Chairwoman Mikulski Speaks in Support of Ending the Government Shutdown Crisis

For Immediate Release  September 30, 2013

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


"I'm ready to negotiate, but we can't capitulate," says Chairwoman

WASHINGTON – Following the vote in the Senate today to table the House amendments to 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. Below are her remarks, as prepared for delivery:

"Well, we're at the brink. We are just hours away from a possible government shutdown. All over my state and all over the nation there are very devoted government employees who are wondering if they are going to be called non-essential, non-essential to performing important government services. Should they come in tomorrow? People who have applied for small business loans, are those loans going to be processed? People who have applied for student loans, are those loans going to be processed? What's going to happen to the weather service? What's going to happen at NIH? What's going to happen at the Food and Drug Administration, where people stand sentry over the safety of our food supply and our drug supply?

"We don't know the answers to these questions because we have just tabled the radical bill that the House sent over to us. It was deliberately designed to be politically provocative. Continuing Resolutions have always been about disputes over money. They were not about political, ideological viewpoints over past legislation. So I’m so glad that what we did just now was to table it and send it back to the House. The Senate acted very responsibly last week on a short-term continuing funding resolution. The Senate-passed bill removes politically motivated riders, keeps the government working for the American people until November 15, and gives us time to work out our differences on funding bills. The House sent us back yet one more bill that says if you don't delay the Affordable Care Act for one year, we will shut down the government.

"The House said if you don't eliminate the benefits affecting prevention and particularly women's health, we will shut down the government. If the government shuts down tomorrow, it will be because of the House's viewpoint: my way or the highway. A government shutdown is a serious matter. If we don't come together across the aisle and across the dome and across town to pass a clean, short-term Continuing Resolution, it will have serious consequences.

"Let me take a minute to highlight how damaging a government shutdown is to the day-to-day lives of the American people and our economy. Shutting down the federal government will have immediate and harmful consequences on our economy. Small Business Administration approval of loans will be put on hold. Some 28 million American small businesses will no longer have access to federally-assisted loans or technical assistance. In the rural areas, the USDA Rural Development Housing and Farm Loan and Grant Program will stop.

"Let's go to the safety of our waterways. The Army Corps of Engineers helps ensure that our ships can travel through America’s waterways -- whether they're coming up the Chesapeake Bay into the Port of Baltimore or they're traveling down the Mississippi River or the Missouri River or coming in to the Gulf of Mexico. The Department of Commerce will stop promoting economic development or helping minority businesses, and our international trade and assistance programs will stop.

"Now, I know that the House passed a separate amendment funding our active duty military. Well, I would hope so. I would hope so. I mean, these are men and women who serve in the line of duty, but I also want to remind people that there are other people every day who are doing the hard job of protecting the health and safety of the American people.

"I represent all of the men and women who work at the Food and Drug Administration. It is headquartered in my state of Maryland. At the FDA, 55 percent, or 7,000 people, will be furloughed at midnight. FDA will stop monitoring imports at our borders. And what does that mean? For those men and women who we are going to tell that they are nonessential, that if your job is to stand sentry over the food supply of the United States of America, you are not essential. If you stand sentry over the safety of our drugs and our medical devices, we're telling you that you are not essential.

"I don't think the American people support that. They might be a little bit cranky about the federal government here or there, but I think they want their food to be safe, their drugs to be safe, and they want us to move ahead with these medical devices to make sure they are in clinical practice. Over at the National Institutes of Health, which is located in Bethesda, Maryland, the National Institutes of Health and their subsidiaries that receive funding throughout the United States of America, 70 percent of the staff at NIH will be furloughed. I say again, 70 percent of the 19,000 men and women who work at NIH will be furloughed at midnight. These are the people working on the cure for Alzheimer’s. They are working on the cure for autism. They are working on a cure for arthritis. I'm just going through the ‘A’ words. We could go on to the ‘B’ words. How about breast cancer? How about cancer itself?

"Last year when NIH announced that cancer rates in America had been reduced by 15 percent, instead of pinning medals on the people at NIH and the private sector who worked with us on important drugs and biological products, we announced a sequester. What kind of government would destroy the very agency that is set up to come up with cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s? Who are these people developing cures? They are the lab technicians. They help with administrative work that enables those talented researchers to do their job.

"In a shutdown, the NIH clinical center won't be able to admit new patients or start new clinical trials. The NIH clinical center is a hospital at NIH. You don't come in there unless you are really sick and unless you're really desperate and unless you really have no place else to go. You come in with no hope. Did you know that they have nicknamed NIH around America. Not the National Institutes of Health but the National Institutes of Hope, because what they're doing today is going to lead to solving your problem tomorrow. Why are we furloughing 70 percent of these NIH employees? And not only are we furloughing, we're saying bye-bye for now, you're not essential. I think they are crucial. I think they are not only essential, but I think they are crucial.

"Then you go to the weather forecasters. They will be on the job during a government shutdown. They are located in my state, too. You might say well, do you have any people who work in the private sector? People in Maryland work in the private sector because of the public sector. Our law enforcement, our FBI, will be on the job. They're in the line of fire, too. But they will be getting paid with an I.O.U. Instead of an I.O.U., we should say to the FBI and to our Border control officers and to our Marshals chasing sexual predators and human traffickers, we owe you a debt of gratitude. We owe you your pay on time. We're sorry you haven't gotten a cost of living adjustment for three years. I say it again, we shouldn't be dancing around with ideological motivated shutdowns.

"Social Security checks will go out, but the 180,000 people who visit a Social Security office will find that they are understaffed. On the average, half a million people call Social Security every day. They are going to get either no answer or a busy signal. Mr. President, I could go on and on about what the consequences of a shutdown are. We really cannot do that. So I say to my colleagues on the other side of the dome please, let's pass a clean CR. Let's pass it until November 15th. Let's negotiate on a middle ground number. The House has a budget of $967 billion, and they accept sequester as the new normal. Let's find a way to cancel sequester, at least for two years. I marked up the appropriation bills at $1.058 trillion that's the number that the Senate Budget Committee passed in April. There is a $91 billion difference. I'm ready to negotiate, but we can't capitulate. Let's find a middle ground.

"There was a great American general and a great statesman, a real American icon, Colin Powell. Over and over and over again, he would say during the Reagan Administration, ‘let's find that sensible center.’ I could not agree more. Let's avoid a shutdown, and let's stop playing slamdown politics. Let's come together and find a way to solve the problem of keeping the government open, and let’s do it right now. Let’s also find a long-term fiscal solution of paying down our government debt while making sure we have a pro-growth budget that lowers the unemployment rate, raises educational achievement, and finds cures for diseases affecting the American people. Let’s have an FDA that can get the cures approved, and let's make sure when we talk about American exceptionalism, we know where it comes from."