I come to the floor today to join my colleagues in voicing my sincere hope that the President will end this senseless shutdown.
The American people are tired of our country being held hostage and our economy threatened. There are real consequences. I see it all the time. Of course my State, unlike Mr. Van Hollen's State of Maryland and the State of Virginia, may not have as high a percentage of Federal workers, but for every worker who has been hit by this, it is the same story.
At our airport just this weekend, I talked to countless TSA officers. They said: We will continue to do our job, but now we are not going to get paid. You think about these people on the frontline who are doing the work for our country, who are keeping us safe, and who are not getting paid because of this senseless shutdown. You hear about the garbage piling up in our national parks. You hear about people having trouble paying their rent or mortgage. You hear about the fears about airport security lines. Everyday Americans are affected by this as well.
Other consequences of this shutdown are less visible but deeply painful for those affected. There are entrepreneurs who want to take their companies public but can't get approval by the SEC. You have rural home buyers who can't get their mortgages backed by the Agriculture Department. Farmers can't access critical loans or information about how the Department will implement the new farm bill. We were so proud to pass the new farm bill in this Chamber on a bipartisan basis--something the President took credit for--and now we can't even implement it and help our farmers as they approach growing season in the spring. They don't even know what is going to happen with the new provisions of this farm bill, especially the dairy farmers of Minnesota, who have been hit so hard by low prices and by the trade war that we are in.
While this trade war is going on, we are also going to not be able to help them and to deny the help that vulnerable Americans need. Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps put food on the table for 38 million Americans, would be severely reduced or cut off all together. The Department of Housing and Urban Development payments that maintain housing for 3 million Americans could be in jeopardy.
It is time to put aside the political games, and it is time to get in the real game--and that is the lives of American people--and to stop this shutdown. It means reopening our entire government so we can work on the issues that matter.
This is a time in our country when we should not be governing from crisis. We should be governing from opportunity. After the downturn, the economy had stabilized, and we should be working with the rest of the world. We should be selling our goods to market and building the infrastructure in this country. We should be doing something about prescription drug prices. We should be training our workers for the jobs that are available today and the jobs that will be available tomorrow.
There are simple proposals out there. There is the Senate and the House of Representatives legislation that passed through this body unanimously--not a single Senator opposed it--yet the President suddenly changed course and, once again, insisted that he needs over $5 billion immediately. The new House has now passed legislation to fund all shuttered agencies other than the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year. That includes the Treasury Department, the Agriculture Department, the Interior Department--government agencies that provide critical services. These noncontroversial bills were originally drafted and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee run by the Republican Party. None of this makes sense to me at all. The measures that were passed by the House are sensible, and they are ones that have been supported in the past by Republicans in this Chamber.
Shutdowns are not good for the economy. I lived through the 2013 shutdown. That was estimated to cost our economy over $20 billion. The President's own economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, has estimated that this shutdown will shrink our economy by 0.1 percent every 2 weeks. Maybe that doesn't sound like much. Do you know how much it really is? It is roughly $10 billion every single week. That is real money for real Americans. So stop the games.
Shutting down the government should not be a negotiating tactic. If President Trump were to agree to sign the bills that the House has now passed and every Member of the Senate supported last month, we would end this shutdown. Instead, critical services and our economy are being threatened with poison pill partisanship.
To my colleagues in the Senate, I say this: Let's get this done. We owe it to the people whom we were elected to serve. We owe it to the country. As one former Congresswoman once said, America should be as good as its promise. This is a promise we made to them when we were elected--to do the best for them and to serve our country. Let's get it done.
I yield the floor.
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