Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Statement Opposing The Fourth Continuing Resolution

Mr. President, here we go again. 

In 1995, Republicans shut down our government – seeking to recklessly cut education programs and environmental programs and raise Medicare premiums on millions of senior citizens. 

In 2013, Republicans once again sought to strip the health care of millions of Americans by shutting down the government in a failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  An effort they continued this summer instead of negotiating a bipartisan budget deal that could have averted the situation we find ourselves in today.

In 2015, Republicans continued their attack on health care by bringing us to the brink of yet another government shutdown in a misguided attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.  Millions of American women, men, and young people, and tens of thousands of Vermonters, trust and depend on Planned Parenthood for their basic health care needs, including annual health exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and HIV screenings.  It was in 2015 that Republicans also began their attack on DREAMers by attempting to shut down the entire Department of Homeland Security, risking our country’s national security, to block DACA. 

These shutdowns were not just political ploys.  They had real consequences.  The 2013 Republican shutdown dealt a devastating blow to economic growth, amounting to an estimated $1.5 billion lost for each of the 16 days of the shutdown.  That is economic growth we can never get back.   Hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed, through no fault of their own, for a combined total of 6.6 million days, grinding lifesaving research ground to a halt, and shuttering doors and fences at our iconic national parks and monuments.  

Now in 2018, President Trump wants to shut down the government over his cynical and misbegotten “big beautiful wall,” which will be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, NOT Mexico. And President Trump is using DREAMers as negotiable commodities to meet his unreasonable demands. 

But President Trump is just continuing the Republican tradition of being the “Shutdown Party.”  He flippantly threatened that we need a “good government shutdown.”  And I am beginning to think that is exactly what the Republican Party is angling for — a manufactured crisis to distract from the fact that they are failing to do their job. 

Democrats have been ready and willing to negotiate a spending agreement since June.  Instead of working toward that goal, congressional Republican leadership spent the last year overturning consumer protections, stripping health care from millions of Americans, and passing a massive tax cut for big corporations and wealthy Americans to be paid for by middle-class Americans and future generations.  During that time, they continued to kick the can down the road and failed to do their jobs to pass sensible spending bills to keep our government open. 

They have cast aside Congress’s fundamental responsibilities in pursuit of a hyper-partisan agenda. 

We have not reached a bipartisan budget deal that would allow us to strengthen our military, a goal shared by Republicans AND Democrats, and invest in our communities.  We all agree that the consequences of sequestration have been devastating, and that we must lift the spending caps set into law by the Budget Control Act.  But we must invest equally in our military and our communities, because our national security is intrinsically linked to the investments we make in our communities. 

We are the greatest country in the world exactly because we make a commitment to invest in education and infrastructure.  We provide the necessary resources to combat the opioid epidemic and we strive to ensure that no child goes to school hungry.  If we do not have parity between defense and non-defense spending, we cannot achieve these goals. 

We have not passed a comprehensive disaster relief package that takes into consideration the unique needs of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  These are American citizens who have been living without power, without access to clean drinking water and in communities devastated by natural disasters for months without adequate help from their United States government. 

The DREAMers, who are American citizens in every way but on paper, have been thrown into a crisis of President Trump’s own making – a crisis that threatens to tear them from the only lives they have ever known.  Remember, President Trump is solely responsible for creating this untenable situation faced by the DREAMers – the President, all by himself, rescinded the DACA policy. There is a bipartisan path forward that meets the requirements the President laid out himself.  But the President instead continues to favor governing by chaos and moving the goal posts, pushing an agreement further out of reach.  So much for the “Art of the Deal.”

The latest effort to kick the can down the road, which Republicans passed out of the House this evening, does not address any of these issues.  Its attempt to address the needs of the Children’s Health Insurance Program is inadequate, and based on the President’s own Twitter feed, goes in and out of favor with the President hourly. 

Why does the bill only extend CHIP for six years when extending this bipartisan program for 10 years would save an additional $6 billion?  Why are Community Health Centers, which millions of Americans and CHIP recipients depend upon for their primary care, not extended?  And most importantly, why was this program allowed to expire and be used as a negotiating pawn in the first place?

Republican leadership – led by President Trump – has brought us to the brink of a government shutdown.  The House bill is a joke, and it does not have my support.  It leaves too much undone, and what it attempts to address is woefully inadequate.  If the majority now wants bipartisan support, they should work with Democrats, instead of appealing for our support only after they have written a mishmash bill crafted behind closed doors.

Republicans control the House, they control the Senate and they control the presidency.  The government stays open if they want it to stay open, and it shuts down if they want it to shut down. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and time to start negotiating in good faith.

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton – 202-224-2667