Statement Of Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On The Trump Shutdown

Mr. President, months ago, President Donald Trump called for a government shutdown, and through his leadership of chaos and his inability to govern or keep his word, he got exactly what he wanted. 

Make no mistake, it is the Majority’s responsibility to produce a bill to send to the President.  If they cannot get 60 votes because they refuse to negotiate with Democrats, that is THEIR responsibility.  All they needed was nine Democrats, and they could not get it done – in fact they lost four of their own members.  They could not get it done because Republicans shut Democrats out of their closed-door meetings – disenfranchising more than half of the American people -- and only appealed for our support after they had written a bill without our input. 

On the first day of this Trump Shutdown, the anniversary of his inauguration, we are 112 days into the fiscal year.  For 112 days, Republican leadership told us they “just need more time” to negotiate a bipartisan deal. 

But they spent that time pursuing a hyper-partisan agenda over the last year.  They stripped health care from millions of Americans.  They rolled back common sense regulations.  And they passed a tax bill for big corporations and the super wealthy on the backs of the middle class and working people. 

This was not time spent negotiating in good faith on the budget, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or for veterans, or Community Health Centers, or Dreamers, or a comprehensive disaster relief package.

Last night, Republican leadership asked us for yet another month to negotiate.  Another month into the fiscal year.  Another month of not addressing the consequences of sequestration by reaching a bipartisan deal that increases spending on our military and invests in our communities.  And another month where we fail to adequately take care of our veterans.

Our military leaders agree.  We cannot govern by continuing resolution, and the military cannot function under sequestration.  We need a budget deal.  It was Defense Secretary Mattis who said: “[F]or all the heartache caused by the loss of our troops during these wars, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration.” 

Last night, I could not in good conscience support another continuing resolution without even the promise of a bipartisan deal. 

Democrats have been ready and willing and asking to negotiate since June.  In July, I offered a path forward that would have raised the budget caps set in place by the Budget Control Act.  This plan would have increased spending for our military by $54 billion and increased investments in our domestic priorities by $54 billion.  Parity has always been the path forward.  It has allowed us to both strengthen our military and invest in our infrastructure, improve education, combat the opioid epidemic, and address the needs of our veterans.  These are bipartisan priorities shared by my friends on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers of Congress, and by the American public.  

But for 112 days now, Republican leadership kicked the can down the road, casting aside the basic responsibility of Congress to fund the federal government.  They gave us this government shutdown, and at the head of their charge was the careening leadership and chaos of President Trump.

President Trump was for extending CHIP in the House bill, and then he was against it.  The President said he would sign any bipartisan deal we brought to his desk to protect the Dreamers and increase border security, and then he scoffed at a bipartisan deal that met his terms.  This is not steady-as-he-goes leadership.

If we cannot trust the word of the President when we know he is only a tweet away from changing his mind, why should we trust him when he says he will take care of our veterans, or get serious about the opioid epidemic?  Why should we trust his word when he says he wants to protect the Dreamers?

After promising to treat DACA recipients with “great heart,” President Trump and Republicans instead held our nation’s Dreamers hostage. They caved to xenophobic voices within their party. 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. As we speak, 122 Dreamers lose their status each day.  And we know that on March 5th hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients will begin to lose their status due to President Trump’s actions.  Republicans now argue there is no urgency to provide protections to Dreamers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  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. Since President Trump decided to revoke their protected status, these hundreds of thousands of Dreamers have had to live with fear and anxiety every day that their status is not resolved. 

President Trump’s views of this program seem to change constantly, almost daily, leaving any observer prone to suffering whiplash.  Dreamers have no reason to believe that President Trump will not prioritize them for deportation. Indeed, his administration has asked the Supreme Court to immediately nullify a district court decision that protected DACA recipients.  And his administration appears to have no sense of enforcement priorities.  It has unabashedly detained a 10-year old Texas girl with cerebral palsy and deported a Michigan father with no criminal record who came to this country as a child 30 years ago.

Even the Majority Leader is uncertain of what the President wants for the Dreamers or for any path forward for that matter.  The Majority Leader said earlier this week: “As soon as we figure out what [President Trump] is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.”

Well, we are spinning our wheels in the Trump Shutdown because Republican leadership waited for guidance from the President instead of doing their jobs, working with us, and sending a bipartisan deal to his desk.  We are spinning our wheels because President Trump repeatedly called for a government shutdown, and he got exactly what he wanted.   

Today, medical research has ground to a halt.  Today, in Vermont and across the Nation, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, through no fault of their own.  In Vermont and across the Nation, every additional hour of the Trump Shutdown deals another blow to the men and women trying to recover from opioid addiction.  Every hour the burden of the Trump Shutdown should weigh heavier on his shoulders.  Because there is only one person in country who wanted this shutdown, and that is President Trump. 

The Trump Shutdown is not and was not necessary.  We have always had all the pieces.  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.  We have a bipartisan agreement to protect the Dreamers.  

We have all the pieces.  We just need the courage to do our jobs.  

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