Leahy Statement On The Need For A Bipartisan Agreement

There is only one person who wanted a government shutdown, and he got exactly what he wanted.  It was President Trump who said the country could “use a good shutdown.” It was President Trump who said a shutdown would be “good” for him politically.  It was President Trump who tweeted yesterday that the shutdown was a “nice present” to himself.

This is shameful.  People are suffering under the Trump Shutdown and the leader of the country is only thinking of himself.

In fact, between rubbing shoulders with the super wealthy at his father’s fundraiser last night, the President’s son said the shutdown is “a good thing for us politically.”  I want to make one thing very clear to President Trump – there is no such thing as a good government shutdown. 

It is not a good thing that today medical research has ground to a halt.  It is not a good thing that a family in Vermont or New Hampshire trying to help their loved one overcome opioid addiction cannot access the resources they need.  It is not a good thing that readiness training exercises for our military were cancelled this weekend.

But the President is only thinking of himself and playing the politics of fear and obstruction.  In fact, he was prepared for it.  Yesterday morning – the first day of the Trump Shutdown – the President’s campaign posted a video that is nothing short of racist fear mongering.  Propaganda meant to scare the American people has no place in our democracy.

Instead of playing the politics of fear, the president should be leading and working with us to reach a bipartisan deal and a path forward.  And he knows this.  In 2013 when talking about the government shutdown, he said the President has “got to get everybody in the room and he’s got to lead.”  But so far, the President and Republican leadership continue to lock Democrats out of negotiations, excluding the voices of nearly half the American people. 

This morning, the President even said the Senate should change its rules to permanently exclude the input of the minority party.  I have been here long enough to know that the shoe will soon be on the other foot, and this is a shortsighted and foolish idea. 

I have long said that the Senate can be the conscience of the nation.  It can be the conscience of the nation precisely because it forces bipartisan compromise and the inclusion of views across the political spectrum, because its members, like the Majority Leader, have a deep respect for this institution.  We should not and cannot take a sledgehammer to the Senate. 

It is the Majority’s responsibility to produce a bill to send to the President.  They could not get 60 votes because they refused to negotiate with Democrats.  The Republican Leadership presented the Senate with a bill that was produced behind closed doors, with no involvement from the Democrats, and I suspect no involvement from many in their own party, and allowed no amendments.

We are here because of the failure of Republican leadership and the President’s inability to keep his word.  The Republican Party controls the House, the Senate and the White House.  It is their job to govern. It is their job to lead. It is their job to reach out to us and come up with a compromise.

After promising to treat DACA recipients with “great heart,” President Trump instead is holding our nation’s Dreamers hostage to a right wing anti-immigration agenda.  President Trump rejected a bipartisan deal—the only bipartisan DACA deal—which Senators Graham, Durbin and others specifically crafted to meet the president’s demands. Republicans now argue there is no urgency to provide protections to Dreamers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

In the wake of President Trump’s heartless decision to end DACA, for months, nearly 122 Dreamers have been losing their status every day. And the Trump Administration has acknowledged to Congress that implementing any Dream legislation will take up to six months - during which tens of thousands more could lose their status.

No urgency?  If this was my family, I would feel the urgency every minute of every day. 

We are here because for 113 days, Republican leadership kicked the can down the road on the basic responsibility of Congress to fund the federal government.  They have failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  The failed to advance legislation to protect Dreamers.  For 113 days, Democrats supported three continuing resolutions with the promise that they just needed a little more to reach a bipartisan deal.  Well, the time is up. 

We voted for a continuing resolution in September to provide more time to strike a deal.  We voted for a second continuing resolution in early December to provide more time for negotiation.  We voted for a third continuing resolution in late December to keep the talks going.  What will be any different if we kick this can down the road another four weeks?    

We have always had all the pieces to reach a bipartisan path forward.  We all want to raise the budget caps set in place by the Budget Control Act and stop the devastating consequences of sequestration.  We all want to take care of the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program and extend Community Health Centers.  And we have a bipartisan agreement to protect the Dreamers.  

We cannot kick the can down the road again.  If we pass another continuing resolution without a bipartisan agreement we will only drive further into the fiscal year without doing our jobs.  Even if we then reach an agreement at the end of the next continuing resolution, we would still need another month to write the appropriations bills, which would bring us nearly half way into the fiscal year. 

We cannot govern by continuing resolution.  Our military cannot function under a continuing resolution and under the burden of sequestration.  Democrats have been ready, willing and asking to negotiate a bipartisan deal since June.  We need to reach a deal on a long term path forward.  And we need to have the courage to reach that deal now. 

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton –202-224-2667