centers for Disease Control. I could also talk about other federal employees, and what shutdown means for them. Not only public health, but things like Social Security. I believe in Social Security, I really do. It has meant so much to so many people. It is one of the great earned benefits in our country. I want to make sure there is no false alarm here. Social Security checks will go out.

"However, as of this week, for the people who work at Social Security on eligibility benefits for the elderly, disability benefits for those who are unable to work, they have been furloughed across the entire United States of America. Social Security has furloughed 18,000 people in local communities. Social Security is everywhere, and it provides access so that people can also apply for their Medicare. 18,000 people furloughed. Now, Social Security is headquartered in Maryland. Again, this isn't because it's in Maryland, but I know these workers. I know how the exams that they take to qualify to work for Social Security, whether it's a claims representatives or whether it's an actuary projecting the trends, these are 18,000 people who are proud to work for Social Security, proud to do that. To make sure that one of the greatest social insurance programs ever was administered efficiently, effectively and the people who were eligible got what they had earned.

"Did you know that the overhead for running Social Security is less than two percent? Lower than any private insurance company in America. They do it well, they do it smartly, and they've been stretched because of sequester, but they are there. Right now because of what we've been doing, we're only going to delay further these other benefits. So I want to open the doors of Social Security. When you apply, I want to be sure they're there. When you dial up, I want them to be there.

"Coming back to NIH and what they want to send over from the House. NIH is in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill. That is overseen by my very able Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Tom Harkin. Senator Harkin has worked very hard on his bills to make sure they meet compelling human needs but that we do it in a way that's cost-efficient. But did you know that because of parliamentary obstructionism, Senator Harkin has not been able to bring his bill to the floor since 2007? When he's wanted to bring up the department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, and the Department of Labor, he can't even bring it to the Senate Floor because they won't let him or it will be filibustered.

"Now, while everybody is strutting around saying we're going to fund NIH after being shamed into it yesterday, what they don't tell you is that they can't move the Labor-HHS bill in the House. You know why? Because they fund it at $122 billion. Do you know what level that is equal to, madam president? The 2003 level. Not even 2012. Not even 2010. They want to fund it back to George Bush era levels and right around the funding level of 2003. They want to take us back a decade. They want to take us back to the dark ages.

"Well, not in the Senate. Senator Harkin's bill is funded at $164 billion, a slight increase from last year. There is a $42 billion difference between the House and the Senate Labor-HHS bill – that’s $164 billion in the Senate to $122 billion in the House. I want Senator Harkin to be able to bring his bill to the floor, and debate it. Do you want an NIH? Let's fund it. Do you want a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Then fund it. Let's debate. Let's discuss. Let's amend. Senator Harkin can't even get it to the Floor.

"And over there in the House, they can't move it either because the funding for Health and Human Services, Education, and the Department of Labor is at a 2003 level. So while they want to send us an individual bill for an individual agency, as desirable as it is, I want to reopen the government. That's what the Senate bill does. And I want to reopen negotiation. I would like to return to regular order, where using the parliamentary tools, tactics and even tricks cannot delay bringing a bill to the Floor.

"Since 2007, Senator Harkin could not bring a bill to the Floor for an open debate, unfettered by filibuster, to be able to discuss this. So that’s what this is all about. This isn't about numbers. This isn't about wonky ideas. This is about meeting compelling human needs. In the Labor-HHS subcommittee we fund NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Social Security Administration, Mining Safety, Department of Education. This is what we should be working on, education, funding for the disabled, et cetera.

"So I come to the floor again as the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. I'm proud of the work my Subcommittee Chairmen have done in getting bills ready to come to the Floor for debate and to follow regular order. I so appreciate the cooperation that we've received from the other side of the aisle in our committee. It's been a great sense of cooperation. We’ve had disputes and disagreements on funding levels and even matters of policy, but I had an open amendment process. Everybody had their say. Everybody had their day. We moved our bills forward and out of the Committee. That's called regular order. That's called democracy. Everybody has their day and everybody has their say. But let's move it. Let's reopen government. Let's have a true negotiation. We have a path forward now. Pass the Senate resolution in the House and let's get the work of the United States Senate, and the United States government, really going again."